“Here He Comes”
Palm Sunday: Sunday of the Passion, April 9, 2017
Here He Comes
Text: Isaiah 50:4–9a
In our age, and in our culture, we are used to people making grand entrances. Lady Gaga flew into her halftime show at the Super Bowl from the top of the stadium. Football players run onto the field with fireworks going off. You know what I mean. And when the leader of a country arrives, there is always a red carpet, a band, and much pomp and circumstance.
Today is Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday marks the beginning of this, the holiest week of the Church Year, the week we celebrate Jesus Christ’s Passion, death, and resurrection for us and for our salvation. Today we remember King Jesus and His celebrated entry into Jerusalem, as the crowds say, “Hosanna!” and “Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord!”
But who is King Jesus anyway? What kind of a king is He? And what has He come to do? We look at Him, and we see a strange king, no doubt. He is not in a chariot, or a big old limousine. He enters Jerusalem humble, riding on a donkey. What king comes riding in like this? But Jesus is not like other kings. Jesus hasn’t come to conquer any nations, to grab any golden (or iron) thrones, to live and reign as the mighty ruler of some spectacular earthly kingdom. He’s come to die. Jesus hasn’t come to be served, but to serve, to give His life as a ransom for many. So with no fanfare, Here He Comes.
In the Old Testament lesson today, we hear the voice of the Father’s Servant speaking. The second half of Isaiah has portions about what we pastor types call “The Suffering Servant.” The Suffering Servant sections in Isiah refer to the Messiah, the Savior. Isaiah tells us plainly what kind of Savior God sends for us. He tells us who he is: He is God’s Servant, a disciple, a learner (vv 4–5…”he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.”).
In this text, He tells us why he’s come: he has come to preach. That is, “to sustain with a word him who is weary” (v 4), to comfort sinners with the good news of salvation. He has come to stand up against his enemies in a big battle or conflict (v 6). He will suffer their abuse. They will beat him, shame him, and spit on him. And that is not the end of it. For all this, he will die. This, in fact, in the end, is why he has come.
The third thing Isaiah tells us about the Suffering Servant in this text is that he tells us that he is faithful: He is doing this job willingly, no one/nothing is forcing him, for God helps him, and he trusts his help. He knows he will “not be put to shame (v 7)”. He submits to suffering in willing obedience to God (vv 5–6: “The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious.”). He submits in faith that God will vindicate him (v 8: “He who vindicates me is near.”). And he will not quit, he will not give up. He will not be steered away from the path of his mission. As it says in verse 8, he sets his face like a flint. He will go willingly and confidently into that great battle with his enemy. And he will never look back.
Now does this all sound like someone you know?
When we think about the Gospel reading today, now we see the Servant coming on Palm Sunday. Jesus is the Suffering Servant of Isaiah. We see who He is: He is a lowly servant, riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey (Mt 21:5). And yet He is Israel’s King, the Christ, the Son of David (Mt 21:9). Even more, He is the Son of God. Paul says He is the one who left His Father’s throne and emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men (Phil 2:7).
We see why he’s come: Like Isaiah said, Jesus came to preach. For three years, Jesus was preaching and teaching and telling what God wants His people to know, then, and now, and everyone in between. Like the Suffering Servant, Jesus came to die. We see His less than grand entrance into Jerusalem today, but let me remind you…where is He headed? Where is he going? To His trial, Passion, suffering, and the cross.
And like the Suffering Servant, we see that Jesus is faithful: His goofy donkey slowly, steadily moving forward. God’s Servant submits to the road that leads to Calvary. As the perfect man of perfect faith and obedience to God, Jesus’ face is set like flint, and He is never turning back.
Therefore, we believe in the Servant Jesus who died for us on Good Friday. We believe He is who Isaiah says He is. When we look ahead to Friday (as today is also the Sunday of the Passion), there He is before us: mocked, flogged, spit upon, beaten, crucified.
We believe that He was faithful: We hear Him praying in the garden, “Thy will be done.” We hear His voice crying out from the cross, “My God, my God!” because he is forsaken. Because at that moment He is literally damned. Yes, Jesus obeys the Father’s will and accepts the horrible suffering as the perfect, trusting, faithful, obedient Servant of God.
We trust in why He’s come. In the hymn, “A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth,” the hymn writer Paul Gerhardt imagines this conversation between the Father and Son in heaven: “‘Go forth, My Son,’ the Father said, ‘And free My children from their dread Of guilt and condemnation’ ” (LSB 438:2). The reply: “Yes, Father, yes, most willingly I’ll bear what You command Me” (438:3). He came to suffer the condemnation we deserved for sin. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world; who takes away our sin. He came to make us right with God. Through faith in His sacrifice for us, we are declared not guilty of our sins and we have eternal life.
Jesus came to die. And Jesus came to rise. On Easter, Jesus is vindicated as our Lord of life—just as He had trusted the Father would do. That is the assurance that we who Baptized in His Name will also be vindicated, we will be raised again, as we talked about last week.
On Palm Sunday, we raise our voices in praise to the Father’s obedient Servant, going to the cross to fulfill the Father’s will and give His life for our salvation. We use words this day like, “Hosanna!” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” No looking back for Him! And when we look back today, we see that because of Jesus, we have an infinite, eternal future. Jesus did have sort of a low-key entry in Jerusalem. But because He died and rose again and now sits at the right hand of the Father, when He comes again? Well that entrance will be the biggest, grandest, BEST entrance of all time.
In Jesus’ Name.
Sermon from an Outline Published in Concordia Pulpit Resources Vol. 27, Part 2