The Lamb Presents Himself for Sacrifice
Lord Jesus, as You entered Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday, come and enter our hearts today. Move us to honor and praise You from hearts that are filled with joy and thanksgiving to You, our conquering King and the Lamb who sacrificed Himself for our sins. Bless the worship of all who gather here today. Work in our hearts with Your Word, hear our prayers, and accept our praises. Amen.
“We have come to worship the newborn king of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2).
“Hosanna in the Highest! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” (Mark 11:9).
“I do not know the man!” (Mark 14:71).
“Crucify Him! Crucify Him! (Mark 15:13f).
“Surely He was the Son of God.” (Mark 15:39).
There certainly is a great range of emotions and attitudes demonstrated toward Jesus in the well known events of His life and death. The wisemen eagerly worship Jesus, the crowds welcome Him on Palm Sunday, Peter denies Him, the mob shouts for His death, and the Roman centurion is convinced that He was the Son of God.
To this day there is a great range of attitudes and beliefs concerning Jesus. These different beliefs and attitudes toward our Savior bombard us from all sides—from print and visual media, and from people we meet and with whom we work. Our desire is to know the true Jesus, to understand what His work was and is, and to put our trust firmly in Him and in His Word for our salvation.
Today is the beginning of the most momentous and significant week in all of history. Today, Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem and in five short days will be buried. During the last days of His life—even in the last hours—Jesus taught His disciples and He teaches us through their inspired writings. In the words and actions of Jesus in this week we call Holy Week, we find our salvation revealed…and accomplished….for us.
Therefore, beginning today and continuing on Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday, and culminating a week from today on Easter, we seek to see and understand what took place in Jesus’ life and how those events are our salvation.
During our midweek Lenten services we have been considering how Jesus the Lamb went uncomplaining forth as our Savior. Today through the pages of Scripture we will see THE LAMB PRESENT(S) HIMSELF FOR SACRIFICE. It is significant that all four Gospel writers record the events of Palm Sunday, and those events are the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. This morning we meditate on both the prophecy and fulfillment.
I. The Lamb Chooses Himself
The first Scripture to which we turn is Exodus 12:3-7, 12-14 (these verses are God’s direction to Moses concerning the first Passover in Egypt and also the subsequent Passover celebrations).
“Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: ‘On the tenth day of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the persons; according to each man’s need you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight. And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it…‘For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.
The Passover celebration each year had a two-fold purpose: One was to look back, the other to look forward. Each year the Children of Israel were to celebrate the Passover so that they would remember how dramatically God had rescued them from the slavery of Egypt, and to praise Him for that deliverance.
On the night that the Israelites left Egypt, they killed the Passover lamb they had chosen four days earlier. That lamb was without blemish and without spot. They roasted it whole without breaking any bones, and they painted its blood on their door posts. Later that night when God came through Egypt killing all of the first born, He would pass over any house that had the lamb’s blood on it. The lamb’s blood spared the life of the firstborn in that house. Each year after that night, the Israelites remembered by choosing a Passover lamb and eating the Passover meal.
This remembrance also looked forward to a greater Lamb. Like all of the sacrifices of the Old Testament, the Passover Lamb was a picture of Jesus. The lamb was to be without blemish or defect—Jesus was without sin. The people were not to break any bones in the lamb—Jesus was crucified without any bones being broken. The blood of the lamb on the door posts spared the lives of the firstborn—Jesus’ blood spares us from eternal death because it is the ransom price to buy us back from sin and death. On the night of the first Passover, God delivered Israel from the slavery of Egypt. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection we are delivered from the slavery of sin.
God commanded that the Passover lamb should be chosen on the 10th day and eaten on the 14th day of the month. The night of the Passover meal during the last week of Jesus’ life was Thursday. Counting back four days, we find that the Passover Lamb was to be chosen on Sunday. Jesus, the fulfilling Lamb of God, chose Himself by riding into Jerusalem and setting into motion the events that would lead to the laying down of His life on Friday. Hear how Jesus prepares for His entry into Jerusalem and choosing Himself for sacrifice in Luke 19:28-37.
