Rev. D. K. Schroeder
Luke 19:28-40 Sermon
April 1, 2007
Hymns (from The Service Book and Hymnal):
426 “All Hail The Power Of Jesus’ Name”
74 “All Glory, Laud, and Honor”
434 “Beautiful Saviour”
431 “Crown Him With Many Crowns”
TEXT (vs. 30-35): “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no-one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' tell him, 'The Lord needs it.' Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’ They replied, ‘The Lord needs it.’ They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it.”
Aside from being Palm Sunday today, it is also April first, which means that it is April Fool’s Day. As I think back over the years about this day (and I’m referring to April Fool’s Day now), I can remember the little childhood pranks we used to play. We’d walk up to someone and say, “Hey, your shoe is untied.” And when they’d look down, we would say “April Fool!” It was especially funny if the person was wearing slip-on loafers. Or as a joke, maybe someone would tape a “kick me” sign on someone’s back.
For the most part, the April Fool’s jokes that I remember were all pretty harmless things. In days gone by, newspapers used to run one bogus article on this day, which was usually so absurd that nobody would ever believe it. For example, one newspaper ran an article saying that the Liberty Bell had been sold to the Taco Bell corporation, and it was going to be renamed “The Taco Liberty Bell.” Or that the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. had been sold to the Ford Motor Company, and would be renamed “The Ford Mercury Lincoln Memorial.” That was all pretty harmless stuff.
I don’t think newspapers do that too much anymore, probably due to the war and the increased security alerts. I haven’t seen something like that in quite awhile anyway. They wouldn’t want to start a national panic over some practical joke gone sour. Even that advertising promotion awhile back which used boxes with blinking lights caused a red-alert scare, and the promoters got in trouble for it.
Probably the best April Fool’s joke this year is something created by the U. S. Government. Daylight Saving Time came early this year. Many people, myself included had fun trying to reset the clocks on things like computers and VCR’s. I kept trying to tell my computer that it was daylight saving time, and my computer wouldn’t believe me.
But I notice too that calendars printed before the change went into effect indicate that today is the day we set our clocks ahead one hour. It would be interesting to see just how many people in this country showed up for church an hour earlier than they should have, especially if they get there and the door is locked. Now there’s an April Fool’s joke for you, courtesy of the fine folks in Washington, D.C.
As I studied our Gospel reading for today which is one of the classic Palm Sunday texts, I thought about that young donkey Jesus needed, and how it was obtained. Jesus instructs his disciples to go and fetch the donkey which would be tied up and waiting. And when they were questioned about it, to tell them the Lord needed it, and then just take it.
Donkeys were beasts of burden in those days. They were working animals, and were used in much the same way that a farmer of today uses a pickup truck.
So let’s think of it in today’s terms, as if this story were happening today. You are told to go over to Garland, and there parked in front of the Post Office you will find a blue Ford Ranger pickup. And if anybody asks you why you are hot-wiring the pickup, tell them that the Lord has need of it. You’d think it was a joke, especially if you were told to do it on a day like April Fool’s day.
I don’t know exactly why the owner of that donkey in Jesus’ day relinquished possession of his animal so easily. My guess (and I’m not alone here) is that Jesus had made a previous arrangement with the owner, or that the owner was at the very least a follower of Christ, and would not object to this request.
But whatever the arrangement was, Jesus tells his disciples to get the donkey. A person’s natural inclination might be to think that this is some sort of joke—go and steal someone’s donkey that is just tied up there? You’ve got to be kidding. But the disciples never question his request. They just do it. This was no April Fool.
What was about to happen was no joke either. Jesus was making his triumphal entry into Jerusalem to fulfill the prophecy of the Old Testament prophet Zechariah which was our Old Testament Lesson for today. In Chapter 9 verse 9 we read the words describing this event: “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
Anybody who knew their Scriptures well would have known about this prophecy, but for many it would have seemed like something more spontaneous. Jesus was well known, and he had naturally attracted many followers. So when he enters into Jerusalem for that last time, it was amid shouts of “Hosanna!” which means, “Lord save us!” They were crying out to the one they knew to be the true Son of God, the promised Messiah of the Old Testament. They knew that Jesus could save them.
But something else wasn’t quite right with this picture. When war heroes returned from battle, they got a heroes welcome when they entered the city. A war hero would come into town riding a white stallion. So why would God’s own Son be riding in on a donkey? Why would the Saviour, the promised Messiah be transported on a beast of burden? Was this some sort of joke or parody? If not a stallion, shouldn’t he at least have been riding a horse rather than this poor man’s work animal?
