Sermon for Palm Sunday – 4.10.22

+ Palm Sunday – April 10th, 2022 +

Series C: Deuteronomy 32:36-39; Philippians 2:5-11; John 12:12-19

Beautiful Savior Lutheran

Milton, WA

 

“Flora and Fauna of Salvation”

 

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

 

It seems odd at first doesn’t it. Trimming branches of a palm tree and waving them around in a procession. If Palm Sunday had happened in the NW, perhaps the crowds would’ve waved pine or douglas fir branches. Cedar Sunday has a nice ring to it.

 

But the truth is, it’s hard to imagine Palm Sunday by any other name. In fact, in the biblical view of things, it had to be palm branches. It couldn’t have been any other plant that was trimmed and cut to celebrate Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem.

 

The Palm Sunday palms, you see, were no accident. It’s not just that palm trees were, and are plentiful around Jerusalem. The reason for palms is rooted deeper in God’s saving work throughout the Scriptures.

 

Not only that, so much of God’s gracious work from creation to redemption is surrounded and accompanied by the flora and fauna of his creation.

 

“Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seeds, and fruit trees bearing fruit,” God said on the third day of creation. And it was so. An olive branch was brought back to the ark after Noah sent out a dove. A thicket caught a ram that on Mt. Moriah that was sacrificed instead of Isaac. Hyssop branches were dipped with the blood of the Passover Lamb and used to brush the atoning blood over the doorposts of the Israelites in Egypt.

 

Palm branches, however, stand out. By Jesus’ day, palms had become a symbol of victory, triumph, and celebration. Jericho was known as the city of palms. On the walls of Solomon’s temple, both the inner and outer sanctuaries, were carved palm trees and other vegetation.

 

And most significantly, palm branches were used in the Old Testament festival of tabernacles, or the feast of booths in Leviticus 23. It was a seven day feast, the number of completion and fulfillment. For seven days they feasted and on the 8th day there was a solemn rest. It was a feast of remembrance. Israel went liturgical camping for 7 days, recalling Israel’s time living in booths (we would say tents) in the wilderness. It was a feast of rejoicing, there was food and wine and thank offerings; all celebrating the Lord’s deliverance out of the land of Egypt. Want to guess what kind of plants the Israelites used to cover those makeshift booths/tabernacles/tents? That’s right. Palm branches, among several other kinds of trees.

 

This is why it had to be palms the crowds were waving as Jesus entered Jerusalem.

The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ The King of Israel!”

 

As Jesus sat upon that donkey, as the shouts of Hosanna – Lord, save us – filled the air, as the palm branches were waving, Jesus was fulfilling all of this, every last detail. Deliverance. Remembrance. Redemption. Victory. Triumph. This is what Jesus enters Jerusalem to accomplish.

 

And when Jesus enters Jerusalem he does the opposite of what people expect. He’s a king, yes, but he rides to his enthronement on Golgotha. He is the Messiah, yes, but he rides a borrowed donkey and conquers by dying. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord to hang upon a cursed tree.

 

Jesus is and does the opposite of everything we are and do, and have done. Remember how Adam and Eve sewed fig leaf clothing to hide their nakedness and shame. Now Jesus will go to the cross to be the sacrifice that clothes and covers their shame, and ours. Remember how Adam and Eve were overcome by the devil and the fruit of the tree. Now Jesus goes to hang on the tree and be overcome by all the times we’ve fallen into temptation; and he bears the fruit of all our sin. Remember how the ground itself was cursed as a result of the fall, producing thorns and thistles where life and abundance once reigned in creation. Now Jesus enters Jerusalem with palm branches waving as he goes to remove the curse from us by becoming the curse for us; the thorns and thistles are twisted, wrapped, and fashioned into a crown fit for a king who makes us a new creation on the tree of the cross; to graft us, dead branches, into him the true, life-giving vine.

 

As Jesus rides into Jerusalem the palm branches give way to his passion. His death on the tree for you. And in doing so he rides to victory. Triumph. Deliverance. Rescue. Redemption. Everything that God did in the Old Testament, all of God’s gracious, saving work that was surrounded by the flora and fauna is fulfilled in Jesus as he is surrounded by palm branches, and the shouts of Hosanna.

 

As Jesus rides into Jerusalem, he reveals that he – the Messiah, the Son of God in human flesh – he is the one who is greater than Solomon and his temple, for He is the new temple where God is with us to save us.

 

As Jesus rides into Jerusalem, he reveals that He is the one to whom all Old Testament feasts point. Jesus is the tabernacle of God in human flesh. Seven days from Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem he will take his Sabbath day rest in the tomb. This time, however, on the 8th day, solemn rest gives way to Jesus’ resurrection. Instead of an 8th day rest there will be seven weeks of Easter, a perfect 7×7 of rejoicing and celebrating Jesus’ resurrection from the dead for you.

 

Like the OT feast of Tabernacles or Booths, Palm Sunday is a day of remembrance and rejoicing. We remember our Lord’s procession to the cross. And we rejoice in his triumph over sin, death, and the devil. And we do it with seemingly ordinary things.

 

Isn’t it marvelous how God takes something as simple as a palm branch, and turns it into a great image of his saving work in Jesus. God has a habit of doing that. He takes ordinary bread made from countless grains of wheat and says, “Take, eat; this is my body, given for you.” Jesus takes the fruit of bunches and clusters of grapes and says, “Take, drink; this is my blood shed for you.”

 

Today, palm branches give way to Jesus’ passion on the tree on Good Friday. Good Friday gives way to Jesus’ resurrection from the dead on Easter Sunday. And Jesus’ resurrection gives way to your resurrection where you will stand with a great multitude which no one can number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, and you will stand before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in your hands, and cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

 

A blessed Palm Sunday to each of you…

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

Beautiful Savior

is a traditional Lutheran Church, faithful to God's Word and His Sacraments. We equip God's people to serve, love, and encourage one another as we grow in our personal relationship with Christ. We reach out to the community as beacons of light, sharing the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Savior.

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