Palm Sunday Punctuation
Hosanna in the highest....praise be to You Lord Jesus! Thank you for enabling me to come to Your house and celebrate Your salvation today. Thank you for being my Savior and willingly laying down your life as a sacrifice for my sins. As we enter this week of remembering Your suffering, death, and resurrection be with us and bless our worship, strengthen our hearts in love toward you, and fill us with the joy of knowing that You are our King! Amen!
The Children of Israel kept the annual Passover feast as a way of remembering God’s deliverance from bondage in Egypt, but also to look forward in expectation to the Lamb of God whose blood would deliver them from the slavery of sin. Sunday was the day on which families chose their lamb for Thursday’s Passover. Sunday was the day on which the Lamb of God entered Jerusalem and presented Himself as the sacrifice for sins.
In order to be our Savior, Jesus humbled Himself and became obedient unto death. This humility should not sway us from seeing Him as our all-powerful, victorious, and exalted King. He came in humility, but has now defeated our enemies and rules over all things with full power and glory, as John’s vision in Revelation shows.
Text: Mark 11:1-10
Now when they drew near Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples; and He said to them, “Go into the village opposite you; and as soon as you have entered it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has sat. Loose it and bring it. And if anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it,’ and immediately he will send it here.” So they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door outside on the street, and they loosed it. But some of those who stood there said to them, “What are you doing, loosing the colt?” And they spoke to them just as Jesus had commanded. So they let them go. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their clothes on it, and He sat on it. And many spread their clothes on the road, and others cut down leafy branches from the trees and spreadthem on the road. Then those who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:
‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’
Blessed is the kingdom of our father David
That comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest!"
In name of Christ Jesus—our King who sacrificed Himself so that we could live in His kingdom—dear fellow redeemed:
Where has March gone?! Today is already the 28th of a month that seemingly just started yesterday. I suppose that if we found the place to which March has disappeared we would find February there too. Time flies, and all the more so when there are many activities and much to do.
If the concentration of many activities into a short period of time makes time go quickly, then the 8-day period of Holy Week, which we are beginning to commemorate today, certainly passed in a flash. So many things happened during that first Holy Week that the disciples must have felt overwhelmed by the rapid way in which it all took place; and yet, at the same time while John and Mary stood at the foot of Jesus’ cross watching His agony, it must have seemed as if time stood still.
This week, as we remember all that took place from Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday, the time is certain to go quickly; but let us also walk through the week carefully, methodically, with meditation, so that we are able to pause at every event and let time stand still long enough for us to fully appreciate with thanksgiving what our Savior has done for us.
On Palm Sunday, Jesus came into Jerusalem with much to do and He would accomplish it all. The recurring theme of Palm Sunday is that Jesus is a King. Though this one theme rings throughout the day, it appears with a number of variations as we will see in PALM SUNDAY PUNCTUATION.We hear Palm Sunday’s theme I. He’s a King. as A statement of prophecy. We hear, II. He’s a king? as A question of appearance and we hear, III. He’s a King! as An exclamation of praise! We ask for the Spirit’s blessing upon our meditation this morning.
Throughout the Gospel accounts and especially in the account written by Matthew, we frequently come across the words, “it is written.” These words are used as a bridge to connect an event or saying from Jesus’ life to an Old Testament prophecy. More literally, “it is written” means “it stands written.” In other words, when God connects something that happened in the New Testament to the Old Testament by saying “it stands written” He is declaring beyond doubt that this was established by God in prophecy and therefore the truth of it stands for all time.
The Old Testament prophets’ writings also demonstrate this absolute factual nature of God’s Word. At times, God gave Isaiah and the other prophets insight into what would come to pass in the future. However, when the prophets wrote about these future events they often wrote them as if they were already happening. Why? Because when something comes from the mouth of God it is as good as done, even if in time it won’t really take place until the future.
The overall plan of salvation has “stood written” since God planned it in eternity. Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and resurrection are all a fulfillment of what was planned and prophesied by God. It was accomplished in the will of God from eternity and then in time Jesus came, did all things necessary for our salvation, and brought prophecy and fulfillment together. For this reason, when Jesus was declared king by the people, it was simply a statement of what had already been declared by God long before.
