Jesus, His mother, and His disciples had been invited to a wedding. It was a great party, so much so that before it ended, the reception had run out of wine. Mary approaches Jesus. She knows who He is and what He is capable of. "They have no wine." Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come." (John 2:3b-4)
Later, Jesus was teaching a large crowd, and the day was fading. They were getting hungry and there was no food, nor time to get food. However, there was a boy present who had a few fish and loaves of bread. From this, Jesus feeds the crowd. From there, Jesus walks around Galilee; He did not want to walk in Judea, though, because the Jews wanted to kill Him. It was about the time of the Feast of Booths, so His brothers in Galilee, who did not yet believe in Him, told Him to go to Judea for the Feast: "Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing. For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world." But Jesus told them, "My time has not yet come..." (John 7:3-4, 6)
Though He stayed in Galilee for a little while, once His brothers went, He also went to festival, but secretly. The Jews were looking for Him in the crowd, but they could not find Him. Once the festival was halfway over, Jesus went to the temple and started teaching. His words surprised some and angered others. Some claimed He had a demon in retort to His question, "Why do you seek to kill Me?" After some more teaching, "they sought to take Him; but no one laid a hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come." (cf. John 7:11-30)
Later again, the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman to Jesus who had been caught in adultery. "Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?" they asked Him. He answers by writing something in the sand, as though He had not heard them. They ask again; Jesus stands up. "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first." After stooping down again, the crowd begins to disperse, "beginning with the oldest even to the last." Seeing no one left to accuse the woman, Jesus dismissed her: "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more." After finding the scribes and Pharisees, he teaches them again, further enraging them. Yet, "as He taught in the temple; and no one laid hands on Him, for His hour had not yet come." (cf. John 8:1-20)
I know it must seem strange, that on this Palm Sunday, I would bring up these four moments from the life of our God-in-the-flesh. When we come to this day and we often like to focus our attention on the palms and coats lining the road, on the donkey ride, on the shouts of "Hosanna!" Yet, very little attention is given to everything else that happens this day, as recorded in the rest of the Gospel lesson.
For it happened that some God-fearing Greeks were in Jerusalem for the Passover. They wanted to see Jesus. They found Philip, a disciple with a Greek name, and made their request known to Him. He goes and finds Andrew, then the two of them bring the request to Jesus. "The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified."
It was time! It's about the Passion, not the Palms!
Whether or not the Greeks ever saw Jesus as they requested, John never tells us. However, we can be sure that in about a week's time they did: "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself." Jesus rode into Jerusalem because His hour had come; He would be crucified and die for the sins of the world. The Greeks in Jerusalem would see Him that day, as they would be drawn to Him; throughout the ages, countless generations of countless peoples have been drawn to the cross of Jesus. There was won for them—for all—forgiveness, life, and salvation.
His disciples received these gifts. The repentant thief next to Him received the same. The God-fearing Greeks have received the same—at the least, it was given to them, as it was given to all. You, dear hearers, have been given the same, given through Word and Sacrament—the very gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvations that were earned by the sacrificial death of the Lamb of God on the cross and His resurrection from the grave on the third day, and by God-given faith, you have received it!
Up to that ride into Jerusalem, Jesus either avoided the place or avoided being captured and killed while He was there. His hour had not yet come; it was not yet His time. He even once said,
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!" (Matthew 23:37-39)
Now, He goes into Jerusalem for the very purpose of being captured and killed. Now Jerusalem sees Him again as the people say, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!" Now, He goes to gather His people under His outstretched, crucified arms, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.
It wouldn't take long, either. He knew what He was riding into Jerusalem for: "'Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain...And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.' This He said, signifying by what death He would die."
So, He instructs His disciples to prepare the feast: "Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, 'The Teacher says, "My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with My disciples."'" (Matthew 26:17) There, He eats the Passover with His disciples, washes their feet, teaches them, and warns them, for "before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end." (John 13:1)
The troupe accompanies Him to Gethsemane. There, He teaches them some more. And, He goes to pray, "Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him." (John 17:1-2) As He prays, He sweats blood: "Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done." (Luke 22:42, 44) His disciples sleep, and when returning a third time to find them so, the betrayer arrives with the temple guards. Jesus is captured, because the hour had come: "Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you daily in the temple, you did not try to seize Me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness." (Luke 22:52b-53)
He is brought before the priests and rulers. He is beaten and flogged. He is brought before the Roman procurator. He is beaten and flogged. He is brought to a small mountain outside of Jerusalem. He is crucified, lifted up, and drawing all peoples to Himself. Where before He passed through the midst of those trying to kill Him, where before He avoided capture, now He is captured and killed. It was His hour; it was His time, "For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." (Romans 5:6)
This, because Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, on the foal of a donkey, whose gates were on palms and strewn coats, all to the shouts of "Hosanna!" The world would rather focus on these things, it is easier to focus on these things, even among those who would call themselves Christian, because the Passion is offensive and cruel and bloody. The fact that His hour had come is an offense. The message of Christ's Passion, His death on the cross, the proclamation of Good Friday are foolishness to those who do not believe in the Christ of the Scriptures. The Jesus they want is one of power, who sets things right with the wave of His hands, who teaches how to be a good person. It is the reason why those who on that Palm Sunday shouted "Hosanna!" were easily goaded into crying, "Crucify Him!" less than a week later—Jesus didn't fit their mold of a Messiah. "[T]he message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing..."
