Palm Sunday A
March 30, 2020
The Palm Sunday A Sermon Starters include commentary and illustration ideas for Matthew 26:14-27:66 from the Lectionary Gospel; Isaiah 50:4-9a from the Old Testament Lectionary; Psalm 31:9-16 from the Lectionary Psalms; and Matthew 21:1-11 from the Lectionary Epistle.
Related Reformed confession: Lectionary Gospel: Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 44 (Lord’s Day 16)
Author: Scott Hoezee
Some years back I heard what was reported to have been among the final gasping words of the famous singer Frank Sinatra. Sinatra’s signature song was “My Way” in which he crooned that when looking back on his life, although he had a few regrets, in the end “I did it my way.”
But at the real end, our own strength is never enough. And so just before he breathed his last, Sinatra said to a family member, “I’m losing.” But to say you are losing implies that you have the sense that you should be able to win. To have a sense of defeat implies that, all things being equal, there should have been a chance for victory. We should be able to keep our life.
I suspect that Old Blue Eyes was in touch with something fundamental in the human soul: the aching sense that we were made for life. Hence, whatever death is, it gets in the way like a roadblock. “Is this all there is?” so many ask as death approaches.
As Peter Kreeft once noted, if a child gets a slug of presents at Christmas but still says at the end of the unwrapping, “Is this all there is?”, then there are two ways of viewing this. Either the child is dreadfully ungrateful or someone made him a promise that has not yet been kept. Perhaps he had been promised a new puppy but so far has received just stuffed animals. But if he had been told a new puppy was coming, then the “Is this all there is?” question looks not like ingratitude so much as a proper expectation. So for us all: if we sense we’ve been promised life, then asking “Is this all there is” in the face of death makes sense.
But we all still look for ways to minimize death or skirt its pervasive reach. Have you ever heard about the death of someone’s mother only to ask right off the bat, “How old was she?” Why do we ask that? If someone tells you that her mother took the grandkids to the zoo for the day, do you tumble to say, “That’s nice. Say, how old is your mother?” Probably not. No, we ask how old someone was after they died because if we find out she was 93, we’ll console ourselves that we need not feel too bad after all. Yet another subtle implication is that even the son or daughter should not grieve too much given that this dead person had, after all, arrived at the proverbial “ripe old age.”
It’s not true though, is it? How many times haven’t I heard people say that death still hits you hard, even when long-expected. Death still doesn’t feel right even if it is tinged with some measure of relief. Even then you may hear family members say, “For his sake we’re glad, but . . .” And you know what’s next. “But . . . the rest of us now just plain miss him, that’s all.” It’s the same dynamic that can lead people in their 60s to say they feel like orphans after the last parent dies. Orphans!? At 60 years of age!? Yes, that’s how it feels.
In one of the confessional standards of my tradition (The Heidelberg Catechism), at one point a very important question gets asked: Why did Jesus have to go all the way to death? That is a big question, so what is the answer? Did Jesus have to go all the way to death to pay for sin? Yes. But listen: why did Jesus have to go all the way to death? Because he had been made truly human. Why did Jesus have to go all the way to death? Because you and I must do so, and had Jesus found a way to beam off this planet in a way that would have neatly side-stepped any kind of death, then he could not be considered just like you and me after all. Jesus had to leave this world via death for the same reason he couldn’t get into this world without exiting a woman’s uterus: because that’s how all people get here. Jesus had to die for the same reason he had to drink water every day to stay healthy, for the same reason he got hungry, for the same reason he had to close his eyes and sleep after a long day of parable-telling and teaching: because in Jesus the Son of God had entered the entirety of human existence and experience.
Sometimes people ask how Jesus could have died considering that he was not just human but also divine. By definition God cannot die, so isn’t there maybe a bit of play-acting going on here? Since Jesus was unlike the rest of us who are only human, did Jesus die just “sort of,” “kind of,” only partially?
That’s a truly vexing question but let me suggest something that may constitute a portion of the larger answer. I’d like to suggest that what was human about Jesus died the same way we will all die. His body gave out, his heart went silent, his brain waves went flat and so Jesus experienced a wrenching separation from the only body he had ever known as a human. But just before that happened, the divine part of him experienced death when the Father and the Spirit withdrew from him. For the first time in all eternity, he was alone.