The fulfilling nature of Jesus’ work is evident in the Palm Sunday events: Jesus told the disciples what they should do and what they would find. He said, “Go into the village opposite you; and as soon as you have entered it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has sat. Loose it and bring it. And if anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it,’ and immediately he will send it here” (Mark 11:2-3).
When the disciples went, they found everything exactly as Jesus had told them it would be, “So they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door outside on the street, and they loosed it. But some of those who stood there said to them, ‘What are you doing, loosing the colt?’ And they spoke to them just as Jesus had commanded. So they let them go.” (Mark 11:4-6).
Everything went perfectly and exactly as Jesus said it would right down to the question that the people would ask and the answer the disciples should give. When the people asked the disciples why they were taking the colt “the Lord NEEDS it” was all the explanation that was necessary.
The colt which the disciples were to bring for Jesus was part of Old Testament prophecy concerning the Messiah. Mark’s account of Palm Sunday doesn’t include the prophecy, but Matthew tells us that it was a fulfillment of this prophecy from Zechariah chapter 9: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you. He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey. . .He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be ‘from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth’.” (Zechariah 9:9-10, cf: Matthew 21:4).
God had announced through the prophet Zechariah that the promised King who would bring deliverance for God’s people—the promised Savior—would come into Jerusalem riding on a colt, the foal of the donkey. This stood written, declared for all time by God in His Word. Jesus is the fulfillment of that prophecy, He is the long-awaited Messiah and King, therefore, it became necessary—a need—for Him to use the donkey’s colt.
This same pattern of promise and prophecy fulfilled in Christ for the salvation of sinners runs through all of Jesus’ life. There are many examples in Jesus’ life in which it “was necessary” for something to take place in order to fulfill God’s plan of salvation and give us life. In every case, Jesus fulfills the need.
When Jesus was 12 years old He told Mary and Joseph, “Did you not know that I must be—it is necessary, a need that I be—about My Father’s business” (Luke 2:49).
To Nicodemus Jesus said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must—it is necessary, a need that—the Son of Man be lifted up” (John 3:14).
During His ministry Jesus said, “I must—it is necessary, a need that I—preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent” (Luke 4:43).
As the time for His suffering and death drew nearer Jesus said, “Nevertheless I must—it is necessary, a need that I—journey today, tomorrow, and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem” (Luke 13:33).
The closer in time that His suffering and death came, the more Jesus prepared His disciples for those events. “He began to teach them that the Son of Man must—it is necessary, a need that He—suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31).
When Peter drew His sword in the garden and cut off the servant’s ear, Jesus told him to put it away for if Jesus was not arrested and crucified, “How then could scriptures be fulfilled that it must—it is necessary, a need for it to—happen thus?” (Matthew 26:54)
After Jesus’ rose from the dead, Jesus instructed the disciples further and showed them how all these things fulfilled what had already been established by God: “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must—it is necessary, a need to—be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me” (Luke 24:44).
Jesus fulfilled these things and many others like them because He is the Promised King and Savior from sin. Jesus had proven this to be true throughout His ministry, from the very early days all the way to the end. Therefore, as we view Palm Sunday and what happened during the rest of the week, we are able to say “He’s a King” and punctuate it with a simple period because that is (in a very matter-of-fact and straightforward way) who God has declared Him to be.
In all things, God’s Word simply states the truth. Everything He says is true. Jesus prayed on the night of His arrest, “Sanctify them by Your truth, YourWord is truth” (John 17:17). What God says doesn’t require analyzing for authenticity, reliability, and truthfulness. It is simply God’s Word...period. For this reason we are able to take God at His Word and trust what He says...period.
The simple, straightforward, Truth which God has given us in His Word means that We can confidently believe everything that Scripture tell us about Jesus, namely, that He is our king, our Savior, our Shepherd; He does all that He is said to do; and His promises are all true. So it was prophesied, and so He has now fulfilled it!
