+ Sunday of the Passion/Palm Sunday A
TEXT: Matthew 26:14 – 27:66
DATE: April 13, 2014
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Dallas
This is certainly an unusual day.
We begin with a festive procession,
waving palm branches,
hearing the story of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem
with the crowd's shouts of "Hosanna",
and we join in with them
even singing "All glory, laud and honor...
and sweet Hosannas".
And then after the palms settle
and the shouts and songs quiet,
we do this.
We read the passion – the suffering – of Jesus.
The whole story.
We go from triumph to tragedy
all in the same liturgy.
It is an unusual day, for sure.
There is a clue to what this is all about.
But we have to go back a few months to find it.
We have to go back to the fourth Sunday of Advent,
the last Sunday before Christmas,
to find the clue.
It's something we read that day.
And you probably forgot by now,
so, even though we'll read
an unusually large amount of scripture today,
I'd like to remind you.
Here's what we read that day (Matthew 1:18-25):
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means, "God is with us." When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus. (It. added)
There it is. The clue: “he named him Jesus.”
"You are to name him Jesus,
for he will save his people from their sins."
That's it. The name. Jesus.
He will save his people from their sins.
That's what the crowd was hoping for
when they spread their cloaks on the road
and greeted him, shouting and cheering,
as he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.
They were shouting "Hosanna!"
In Hebrew, Hosanna means, "Help Us, Please!"
They were looking for their Messiah,
the one who would deliver them
from the occupying Roman government,
the one who would help them.
The one who would save them.
The irony is, it is these same people –
his own people –
who then reject this Messiah.
See, they had definite expectations
about how he should do that –
help and save them, that is –
and that’s what they expected to see
when he came into Jerusalem like that.
But as you’ll see, as you already know,
that’s not how things turned out.
So they reject him
because a messiah is no good
if he is powerless.
And a messiah who falls to the power
of the occupying government
and is in no position to help anyone
no matter how much they say "please".
That’s why his own people reject him.
But in yet another twist,
it's their very rejection that fulfills the scriptures
so that he CAN save them.
He is indeed the messiah
who does indeed save his people from their sin,
but he does that by the very death
they sentenced him to
when they rejected him.
The string that holds this day together,
the theme that unites the triumph and the tragedy
is his own name, Jesus.
For he will save his people from their sin.
That's what this day is all about.
This is a day for reflection.
For reading and digesting
the passion and suffering,
the broken body and spilled blood
who was born and named,
and who gives himself even now (Table)
to save his people from their sins.
That is the simple
yet incomprehensible, overwhelming truth
of this day.
By his rejection and suffering,
by his passion and death,
Jesus has saved you.
And by his enduring presence
as Emmanuel, God with us,
Jesus saves you even now.
And so we read the story of our salvation.
The Gospel according to Matthew:
the passion of Our Lord.
Please join in the dramatic reading in the pamphlet
and speak those lines
marked by the cross.
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