Sometimes in listening to people, you may hear someone describe what abandonment feels like. Listen to the person who talks about being ditched by both of his parents when he was a child. Listen to the choking agony of a woman who talks about how she felt in the aftermath of her husband’s just suddenly walking out on her, never to return. What you hear in such woeful tales of abandonment is a dereliction that defies ordinary speech. It is not at all surprising to hear people describe divorce as “like a death.” Although a vastly milder scenario, sometimes even those who were unexpectedly fired from a longtime job may report, “I feel like something inside me died.”
Several theological traditions have claimed that it was that experience of abandonment by the other two Persons of the Trinity that constituted Jesus’ “descent into hell.” If so, then it is theologically accurate to say that Jesus did indeed experience death across the fullness of everything he was and is as both divine and human. We don’t need to declare that Jesus died but do so with our fingers crossed behind our backs as though to waffle or hedge a little. Jesus went all the way to death because we all must do so.
How could our God ever be more compassionate than to so identify with us in our humanity that he did this for us and for our salvation?
What’s the line from the old hymn: Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.
Additional Resources for Lent and Holy Week now available.
As commentator Dale Bruner poignantly notes, isn’t it striking in Matthew’s account to see that Jesus dies in the interrogative mood? Jesus died not with some triumphant exclamation or declaration but he died with a question trembling on his lips. Jesus died the way a lot of people die, maybe the way all people die: he died asking “Why?” Bruner goes so far as to say that this final question from Jesus “is the Gospel at its deepest,” revealing better than any other sentence in the New Testament “who Jesus is and what he does.”
That’s a powerful assertion but the way Bruner fleshes it out in his marvelous commentary convinced me that he may well be right. Jesus does not quietly slip away, nor does he treat death the way Socrates is reported to have done: namely, welcoming death as a much longed-for release from the prison house of the body. Jesus dies kicking and screaming. Jesus dies wondering why it had to happen.
She didn’t know what else to say. As a mother, she had always steered well clear of religious clap-trap, even priding herself on not force-feeding her children to believe in anything when it came to spiritual matters. But then a beloved neighbor died. He had been a kindly old man whom this woman’s children had adopted as a kind of local grandpa. But now he was dead, and the woman’s young son was very upset. The little boy wanted to know why this had to happen. So his mother reached for some naturalistic rhetoric. “It’s just the way of the world, honey. It’s part of the natural cycle of all things, and so our friend has now returned to the earth. And next spring, when you see the daffodils and tulips coming up, you can know that your friend is helping to fertilize them.” The little boy did not hesitate. He shrieked, “But I don’t want him to be fertilizer!”
In relating that story, author Peter Kreeft notes that indeed, even the non-religious in this world have a deep-down sense that humanity is meant to be more than fertilizer. Death is a natural part of the world, yet internally we rebel.
Author: Stan Mast
This is going to be a disappointing Palm Sunday for any church that follows the RCL, because there isn’t much joy and celebration in the readings. Psalm 31 is filled with suffering and Philippians 2 traces the downward movement of Christ’s kenosis, while the Gospel reading from Matthew 26 and 27 is the whole passion story from before the Last Supper to the sealing of the Tomb. And our Old Testament reading is the testimony of the Suffering Servant.
No matter which text you preach on today, you will need to spend some introductory time explaining that Palm Sunday has always been observed as Passion Sunday, too. Palm Sunday is not just one last glorious victory before the horror of Holy Week; it is also the horrific introduction to Holy Week. Our readings for today don’t fit our favorite celebrations of Palm Sunday where your granddaughter waves palm branches as she happily processes down the center aisle. This is the gritty Passion Sunday meant to comfort and encourage the miserable daughters of Zion in Exile.
As alluded to above, this reading from Isaiah is the third of the four Servant Songs in Isaiah (42:1-9, 49:1-13, and 52:13-53:12 are the others). As with the other Servant Songs, the central problem with this one is the identity of the Servant. Is it Israel who failed as God’s servant? Or is it Isaiah himself who called failed Israel back to God and threatened punishment if they didn’t return? Or is it the coming Messiah who would fulfil all that Israel was supposed to do and be?
The key to understanding this text is seeing the contrast between failed Israel in verses 1-3 and the faithful servant in verses 4-9a, and hearing the call to walk in the light of that faithful servant in verses 9b-11. In the midst of the suffering caused by Israel’s failure, there is One who will suffer for All (in keeping with the “One for All” theme we’ve been following in our Old Testament readings for Lent). If the sufferers will follow him, they will find the light. Thus, this song of suffering is finally, not a lament, but a psalm of trust and confidence.
