Holy Week

Sermon – Matthew 21.1-11 (Palm Sunday – 2022)

Giving Our Hearts to Him Who Has Come to Redeem our Hearts

Almighty and everlasting God, You have caused Your beloved Son to take our nature upon Himself, that He might give us the example of humility and suffer death upon the cross for our sins: Mercifully grant us a believing knowledge of this, that we may follow the example of His patience, and be made partakers of the benefits of His sacred Passion and death; through the same, Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples,

 2 saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me.

 3 “And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say,`The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.”

 4 All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying:

 5 “Tell the daughter of Zion,`Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.'”

 6 So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them.

 7 They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them.

 8 And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road.

 9 Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David!`Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Hosanna in the highest!”

 10 And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?”

 11 So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”

These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

Dear fellow redeemed,

It is good to love and adore our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus has redeemed our hearts from unbelief and rebellion, so that we may enjoy His love and salvation with a response of love for Him. We get a picture of this love and adoration in our Gospel reading.

Before us, we have the well-known account of Jesus’ festive procession into Jerusalem! But if we pause the procession and rewind the events to the night before after the Sabbath Day had come to an end. We find ourselves at Bethany. The beginning of that festive Sunday crowd there was gathered. Many of them had heard about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, and so they wanted to see Lazarus for themselves. Jesus Himself was at the house of Simon who had previously been a leper. He may very well have been healed by Jesus. There in the house was Jesus and his disciples, and His friends, Mary and Martha, and Lazarus alive and well.

While Martha was serving the evening meal, Mary came with a jar of ointment and anointed Jesus’ head and His feet and dried His feet with her hair. The smell of the ointment filled the home, and when the disciples smelled the ointment they realized with astonishment what Mary had done! This was expensive oil! Only the very rich would have possession of this oil. The disciples were furious! What a waste they thought! Judas Iscariot said, “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” (Jn 12:5). (Though Judas wasn’t interested in the poor, but he was a thief, since he possessed the money box and wanted more money in there for him to steal from.) But the point is, is that this ointment was 300 denarii! This was a whole year’s worth of wages. And in a moment she used it up, not for some practical purpose, but to pour upon Jesus as a gesture of her love for Him. Jesus defended her actions, and received this oil as His preparation for death, through which He would redeem her and the world.

This is the love that Jesus desires from the world—not for His benefit, but for our benefit.

The next day, the Sunday before His crucifixion, the crowd that had its beginning the day before, started its way to Jerusalem, and the crowd grew and grew. A contingent came from the direction of Bethany. Others came from Jerusalem, and met the crowd, all gathered around the Lord. And together they sang psalms of praise, adoring Jesus, the Messiah. They gave up their festival garments, their Sunday best, to lay before the Lord, giving Him a king’s entrance into Jerusalem. The commotion stirred up the city of Jerusalem like an earthquake; everyone took notice and wondered who this man was that was entering the city?

The sincere love and adoration that Jesus received is the love and adoration that He desires from the world—not for His benefit, but for ours. Loving God does not earn or receive God’s favor. Faith alone receives and benefits from the love of God. Yet the proper relationship between God and man, as He intended it at the beginning, was a relationship of mutual love. God would be the source and strength of love, and man, receiving that love of God, would respond with love toward God in a beautiful and blessed relationship.

Jesus doesn’t need anything. He doesn’t need our love. He has the love of the Father, and of the Holy Spirit. But Jesus loves the world, and because He loves the world, He wants us to love Him. He asked Peter, “Do you love Me?” There is nothing that we can say than that we love Jesus. There is no better or more holy work that to love Him with all our hearts.

Loving Him is for our good. Think of the example of the Old Testament Israelites, after God’s great act of love for them redeeming them from Egypt, destroying their enemy, and dwelling with them, and guiding them to the plenteous land He promised to them. How blessed they were to receive God’s love and favor!

But what did the Israelites do? Well, they did not love God. They turned their backs on God. They disobeyed Him. They were like faithless wives prostituting themselves to false gods.

If only they embraced and clung to God who loved them.

Man’s love toward God is imperfect. What happened to the love and adoration of that crowd accompanying Jesus on the way to Jerusalem. Where were the voices that were praising Jesus on Sunday, on Friday when the people were shouting “Crucify Him?” Did they turn against Christ? Did they have earthly aspirations for the Messiah, thinking that He would provide them health and wealth, guard them from hunger, or make Israel free again? But now they were disappointed to see Jesus under trial and powerless, in no position to improve their earthly situation.

Certainly, the wrong belief about Jesus would hinder the proper love for Him. If hearts believe that Jesus is merely a bread king, nothing more than one to run to for earthly help, that’s a far cry from the Christ, who’s glory and love is revealed in His sacrifice for the sins of the world that we sinners can enjoy life eternal! Besides if one believes Jesus is nor more than a bread king, or a political savior, that heart remains under the curse of the fall, and there is no true love for God.

But if we know and believe who Jesus is and what it means that He is the Christ, the Messiah, our Redeemer, what is our answer to Jesus’ question, “Do you love Me?” Our answer is “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” “Yet I must also confess that I have not loved you above all things.”

When we look at our love for God, it makes us shake our heads in shame. Whereas Mary in love was willing to give so much to her Lord in love for Him, and the crowd was willing let their fine apparel be trampled in honor of the Lord, we find that we are so miserly with our money in service to the Lord. While we are so hesitant to give generously to the Lord, we don’t blink an eye to splurge and treat ourselves. And instead of giving to the Lord of the firstfruits of what He has blessed us with, we give Him only some of what we have left over. It shows us who we truly love most of all, who truly is our god.

Or Christ gives us His Word and Sacraments in love for us to reveal to us His grace, and give us the heavenly gifts of His grace, for which Christ has entered into Jerusalem to win for us. But do we respond to Him in love? Do we treasure the times that He speaks to us through His gospel? Do we love the communion we have with Him, when the Lord’s Supper is offered to us? Or whenever we follow the deceitfulness of our hearts, when we love our lives in this world, when we covet, are discontent, when we despise our brothers and sisters in Christ, whenever we sin, we show our lack of love for Christ our Savior.

Our love and adoration of our Lord falls short. Our response to His love is not even close to where it should be. But behold the love of Jesus. He goes to Jerusalem not for the righteous, but for sinners. He knew who we are. He knew the pitiful condition of our hearts. He knew the sin and the hatred and rebellion that have been in the hearts of man since and Adam and Eve fell. But see there upon His shoulders the world’s sins, including your lovelessness and all your sin.

He needed nothing, but in love He gave His life unto divine wrath, suffering, and death, so that He can give you everything! You have forgiveness, peace with God, and eternal life! What great love! And what joy it is to love our loving Christ! What joy it is to love Him who has redeemed our hearts, our souls, our lives! Keep before your eyes Christ, who rode humbly into Jerusalem for you. Keep before you, Christ who was willingly scorned and rejected, who was willing to suffer the pain of the cross and the wrath of the Father in love for you! In His sacrifice you have forgiveness of your sins, and by His Holy Spirit, He daily renews your hearts that you may embrace your Redeemer who embraces you with His love. Amen.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.