"...[B]ut to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (1 Corinthians 1:18) Therefore, dear fellow saved of Christ, I invite you to look past the palms and coats and shouts of "Hosanna!" with me because, "The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified." "Hosannas!" are meet and right, but they are only the beginning of this holiest of weeks when God demonstrated His own love for us, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us, being justified by the blood He shed on the cross, saving us from the wrath of God by enduring it all in our place, and being reconciled to Him through the Son's all-atoning sacrifice. (cf. Romans 5:8-11) This is the glory of God—Christ on the cross—for it is done for our good, for our salvation, so "that, where death arose, there life also might rise again and that the serpent who overcame by the tree of the garden might likewise by the tree of the cross be overcome."
During this holiest of weeks, He gives us signs of that salvation—His holy mysteries. For it was on the night that He was betrayed, He took the bread and said, "Take and eat; this is My body," and He took the cup and said, "Take and drink; this is My blood...Do this, as often as you eat and drink in remembrance of me." And so, we'll gather again on Thursday, in remembrance of Him, and as this morning, eat His body and drink His blood as He bids us to do in His own testament. And we do so, every time, proclaiming the Lord's death till He comes again. (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:26)
Then, as His body hangs lifeless on the cross, He is run through with a spear where at once there flowed from His side water and blood. There on that Good Friday, His cross earned forgiveness and life and salvation, as from His side came the means by which these gifts are given to you, for it is in the waters of Holy Baptism—in water combined with the Word of God—that you are made a co-heir with Christ of eternal life, and it is the blood of His Supper—wine combined with the Word of God in, which, and under He hides His blood, given with the bread that is His body—that you are continually forgiven, as powerfully and truly as if spoken to you by Christ Himself or His called ministers. So, we'll gather again on Friday, in remembrance of Him and His sacrifice, as we behold the Lamb of God and hear again of His water and blood that cover us and forgives us for all our offenses.
But, His hour is not over, nor His glory ended. For it is on the third day that the Christ rose again triumphantly over death, winning for His people, those who are being saved, victory over death and eternal life. So, we'll gather again on Saturday, in remembrance of Him and our Baptism into His death and resurrection, to hear again of the tomb being opened and our God-in-the-flesh rising again to life—to eternal life that He gives you.
And, dear hearers, His hour will come again. "[O]f that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." (Mark 13:32) For on that great and dreadful day, the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised, and Christ our Savior will return to judge the earth with righteousness and the people with truth and equity. (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:52, 1 Chronicles 16:33, Psalm 96:13, Psalm 98:9)
Many will want to do as the people did on that first Palm Sunday; rise with shouts of acclamation and "Hosanna!" They will claim to be of Christ—believers in Christ—but the Christ they believed in will not be the One who comes that day, as He proclaimed in the Scriptures; their Jesus is an un-bloody Christ who overlooks iniquities, who judges unfairly and without truth and equity, but based on merit.
"Hosanna!", indeed: Lord, save us from being numbered among these. God, grant us faith to trust in the blood of Christ; nourish that faith and keep us steadfast in Your Word of truth.
For on that great and dreadful day will return the Christ who was slain and rose again, whose hour had come to be sacrificed for the sin and sins of the world. On that day, He will come and separate the sheep from the goats, and to the goats He will say,
Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me. (Matthew 25:41-43)
(Matthew 25:44-45) These will go into everlasting punishment for their unbelief, among which is their belief in the wrong Christ—a Christ made in their own image.
However, to the sheep, to those who are being saved, who are covered with the blood of His sacrifice, He declares,
Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me. (Matthew 25:34-36)
"Lord, we never saw you like this, and we surely do not remember doing this," will be their reply. "[I]nasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me," is also the Christ's reply to them. (Matthew 25:37-40) By God-given faith in the Christ, fully trusting only in His sacrifice for their sins, being covered by His blood, have the sheep done this.
Dear fellow sheep, the Christ's hour has come: He who knew no sin was made sin for you—He has take your sin upon Himself and shed His blood for the forgiveness of your sins. His hour will come again, and on that day He will say to you, "Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world," because you are forgiven for all of your sins. Palms are nice, but this is His Passion, and it is for you!
Ride on, ride on, in majesty! / Hark! All the tribes hosanna cry. / O Savior meek, pursue Thy road, / With palms and scattered garments strowed.
Ride on, ride on, in majesty! / In lowly pomp ride on to die. / O Christ, Thy triumphs now begin / O'er captive death and conquered sin.
Ride on, ride on, in majesty! / The angel armies of the sky / Look down with sad and wond'ring eyes / To see th'approaching Sacrifice.
Ride on, ride on, in majesty! / Thy last and fiercest strife is nigh; / The Father on His sapphire throne / Expects His own anointed Son.
Ride on, ride on, in majesty! / In lowly pomp ride on to die. / Bow Thy meek head to mortal pain, / Then take, O Christ, Thy power and reign. ("Ride On, Ride On, in Majesty", TLH 162)