The servant of verses 4-9a is the ideal Israel, who was everything Israel was not. While they failed by being disobedient and suffered for it, the Servant of our text succeeds by being completely obedient. Indeed, to use old theological terms, his was both an active obedience (verses 4-5, 7b) and a passive obedience (verses 6-9a). He perfectly kept God’s Torah and he suffered as though he had broken it all.
Contrary to Israel who regularly closed their ears to God’s Word and filled their mouths with foolish and blasphemous words, this servant was receptive to God’s word. This receptivity was born of God’s grace, for it was “the Sovereign Lord” who “wakens my ear to listen….” Because of his open ears, this Servant has “an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary.” This is probably a reference to weary Israel, languishing in lonely exile, and to anyone weary because their sin has led to suffering. The servant has a gracious word for the weary soul, because he has been receptive to God’s word.
Thus, this servant has “not been rebellious; [he] has not drawn back” from following the Word of God. Indeed, says verse 7b, he has “set his face like flint” to obey God, even if it leads to shame. Knowledgeable readers will hear an echo of Luke 9:51 here, where some older translations say that Jesus “set his face like flint to go up to Jerusalem” even though (or because) he knew that decision would mean a shameful death on the cross. He was determined to obey his Father’s will to the bitter end.
And his end was bitter, as verses 6-9a predict. In addition to fully obeying God’s will, this servant will suffer as though he had been disobedient. But he will suffer not merely as a helpless victim of cruelty and injustice, but even more as a willing sacrifice of himself. Thus, “I offered my back and my cheeks… I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting.” He faced those who condemned him without flinching and looking away. “Who is my accuser? Let him confront me!” His suffering was an act of willing obedience.
Think of Jesus words in John 10:18. “No one takes my life from me. I lay it down of my own accord. Or his rebuke in the Garden, “Do you think I cannot call my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels (Matthew 26:53)?”
The sense of being in control even when he was being beaten and spit upon, accused and condemned, is conveyed in the confidence the servant exhibits. Though he looks helpless, he knows he is not. At the beginning and the end of his suffering, he says, “The Sovereign Lord helps me.” Therefore, though his tormentors will shame him, he will not finally be disgraced or put to shame. The Lord will finally vindicate him, and his condemnation will be set aside as he is raised from the dead in glory.
What a message of encouragement and hope this little song brought to its original readers in the Babylon. For 50 or 60 years they had been imprisoned there; that’s nearly two generations who had been born and raised in that foreign land. It was the new normal; it was just the way things are. What possible hope could there be?
Well, says Isaiah 50, in place of disobedient Israel who has been sent away by Yahweh, a new servant will be raised up by Yahweh to obey and suffer in their place. Like the other Songs, this one aims “to persuade a downtrodden community of Jewish exiles in Babylon to have hope in God’s promise that they will return to Jerusalem.” Even though Israel the Servant is humiliated and beaten and disgraced, the Sovereign Lord is with him, so he must stay the course, be obedient, and keep trusting in the light presented by this new Servant.
But this Song is not just a pep talk for disgraced and discouraged Israel. It is also, and finally, a prediction of the coming of the Ideal Israelite, the quintessential Suffering Servant, who will save all his people from their sins. There can be no doubt that, in the end, this servant is Jesus, who suffered exactly as Isaiah 50 predicts. He has offered his active and passive obedience to the Father as an atoning sacrifice for our sins, so that we can be liberated from our own captivity. We can walk in that liberty if we walk in the light of Christ.
All around us people are lighting their own torches to find a way through the darkness, but that leads only to the outer darkness. “Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord (Jesus) and rely on his God.” That’s the message for Palm/Passion Sunday. It’s dark all around us and it’s going to get darker this week, so walk in the light of the Servant who set his face like flint and was obedient unto death, even death on a cross.
At the heart of the best-selling Hunger Games trilogy is Katniss Everdeen, the brave teenager whose suffering was voluntary and substitutionary. When the authorities do their annual lottery to pick the young people who will do gladiatorial battle in the annual entertainment spectacle called the Hunger Games, Katniss’ little sister, Pim, is picked. Katniss immediately volunteers to take Pim’s place. She goes to the Games, improbably wins, and becomes the symbol of a rebellion against the evil President who rules Panem. She not only takes her sister’s place, but also stands in the place of her home district and, indeed, all of Panem. She sets her face to go up to the Capital city to suffer and die, in order to save Pim and Panem.