“He’s a king??” is a question that could understandably be asked as we view Palm Sunday. A king would be expected to ride into the city on a powerful, majestic horse...Jesus rode in on a donkey and that even was only a colt.
We would expect a king to have great power and exercise that power at will. Jesus did have power and He used it from time to time in His miracles, but He didn’t show that power all the time and did not use it for Himself. A king would be regally dressed in expensive robes with jewelry and a crown. Jesus dressed no differently than the ordinary fishermen who were His disciples. A king would be expected to be at least somewhat self-promoting and proud. Jesus entered Jerusalem in the utmost humility, humbling Himself to the point of death even death on a cross (cf: Philippians 2:ff).
Jesus did not look much like a king when He entered Jerusalem and yet there were glimpses of something greater than the eye could see. He was riding on a colt that had never been ridden before. Animals that served sacred purposes were never yoked or used for work, but were set aside solely for their important purpose (cf: Numbers 19:2, Deuteronomy 21:3, 1 Samuel 6:7). Jesus’ humble donkey colt also had a very important and sacred purpose.
Jesus didn’t look like a king, but still a huge crowd went in front of Him and followed Him shouting praises and putting clothes and palm branches along the way just as a crowd would do for a king. Such an un-king-like figure receiving honor as if He were a king is certainly part of the reason those who observed the events of Palm Sunday asked one another, “Who is this?” (Matthew 21:10).
Jesus didn’t look much like a king on Palm Sunday and nothing that happened later in the week would change that image. Jesus didn’t defend Himself when He was arrested. Instead, He rebuked Peter who was trying to defend Him. A true king would let his army fight...wouldn’t he?
Jesus didn’t speak before Pilate in His defense. Pilate’s soldiers beat Jesus and put the crown of thorns on his head, then Pilate took him out to the people seeking their pity and said, “Behold! the man!” (John 19:5). Jesus didn’t look too kingly then either. Pilate wrote the superscription over Jesus’ head on the cross, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” The words said “king” but that too only became a source of ridicule.
Jesus’ appearance inevitably leads to the question of disbelief, “He’s a king?!” The question will always arise if someone wants to equate Jesus with other kings. Jesus’ enemies did this when they equated Jesus and His kingship with that of Caesar telling Pilate, “‘If you let this man go you are not Caesar’s friend. Whoever makes Himself a king speaks against Caesar....’ Pilate said, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar!’” (John 19:12,15)
Jesus’ conversation with Pontius Pilate reveals that Jesus is a totally different kind of king. “Then Pilate called Jesus, and said to Him, ‘Are You the King of the Jews?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?’ . . . ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.’ Pilate therefore said to Him, ‘Are You a king then?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice’” (John 18:33-37).
Jesus and His Kingdom are not of the type that is built on appearance and public opinion. His royalty, rulership, and authority as King stand regardless of what might appear to be the case in the eyes of sinners. While the world looks at externals and asks questions about Jesus’ kingship, Jesus explains through the apostle Paul, “...has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” (1 Corinthians 1:20) and “The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17). Jesus Himself said while on the earth, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation nor will they say, ‘see here!’ or ‘see there!’ for indeed the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21).
Jesus’ Kingdom is defined by its purpose. Isaiah prophesied that the promised King would do battle and bring the spoils of victory to his people, “Behold the Lord God shall come with a strong hand and His arm shall rule for Him; Behold His reward is with Him, and His work before Him...”(Isaiah 40:10), but Isaiah also prophesied concerning this same king, “He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men...” (Isaiah 53:2f).
Externally, Jesus looked so ordinary and as if He couldn’t be accomplishing much...if anything. However, His purpose in “taking the form of a bondservant and coming in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7) and suffering and dying was that through these things He might redeem us from sin and death to give us the full glory of His heavenly Kingdom—the spoils of victory from His battle against sin, death, and Satan. Jesus’ appearance on Palm Sunday was rather plain with only hints of glory. His purpose was to present Himself as the Lamb for sacrifice to pay for our sins.
