“ROCKS OF FAITH”
Text: Luke 19:28-40
Sunday April 10th, 2022 – Palm Sunday
Trinity – Creston/Mt. Ayr
Grace, mercy, and peace is yours from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
Our text for this Palm Sunday is from Luke 19.
Let Us Pray: Dearest Jesus, send your Holy Spirit to remind us how you enable each of us who were dead in our sin to see your presence with us in all circumstances, good or bad, sickness or health and in the face of death, crying out, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” Amen.
Dear Fellow Redeemed in Christ:
Here’s a newsflash: Military men aren’t exactly known for having kinder, gentler language skills. No one will ever confuse a conversation with a military man for a conversation with Mr. Rogers.
They know a lot of words, and we’re very good at using them in sentences. Many times, They use these offensive words to speak to one another. You may not know it by the language used with each other, but they are a very close group—a brotherhood.
Like brothers, however, They fight and compete and posture and make general fools of themselves. They love to insult and rib each other. No one outside the “family” can get away with teasing one of their own, but amongst the brothers its no-holds barred.
One of the classic cut-downs that enlistees learn right away in boot camp is the moniker “rock.” If someone calls you a rock it means that they think you’re stupid and a big waste of space. Make a mistake? Rock! Say something stupid? Rock!
In fact, a good way to kick the proverbial hornets nest is by walking up to someone with a rock in your hand and telling them that you found their ID card. A wrestling match is sure to follow these words!
I know this will sound strange, but it is this same “rock” moniker name calling I thought of while reading over the Gospel lesson for today. “I tell you, if these ones were silent, the very stones would cry out.”
Now it is important to point out that Jesus is commenting here on the overwhelming joy erupting all around Him. The Pharisees don’t like all this praise and jubilation being heaped on Jesus. Not surprisingly, they voice their disapproval to Jesus. “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples! Shut these people up!”
And that’s when Jesus responds with, “I tell you, if these ones were silent, the very stones would cry out.” Wow! This was obviously such a big, joyous deal—such a no-brainer reason to celebrate—that Jesus says that if the disciples didn’t cry out for joy, the lifeless, stupid, dead rocks in the streets would begin to cry out.
I guess this Jesus’ subtle way of telling the Pharisees that they had dropped their hard-hearted and unbelieving ID cards.
Now, before we look too far down our noses at these Pharisaical rocks, let first consider what Luke records for us here in these words of the Gospel. We get that this is a big deal and certainly a reason to celebrate, but what exactly is being celebrated here on this first Palm Sunday? What are the disciples so stirred up and passionate about?
“Well, duh, pastor! Here comes Jesus! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” Well…you’re right, but what exactly is it about Jesus that they’re celebrating? The answer is found at the very end of verse 37: “the whole multitude of disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen.”
Hmmm…that kind of puts a little stain on all of this, doesn’t it? The crowds were rejoicing over all the great and miraculous works they had seen. Not exactly the textbook definition of faith, is it? You can almost hear what they’re thinking.
“Here He comes. Remember all that amazing, miraculous stuff He did in the past? That’s nothing compared to what’s coming next!” They weren’t praising God for the Word or the life-giving teachings of Jesus.
They weren’t praising God because they understood that Jesus was actually processing to His gruesome and agonizing crucifixion to lay down His life as an all-atoning, liberating sacrifice for all mankind. In fact, they didn’t understand that blessed reality at all.
Rather, they were praising God for the unbelievable and mighty works they had witnessed; for the miracles; for the results. Now we’re not saying that this crowd of disciples didn’t have faith. They just had an imperfect faith that didn’t fully understand that God’s plan and their plan didn’t match up, nor could it.
In a way, these disciples were every bit a bunch of rocks as the Pharisees were when it came to understanding Christ and His mission of redemption and salvation. These disciples, like the Pharisees, wanted a triumphant, earthly king who would give them triumph and victory and prosperity in the here and now.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t how God’s plan of salvation was drawn up. Is it any surprise then that the events of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday were so traumatic and devastating to this group of believers who had put their faith and trust into the mighty and powerful works of a now condemned and crucified man?
