Palm Sunday March 28, 2021
162, 161, 160:1-3, 160:4&5
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
+ In the Name of Jesus Christ. Amen. +
Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. Then one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. (NKJV)
In the name of our Savior King who deserves all honor, glory, and praise, dear fellow redeemed;
Every year the Oscar award ceremony is held to honor movie makers. While they are hailed in this way, it is highly questionable whether they all deserve such praise.
When determining who is truly deserving of being honored, should it not be dependent upon the great worth and lasting value of what has been accomplished for the benefit of others? Taking this into account there is One who stands out as truly worthy of being honored. Because of this particular Individual’s person and work He has been highly exalted and given a name which is above every name, that at His name every knee should bow. His name is Jesus.
On that first Palm Sunday, Jesus was given a royal reception by a vast multitude as He made His way to the city of Jerusalem. Although Jesus didn’t look like anyone very special, being dressed in lowly garments and riding on a donkey, yet He was highly honored by those who accompanied Him and by those who came out of the city to greet Him. The disciples of Christ hailed Him as they rejoiced with loud voices, praising God for all the mighty works Jesus had performed. The great throng of people who flocked around Jesus cut down palm branches and took off their coats to lay them down on the pathway of Jesus. Thus, they gave Him the red-carpet treatment.
The voices of the masses could be heard exalting Jesus as the messianic King, singing their hosannas and saying, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!” Even though many did not fully recognize Jesus’ divine person and work, nevertheless they properly gave Him due respect, because He is the Savior King.
The recognition Jesus received that weekend started before Sunday, as there was a banquet given in His honor at the nearby town of Bethany.
Why is it that Jesus was worthy of this treatment by the people at this feast? By examining the blessings Jesus bestowed on those gathered there and yes, even upon all mankind, we can readily understand why.
The host of this banquet was Simon the leper. This designation did not mean Simon still had leprosy, but that he had been afflicted with this disease and was now cured. Simon’s connection with Jesus and his loving devotion to the Lord is most likely due to Jesus having healed him. Knowing how terrible this disease was and how wonderful it was to be cured of it, Simon was understandably joyful and thankful to Jesus for blessing him in this way.
This was not the only healing by Jesus that Simon experienced, for the Savior Jesus also cured Simon of the spiritual leprosy of sin. While physical leprosy ravages and destroys the body, sin torments and wreaks destruction on the soul.
Sin vexes our spirits with the nagging feelings of fear, guilt, and shame, causing us to be alienated from God. Without the proper cure, unforgiven sin results in suffering the fate of eternal torments in hell. However, when we look to Jesus with a penitent and believing heart, we find in Jesus the perfect healing balm for our souls. We receive spiritual healing in the knowledge that God doesn’t condemn us for our sins, but rather forgives us for Jesus’ sake. Can there be anyone more deserving of praise than our Savior Jesus?
Mary, Martha, and Lazarus also came to this banquet. They found good cause to honor Jesus. During those precious moments of fellowship Mary spent with Jesus previously in their home, listening attentively to His Word, she learned the importance of seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness before all other earthly considerations. As a believer, Mary knew that while the joys of this temporal life are fleeting and transitory, yet the gladness of heart caused by the spiritual things of God is everlasting.
From what Jesus said about Mary’s anointing Him with oil we gather that she, unlike many of the other disciples, knew that Jesus was about to lay down His life. It should not surprise us to hear that Mary knew what was about to happen to Jesus, for He had told His followers a number of times that He would have to go up to Jerusalem to suffer and die at the hands of His enemies and that He would rise back to life on the third day. Is there anyone more deserving of receiving honor than Jesus who willingly died so that we can have eternal life through Him?
Speaking of life through our Savior, the family of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus had firsthand experience of Jesus’ life-giving power. At Lazarus’ grave Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” (John 11:25,26) Jesus then proceeded to give evidence of His being the resurrection and the life by raising Lazarus from the dead.
Such a mighty act by Jesus revealed His glory as God. Because of His victorious death and resurrection, on the last day of this world He will raise us and all believers from the grave in glorified, perfected forms to live with Him throughout eternity.