When He had said this, He went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. And it came to pass, when He came near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mountain called Olivet, that He sent two of His disciples, saying, “Go into the village opposite you, where as you enter you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Loose it and bring it here. And if anyone asks you, ‘Why are you loosing it?’ thus you shall say to him, ‘Because the Lord has need of it.’” So those who were sent went their way and found it just as He had said to them. But as they were loosing the colt, the owners of it said to them, “Why are you loosing the colt?” And they said, “The Lord has need of him.” Then they brought him to Jesus. And they threw their own clothes on the colt, and they set Jesus on him. And as He went, many spread their clothes on the road. Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen…
Hymn: 142:1-2 ~ A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth
II. The King Comes for Battle
Scripture teaches us to see Jesus as our High Priest and as the Lamb of God. The Old Testament priests made the Old Testament sacrifices on behalf of the people’s sin. Jesus as both priest and lamb sacrificed Himself. One of our hymn writers puts it this way: “Offered was He for greatest and for least, Himself the Victim and Himself the Priest” [TLH 307:1]
God wants us to understand what Jesus did as fully as possible. God uses pictures and illustrations and comparisons throughout Scripture to help in our understanding. God used the Old Testament worship, the priests, and the sacrifices as pictures of Jesus and what He would accomplish. But to help us further with another picture, God explains Jesus and His work to us in the context of a civil leader—a king.
Kings provide for their people, protect their people, provide for the orderly governing of their people, and when necessary go to battle for their people. Jesus, our King, went to battle for us against our greatest enemies—the enemies that want nothing less than our own souls—all the powers of Hell. The battle which Jesus waged for us is not the average war. It is a battle that makes even terrorism look like child’s play. “…we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).
As our King, Jesus came to do battle against our spiritual enemies, to conquer them for us, and to equip us with the armor of God so that in His victory we can daily defeat our enemies with their temptations. Jesus rode into Jerusalem to do battle—not with the Scribes and Pharisees and not with the Romans as many would have thought—but on the cross for our sins. Zechariah the prophet foretold this entrance of Jesus. We read his prophecy in Zechariah 9:9-10 and the fulfillment in John 12:14-15.
“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.
10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
And the horse from Jerusalem;
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.’
Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written: “Fear not, daughter of Zion; Behold, your King is coming, Sitting on a donkey’s colt.”
Zechariah’s and John’s description of Jesus, our King, is a picture of blessed contrasts. “He is coming to you,” Zechariah says, “lowly and on a donkey.” That is not very kingly, and indeed rather humiliating. Yet, “He is just, having salvation, will cut off the chariot and the horse, He will speak peace and have dominion to the ends of the earth!” That is anything but lowly!
Yes, Jesus came in lowly fashion because all of the trappings and wealth and pomp and circumstance surrounding an earthly king is just that—earthly! What good are the robes, the fine horses, and all riches? The only thing they accomplish is to exude wealth and to serve the king. Jesus, our King, who was rich, became poor so that we through His poverty might become rich (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:9). He came, “not to be served but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). Yes, He came to earth as a lowly man, He entered into Jerusalem with the lowliness of the donkey, but He came that way because He had humbled Himself—setting aside His power and glory—to be your servant and King. He came to go to battle for you!
When Jesus triumphed over the Devil by dying for our sins and then rising again, the Devil didn’t see a lowly man. He saw a conquering hero—the Son of God made man who had crushed the serpent’s head (cf. Genesis 3:15). There is nothing lowly about our resurrected Lord who has defeated our enemies, brought salvation, has been exalted by God the Father and now has all authority and dominion in heaven and on earth!
Today, Palm Sunday, we see the contrast: the lowliness of our king with the knowledge of His great and triumphant victory which lies just one week away.
Hymn: 162 ~ Ride on, Ride on in Majesty
III. The People Shout Their Praise
Scripture Reading: Psalm 118:25-29
The word associated most with Palm Sunday is Hosanna! Hosanna is used in Psalm 118 and means when translated: “Save now, we pray!” The shouts of the people on Palm Sunday echo the words of Psalm 118. Hosanna—save now, we pray—becomes a word of praise because if I call out to someone with the plea to save me, I am acknowledging that person’s strength and ability beyond on my own to help. Hosanna to the Son of David! Our Savior helps us in every need.
Save now, I pray, O Lord;
O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
We have blessed you from the house of the Lord.
God is the Lord,
And He has given us light;
Bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.
You are my God, and I will praise You;
You are my God, I will exalt You.
Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.
Children’s Sermon: A re-enactment of the first Palm Sunday using palm branches, and “clothes,” and with an explanation of the words the people shouted.
And many spread their clothes on the road, and others cut down leafy branches from the trees and spread them on the road.9 Then 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!”
Conclusion: It makes us sad to think of Jesus dying. Our sins are why He died, but we can be happy and shout HOSANNA! Because Jesus helps us, saved us, and forgives our sins.
Hymn: 160(1,2,5) ~ All Glory Laud and Honor
IV. A Simple Faith Believes and Declares
Responsive Reading: Psalm 8
P: O Lord, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth,
C: Who have set Your glory above the heavens!
P: Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength, Because of Your enemies,
C: That You may silence the enemy and the avenger.
P: When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
C: What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?
P: For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
C: And You have crowned him with glory and honor.
