1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’”
4 They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, 5 some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” 6 They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. 7 When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
10 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
We chose Rooted in Rockwall as our theme for our Divine Peace Church Rockwall Grand Opening weekend because our ministry in Rockwall started long before this morning’s service. We’ve had families attending our other campus in Garland from Rockwall for years and with the rapid growth in this area, it was natural to make plans for beginning a mission in Rockwall. Today, we have families from Fate, Heath, even Greenville and Terrell worshiping with us. And for many of us Rockwall is our home and we are thankful to have those roots in this community.
If you’re from Rockwall, you know there are a few things unique to this area. For one, there is a half-uncovered rock wall on someone’s private land, which is the name sake of our town. You also know Rockwall is a community of amenities and small businesses which keep our property taxes low and that makes us a great place for families to move to, especially young families. And although Rockwall has experienced some of the highest growth of any place nationwide, that family feel still survives due to the many free community events like the 4th of July fireworks at Harry Myers Park, the Rockwall Duck Regatta at the Harbor, the Scare on The Square in downtown Rockwall and the Rockwall Hometown Christmas featuring the Kiwanis Christmas Parade. And speaking of Parades, today is Palm Sunday, the day Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem riding on a donkey. He was welcomed by crowds of people who laid down their own clothes and fresh cut palm branches to welcome him to their city.
Jesus’ welcome by the crowds on what we now call Palm Sunday made history. The welcome Jesus received was the same welcome a king would have received. The crowds who welcomed him to Jerusalem were Jews from all over Israel who were there to celebrated the annual Passover festival. The city was packed with people, much like the downtown square is during the Hometown Christmas, which serves as good picture of what happened in our gospel lesson from Mark 11. When Mark writes in Mark 11:1, as Jesus and his disciples
“approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives.”
The Mount of Olives was the highest hill around Jerusalem, much like the hill we are on right now overlooking the lake. If you want a rough picture of the distance and elevation change, picture the Christmas Parade in reverse. Jesus would begin the parade on his donkey in the Rockwall downtown square, pass by this church and continue down the hill until he arrived at the library and courthouse parking lot. Jesus ending at the courthouse actually coincides well with what happened after Jesus rode into the city on a path of palm branches because he would stand trial before Pontius Pilate only a few days after he arrived in Jerusalem, but we will talk more about that next Sunday. Today is about Jesus welcome by the crowds who shouted,
“Hosanna…Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
If there would have been a theme for that day Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem, their banners might have said something like, “Rooted in Our Redeemer.”
Rooted in Our Redeemer has a nice ring to it, just like Rooted in Rockwall, but it also fits very well with what the crowds were shouting. The crowds were shouting the word, Hosanna, quoting Psalm 118, the same psalm we just sang a few minutes ago. ‘Hosanna, is actually two words in the original Hebrew language, הֹושִׁ֘יעָ֥ה נָּ֑א. The two words mean, “Save, I pray.” The people were calling out to God to save them and they believed he was going to save them through Jesus, whose name comes from the same Hebrew word as Hosanna. Therefore, the crowds were rooting all their hope in Jesus to save them or to be their “Redeemer.” Redeemer simply means to by someone or something back from something else, so what did the crowds believe Jesus was going to redeem or save them from?
Our presumption as people living after all the events of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, may be that the crowds welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem were welcoming him as their Savior from things like sin, death and the power of the devil. However, the great crowds were expecting something very different from Jesus. They had seen him perform great miracles like feeding over 5,000 people, healing the blind, paralyzed and deaf, and even raising people back from the dead, leading them to believed that Jesus was the Savior God had promised to send Israel. And if Jesus was the Savior, then he would save Israel from their greatest enemies, which they believed were, the Roman Empire and the loss of their once great kingdom of Israel.
