“Hosanna to the Son of David!...Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Jesus rides into Jerusalem the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers. He rides in on a donkey, a beast of burden - in humility. No chariots here. No war horses and farefare.
Our God does not show his muscles and his strength. In the words of the prophet Isaiah he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hid their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
This is our God. To the children who wave palm branches and welcome their king this morning. Mark this message well. This king Jesus is not like other kings. And this God is not like other. This is true God. Jesus is true God. And God is man. Behold your king. He rides into Jerusalem to make all things new.
He is betrayed by his own disciple, denied by his best friend, and handed over to sinful men. As Isaiah foretold he opened not his mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter. My kingdom is not of this world he says. They yell out crucify him. He is condemned and bound. As Barabbas the murderer goes free – just as you go free.
They beat him and spit on him. They mocked him and stripped him naked. They put on purple clothes to mock him. Bloody and beaten he carried his cross up the mountain. They put nails in his hands and a spear through his feet. His body pounded to a cross. They raised him high. The crowds cried out to him “You said the temple would be destroyed and raised on the third day. But you can’t even save yourself!”
God sacrifices his own son. Darkness covered the earth and Jesus cried out with a loud voice “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Hosanna in the highest. This is why we wave palm branches. This is our king. He suffers for the betrayal of Judas, and the denial of Peter. He suffers for gossip and adultery among us. He suffers the penalty for our vulgarity, our cold hearts. He carries in his body your sins and is crucified for them.
Because God is love and because God is just he does not permit evil. And because we are evil he should surely go after us. But as Abraham believed, God would provide the sacrifice. And he does. The Father sends forth his Son whom he loves. Jesus lies down on the altar that Isaac escaped from.
He is made guilty that you would be declared innocent. His case would be tried so that your case would be dismissed. He suffers hell so that you might receive heaven. He receives God’s wrath that you would receive God’s love.
Hosanna in the highest. Behold your king. A suffering, beaten, and bloody king. He comes. A Lamb who goes uncomplaining forth. Led to the slaughter. Pierced for our transgressions. He dies for our sins which brought us death. He destroys death by dying.
Hosanna literally means rescue us now. And this is the sort of rescue you need. Whatever scandal or shame you feel in your heart. Whatever pain haunts you – hand it all over this morning. Hand it over to Christ this morning – this start of holy week.
Like the crowds on Palm Sunday throw your sins at his feet. Donkeys carry baggage, and Jesus carries sins. Dump all your baggage on him. Dump on him all of your brokenness. Give to him your mistrust, your failures, your anxiety. Let him bear your shame. Let him carry your sorrows and your scandals.
Remember his words. Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Leave your sins with Jesus. That’s why the crowds throw down their cloaks at Jesus feet when he rides in. Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Hosanna in the highest.
Jesus dies for the sins of the world. He breathes his last breath. The curtain of the temple is torn in two. The earth shakes. The tombs and graveyards are emptied. And the bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep sang and danced their way to the holy city.
Your Savior has arrived. You too can dance on your grave – and ride into the holy city. Behold your God! He rides into your ears by His holy Word and into your mouth by this most holy sacrament.
The processional on Palm Sunday points to the Sacrament of the Altar. The Lord’s Supper. God comes in ways that you do not expect. He comes in lowly ways. A donkey sort of way. A body and blood sort of way. Bread and a sip of wine way. A preacher sort of way. Your sins are forgiven. You slate is wiped clean. Hosanna in the highest. In Jesus name.