P: You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands;
C: You have put all things under his feet,
P: All sheep and oxen—Even the beasts of the field,
C: The birds of the air, And the fish of the sea that pass through the paths of the seas.
P: O Lord, our Lord,
C: How excellent is Your name in all the earth!
As you would expect, Jesus’ enemies—the Jewish leaders—did not appreciate the entrance that Jesus made into Jerusalem. They did not appreciate the words of honor and praise which the people shouted. Luke tells us that some of the “some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, ‘Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.’ But He answered and said to them, ‘I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.’” (Luke 19:39-40). So great is the need for Jesus to be praised, so deserved is the honor and glory that if people didn’t praise Him, God would make sure another part of His creation would.
We now go to the Monday after Palm Sunday and Matthew’s Gospel account, Matthew 21:12-16.
Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ” Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise’?”
Dismissing for a moment what we know about the attitude of the Jewish leaders toward Jesus, if we knew that the religious leaders of the day were walking the earth with the promised Savior, we would expect that they would be leading the shouts of praise for the Savior. But the Scribes and the Pharisees did not. They did not shout praise to Jesus because in their unbelief they had rejected Him. They did not accept Jesus as the Son of God or as their Savior.
When praise does not come from the expected, it will come from unlikely sources. It was the children singing “hosanna!” that particularly made the Pharisees indignant. Jesus quoted the words of Psalm 8 saying, that out of the mouths of babes and nursing infants would come this truth. There was a time earlier in Jesus’ ministry when “the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me’” (Matthew 18:1-15).
There are examples in Scripture of the uneducated, the simple, and children singing praises to God, confessing their faith in Jesus, telling others about the saving Word of God. For example, Naaman’s slave girl told him about the prophet in Israel who could heal him of his leprosy (cf. 2 Kings 5) and we’ve heard the praise from the children of Palm Sunday and Monday.
At times we may make the truth of God and faith in that Word rather complicated. The Pharisees certainly did this. They added all sorts of things of their own making to God’s Word and complicated the faith life of the people immensely. Then the Pharisees couldn’t see the truth of Jesus when He came because they were so bogged down with their complications.
At times we might think that the message of God’s Word is so complicated that we cannot say anything because it is just too in depth—I must leave that for the pastors and others. Truthfully, the plan of God’s Salvation and His Word is not complicated. The message is Jesus living His life perfectly for us and offering His life in sacrifice to pay the penalty of our sins, and then rising again to life on Easter morning to give us spiritual life now and eternal life with Him in heaven. Yes, there is much more recorded in Scripture for our learning. Yes, there is much more over which we can study and grow in faith, but as we grow it is a return to that simple child like faith with an ever deepening understanding.
God urges us, “…as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the Word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:1). Growing in faith and love for Christ is not growing in the skepticism, not growing in adult logic and doubt, it is not being able to rationalize everything in Scripture. Growing in faith and love for our Savior is growing in understanding while at the same time clinging to the truth with a childlike faith that confesses: “Jesus loves me, this I know.” A growing childlike faith takes God at His Word and says, “If God says it is so, then it is so.” A growing childlike faith has the simplicity that tells others about Jesus by talking about it in daily conversation without worrying about how we might make it a formal presentation of God’s Word—simply testifying to the Word by how you live and by what you say and by making it part of day-to-day conversation.
Growing in maturity in faith involves a child-like trust and a child-like excitement because Jesus is my Savior who came and died for me, and who lives for me. He is my Lord! Hosanna in the highest.
Hymn: 361 - O Jesus King Most Wonderful
V. The Closing Word
[Jesus’] disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him.
As the first Palm Sunday drew to a close, the disciples were undoubtedly excited. They had just witnessed their Lord enter Jerusalem to the shouts of Hosanna! Blessed is He who Comes in the name of the Lord! The excitement would quickly change to sorrow and emptiness in the following days.
It wasn’t until after Jesus was raised from the dead, ascended, and the Holy Spirit poured out upon them on Pentecost that the disciples fully understood how these events were prophesied in the Old Testament, and what Jesus’ fulfillment of them meant.
How richly blessed we are! We live in the New Testament and have God’s written Word showing us both prophecy and fulfillment. We have the wonderful vantage point of remembering Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday and Good Friday with the full knowledge of Easter! By the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts we do understand these things and through that God-given understanding and faith have eternal life. “These were written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31).
Go forth now into this week with understanding, with joy, with meditation upon the gracious salvation the Lord has given to us, and with the Lord’s blessing…
The Lord bless thee and keep thee.
The Lord makes His face to shine upon thee.
The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee
And give thee peace. Amen!
Hymn: 341(1,3-5) ~ Crown Him with Many Crowns
—Pastor Wayne C. Eichstadt