Online Worship for Lent One, Sunday February 26, 2023
Sermon for Lent One – 3/1/09; 2/14/16 --Sunday February 26, 2023
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Luke 19:37-44 (NKJV)
37 Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, 38 saying: “ ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” 40 But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.” 41 Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, 44 and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
In the Name of Jesus,
Dear Fellow Redeemed –
Can stones talk? Does Granite groan and sandstone speak? Do they utter syllables that can be heard with the ear? Well, of course not, stone is inanimate. Still, in a sense, stones may be said to speak.
How, you ask?
Well, consider gravestones…while their message cannot be heard in the ear, they do speak, and they do have a story to tell. A gravestone tells a life’s story, even if it’s only in simple lines. It reveals a name, a date of birth and a date of death. In some cases gravestones have symbols, like the cross, that attempt to tell more about the person buried beneath. There are some that speak of more than one person, of a husband and beloved wife.
There is one other message that every gravestone tells, though it is rarely if ever engraved in stone, and it is this: Death is inescapable.
Gravestones aren’t the only stones that speak, so do memorial stones and national monuments. While their voices are not carried by the wind, they also speak. Whether these memorials are figures or faces or names carved into stone, they serve to speak of and remember great men and their great acts. Yes, stones can speak.
This morning we ‘fast forward’ to the first day of Holy Week, Palm Sunday, and we consider the stones of Palm Sunday. Did I say the stones of Palm Sunday? Don’t I mean the palms of Palm Sunday? No, today we consider the stones of Palm Sunday, some of which were silent when they might have cried out; while others still speak today.
May God the Holy Spirit be with us and bless our study of the Word, that we may grow in faith toward God and in love toward Him and one another. Amen.
Why are we considering the events of Palm Sunday today? It’s only the first Sunday in Lent, and Palm Sunday is more than a month away!
The Gospels record many events that took place during the week before Jesus’ Resurrection. During the Sundays in Lent, we will be taking a look at some of the things that happened during that week (Sunday to Saturday), the week we know as Holy Week.
Thus, we begin with Palm Sunday.
For Jesus and His disciples, Palm Sunday began with the Savior making plans to travel west, from Bethany to Jerusalem. It just a short walk of two miles or so, but Jesus wouldn’t be walking. Jesus sent two disciples into a nearby village to borrow an animal, the colt of a donkey to ride into Jerusalem. Everything happened just as Jesus said it would, and they returned with a donkey and her colt (Matthew 21:2), upon which no one had ever sat (Luke 19:30).
So Jesus rode from Bethpage along the road that led west up the back of the Mount of Olives. He didn’t just travel with the 12 disciples, but following Him were a great number of disciples, who gave him the ‘red carpet treatment’ laying their cloaks on the road before Him. They took up palms, which they also laid before Him upon the stones that made up the road, worn down by the scuffling feet of countless travelers.
There was more than the sound of scuffling feet and voices engaged in conversation that day.
37 Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen,
So it happened that as they traveled toward the top of the ridge, the multitude began to rejoice and praise God as they recounted all the miracles which they had seen accomplished by Jesus. He had healed the sick and cast out demons. He had given sight to the blind and caused the lame to rise up and walk. He had recently raised Lazarus from death.
The multitude discussed these things, and their individual recollections became one great cry of praise. Then they together took up the words of the 118th Psalm to praise Jesus as the Christ, the Promised Savior:
38 saying: “ ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the LORD!’
During His earthly ministry, Jesus had told people that He was the Christ, the Promised Savior. Sadly, very often the people didn’t believe Him.
In Nazareth (Luke 4:16-30) his own hometown, they tried to throw him off a cliff. Only very rarely it seems did people believe Him. In Samaria, he told the woman by the well (John 4:25-26) and she believed along with many in her city (John 4:42).
On Palm Sunday, as Jesus rode toward Jerusalem, a great multitude of people praised Him as the Christ (Messiah), God’s promised King. They confessed Him to be the Coming One, the one who came in the name of the Lord, with His authority and power. Whether they understood the nature of His Kingdom we cannot say, but for one day they praised Jesus as the Messiah. They said openly, Jesus you are the Promised Savior!
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
They used words that remind us of those sung by the Angels at Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:14). They believed that there was peace in heaven, peace between God and humankind because of His Coming. They believed that in the highest places of heaven shouts of praise were being lifted up to God.
It was an exciting day…for those who were Jesus’ disciples.
There were others who were not moved to worship or praise. They were offended, even angry, because they didn’t believe that Jesus was the Christ. They were Pharisees, and they demanded that Jesus stop this charade parade. They did not believe Him to be the King, the Chosen One, and the Prince of Peace.
