Palm Sunday


An Extemporaneous Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ The King of Israel!” (JOH 12:13)

  1. The story of Palm Sunday really begins with the raising of Lazarus.

    1. The Lord had been healing people from all manner of diseases and injuries. As His ministry progressed, the miracles had become more impressive, more powerful.

    2. Although this was impressive, it was no more than other prophets had done.

      1. Elijah and the widow’s son as read in the first lesson.

      2. Elisha and the Shummanite woman’s son – 2KI 4:17-37

        1. This woman and her husband had been very kind to Elisha, providing him a home. He responded by giving them what they wanted most, a son. Then, when the son died from sun stroke, he returned to their home and raised him from the dead.

      3. With the miracle of Lazarus, a personal friend and the brother of Martha and Mary, the victim had been dead long enough that its decomposition was apparent to all the witnesses, who spread the word far and wide.

    3. The effect of the raising of Lazarus on the crowds, and on the chief priests and elders was electrifying.

      1. The crowds knew that they had found their hero, their king!

      2. The chief priests and elders knew that they had a real problem on their hands, that Jesus would not just go away by Himself, but that they would have to act to prevent Him from ruining everything.

  2. Construct of 4 gospel accounts

    1. The story begins at the village of Bethphage, on the Mt. of Olives.

    2. John is the only gospel that mentions palm branches, and has the people coming out of Jerusalem to greet Him before He gets on the colt (JOH 12:12-13).

      1. This was the main road to Jerusalem, and it was time for the feast of Passover, so there were many people traveling along. It is reasonable to assume that at least some of them recognized the Lord and His disciples, and, putting two and two together, began to welcome Him even as He was some distance from the city, but obviously heading that direction.

    3. John also mentions that the disciples did not understand what was going on until they looked back on the events after the glorification (JOH 12:16).

    4. The synoptic gospels agree that Jesus sent two disciples to get a colt which was given to them because “the Lord has need of it.”

      1. The scriptures indicate that the colt was tied near an inn. It is possible that it belonged to someone who had traveled there because he was already a follower of Jesus.

        1. This would explain why a valuable animal could be taken without payment or argument.

        2. It’s also an example of how the Lord, even while He was on the earth, still directed all things according to His Divine Providence.

      2. It was important that He ride on a colt for two reasons:

        1. It was a clearly recognized sign that the rider was a king, and

        2. It was a fulfillment of the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9.

    5. The synoptic gospels agree that the disciples put their garments on the colt, before Jesus sat on it.

    6. The synoptics also agree that the crowds put their own clothes in the road in addition to branches (or “leafy” branches) cut from the trees. Palm is not specified.

    7. The people called out “Hosanna,” “Son of David (that comes in the name of the Lord)” and “the king, who comes in the name of the Lord”

      1. This was a sign that they acknowledged Him as the Lord’s anointed, and accepted Him as the one to rule over them.

        1. Hosanna” means “Save now, we beseech Thee,” and is a prayer to the Lord for deliverance.

        2. Because Mary was connected to the royal family, the Lord’s human was literally the “son of David” and the people recognized Him as one who had been divinely chose to rule over them as king.

    8. In Luke, the Pharisees tell Him to rebuke His disciples, and He replies that if they are silenced, the very stones would cry out. (LUK 19:40)

      1. The Pharisees heard the people calling Jesus “king” and they were rightly afraid that the Romans was think that this was the beginnings of a civil uprising. They wanted Jesus to quiet the people to avoid a confrontation with Roman soldiers – a battle they would certainly lose.

      2. But the Lord knew, that in spite of the appearances, the people were proclaiming the truth that He was a Divine King, and that is would be true even if the people were silent.

        1. This tradition of “crying out,” as it is called in the Word, is also from the principle that all loves have their outward expression. “Crying out,” as when the people shouted “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Mark 11:9) is an act that corresponds to a living confession or acknowledgment from faith. (See AC 5323)

        2. They key word here is that “Crying out” is a living confession that Jesus Christ is He who comes in the name of the Lord, that is, who is the Messiah, the one who saves. A living confession means that it is a confession made not through mere words, but a confession, or statement of belief, that is made through every action of every moment of every day, a faith that lives in the heart and mind.

        3. This is one of the many lessons that is contained within the record of the events of that day, that the faith that we have in the Lord from the Word must be living, that is, must be expressed in the day to day course of our lives. We are all sorely tempted to let it go at knowing what the Lord teaches because we often find it difficult or inconvenient to do the things we know we ought to. We need to have the strength of our convictions to realize that there is no possibility of living life without problems, and the quality of our spiritual life is measured by how we deal with those problems.

