The Real Reason to Celebrate!

Palm Sunday
Matthew 21:1-11

Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!  In the name of Jesus, who rode humbly into Jerusalem to save us, dear friends in Christ,

There’s almost always a reason behind celebrations, right?  What do we celebrate?  Birthdays, Weddings, Anniversaries, Retirements, Graduations, Grand Openings, Championships, etc.  Really, can you think of a celebration for which there is no reason?  If you’re going to celebrate something, there almost has to be a reason behind it, something that makes you joyful, happy, excited, and a desire to share that excitement with others.

Well, today is kind of a strange day.  We’ve been in the church season of Lent for the past 5 ½ weeks and we’ve been focusing on repentance over our sins, been focusing on the sufferings of our Savior, on His passion, and we know how this week is going to end, we’re going to hear how Jesus died on a cross and then was buried in a grave.  But then here we are on Palm Sunday and…we’re kind of celebrating!

On that first Palm Sunday Jesus rode into Jerusalem and crowds of people were laying their garments down on the ground for Him to ride on and some were cutting down palm branches and laying them down before Him.  Palm branches were back then a symbol of victory.  It’s also the Sunday before the Passover and the 10th day of their month when all the Jews were to select their Passover lamb and have them inspected at the Temple to make sure that they were without any kind of blemish or defect.  So Jerusalem would have been busting at the seams with thousands upon thousands of people coming into the city.  So there could have likely been thousands of people shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!”

They’re celebrating!  Is it proper for us as God’s people to celebrate?  Absolutely.  But it’s important for us to look a little deeper and to ask ourselves: Why are we celebrating?  For what reasons are we celebrating?

Now we’re not specifically told what the disciples were doing while all of this was going on nor are we, of course, told what was going through their minds.  But think of what we know about disciples.  James and John had asked Jesus that they might be Jesus’ right hand men of power and control in Jesus’ kingdom, the other disciples were upset because they felt they had just as much right for those positions.  Peter had rebuked Jesus when Jesus told the disciples about his suffering and death, later in the Garden of Gethsemane Peter is ready to go down fighting for Jesus with the sword, and even after Jesus’ death and resurrection, just before he was about to ascend into heaven, what do the disciples ask Jesus?  They wanted to know if Jesus was going to set up his earthly kingdom now!

Do you think they might have been joining in the celebration, honoring Jesus with praise, but possibly also excited thinking that Jesus might now be setting up His earthly kingdom, getting rid of those hated Romans and returning Judah back to the glory of King David and Solomon… and they were going to be there, they were going to see it, they were going to be part of it all!  How cool!  What a reason to celebrate!

What about the crowds of thousands that were cheering Jesus here?  Did they have similar thoughts about Jesus?  Remember what they had likely heard about Jesus: He fed well over 5,000 people once, again he fed over 4,000, he gave sight to the blind, he healed the lame, he cured leprosy, he could walk right through a crowd of his enemies when they were trying to throw him off a cliff, and just a few days earlier he even raised Lazarus from the dead!  Quite likely many of the crowd were people coming from Bethany and had just witnessed that miracle.  If this Jesus could do all of that, then wouldn’t it make sense that he could bring the glory back to Judah?  That’s a reason to celebrate!

And what about us, why do we celebrate?  For what reasons do we praise God?  It’s pretty easy for us to praise God when we get that job that we’ve always wanted, it’s easy to praise God when we recover from an illness, easy to praise God when He gives us a new child or grandchild, or when things in life work out or when something good happens to us.  But if that’s all we celebrate or praise God for, isn’t that rather shallow?  Aren’t those things rather earthly focused?

There’s some far more important reasons to celebrate revealed right here in our text.  What do we see first?  As Jesus is coming to the village of Bethphage close to Jerusalem, he sends two of his disciples into the village.  Why?  Because Jesus tells them at once they will find a donkey and a colt there and the Gospel writer Luke adds that the colt is one on whom no one has ever ridden.  How did Jesus know those things?  Jesus is all-knowing and he’s showing that to his disciples.  And is that not something to celebrate?  Jesus knows all things.  That means He knows your life.  Jesus knows what’s coming in my life.  Jesus knows when the challenges are going to come, the good times are going to happen.  Jesus knows how he will use each thing that happens in my life to serve my good.  That’s something to celebrate!

Look at something else here when Jesus directs those disciples He tells them when they get to the donkey and her colt, “If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”  Literally the Greek says, “The Lord has need of them.”  The Lord has a need!!  And what does he need?  A donkey?  Really!  Think about that!  What amazing humility and lowliness!  The Lord…has lowered himself to what extent?  That he has need of a donkey!

But it was all according to God’s plan: “Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”  Our God rides into Jerusalem not in pomp and glory and strength and might, but in lowliness and with gentleness.  Is that something to celebrate?  For sinful human beings like you and me, absolutely.  For God could deal with us with anger and power and give us what our sins deserve.  But he doesn’t.  He deals with us with gentleness and graciousness.  While the crowds are celebrating and cheering, Jesus however remains focused and keeps his sight on one place, the cross, to go to the cross and pay for the sins of the world.

And again that Jesus had his sights set on the cross to pay for the sins of the world and came riding into Jerusalem to do just that, that’s something to celebrate.  For when our final hour comes, when the end of our life comes, when we are getting ready to leave this world, what are we going to celebrate?  Are we really going to care about that promotion that we got at work?  Are we really going to care about that advanced degree?  Are we really going to care if we won the big game?  Is it really going to matter if we were health or unhealthy, popular or unpopular, rich or poor?  At our final hour we will see all of those things for what they really are – things of this earth, which are fine and good by themselves, but just that, things of this earth.  Rather, as death draws near it will be the eternal things that will matter to us.

And because Jesus came riding into Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday we have something worth celebrating!  For we have salvation, we have forgiveness, we have a God who deals with us with gentleness and grace, we have a God who knows our lives through and through and will continue to guide and direct things in order to bring us to the eternal mansions of heaven!  Celebrate that!

And so today we sing “Hosanna!”  And it’s incredibly fitting.  For “Hosanna” means “Save us, Lord.”  And that’s exactly what we need, we need a God to save us and that’s exactly what our King, our Lord, our Redeemer Jesus gently, humbly, knowingly and willingly rode into Jerusalem to do.  And that’s the real reason that we celebrate today, tomorrow, and forever.  Amen.