39 And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd,
“Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.”
Silence them, they demanded! They offered no reason why they should be quiet, but their reason was all too apparent. They believed it to be a lie.
Jesus didn’t silence them. He received their praise. He wanted to hear it…and He wants to hear ours. It doesn’t matter how the voice sounds, only that the heart offers up this praise in truth. When it is your love for Jesus that moves you to sing, sing out, whether you think you are a good singer or not!
40 But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”
Jesus said that if they didn’t say it…the stones would themselves cry out. Stones….talk? Now, that would have been a miracle!
Why not, on another occasion, a stone burst forth water at God’s command (Exodus 17:6; Isaiah 48:21)!
If the people were impressed with the other miracles they had witnessed, would they have forgotten the day when the very stones sang praise?
But I ask you, would it really have been any more impressive a miracle than what has been done for us? We were born spiritually dead in sins (Ephesians 2:1ff), at enmity with God (Romans 8:7), opposed to His will.
But here we are confessing both our sins and our faith in Jesus! Yet here we are singing His praise. This is possible because God has given us new hearts (Ezekiel 36:26) not opposed to His will. He has granted us faith in Christ, which is truly a miracle of God’s Grace.
Christ Jesus, who once gave life to a physically dead Lazarus, has also raised us from spiritual death to life. We are able to confess Christ and praise Him because the Holy Spirit has worked in us with the Gospel of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:3; Romans 1:16).
The stones of Palm Sunday were silent, but could have, at God’s command sang praise. While it was unnecessary that they sing Christ’s praise, let us not be silent as stones when it comes to our Savior Jesus.
We are called; every one of us, to speak of His glory day by day, while it is day (John 9:4). If we don’t speak, who will? If we don’t take up His Gospel to proclaim it, it may be taken from us (cf. Matthew 21:43), and we fall under judgment as the other stones on Palm Sunday bear witness.
The stones of Palm Sunday, if they could be witnesses, witnessed both joy and sorrow. When Jesus came within sight of Jerusalem, the city of peace, the place of Jehovah’s Temple, His dwelling among men, He wept.
41 Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.
Why did Jesus cry? Jesus saw with the clarity that only the Son of God can – the true spiritual condition of that city and her inhabitants. While there were joyful disciples behind and before Him; many of those within her walls had rejected Him. He came to bring them peace, and yet as the city was festive looking forward to the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, they didn’t want the peace He came to bring.
Jesus also wept because He also saw the future of this city and her people as only the Son of God could. Jerusalem, the city of peace, would neither experience the peace of God or peace with men. So did Jesus foretell the judgment of Jerusalem which took place in less than 40 years …
43 For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, 44 and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
Jesus’ Words came true when the Roman Army built an embankment and surrounded and laid siege to the city. After a lengthy siege, Jerusalem fell and the city was leveled, and the temple of God was utterly destroyed – not one stone was left upon another.
Why did God allow this to happen to Jerusalem and to His Temple? Jesus Himself explains right here – it is because they did not recognize and receive the Prince of Peace when He came to the city of peace. They did not recognize the day of their visitation…even though they had the Scriptures and the Prophets and every reason to recognize Him.
No, instead of rejoicing in Him and singing His praise, they demanded His crucifixion and despite the signs of His Resurrection simply went on with their lives. They continued to offer up the sacrifices that were only a shadow and a picture of the sacrifice He offered on Calvary to obtain their peace.
Now even to this very day many of the Jews still await the Christ’s Coming. They still look for a great political leader who will restore their nation to prominence. They look for a military commander who will defeat all their enemies. They look in vain.
Instead of rejoicing, the Jews of Jerusalem weep. The stones that once made up the foundation upon which the temple was built are called ‘the wailing wall.’ There they gather to lament the destruction of the temple. Now upon the sight sits the dome of the rock, a temple erected by the false religion of Islam.
In a sense those stones still speak today. While most do not hear their message, they speak of God’s Judgment. They warn of the serious and tragic fate of those who reject the Son of God as Savior and King.
While those stones stand as a reminder of God’s Judgment we rejoice to know that God has built His Church, the Holy Christian Church upon a true and solid foundation.
Its foundation is not stone and mortar, but His Word and the rock solid confession once made by the disciple Peter whose name means ‘a stone’ (Matthew 16:16):
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
May God keep us in His Grace so that we hold fast and treasure this confession as our own! May God the Spirit strengthen that faith through Word and Sacrament that we may speak His praise remembering the stones of Palm Sunday. Amen.