When we compare this great feat to all other human accomplishments, it is clear for us to see that the glory of man’s deeds greatly pale in comparison. Who in all the world is more deserving of adoration from us than the crucified and risen Savior Jesus Christ?
But how? How is such a glorious One honored by redeemed sinners? We find a number of examples of believers exalting Jesus at the banquet in Simon’s house. First of all, we see Simon opening up his house and making it available for fellow Christians to gather for the special purpose of glorifying Jesus.
As believers we recognize that all our possessions are God’s which He has entrusted to us to use for the glory of God. Can you think of a more fitting way for Christians to honor Jesus with their home than to use it as a place for believers to gather and speak the praises of Jesus’ name?
Martha can be seen showing reverence to Jesus by serving the meal at this special banquet. Her service on this occasion was different from the other time when Jesus was at her house. During that visit Jesus admonished her for her misplaced concerns and priorities saying, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her”. (Luke 10:41,42) No doubt, Martha learned from Jesus that her spiritual life with God was the most important consideration in this world. And so, having her priorities in order, her serving on this occasion was a response of Christian love for the blessings Jesus had bestowed on her. At this meal then, we find Jesus gladly accepting her offering, for it was done to honor Him.
What a fine example Martha has given us by using her time, talents, and energies in benefitting others. We find the apostle Paul exhorting us in his letters, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17) And “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
What about Lazarus? How did he honor Jesus? Our text only says of him, “Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him.” The Bible doesn’t speak of Lazarus doing anything other than being present at the feast. Oh, but there was more to it than that. Lazarus was risking his life by appearing with Jesus, for the Jewish leaders had put out a contract on his life. They wanted Lazarus assassinated, because he was a living reminder of Jesus being the Lord which these Jews had rejected. And so, by Lazarus sticking out his neck to come to this banquet for Jesus he was showing his great love and thankfulness to Jesus.
The one person at the banquet who stands out quite prominently in the matter of honoring Jesus is Mary. In fact, the evangelist Matthew reports Jesus saying of Mary, “Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” (Matthew 26:13)
Our text says this of Mary’s devotion to Jesus, “Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.” Later Jesus commented about this gesture by Mary that she had reserved this fragrant oil for the specific purpose of anointing His body in preparation for His coming death. What great love and thankfulness Mary showed Jesus who was about to lay down His life for her and all the world. In response to the everlasting blessings Jesus imparts, Mary spared no expense when she decided to anoint His body with oil. And since the Lord of Glory humbled Himself by coming to this earth as a lowly servant to serve us even to the point of death for our salvation, Mary in turn humbled herself in a loving gesture toward Jesus.
For the Jewish woman her long flowing hair was the crown of her glory as a woman. And she was not in the custom of letting down her hair in public. And yet, we find Mary deeply humbling herself before the Lord and others for the sake of Jesus by letting down her hair and using it to wipe the feet of Jesus after anointing them with oil.
Sadly, not everyone at the banquet appreciated this act of devotion, for Judas Iscariot raised objection to it saying, “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” On the surface, Judas’ words sounded like he was concerned about the poor. However, Scripture reveals that Judas spoke these words as a pretense to cover up a greedy and selfish spirit. As the treasurer of the disciples, he stole from the till for his own selfish interests. And on this occasion, Judas much preferred that the oil be sold so that he could take the money for himself. He called himself a disciple of Christ, but his heart was far from Jesus.
Because of his love for money, later on he sold out Jesus by betraying Him into the hands of His enemies for thirty pieces of silver. God help us from falling prey to hypocrisy and misplaced love like this, for this can only bring dishonor upon Jesus and a destructive fate for us. Lord have mercy upon us and forgive us of our sins in such matters.
That weekend long ago was one time in Jesus’ earthly life that He was most fittingly honored by the multitudes. Knowing Jesus as our Savior King, we are minded as believers to honor Him each and everyday of our lives by all that we say and do in His name. May it be so until we join the angels and all the saints in heaven to sing His praises eternally. 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.