To say that their faith was rattled and questioned would be an understatement. And it’s interesting to note here that on that Good Friday, when all these disciples were now silent and absent in their fear and doubt and unbelief, the very stones did cry out for the joy of what was taking place on that crucifixion mount.
Christ declared “It is finished,” and the earth quaked and boulders split. “Hosanna” that is, “save us now;” that cry first heard on Palm Sunday six days earlier, had come true. Salvation was finished and completed. Creation recognized the fact, and cried out the only way it could. The disciples, on the other hand…?
My, how things have changed. It’s sad, isn’t it? We know how the rest of the story plays out, yet we still often approach God and approach faith with the same Palm Sunday mindset as this group of rock-headed disciples.
How many times have you seen people full of life and faith and “on fire for Jesus” when times are going good, end up falling away from church; falling away from Christ when pain and suffering enters into their lives? I won’t ask for a show of hands, but how many times have you been in those shoes yourself?
By the same token, how many times have you seen people come to church when their life is in shambles, looking for a quick-fix, only to leave a short while later because “they weren’t getting anything out of it?” They didn’t see anything earth-shaking and life-changing.
They didn’t win the lottery or get their job back or receive favorable test results. “I came to Jesus for a cure, a fix, a miracle. I gave of my time, talent, 3 and treasure, and all I got in return was bad news. All I got in return was more pain and suffering. I’m outta here!” Because of the lack of expected mighty and powerful results, they didn’t see a reason to stick around.
While we don’t like to admit it or confess it, we too often praise and rejoice to God for His mighty good works in our life, and yet we’re also the first ones to try and save ourselves and abandon ship and when suffering is on the agenda.
“Praise God from whom all blessings flow, except when it affects my checkbook, my job, my big plans, or my health.” Then it often sounds more like, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me? Maybe this whole ‘church thing’ is a big sham. Maybe God is punishing me. Maybe God doesn’t love me.”
“Wow, pastor! Way to rain on today’s parade! You have absolutely every reason in heaven and earth to rejoice today, just as our Palm Sunday forefathers did so many centuries ago. In fact, you have more reason to celebrate than they did.
As 21st century disciples, we have an advantage over our Palm Sunday forefathers. We know the whole redemption story. We know the reason why Christ is processing into town on that donkey. We know that Jesus is specifically processing to Calvary—to His cross—amidst all the palms, cloaks, and hosannas in our Gospel lesson today.
Our Lord processed into Jerusalem for a reason—to ransom His life for ours; to completely pay for all our sins. Those first disciples didn’t understand that.
They didn’t look to that cross and see a truly mighty and powerful work being performed; so mighty and powerful that the rocks themselves cried out; so mighty and powerful that all of mankind was completely redeemed and reconciled to our heavenly Father through the crucifixion of one man—our God and Lord, Jesus Christ. They didn’t see it.
Because of the absolutely free gift of faith, we can and we do. More importantly, we know that the cross was not the end of the story. Christ completely conquered sin, death, and the devil; He didn’t just settle the score! The tomb could not hold the Lord of Life!
The joy of Palm Sunday still lives on in our very presence in Christ’s Word and Sacraments. Immanuel—God with us—is still keeping His Word, “I am with you always to the very end of the age.” We know what that means. We recognize right here in His Word and Sacraments.
Our hosannas; our cries to “save us now” still faithfully ring out. We still suffer in sin. Our Lord still comes to us for us; for our sins, lowly and humble, coming in the simple forms of Word, water, bread and wine, humbly but mightily processing to us to bring us His victories over sin, death, and the devil.
Folks: Something great and powerful is taking place before our very eyes and in our very hearing this very day. The results are here for all to behold! Scripture is fulfilled. Our heavenly Father has kept His messianic promise to crush the head of the deadly serpent and deliver His people unto eternal life and salvation; that promise being perfectly fulfilled in the work and person of Jesus 4 Christ.
This is the true reason for Palm Sunday joy. This is the true reason for Palm Sunday happiness. It’s so simple that even rocks like me can understand and joyously respond to this blessed reality!
May this blessed joy be your blessed joy. May our Lord keep your faith ever-grounded in the rock-solid reality of “It is finished!”. May He keep you ever grounded and founded upon the solid rock of our salvation—Christ Jesus.
Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.