Palm Sunday April 5, 2020
17, 162, 160, 161
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
The shortest war in history took place in 1896, when the Sultan of Zanzibar reportedly surrendered his forces to the British Navy after only 38 minutes of fighting. I don’t know the circumstances of that war, but talk about giving up with barely a fight!
We usually think of surrendering as a cowardly thing. However, surrendering can actually be a very good thing. I recall a lonely young bachelor who completely surrendered his heart with absolutely no resistance whatsoever to a certain young lady with pretty blue eyes. He will tell you that waving the white flag of surrender was the smartest thing he ever did.
Today we celebrate Palm Sunday. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem that day He had come to surrender Himself, body and soul, to the will of His Father. He had come to give Himself up for the sake of a fallen world that desperately needed saving. His act of surrender, which led to His gruesome death on a cross, is both the most loving and the most courageous deed ever done in all human history. Nothing else comes even close. Surrendering Himself to death on a cross was how He won God’s war against sin, Satan, and death.
By His Word of Love, King Jesus has conquered us so that we have now surrendered our hearts and lives to Him. There’s no question, that if left to ourselves, we never in a million years would have surrendered to Him. But, only because of His grace, we have surrendered and we do belong to Him. Praise God, and what a joy to shower upon our king our most joyful hosannas!
But maybe on this day of joyful praise we don’t feel all that joyful. Perhaps we have heavy hearts, burdened by life’s trials. Even believers in Christ can struggle to find peace and joy. Well, take heart! God has a message for you. He wants you to let go of whatever is hurting you today and surrender it all to Him. Join me on this Palm Sunday as we consider the theme: SURRENDER TO YOUR KING! (1) Surrender to His Peace, (2) Surrender to His Freedom, and (3) Surrender to His Hope.
Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war-horses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth. As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit. Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope…
The Bible says a great deal about peace, but there are many people who are desperately longing for peace. You may be one of them. There are times when we all feel a great lack of peace in our lives. Carefully consider the words of our text where we read that “His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.” There is no corner of the earth, no event—big or small, no individual— famous or unknown, over which Jesus does not have total dominion. King Jesus is in control. His Lordship over all things, over all history, and over all people is complete and absolute. Jesus says: “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.” (Matthew 28:18)
The bottom line is that the God Who loves you—whose love for you is undying, unconditional, and unlimited—is in control of your life. Under His loving rulership, all things must work and serve for the everlasting good of His people. It simply cannot be otherwise. When you wake up in the morning, you can be sure, that come what may, God always has your back.
But if this is true, and it is, why is there so often a great lack of peace in your life and mine? Why do you and I go around carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders? Why, instead of peace, do worry and fear color the lives of even Christians?
Consider what God is saying through the prophet Zechariah: “I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war-horses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken.”The LORD is talking about a disarmament program. But understand the LORD is not talking about disarming our enemies. Rather He is talking about disarming us. Ephraim and Jerusalem in the Old Testament Scriptures are names which stand for the people of God—the believers. Why would God disarm His people? Why would He sometimes put us in positions where we feel absolutely powerless? Because He wants us to quit relying on ourselves and learn to trust Him.
The reason we don’t have more peace in our lives is because we try to be in control. We try to fight our own battles. We rely too much on our own strength. The result is that we often find ourselves overcome by fears, and jerked around by our worries. King Jesus tells us: “Give up! Surrender! I can handle, He says, what you can’t handle!” The Christian life involves surrendering each new day to the Lord, and as we do, we will have peace. The Apostle Paul puts it this way in 1 Corinthians 12: “When I am weak, then I am strong.” When I admit my own weaknesses and learn to rely on Jesus my King and Savior, then I am truly strong.
Let’s ask God to help us surrender every day to the peace He longs to give us, a peace which tells us He has the whole world in His hands, including your personal life.
Our King calls us to surrender to His peace, but He also calls us to surrender to His freedom. Looking again at our text we read: “As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.”
A prisoner in a waterless pit? What’s that about? The waterless pits in Palestine were cisterns that were dug into the ground to collect rain water. They were often waterless because of the dry climate in Palestine; and because they were dry for much of the year they were sometimes used to keep prisoners. They were narrow at the top and wider at the bottom, and generally quite deep. So, unless you had help, it was pretty much impossible to get yourself out.
Think of the waterless pit as the hole we dig for ourselves because of our sins. Our selfishness, our sharp tongues, our unforgiving hearts, our lust, our greed, along with our many other sins, put us in a pit. In fact, we started out in the pit because of our inborn sinfulness. How are we going to get out of this pit of sin? By making excuses for our sin? By somehow trying to make up for them? By blaming others for the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into? No! That’s all been tried, and continues to be tried, and all its does is make the pit even deeper.
So how can a sinner get free from the pit? Only one way! Through the shedding of blood! “Because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.” When our King rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, as prophesied here in Zechariah, He did so do in order to lay down His life and spill His blood for this world of sinners. Only Jesus’ blood can wash away human sin and set sinful people free from sin’s curse and its power over our lives. Only the blood of the King of kings can set us free from the waterless pit of death and damnation.
Sin is the very worst prison there is! Every day we sin! But instead of allowing ourselves to be overwhelmed and controlled by our sins, God calls us to surrender our sins to Jesus. In other words, to repent of them every day by honestly confessing them and turning to Jesus to lift you out of the pit by forgiving you. If you are here today with some guilt pressing hard on your soul, know for certain that the blood of the Son of God has already washed it away forever! Jesus died for the whole world, and so that means He died for you as well! With God-given faith, surrender—daily surrender to the freedom which Jesus won for you with His sinless life and the shedding of His holy precious blood! And know this, as Jesus says in the Gospel of John, chapter 8, verse 36: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!”
Surrender to His Peace! Surrender to His Freedom! Finally Surrender to His Hope. Listen to the final and beautiful words of our text: “Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope!” Are you a hopeful person? From your point of view is the glass half full or half empty? Are there times when you convince yourself that nothing ever goes right in my life? Does gloom and doom dog your every step? Why is that? Well, it could be that your heart is too fixed on this life. You see, too often we make the dreams and hopes of this life the big thing. We place far too much importance on them, and when they fall to pieces, so do we.
A man named Charles Dutton spent many years imprisoned for manslaughter. After being released he became a successful Broadway star and actor. When someone asked him how he managed such a remarkable transition, he replied, “Unlike the other prisoners, I never decorated my cell.” In other words, he didn’t want to become too comfortable living in a prison cell. Rather, he set his sights outside the prison walls and going home.
Our great hope as Christians rests in the fact that heaven is our home. In the book of Hebrews, the Bible describes the Christian as one “longing for a better country—a heavenly one.” (Hebrews 11:16)
Zechariah invites us to return to the fortress. To go back to the stronghold of God’s Word and surrender to your King as a prisoner of hope. Surrender your life to hope—to the only real hope—the hope you have in Christ. Resolve with God’s help to never regard this earth as your home and your mountains of trouble will turn into ant hills.
Now being a prisoner of hope does not mean crossing your fingers and merely wishing for the best. Christian hope means looking to Jesus’ cross and empty tomb and KNOWING—not wishing—but KNOWING the best is yet to come! Christian hope knows for a fact that the worst things are never the last things. In Christ, we always have the hope of something better and that something better will last forever.
The King has conquered our hearts. By the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Word, we surrender our lives to Him every day! Surrender to His Peace, His Freedom, and His hope! Then “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation.” Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.