There is some rather pointed symbolism here. Jesus was riding into Jerusalem to carry the burden of our sins to the cross. Jesus is our “beast of burden,” so-to-speak. The donkey Jesus was riding had never been ridden by anyone or used otherwise prior to this time. It was, in a sense, pure and unblemished. In a similar sense, Jesus knew no sin. He was pure and holy. He had no burden of sin that was his own. The sins that were placed upon him were the sins of all mankind, which include your sins and mine. He would be punished for these sins, and experience the wrath of God. He would do it dutifully and lovingly. He would completely remove our burden for us and take it upon himself without even one harsh word or complaint.
In this Palm Sunday story, we have another picture which is rich in symbolism, and that is Jesus’ entry into the gate of Jerusalem. The Bible often refers to the “New Jerusalem” which is a synonym for heaven, the home of God’s people. The only way we can enter the gate into the New Jerusalem is through faith in Jesus our Saviour. He is the one that gives us entry into heaven and God’s eternal kingdom. He is the only way we will see eternal paradise. This is a sure promise—no fooling.
There is still another picture in this story, and that is the people who were gathered there. Some were just spectators. They shouted “Hosanna” and cheered because others were doing it—they were just going along with the crowd. But after Jesus had passed, there was no impact or change; they went back to their normal way of life.
Then there would have been some mockers. These were those who gathered with the crowd, in a similar sense to the spectators. However, these people were those who would have openly despised Jesus and thought all of this was nothing more than a joke.
And then there were the followers. The followers worshipped Jesus and devoted themselves to him. These were the people whom the Holy Spirit had touched with the gift of faith, and didn’t reject it or think it to be folly. They knew their salvation was in his hands, and they trusted them with their lives and souls.
The world today still has people just like that. Inside the church we have both spectators and followers, and even a few mockers as well. The mockers however are usually on the outside of the church, ridiculing Christians for their faith in Jesus. Inside the church, we will find both spectators and followers. The spectators will go through all of the right motions because everybody else does, but the inside is a faithless hollow shell.
The followers however are the true believers. They have the faith of Jesus burning in their hearts. This gift of the Holy Spirit is fanned into flame through God’s Word. Their faith permeates their entire being. The followers know and acknowledge their sin; but they also know their Saviour and the forgiveness and new life he brings. The follower is always living in a spirit of thanksgiving for what Jesus has done for them.
April Fool’s Day actually began in France around the year 1582 when the calendar was reformed under the reign of Charles IX. The Gregorian calendar was introduced, and when that happened, the old New Year’s Week (which was March 25th-April 1st ) was changed to New Year’s Day (January 1st). Communication was slow in those days, and so it took people several years to learn about the calendar change. Still others who were more stubborn, refused to go according to the new calendar, and still celebrated New Year’s at the end of the former celebration, on April 1st. These people were called “fools” or “April fools” by the general public, and were subject to ridicule. They were sent on fool’s errands, they received invitations to non-existent parties, and they had other practical jokes played on them. Over time, this harassment spread throughout Europe and then came to America, with each culture adding a bit of their own flavor to the holiday. If you’re interested in reading some classic pranks, you can look up www.museumofhoaxes.com on the internet.
So what does April Fools have to do with Palm Sunday? For the answer to that, we turn to I Corinthians 1, where I will read some selected verses beginning at verse 18: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles….God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no-one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.”
The unbelieving world looks at Christ, and the cross, and Palm Sunday as foolishness. For these people, April Fool’s Day would seem to be the appropriate day to focus upon these events. The thought of one man dying for the sins of the world just doesn’t make sense, and so Christians are labeled as fools. For the unbeliever, Christianity is just another foolish superstition.
The believer knows better. The Christian looks to God and his Word, and sees nothing but wisdom. God has shown in graphic detail just how much he loves sinful humanity, and the lengths he will go to just to bring them into the New Jerusalem, which is their eternal home in the paradise of heaven.
So come, let us follow him. Let us follow him this week all the way to the cross on Golgotha, where we see all of our sins crucified with him. Through faith in Jesus, all of our past sins and iniquities are gone forever. Therefore we sing, “Hosanna! Hosanna to the Son of David! Hosanna in the highest!”