A myHT Fortress

Monday, March 29, 2010

Who Is This? -- A Homily for Palm Sunday

Matthew 21:1-11

Luke 23

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

Who is this? Jesus had raised Lazarus recently, and a big crowd was gathering to see Him. Women and children gathered along with various men, cheering, chanting, and waving palm branches of victory for Jesus as He entered the city. The minds of the faithful were filled with images from history, like Solomon’s coronation when he rode through Jerusalem on a donkey, or the rededication of the Temple on that first Chanukah, with palm branches waving. Yes, the crowd travelling with Jesus as He entered the city knew who He is, but the people of Jerusalem looked out their windows and down the streets and said, “Who is this?!”

The faithful reply: “This is the Prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” Not just any prophet, mind you. THE Prophet – the One spoken of by Moses. The ultimate prophet who is different than all others. This Prophet not only speaks the Word of God – He IS the Word of God!

“Who is this?” The children know! Leave it to the faith of little children. They chant, “Hosanna,” a word that means, “Save us!” These little ones know that Jesus is the Savior, and they pray that He will do just that!

The question, “Who is this?” can keep popping up, all through Holy Week, and especially on Good Friday. On this Sunday of the Passion, we hear Jesus suffer through this phony trial and its false accusations, and we see Him suffer beyond human understanding. And it all stems from understandings—or misunderstandings—of who He is.

Ask Pontius Pilate this question, “Who is Jesus?” and he’s not sure what to answer. Pilate is confused. This obscure rabbi seems harmless enough, but the chief priests are so riled up! Pilate at one point even says to Jesus, “Who are you?!” Pilate has enough sense to call Jesus a “righteous man,” but is in the dark about His divinity.

Herod is not much better. He might answer, “Who is this?” with something along the lines of “a magician” or “wonder-worker.” Herod has heard all about the miracles, and wants something from a Vegas show by David Copperfield or Penn and Teller.

Barabbas? He’ll tell you who this is! Barnabbas would say this is some loser who ticked off the wrong people. But it doesn’t matter because the bottom line is he’s free and that guy from Galilee died instead.

“Who is this?” Simon of Cyrene did not know – at least not then. All he knew was that some Roman soldier grabbed him out of a crowd along the road and forced him to carry the man’s cross. That was criminal’s work! Simon’s first impression might have been that this bloody mess of a man was a violent criminal, but He would come to know better.

But what of the women? “Who is this?” Women of Jerusalem, some of whom may have been from that Palm Sunday crowd, gathered along the Way of Sorrows, and wept and wailed for this innocent man – this good and gentle teacher – this Prophet. They recognize Jesus to be from God, and are devastated that He is being treated this way.

“Who is this?” The criminals had no clue at the start of it all. These two were marching off with Jesus, and just knew that He had a good-sized mob mad at Him. So they joined in the jeers and name-calling. Although later, one of them repents, and recognizes that this is no criminal. This is Jesus, the Prophet, from Nazareth of Galilee.

“Who is this?” Joseph of Arimathea was crushed. Devastated. The Man he had thought to be the Messiah now hung dead and limp on that horrifying cross. Tears would well up in his eyes as he gently carried the remains with Nicodemus the short distance to the new tomb. This was supposed to be the Christ. He was to be the King, the Son of David. But now what?! Joseph did not know what to think.

What about you? What do you answer when someone asks, “Who is this?” Maybe they don’t ask you directly. Maybe they remain quite on the topic of Jesus Christ and faith. But do you give an answer anyway? Yes you do. But is it an answer of faith?

Many of these answers from the various people involved in the Passion of our Lord are all partially right. But partially right answers do not open the kingdom of heaven. Hell is full of people who were partially right about Jesus.

Do you confess Jesus as Lord and Savior? Or like Peter are you quiet—or even loud—in denying that you even know Him? Do you look at the crucifix and see something hopeless and a sign of defeat? Or do you see that image as precious and marvelous, witnessing the amazing and boundless love of God for you?

“Who is this?” Are your actions and words witnessing to others that Jesus has taken away your sin and transformed you? Or do they bear witness to a life that enjoys all the devil, the world, and your sinful self have to offer?

Repent! Repent of refusing to confess who Jesus really is, by word and deed. Repent of not speaking up to defend the faith and clarify to others about our Redeemer suffering and dying for us. Repent of living like everyone else who has not known Jesus.

“Who is this?” This is Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true Man, born of the Virgin Mary. This is Jesus Christ, the Lord. Having triumphantly entered Jerusalem on that Palm Sunday, He gave His life on that cross for you. He suffered and died for you. He carried out His saving work to rescue you from sin, death, and hell. This is Jesus, not just any prophet – THE Prophet, the Word made flesh who dwelt among us. God Himself living, dying, and rising for you!

Our dear Lord has done all this for you, that you can be forever His. He saves you from all the misunderstandings or partially right answers. He gives you the knowledge unto salvation of who He is and what He does to make you His own and save you.

“Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!” “Who is this?” This is Jesus, God the Son, who is the Savior. He won that salvation on the cross for you, and today He comes, gentle and riding on bread and wine to bring you the forgiveness, life, and salvation that He won. Amen!

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