Author: Scott Hoezee
Psalm 31:11 says “I am an object of dread to my neighbors; those who see me on the street flee from me.” Talk about your social distancing . . . But seriously, as I read Psalm 31—all of it and of course also the RCL selection of verses 9-16—it became clear that this is a psalm for our COVID-19 moment. It is also the Liturgy of the Passion Psalm text for “Palm Sunday” and so in some ways this may connect many dots for us just now.
In some ways this Hebrew poem is one of those psalms that can feel foreign to us. There is here—like in a number of psalms—so much talk about unspecified “enemies” and of people who have laid a trap for the psalmist. It can all sound vaguely paranoid and almost militant and in this way may feel like a far cry from our everyday experience.
Oh sure, we all have people who don’t much care for us. And although we are called to love all people, we often return the favor of not caring much for the people who don’t like us. And yes, in any given organization there are self-important people who might step all over you if that’s what it takes to make themselves look better in the boss’s eyes. These are the things we gnash our teeth over after work when sharing a glass of wine with a spouse. “She’s driving me clean up a wall” we might say. “If I have to sit through one more meeting with that blowbag I’m gonna lose it” we might say in the privacy of our home.
Still, we’d be hard pressed to call these people our mortal enemies, people who are plotting our very destruction the way the psalmists often seem to depict matters. These folks might make our lives a bit miserable now and then but we’d never go so far as to say they are plotting to take our very life the way Psalm 31 claims.
Were we to apply this to Jesus—and as an RCL text for Palm Sunday I imagine we are to do so—then the talk of real enemies plotting to take one’s life makes sense. But even short of that and even shorn of the most literal application of death threats and traps and such, there is much about what we could call the “acoustics” of Psalm 31 that relate to us after all. And again, maybe especially as this Lenten Season winds down during a time of social isolation—of shuttered church buildings, of the probable prospect of having to celebrate Easter soon without anything remotely akin to the usual liturgical and musical and homiletical flourishes we are accustomed to—maybe especially now we can relate to this psalm’s sense of doom and gloominess.
This is a moment to recognize how desperate, lonely, confused we all are even as it may, therefore, be a moment in which to bask in some other parts of this reading: the lyric line about how our times are in God’s hands. The soulful call for God to shine on us with the warmth of God’s chesed, of his never-failing and everlasting love and grace for us.
Yes, the times of our lives are in God’s hands. They always have been. It’s just that at this present moment we sense that a bit more keenly than even just a few short weeks ago. We are accustomed to having our calendars all laid out for us—our Google calendars on our computers and smartphones, our kitchen wall calendars—and though we may at times lament how much we have to do and how busy the next few weeks are going to be, well, at least we know what’s coming.
So it’s sobering to do what many of us have done just recently: cross stuff out, delete dates, classes, appointments, Spring Break trips until the Google calendar is a vast expanse of empty boxes and the kitchen wall calendar looks like it’s been scribbled on all over from everything we crossed out with an ink pen. Turns out our times were never really in our own fragile hands to begin with. Our times are in God’s hands. But that’s a good thing to remember at an otherwise disorienting moment in our lives.
And what we need most are not all the ways by which we ordinarily assess our value or worthwhileness: success at work, good grades, or just flat out being busy (as though busyness were itself a mark of sanctification). No what we need most is what on our busiest days we sometimes reflect on—much less give thanks for—the least: God’s face shining on us with his grace and love. That divine favor is what we really need. It’s all that will really last.
If we reflect on all this at the head of Holy Week as we follow Jesus’ lonely trek to that cross, then we can know for sure that the God who holds the times of our lives and the God whose face we need to shine on us with grace can be wholly relied on. Because he has taken all the loneliness, isolation, fear, anxiety, and dread we ever experience—much less what we are specifically experiencing globally right now—and God has dealt with it once and for all. On the other side of all this is resurrection. There were no shortcuts to that resurrection, and we ought not de facto take any shortcuts in our commemoration of Jesus’ saving work either by hurrying past the dark stuff so as to arrive at Easter’s bright dawn.
No, we need to see how God has taken all the anxieties that are written all over Psalm 31 and put them away. There had all along been just the one big Enemy we all face: Death itself. All the other enemies of Psalm 31 or any other parts of life are just forerunners to the final Enemy. But God has now defeated that Enemy. And because of that we can jump down to the final verse of Psalm 31: “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.”