Jesus’ earthly lowliness did and does still offend people who refuse to follow Him. Some disciples stopped following Jesus when He didn’t turn out to be their kind of king. Today people still try to shape Jesus’ into the kind of Prophet and King they want and then become disillusioned with Him if He and His Word don’t measure up (or down) to their standards.
We will want to stand guard lest we ever be offended because of the lowly appearance of our King. We seek the Lord’s strengthening through His Word so that we do not become offended and forsake our King when we are called upon to bear a cross because of faithfulness to Him.
We need strength to declare our king to the world even if—and especially when—He doesn’t measure up to what the world thinks He should be. We stand guard lest we be pulled into the world’s temptation of seeking a King and Kingdom that will give outward external success and glory, but lacks the true purpose of Christ’s kingdom, namely, the salvation of souls.
The “un-king-like” appearance of Jesus on Palm Sunday helps us to remain free from the distractions of worldly pomp and thereby keep the proper approach to the essence of our King. When we see Jesus ride into Jerusalem and hear the world question His royalty, we don’t see much glory, and yet at the same time the scene is filled with His majesty of purpose and therefore, we declare Him our King!
As the Fulfiller of God’s planned salvation, Jesus was definitely worthy of praise as He rode into Jerusalem. He may not have looked much like King, but He was and is!
Zechariah had written, “Behold, your King is coming to you...The battle bow shall be cut off. He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be ‘from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.’(Zechariah 9:9-10) This king was coming with power and would defeat enemies to set His people free! Such a king is worthy of praise!
Isaiah had prophesied of this king, “For unto us a Child is born...the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever” (Isaiah 9:6-7).
The long-awaited Messiah who would rightfully bear these names of honor and glory, the one who would bring peace, and deliver His people from their sins is surely worthy of honor and glory! Who else could perform such wonderful deeds?
The people in the multitude surrounding Jesus on Palm Sunday identified Jesus as the Messiah worthy of praise, the long-expected Savior. “Those who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’” [v.9-10]
The people identified Jesus as the descendant of David who would rule over God’s people just as God had promised to David and prophesied through Isaiah (and others). The people praised Jesus by recognizing that He was coming in the name of the Lord their Redeemer. He was sent from God to be their Deliverer.
The people gave glory to Jesus by shouting “Hosanna!” “Hosanna” means “save me, help me!” Hosanna became a word of praise as those who were in need cried out for help from those who were greater. In their shouts, the people were echoing the words of Psalm 118, “Save now I pray, O Lord. O Lord I pray send now prosperity. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (Psalm 118:25-26).
The words and actions of the people clearly gave Jesus honor and praise. The Word of God demonstrates that He was and is worthy of that praise. There were probably some in the crowd who were swept up in the emotion of the moment and didn’t know really what they were saying. They may have even got swept up in the emotion on Friday and also shouted “crucify Him.” Many in the crowd were perhaps shouting their praises thinking that Jesus would be an earthly king to redeem them from the Romans. Yet, there were also surely those who were giving honor and glory to Jesus as the Son of God sent from heaven to save sinful mankind.
As we look out over the events of Palm Sunday and Holy Week, we too will see every reason to exclaim our praise. Yes, Jesus came in humility and ordinary appearance, but that lowly Savior has died for our sins and now has been glorified. What He came to Jerusalem to do He completed and declared: “It is finished!” He rose back to life on the third day to seal victory and life for us. He is truly the all-powerful King, victorious over sin and death. He is King of kings and Lord of Lords (cf: New Testament reading).
Gone is the donkey and the lowliness for “God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9ff).
In the hymn we sang before this meditation there is a very striking line: “In lowly pomp ride on to die...” Lowliness and pomp don’t often fit together, but in Jesus our Savior they do. Jesus came, according to prophecy, not looking like an ordinary king because He isn’t. He is, however, a most praiseworthy King and “worthy to receive power and riches and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12).
For lost sinners redeemed by the blood of Christ, the Palm Sunday Punctuation is above all one of exclamation. We are saved!
HE IS KING!!!!!
HE IS OUR KING!!!!
HE IS MY KING!!!!!!!!!
—Pastor Wayne C. Eichstadt