The Passion of our Lord, Matthew 26:1-27:66

“The Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified” (Matthew 26:2).

It is all coming down to this. Today in the Church Year is Palm Sunday. It is also called, “Sunday of the Passion.” Today is the beginning of Holy Week. With Jesus riding on a donkey, He enters into Jerusalem, receiving acclamations of praise and honor from the people, “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9).

That word “hosanna” is an Aramaic word for “Help/Save, I pray.” It is a calling out for divine help, and most appropriately prayed to our Lord always, not least of all on Palm Sunday. The people were right to pray these words as the Lord Jesus entered into Jerusalem, for divine help only comes from Him who sent His Son for the true and lasting divine help of everlasting peace with God.

The people were right to acclaim Jesus as “the Son of David,” for so He was. Jesus was David’s son, David’s descendant, and David’s Lord (Psalm 110:1; Matthew 22:44). Jesus was of the line of David, the Son promised of old by Nathan the prophet who had prophesied to King David, “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Samuel 7:12-13).

God fulfilled these words in Jesus His Son, David’s descendant and Lord. Jesus was that seed whose kingdom the Father established. Jesus built a house for God’s Name and the throne of His kingdom is now established forever.

The people were right to cry out “Hosanna.” They were right to give Jesus the title, “Son of David.” They were also right to call out, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” And with these latter words, they proclaimed that the One riding on the donkey was He who comes in the Name of the Lord. They identified Jesus as not coming of Himself or of another, but in the Name of the Lord. By these words, they made clear that Jesus was no counterfeit, but the real deal. Jesus was no imposter, but One whom the Father sent.

By these words of praise and honor given to Jesus and about Jesus, it would seem that the people of Jerusalem fully recognized Jesus’ identity. It would seem as if they knew who Jesus really was, not only Jesus the man, but Jesus, God in the flesh (John 1:14). It would also seem as if they were ready and prepared for the kind of kingdom God was going to establish through Him, that they acknowledged the kind of Jesus that Jesus was.

Yet, comparing the day that Jesus entered into Jerusalem on a donkey to the events later that Holy Week would seem to upset the balance. The Jesus welcomed on Palm Sunday seems a different Jesus than the Jesus hanging on the tree. The Jesus honored and praised as “Son of David” and “He who comes in the name of the Lord” seems different from the one of whom the people shouted, “Let Him be crucified” (Matthew 27:23). The man who the people call “Blessed” seems different from the man mocked with the scarlet robe and crown of thrones, blasphemed, and crucified.

One might think that the Jesus of Palm Sunday is not the same Jesus of Good Friday, or, that somehow, the Jesus of Good Friday is not the kind of Jesus that we’re looking for.   The Jesus of Good Friday is weak—meek—bruised—and beaten. He’s not only suffering and dying. He’s dead. This isn’t what kind of one we think of with the words “come in the name of the Lord” and “Son of David,” son of the mighty king whose heart was after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14).

One who comes “in the Name of the Lord” should be strong. The “Son of David” should not be defeated. He should be alive, living, and thriving. He should be conquering, overcoming and advancing the kingdom. He should be all-powerful, and un-stoppable.

But the kind of Jesus that the Father sent, the kind of Jesus that you have, is not the one molded or modeled according to sinners and their thoughts and their ways. The kind of Jesus that the Father sent, the kind of Jesus that you have, is indeed One whose heart is after God’s own heart.

This Jesus, “being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).

The Jesus of Palm Sunday, the Jesus of the Transfiguration, the healer of the blind, the lame, the deaf, and the mute, and the raiser of the dead is the same Jesus of suffering, thorns, beatings, mocking, blasphemies, crucifixion, and yes, even death. This Jesus is not the Savior of the sinless, but of sinners only. Those who are well have no need of a physician. Only those who are sick do (Matthew 9:12).

Jesus is that physician of the sick. He is the great physician, who alone heals you by taking all of that which condemns you and makes it His own. He takes it from you so that it is no longer yours, but His, and puts it to death on the cross.

He who “knew no sin” was made “to be sin for us” (1 Corinthians 5:21).

The beatings and the mocking, the blasphemies and the thorns, the insults and the injuries, the suffering, the crucifying, and the death—were yours. Jesus took them for you. Through these so-called weaknesses, salvation is yours—just because Jesus conformed to the will of His Father and suffered and yes, even died, for your sake.

If Jesus had done anything different, if He would have called down a legion of angels when He was arrested, if he would have come down from the cross and saved Himself, then you would still be in your sin, and have nothing but the consequence of eternal death upon you, now and into eternity.

But because Jesus was and is strong and mighty against the devil, because He conquered sin and death through His death, you now live and have life, for all eternity.

Because we walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), we don’t judge according to appearance. We “judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24), with the Word of God. Life (and the church) might not look like much at times, but it need not to. Jesus wasn’t what people expected. But the same Jesus of Good Friday is the same Jesus of Easter Sunday. “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9). Amen.

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