Watercolor painting by E. J. Kirsch

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Mar 29, 2015

“Out of the Mouths of Children” 3-29-15

Psalm 118:20-29, Zechariah 9:9, Leviticus 23:39-40, Isaiah 62:11,
Isaiah 56:6-7, Jeremiah 7:11, Isaiah 35:4-6, Psalm 8:2, Matthew 21:1-17
March 29, 2015

It could be said and probably has been said that the event we call the Triumphal Entry of Jesus or Palm Sunday was 3 years in the making.  Jesus had been telling his close followers for quite some time that he was the Messiah, the promised one, or the Son of David, although he preferred the term Son of Man.  But he had been very careful about revealing these things to the crowds of people who came to hear him and watch him do miracles.  Then, on Palm Sunday He let it all out.  He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey as a sign that he was the king of peace, sent by God, coming into the capitol city of Jerusalem to claim his rightful place.
But I am not at all sure that it is 100 percent accurate to say that this event had been 3 years in the making or even 33 years in the making, 33 years being the earthly lifespan of Jesus.  I think it is best to say that this event was over a thousand years in the making. 
You may have noticed that we had a rather unique and complicated first lesson from the Scriptures this morning.  Usually our first lesson is one scripture passage and rarely two, but I don’t know if we have ever had a reading comprised of 7 passages before and you could number them 8 if you include the reading from Psalm 118 which was our portion from the Psalter today. 
If you look carefully, you will see that each of these passages from the Old Testament is referred to in some way in Matthew’s account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and his subsequent entry into the temple. 
That Jesus planned it this way is obvious.  He started by pausing on his nearly complete journey to Jerusalem to send two of his apostles into a village to fetch a couple of donkeys, a young male donkey and its mother.  Looking back as he was writing this description 30 or so years later, Matthew realized that Jesus had planned this as a fulfillment of a passage from the 9th chapter of the writings of the Prophet Zechariah. 
But as I read this passage, it occurs to me that although Jesus knew what he was doing and why, the two apostles he sent to fetch the donkeys and the owner of the donkeys probably did not know why Jesus needed them.  They were just told to get them and lend them.  Often when we have opportunities to help God, to do something to help someone come closer to God, we have no idea of how important in God’s plan it might be.  It might be a really important part of God’s plan for someone, as it was that day.
As Matthew continued to write his descriptions of what occurred that day, he referred to some other Old Testament texts or reported that others quoted other Old Testament texts that day.  He tells us that the people who accompanied Jesus into and welcomed Him into Jerusalem shouted words that we know are from Psalm 118 and some of the other Psalms.  In this case, that might not be easily noticed because our translation of Psalm 118: 25 reads “Save us, we beseech you, O Lord.”  The words “Save Us” are English translations for the Aramaic word “Hosanna”. 
Matthew tells us that they used the branches from trees to welcome him on his journey.  This was a practice that was commanded in Leviticus as part of the celebration of the festival of Succoth, or booths.  That was another annual holiday, but the use of branches in rejoicing to God had moved into other celebrations.
But in spite of all the scriptural allusions in what was done and said that day, the people of the crowds described Jesus as a prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.  He was much more than that as could be proven from the OT Scriptures, but they didn’t get it.  He deliberately entered Jerusalem as a king, as the chosen one, the Messiah, the descendant of the great king David, and they missed it.
After he entered Jerusalem as its king, he deliberately entered the holiest site in Jerusalem, the temple mount, and as the divinely appointed king of that nation, he had some work to do there.  The outer temple court was designated the court of the Gentiles.  That did not mean that there were a lot of Gentiles there, but that it was as close to the temple building as non-Jews could go.  It was the place where Jesus and other rabbis taught when they were in Jerusalem.  But it was designated by God in the Old Testament scriptures as a place for all people, even Gentiles to pray and study about God.
But the Temple Priests had allowed it to be used by money-changers and those who sold doves as animals to be sacrificed.  In other words, it had been encroached upon by money making ventures.  Jesus quoted another Old Testament prophecy in accusing them of turning Gods house of prayers for all peoples into a den of robbers. 
Then he healed the blind and the lame in the temple courtyard, and Matthew described this in a way that is reminiscent of a prophecy in Isaiah 35.
The priests did not like that he was doing this, and they also did not like the fact that Children who had entered the temple with Jesus were still shouting Hosanna to the son of David, which translated into English would mean “Save us, we pray, Son of David.”  When the Priests displayed their displeasure at this Jesus quoted to them from Psalm 8:2 which refers to God using the words of children to speak God’s truth to those who would oppose Him.  As God has occasionally spoken through the mouths of our children and the children who have been a part of this church and other churches.
And, as some of our young people are going to do before us in a few moments.
But before they do, I want to suggest why our celebrations of Palm Sunday are important. 
When we remember and honor that day, we acknowledge that many of the things that were predicted about Jesus in the Old Testament came true, some on that one day.
When we remember and honor that day, we have hope and we believe that the rest of the things predicted about Jesus will also come true, that he will return and establish Jerusalem as the capital of the new kingdom of God, and that heaven and earth will become one, and that all who have died believing in Jesus will rise from the dead.  And that the struggles and difficulties and the evil of this world will cease.
When we celebrate and remember that day we have a chance to say the same things the people on that day said about Jesus, that he was the king of the Jews that he was the promised Messiah that he came to save his people.  Only we are able to understand what those words mean and we are able to say them believing that they are true.  Blessed is the One who came and is coming in the name of the Lord, the king, the savior, Jesus, the Holy Son of God.
And now we will listen to some precious words of faith spoken by some of the young people of this congregation. 
Josephine, Alyssa, Chase, Anna, and Everett, will you please join me in front of the communion Table?


Pastor David L. Horner
Faith Presbyterian Church
West Lafayette, IN 47906