Sermon – 04-10-22 – Palm Sunday – Cycle C
Scripture – Luke 19:28-40; Psalm 31:9-16; Isaiah 50:4-9a; Philippians 2:5-11; Luke 22& 23
Sermon Title – “Not a White Horse”
Mary Elizabeth skips along beside her mother Hannah. They are on their way to a parade. They did not know there was going to be a parade until they noticed people scurrying past their house all in the same direction. They hear people calling, “Jesus is coming! Jesus is coming!”
Mary Elizabeth and her mother like Jesus. At first they just heard about this unusual man. But one day they met him up close. Mary Elizabeth’s little brother was sick with something dreadful. They had him sitting in the sunshine thinking that would help him. Along comes Jesus unexpectedly.
Jesus notices the little brother named Bartholomew, Barth for short. Jesus bends so his face is even with the face of Barth. Jesus says, “Son, be healed.” Jesus touches Barth’s shoulder. As the people watch, Barth’s face slowly becomes rosy, his eyes shine bright, he sits straighter. That was a month ago and Barth’s energy has increased until he is able to play as a boy of age three should play.
So when Mary Elizabeth and her mother hear this news, they just fairly dance their way along with the other people. Before they can really decide where to stand, here comes this man Jesus but he is not walking. He is on a donkey. This grown man sitting on a donkey, feet dragging on the road. No time to stare. Everyone else is breaking palm branches from the trees and first waving them and then laying them on the road like a carpet for Jesus and the donkey. Also clothing – cloaks.
Why are the people giving Jesus such a welcome coming into Jerusalem? They do not know! They are hoping for an earthly king to chase the Romans home. They thought this earthly king would arrive on a large, elegant, white horse. But if this is the earthly king for which they are hoping, he must have misplaced the white horse. They never expected this healing, wandering Jesus to be the next king but they certainly are hoping for a king so if they need to accept Jesus as the next king, they will act graciously and with much excitement.
But, Mary Elizabeth and her mother notice that Jesus is not looking like a successful, jubilant person about to become king. Mary Elizabeth looks at her mother and mouths the words, “Why isn’t Jesus happy?” The crowd is so noisy that Hannah needs to watch Mary Elizabeth speak to know what she is saying. Mother mouths in reply, “Something is wrong.”
So mother and daughter are no longer jubilant themselves. They love Jesus for how humble he is and especially for healing Barth. They start to sense something really significant happening in front of their eyes. Even though the crowd stays around in merriness, Mary Elizabeth and Hannah slowly go around the crowd toward their home. They greet Father Thomas and Barth and start to make a meal but their mood is quite serious. Barth says, “Mama and my Lizabet, what is wrong?” Father takes a second look at the two females close to his heart. “Yes,” he says. “What has happened?” So Hannah and Lizabet, as Barth calls Mary Elizabeth, try to share the last few hours with Father and Barth. Even little Barth listens carefully and thoughtfully.
So in the days following, this family of four try to get to the part of Jerusalem where the action is happening. There is no pageantry now. There is a mood of confusion. There is much agitation between the religious people and the Roman government representatives in Jerusalem. This family rarely gets a glimpse of Jesus. It is like he is in hiding.
And then on the Friday after the arrival of Jesus on a donkey, the donkey is nowhere to be seen. The donkey may have given Jesus some solace, some comfort, had the donkey been allowed to be at that awful scene. “Oh,” they cried together as they watch Jesus being nailed to the cross on the ground and then lifted into the air only to be jarred when the cross is jammed into the ground.
The tears roll down their faces and the tears taste salty. But Jesus has the vinegar to taste. This is the ultimate humility. This humbleness that Mary Elizabeth and Hannah sensed about Jesus is now in plain sight of every nosy person there. Even the Roman soldiers are noticing that this person is different. Even Pilate, the Roman Governor in Jerusalem. Even Pilate’s wife knew this was dangerous territory for Pilate. “Stay out of this,” she said.
Now Mary Elizabeth and Hannah know what the “something is wrong” was and is. Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is allowing himself to be crucified. Even if he is the Son Person of God, or rather because he is the Son Person of God, Jesus is not going to shirk this great opportunity for the people of the world to have their sins forgiven. God the Son saves us. In humility, Jesus becomes our Savior. There is no arrogance; there is no claim to greatness. “Jesus humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.
Was there a reward for Jesus? As he died, is death his reward because he would return to heaven? Yes, but death does not have the last word! The Father arranges for the resurrection of Jesus – not a resurrection in heaven but a resurrection for living people to see. Jesus is not seen on a stage in kingly clothes. Kingship in earthly fashion is not Jesus! Jesus’ kingship is of the living kingdom, the alive kingdom, the kingdom of forgiven sins, the kingdom of living a blessed life in relationship with Jesus and other believers.
The name Jesus becomes very important. The name Jesus is exalted; the Father had given Jesus this special name before his birth. This name “Jesus” serves as a signal, as a tolling of a bell, so that “At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”
I picture Mary Elizabeth and her family on their knees with a mixture of anguish and rapture in their faces as they watch the unfolding scene of the crucifixion, the quick death, the earthquake, the carrying away of the body to a new tomb. I like to think they know that the two men who take the body and the one who offers the tomb are the two believers in Jesus who were afraid to come forward while Jesus was alive but this was too much for them.
They had to come into the light as believers in Jesus and the salvation which he offers with the death on the cross. These men are Joseph of Arimathia and Nicodemus. No longer could these men hide. They are on their knees, so to speak; out in the open. No more hiding for us either, no more keeping the faith to ourselves. Let our faith be seen and heard and known and felt.
Sooner or later, we each find ourselves on our knees, usually in humility and penitence. But now let us worship in awe. Let us wave those palm branches and declare with our voices that Jesus is our Lord. Much more than a king on a white horse. This Jesus is our Savior! Jesus Christ is Lord!