Palm Sunday March 28, 1999
160, 162, 339, 114
O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger. When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! This is the Word of God.
In Jesus Christ, Who entered Jerusalem in triumph on Palm Sunday, Dear Fellow Redeemed,
Up until very recently in the world’s history, the name of a king was an extremely powerful thing. Of course there aren’t many kingdoms left in our modern world, so the idea is king of foreign to us. But if you and I had lived, say, in the Europe of 300 years ago, we’d have no trouble figuring out how powerful the name of a king could be. Back then, “democracy” was an unheard-of form of government, and the whole world was under the control of a handful of kings and emperors. These monarchs made themselves as majestic and remote as they could. If you were a commoner, you’d probably never even see your king in person. But the name of the king would govern your whole life! Tax collectors would take your money “in the name of the king.” Your business would be controlled and regulated “in the name of the king.” And if you were convicted of a crime, you would be sentenced to punishment “in the name of the king.”
Well, our American forefathers decided, for once, to ignore the name of the king—a certain king named George III of England. Ever since then, the idea of being subject to a king is something we Americans never have to think of.—Or is it? For us Christians at least, this day, Palm Sunday, is a reminder that we do indeed have a King. Jesus Christ is His name, and that is one name that carries with it tremendous power—power that affects your daily life, power that’s available for you to use! If you haven’t thought about that for a while, then pay attention to what the Holy Spirit is saying to you in the Eighth Psalm. In the words of our theme—
King David begins and ends his Eighth Psalm with the same words: O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! What is it that’s so majestic about the name of the Lord? He certainly can’t be talking about the simple word “Lord”—you hear people abusing that name on the street every day.
We Lutherans, especially, make much of the “name of God,” don’t we? We began our service this morning “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Every time we baptize, marry or bury someone, we invoke the name of the God. Every sermon you hear from this pulpit is begun and ended in Jesus’ name. Why do we do that? What’s the big deal about the “name of God,” anyway?
To begin with, “God’s name” implies much more than simply the proper nouns “God,” “Jehovah,” “Lord,” “Redeemer,” etc. Just like the “name of the king” in 17th century England stood for a lot more than just the words “king,” or “Richard II”—it stood for all the authority and power, the threat and promise, the protection and the punishment that went along with those words. Likewise, the “name of God” includes everything He has made known to us about Himself in His Word.
There is tremendous power in the name of our Lord, because His is the most powerful name of all. The Psalmist says it is majestic and glorious, higher than the heavens, dwarfing every power that exists on earth. So you see now how significant it was, that first Palm Sunday, when all the people shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” It was powerful praise—they were hailing Jesus as the promised Messiah. They were, in effect, identifying Jesus with the Almighty God! No wonder the chief priests and scribes were upset! They were sore displeased, And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise? —Mat 21:15-16.
Jesus was quoting from the Old Testament; in fact, He was quoting verse two of our text. On Palm Sunday, that Scripture was fulfilled. The mouths of Jesus’ enemies—these hypocrites who had been plotting His death!—had been stopped. And who did it? Who finally shut the mouths of Jesus’ harping critics? Was it some brilliant orator? Some tremendous speechmaker with all the tricks of rhetoric on his side? No. Little children did it! That day, infants and toddlers defeated Jesus’ enemies, when their voices rang out in perfect praise to the King of all creation: Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!
You see, the name of our King is the name that gives power to the powerless. Without the name of Jesus, even the “mighty” of this world are powerless. With the name of Jesus, even the powerless—even little children!—become mighty in the Lord. Like a lot of God’s other blessings, this doesn’t seem to make sense. It didn’t seem logical to King David, either. When David thought about the majesty of God, he couldn’t figure out why God even bothered with human beings! David said, “When I consider your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is man that You are mindful of him, the son of man that You care for him?”
A number of years ago, National Geographic put out a poster that was supposed to be a map of the known universe. It attempted to put the distances in the universe into perspective. The earth is a tiny speck in our solar system. Our solar system is a very tiny speck in our galaxy, the Milky Way. Well, it turns out the Milky Way is only a small part of a vast cluster of galaxies which, itself, is really just a tiny dot in the middle of the universe. It sure makes a person feel small! And David tells us that all these innumerable stars were created and set in order by the merest brush of God’s fingers. Can you doubt that there is power in the name of the King? What is a human being compared to that? Why in the world would Almighty God even notice us, much less care for us?
But the fact is, that from the beginning of creation, God has taken very special notice of us human beings. Today’s proponents of evolution want us to believe that humans are just another kind of animal species, first cousins to the chimpanzees, but Scripture tells us differently. Adam and Eve were the crowning achievement of God’s creation. God made them in His own image, with the righteousness and holiness of the Lord Himself. He gave them great power! David says: Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.
Man was given great power—power in the name of the Lord. But Adam and Eve gave in to the temptation of the devil; they forsook the name of God and the righteousness of God. And ever since then, that sinful nature has been passed down from generation to generation. But in His mercy, God made a way for us to regain the power of His name.
That’s the mystery of our Savior’s love, and the wonder of Palm Sunday. Behold! Jesus Christ, eternal God and King of Creation—rides meekly into Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey. The hand which holds that donkey’s halter is the hand which formed the universe! He offers His on body on the cross as the sacrifice to take away our sins. He gives us His perfect righteousness, to take the place of our own weak, imperfect righteousness. Though we were powerless, tremendous power is now put at our disposal. The very power to grasp eternal life is given us in Jesus’ name! Paul says, “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty.” —1 Cor 1:27.
Realize the great power you have in Jesus’ name! Make use of it in your daily life! Jesus says, “Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do.” —John 14:13. Is there sin burdening your conscience?—In the name of our King, there is forgiveness for your sins. Is there sorrow or pain in your life right now?—In the name of the King, there is comfort for every sorrow, relief for every pain (or strength to endure it). Whatever your wants or needs are, the power of the King’s name puts everything within your grasp.
Why does the name of our King assures us of the victory in all of life’s conflicts? Because it is a name that overcomes every foe. No matter what forces of evil stand against you in this life, Scripture promises that, in the name of Christ, nothing can defeat you!
A few minutes ago I quoted verse six of our text, Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet. and I said that this applies to mankind in general. But this verse is a double prophesy—it also applies in a special way to Jesus Christ. Three days after Jesus finished His work of redemption on the cross, He rose again in triumph. Since then, He reigns with glory and honor at the right hand of God in heaven. As Paul says, “He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.” —I Cor 15:25-26. I don’t want to jump the gun, because of course our biggest celebration of Jesus’ victory is still a week away. But the Easter victory is really something that is ours the whole year round. In the name of our King, eternal death has been defeated, and eternal life is waiting for everyone who wants it. It doesn’t matter who you are—all you have to do is use that name! Paul says, “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For ‘whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’” —Rom 10:12-13.
Can we fail to use this powerful name? Can we forget to come to church and hear it? To call upon it in prayer in our own homes? Can we omit to offer our hosannas and praises to our King this Palm Sunday? Impossible—it just wouldn’t make sense! Because my friends, none of us can afford to give up that kind of power!
William Shakespeare didn’t think much of names. In act two of Romeo and Juliet, the poet writes, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” He may be right about roses, and people too, for that matter. Names in themselves usually aren’t all that important. But for us Christians there’s one exception: the name of Jesus Christ, our King. There’s a lot to that name!. It’s the most powerful name of all. It’s a name that gives power to the powerless. And it’s the name that overpowers every foe! AMEN.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.