    9. In the synoptics, the first place he goes is the temple.

      1. In MAT and LUK He drives out the moneychangers

      2. In MAR He “Looked around at all things.” (MAR 11:11)

    10. In MAT, after cleansing the temple, He began to heal the blind and the lame, while the children cried “Hosanna.”

      1. In any case, the visit to the temple is significant in the overall representation of the event. One would expect that, if he was going to overthrow the Roman rule, he would have made his way to the palace, the seat of government. Instead he went to the temple, reinforcing the concept that He did not want to be their earthly king, but was in fact the king of Heaven.

    11. All the gospels agree that at the end of the day He left the city to return to Bethany, on the Mt. of Olives, to rest.

  3. Conclusion

    1. We might wonder about the reasons behind this symbolic procession. Why did the Lord go through the motions of being crowned an earthly king when we know He had no intention of taking the throne? What was He trying to accomplish here?

      1. In order to get a more complete perspective on it, we need to remember that the people in the streets of Jerusalem were not the only witnesses that day.

        1. The scene was enacted and recorded in the gospels so that we might see it in our minds today, and

        2. These rituals and actions in the world had an important effect on the angels and spirits in the other world. Although the disciples and the people in the crowd did not really know what was going on, the angels did know.

        3. The simple good in the world of spirits who had been looking forward to the Lord’s coming could see that the ancient prophecies were being fulfilled by Him. Their hope were lifted and their minds were turned toward the Lord so that they could receive instruction from the angels and begin the process of being liberated from their spiritual bondage.

    2. And that brings us full circle to the reason why we celebrate this day each year. It’s not just about an event that happened 2000 years ago in a far away place. It’s not just about relieving the spiritual difficulties of people of another age.

      1. We celebrate this day because we know in our hearts that of ourselves and by our own power, we are not worthy of heaven.

        1. We see in the symbolism of Palm Sunday, that if we welcome the Lord into our city, into the doctrine that makes up our own personal faith,

        2. if we turn to Him and Him alone to guide our spiritual lives,

        3. if we can come to understand that material things are only for the sake of supporting spiritual uses and ends,

        4. then He will become our king and when life on earth ends, we will be welcomed into His heavenly kingdom. Amen.

1st Lesson: 1 Ki 17:17-23

Now it happened after these things that the son of the woman who owned the house became sick. And his sickness was so serious that there was no breath left in him. {18} So she said to Elijah, “What have I to do with you, O man of God? Have you come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to kill my son?” {19} And he said to her, “Give me your son.” So he took him out of her arms and carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his own bed. {20} Then he cried out to the LORD and said, “O LORD my God, have You also brought tragedy on the widow with whom I lodge, by killing her son?” {21} And he stretched himself out on the child three times, and cried out to the LORD and said, “O LORD my God, I pray, let this child’s soul come back to him.” {22} Then the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came back to him, and he revived. {23} And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper room into the house, and gave him to his mother. And Elijah said, “See, your son lives!” Amen.

2nd Lesson: John 12:12-19

The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, {13} took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ The King of Israel!” {14} Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written: {15} “Fear not, daughter of Zion; Behold, your King is coming, Sitting on a donkey’s colt.” {16} His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him. {17} Therefore the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of his tomb and raised him from the dead, bore witness. {18} For this reason the people also met Him, because they heard that He had done this sign. {19} The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, “You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!” Amen.

3rd Lesson:

AC 5236 [4] The children’s cry ‘Hosanna to the son of David’ was voiced so as to represent the truth that innocence alone acknowledges and accepts the Lord, that is, that those who have innocence within them do so. The words ‘out of the mouth of young children and sucklings You have perfected praise’ mean that there is no other path than innocence along which praise can go to the Lord. Along this path alone can any communication be established, any influx take place, or consequently any approach be made.

AC 8369 [2] That “palm-trees” signified a holy festivity which is from good, is evident also from these words in the following passages: A great crowd that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming into Jerusalem, took boughs of palm trees, and went forth to meet Him, and cried out, Hosanna: Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel (John 12:12, 13).

AC 2791 [9] From all this it is now evident that all and everything in the church of that period was representative of the Lord, and therefore of the celestial and spiritual things that are in His kingdom-even to the she-ass and the colt of a she-ass, by which the natural man as to good and truth was represented. The reason of the representation was that the natural man ought to serve the rational, and this the spiritual, this the celestial, and this the Lord: such is the order of subordination. Amen.

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