Additional Resources for Lent and Holy Week now available.
The very young among us know nothing of danger. Point a gun at an infant or little child and he will as likely grab for the barrel and try to play with it same as if you held out a teething ring or a rattle. Of course, there can be other reasons to not sense danger, like overly optimistic naivete. I think of the comic movie Crocodile Dundee. A savvy New York reporter has taken Mick Dundee from his sheltered life in Australia’s Outback to New York City. One night they are out for a walk in the big city when they are approached by some leather-clad men. In this scene, notice how the New Yorker’s face instantly freezes into fear and panic. She knows danger when she sees it. But Mick isn’t even ruffled and even after it becomes clear those young men really had been there for a mugging, he still laughs it off as just kids having fun.
Well, we might all wish we would be that naïve or that we could live in a world where circumstances would never have to cause our faces to sink in terror. But as we grow up, we leave behind the innocence of children and the naivete of the sheltered. We’ve got some real enemies out there after all. But that’s why we need the hope of Psalm 31: we know what’s up. We’re not stupid or ignorant. But we also know in whose hands the times of our lives are resting.
Author: Doug Bratt
Liturgy of the Palms
“Who is this?” Few questions are more important than this one Matthew reports the “whole city” of Jerusalem asks on the first Palm Sunday. Yet the answer to that question is even more important. The Holy Spirit inspires Matthew to answer, “This is Jesus.” But just who is this Jesus?
Matthew provides a variety of answers to this question throughout his gospel. Jesus is, he tells us already in its first verse, “the son of David, the son of Abraham.” He is, in other words, a true son of Israel.
Who is this Jesus? When the angel of the Lord tells Joseph that his fiancé is carrying a son, he tells him to name him “Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” So Matthew almost immediately tells us that Jesus is a Savior.
Who is this Jesus? Matthew 4:23 reports that Jesus “went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness among the people.” Jesus is, in other words, a teacher, preacher and healer.
Who is this Jesus? My colleague John Timmer once suggested, “Matthew presents Jesus first and foremost as the teacher of the church.” He noted that Matthew does this by structuring his entire gospel around five major teachings of Jesus.
In Matthew 16 Jesus actually asks who people think he is. When his disciples report that people offer all sorts of wrong answers, Jesus turns to them and asks them, “But … who do you say that I am?” “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Peter, always quick with a reply, answers. Who, then, is this Jesus? He is the Messiah.
The question of Jesus’ identity comes up again in this Sunday’s Liturgy of the Palms’ Epistolary Lesson. After all, in verse 10 Matthew reports that “When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this’?”
Matthew’s account of the first Palm Sunday offers answers to that question. Lawrence Farris notes that geography has great symbolic value to Matthew. As a result, when Matthew reports that Jesus begins his trip to Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives, it’s good to remember that Jewish expectations of the Messiah were strongly linked to that Mount. So who is this Jesus? Matthew again at least hints that he’s Israel’s Messiah.
Who is this Jesus? He’s the One, as God’s Son, to whom the world’s donkeys belong. So from that Mount of Olives Jesus can send disciples to arrange for two of those donkeys that he “needs” for his trip into Jerusalem.
Who is this Jesus? He’s a fulfillment of prophecy. After all, in verses 4-5 Matthew notes that his ride into Jerusalem on a donkey fulfills Zechariah 9:9’s: “your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt . . .” Jesus is the One to whom the prophets point.
Some who have come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover join the parade as Jesus descends from the Mount of Olives. Though Jesus rides a donkey rather than a war-horse, the crowd still senses the royal symbolism of his ride. So that crowd carpets his path with both their cloaks and branches they’ve cut from trees.
As Jesus nears Jerusalem, the pilgrims who engulf him starts chanting phrases they borrow from Psalm 118. Who is this Jesus? The crowds answer, “the Son of David,” reminding us that Jesus is actually the king of Jerusalem that he now enters. In fact, Craig Keener suggests that “Hosanna to the Son of David” essentially means, “God save the king!”
On this last Sunday in Lent, however, those who proclaim and hear Matthew 21 may be especially interested in Jerusalem’s turmoil that Jesus’ Palm Sunday entry creates. After all, in verse 10 Matthew reports that “When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred . . .”
