Monday, April 10, 2017

Palm Sunday Sermon: "On a Donkey"

+ Palm Sunday – April 9th, 2017 +
Series A: John 12:12-19; Isaiah 50:4-9; Philippians 2:5-11; John 12:20-43
Redeemer Lutheran, HB

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

A key part of any story is the narrative point of view. Who is telling the story. Whose eyes are you seeing the unfolding events through. How does the narrator tell the story?

This is true in any fictional story we read, but it’s also true of non-fictional stories like we find in God’s Word where we find history and story all at once, narrative and fact, eyewitness testimony and a skillful use of language used to proclaim Jesus’ saving work for us.

The account of Palm Sunday is no different. Each Gospel provides us with a different point of view of the same event. Matthew, Mark, and Luke help us view Palm Sunday from Jesus’ and the disciples’ perspectives, as well as the crowds.

Jesus’ disciples hear his word and follow his instructions:
“Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me.  If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.”

We also hear about Palm Sunday from the point of view of the crowds, which puts us alongside the road with the people shouting,

Hosanna to the Son of David! (Matthew 21:9). Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel! (John 12:13). Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest! (Luke 19:38)

John’s Gospel also gives us the point of view of the Old Testament prophet Zechariah and Jesus’ disciples.

Zechariah’s point of view is promise and comfort in the coming King. Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt.

The disciples, on the other hand, are confounded: His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.

So today, I’m invite you to look at this familiar story from a different perspective, to view Palm Sunday from a rather humble, unlikely point of view, the donkey.

If this donkey could talk like Balaam’s donkey in the Old Testament, what would his point of view be? Now, to be sure, this requires us to use our redeemed imaginations. There are no accounts of any talking donkey’s in the Gospels. But with that in mind, let’s consider Palm Sunday through the eyes of the donkey.

The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem…and Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it.

You can imagine my surprise. There I was one moment, minding my own business, chomping on some delicious, fibrous hay; and the next moment, there I am, the donkey that’s never been ridden before, slowly trotting at the head of a parade into the Holy City. I was ready to buck and kick and put up a fight, but he was humble and gentle and kind. We simply rode on in the grand parade.

People were waving palm branches and throwing their cloaks down to cover the dusty road ahead. The crowds were crying out, “Hosanna! (I learned later that means, Lord, save us). Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the king of Israel! He has come to save you and all creation.

Yes, you heard that right. The King was riding on my back. The King of creation was riding atop one of his created beasts. Me, a beast of burden, was honored to carry the One who was carrying the burdens of all creation on his back.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Of all the animals he created, he picked a donkey? Really? What was he thinking? Doesn’t he know kings and conquering heroes ride horses, carry swords and wear noble, gilded helmets?”

Let me stop you right there.

I know you expected the King to ride into Jerusalem like Samson with his flowing locks, wielding a donkey’s jaw-bone for a weapon, ready to kick some Roman rear-end. But listen to what the prophet Zechariah said about the King:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
    Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
    righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Did you hear that? Humble. Now, I know you humans have a hard time with that. Humility isn’t something that you’re used to. After all that means thinking of someone other than yourself. It means being a servant, carrying other’s burdens on your back. It means sacrifice, looking out for others concerns and cares above your own. But this why the King rode into Jerusalem the way he did.

That’s the kind of King Jesus is for you. Oh, he is a King alright. But he’s King of humility. Jesus rides a borrowed donkey. He bears no sword but is pierced by nails and spear for you and all humanity. He has no helmet of war to save him from the coming battle, only a crown of thorns. His throne is the cross and he conquers by laying down his life for you. Jesus wraps his glory in his humility to save you.

And, before you go on thinking the palms, cloaks, singing, and all the fanfare are above this donkey’s pay-grade, (and by the way, please, don't get me confused with that animated impostor who sold out for the gig with the green ogre), I must remind you that it was a donkey that rode along with Abraham and Isaac as they went to Moriah where Isaac was spared. And there I was, riding with the Greater Isaac on my back, not towards Mt. Moriah, but not far from Mt. Calvary, the place of the skull. Later in the week Jesus wouldn’t have me there to accompany him to the cross. He would walk alone. To the cross. For you.

It was Balaam’s donkey who saw the Angel of the Lord and told Balaam concerning the Word and will of the Lord. And now here’s that Angel of the Lord, in human flesh, the Christ incarnate, in human flesh, riding on my back through Jerusalem to fulfill God’s will and salvation for you.

It was a donkey that the great kings of old, David and Solomon, used to ride into Jerusalem as a sign of their royalty. And now the One who is David’s Son and Lord, the One Greater than Solomon is here, riding on my back to bring you into his everlasting kingdom.

It all happened just as the prophet Zechariah foretold:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
    Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
    righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Yes, Palm Sunday was a day of rejoicing for me. What an honor. What a joy to serve the One who is the servant of all, to bear the One who came to bear the sin of the world. But the joy is not only mine. It is yours.

Jesus the King entered Jerusalem for you. Jesus honors you and glorifies you by bearing your sin in his humanity. Jesus is humbled unto death, for you. Jesus exchanges his humility for your selfishness. He trades his grace for your guilt. Jesus offers his life for your death. Jesus gives you salvation for your sin.

Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold your King is coming.

A blessed Palm Sunday to each of you…

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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