The crowds of people who welcomed Jesus on the first Palm Sunday, thought they knew what Jesus had come to do for them, but they were wrong. In their minds, Jesus had the power to solve all their worldly problems and so they welcomed him as a king. They believed he would be able to provide food and healing, to rise up and fight against the Roman Empire, to drive Rome from Israel and to restore their kingdom to the prestige it once had at the time of King David and King Solomon, who both enjoyed expansion of Israel’s borders, booming trade, mountains of gold and silver and major building projects like the temple in the capital city of Jerusalem. The crowds idealized Jesus into this person who was going to solve all of their problems for them, but the crowds were wrong.
Jesus is not the answer to all of our problems. Wait, can you really say, “Jesus is not the answer to all of our problems?” Yes, but a better way to say it, is that when we want Jesus to solve all of our problems, our way and not his way, then he is not the answer to our problems. You and I make the same mistake as the crowds who welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem, when we change who Jesus is, into something we want him to be. When we turn Jesus into a genie waiting for us in a magical lamp who will give us whatever we want, then we limit the scope of what Jesus can really do for us.
We miss out on what Jesus came to do for us in Jerusalem when we take God’s Word for granted. This happens when we leave his Word unopened or leave it unheard because we do not come to church and Bible Study. Not hearing what God wants us to know from his Word is dangerous because we fall into the trap of making him into whatever we want him to be or we listen to whatever someone else tells us he is. Instead, God wants us to know exactly who he is and what he has done for us.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey, he was entering as our Redeemer. In our first lesson from Zechariah 9, the prophet Zechariah said,
9 “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
500 years before the first Palm Sunday, the prophet Zechariah said that the people of Israel, the Jews and the people of Jerusalem will rejoice and shout when they see their king coming to them riding on a donkey. And this is exactly what we heard happened in our gospel lesson, that Jesus told his disciples a colt would be tied up and waiting in the city ahead of them to be brought to Jesus to ride into Jerusalem.
Zechariah also tells us the king would be righteous and victorious. Jesus was righteous or good, meaning that had done nothing wrong in the eyes of God. In other words, Jesus lived without sin and had a perfect knowledge of what God expected him to do as the Redeemer. This is possible because as our lesson from Philippians 2 reminded us, Jesus was in “very nature God.” And yet he had made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
Jesus became one of us so that he could redeem us. All the people who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem, just like all of us have the same problem. When we are born, we don’t have a relationship with God and if we never hear who he is during our lifetime, then we die hopeless. Jesus didn’t want any of us to die hopeless or without a relationship with God, so he became a man to redeem or buy us back from death. The currency Jesus used to buy us back was himself. Philippians 2 continued by saying, Jesus
“becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”
On the cross, Jesus won the real victory for us as king. Jesus traded his good life and relationship with God for our lives marked by the denial of who the true God is, wandering around this life searching and never finding purpose until we die, hopeless. When Jesus died on the cross, he took the punishment God has for us for not knowing him and for all our sins. Now in Jesus, we have been bought back from death, forgiven for our sins, we enjoy a peaceful relationship with God and we look forward to eternal life in heaven.
The victory over sin and death Jesus won for us as our king has solved our real problems. When we recognize that Jesus was not coming to Jerusalem 2,000 years ago to reestablish and earthly kingdom for a physical nation of Israel, but instead was winning the final victory to establish his heavenly kingdom of all who believe in him, then we too want to shout and rejoice like Zechariah, to confess that that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father like we heard in Philippians and to sing
“Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
In our Redeemer Jesus, all the problems we face in life are solved because he gave us hope in a better life. Whether you struggle to find happiness by moving to a safer community…like Rockwall, through purpose at work, in security from the government or peace from the anxious thoughts weighing down your heart by losing yourself in the latest TV shows, movies or trends on social media, Jesus has given you every good thing by planting your roots in him. In Jesus, you have safety because there is no King more powerful, no greater purpose than following him by loving God and loving your neighbor, nothing more secure than to know you are safe from death and no greater hope and escape for your mind than reading about the peace waiting for you in the unending joy of heaven. Remain Rooted in Your Redeemer and you will live in Divine Peace with him now and forever. Amen.