Stirred and shaken Jerusalem wants to know, “Who is this?” Farris notes that its ignorance stands in contrast with the Passover pilgrims’ response to Jesus. At least the crowds understand that Jesus is at least a “prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
So the first Palm Sunday’s crowd understands that Jesus is more than just a miracle-worker, a successful doctor or a teacher who knows the Bible backward and forward. Who is this Jesus? He is a speaker of God’s truth.
So while there seems to have been an acute shortage of prophets in Israel during Jesus’ day, the crowds accompanying Jesus into Jerusalem understand that he’s a prophet. They will, however, learn during the coming week that this Jesus is more than just a prophet . . . or even a king.
In the meantime, however, Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem causes a huge commotion. In fact, scholars note that the word we translate as “stirred” in verse 10 is really too mild. It’s a word that some translate as “shook,” with the kind of force produced by an earthquake.
God’s adopted sons and daughters know the earth-shaking importance of what happens on the first Palm Sunday. However, we also know that this is only the first of the seismic shocks that will rumble through Jerusalem during the coming week. Just as Jesus’ birth shook King Herod and all of Jerusalem, so his death and resurrection will shake Jerusalem and far beyond.
Rome held the Jews fully as captive as the Egyptians ever did. So the people who shouted, “God save the King!” to Jesus were looking for a royal liberator. In the coming week, Jesus will, in fact, prove to be the Jews’ liberator.
However, he won’t be the kind of deliverer some are looking for. Perhaps partly as a result, in less than a week shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David” will be drowned out by “Crucify him.” Cries of “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” will covered by “Let his blood be on us and our children.”
Good Friday’s shouts may be loudest precisely because so few understand the answer to this question, “Who is this Jesus?” That’s why this question is so pivotal for Matthew 21’s proclaimers and hearers as well. After all, how we answer this question, “Who is this Jesus?” helps shape whether Jesus disappoints or comforts, frustrates or encourages us.
Those who answer, “Who is this Jesus?” by identifying him as some kind of political hero will be disappointed. While his rule has political dimensions, Jesus did not come simply to fix political problems. While Jesus is the King of kings, some of his followers endure unjust, tyrannical governments that sometimes viciously persecute them.
People who answer, “Who is this Jesus?” with “He’s a kind of handyman who fixes all of our problems” will also be disappointed. While Jesus rule does have relational dimensions, people who assume that Jesus came to fix marriages, straighten out children or give many friends will be disappointed. While Jesus’ rule has economic dimensions, he didn’t mainly come to provide economic comfort, guarantee good pensions or create good jobs.
Those who answer, “Who is this Jesus?” with a “He heals us from all our diseases – like COVID-19” may also be disappointed. All healing does come from God. But God doesn’t yet heal everyone who gets sick. While Jesus is the Great Physician, some diseases remain among the enemies that God has not yet fully defeated.
This Jesus came, just as the angel of the Lord told Joseph just before he was born, to “save his people from their sins.” So who is this Jesus? He’s the one who accepted in body and soul God’s full fury with the sins of the whole human race. Who is this Jesus? He’s the one who with his own precious blood bought us, body and soul, to be his very own.
Who is this Jesus? He’s the one whom the Father sent to completely free and make us right with God. Who is this Jesus? He’s the one who has freed his followers from sin and the control of the devil. Who is this Jesus? He’s the one who has delivered us from the anguish and torment of hell itself.
Of course, this Jesus is far, far more. On this Palm Sunday, however, we especially want to remember that “this Jesus” is our Savior. Who, then, is this Jesus? He’s the One who came to live, die and rise again from the dead for our sins.
However, this Jesus also calls his adopted brothers and sisters to receive that salvation with our faith. So God’s dearly beloved children answer the question, “Who is this Jesus?” by professing, “He’s my Savior,” “He’s our Savior.”
Of course, such a profession itself doesn’t save anyone. However, those who answer the question “Who is this Jesus?” by professing that he’s our Savior show that we’ve received God’s amazing grace that does save us with our faith.
In his compelling book, The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Racism in Europe, John Land tells of a prayer students offered in Italian schools in Tunisia near the beginning of World War II. It eventually spread, reports Land, to the Italian peninsula as well.
“I believe in the High Duce – maker of the Black Shirts,” the students professed. “And in Jesus Christ his only protector. Our Savior was conceived by a good teacher and an industrious blacksmith … He came down to Rome …”