Palm Monday: Matthew 21:12-16

Children waving palmsThe wonders of Jesus confront the chief priests and scribes.  In the Temple, the Father’s House, the Son, soon to die, causes eyes to open in surprise.  The children respond, bringing honor to God for His unexpected blessings.

The triumphal entry into Jerusalem does cause the people to sit up and wonder—but what takes place in the Temple happens later the next day.  Such is not clear from Matthew, but Mark tells us so.  On Monday of Holy Week, Jesus goes into the Temple.

What does He find?  Commercial traders are profiting at the expense of the people.  The Law mandates every Jewish male to come to Jerusalem to celebrate this festival.  So, Jews travel from all over the Roman world—but coming with your sacrifice is not an easy task.  So, the Temple sells animals, making life easier for the people.

Those who run the Temple sell the animals in the Court of the Gentiles, the place where outsiders can come to experience some of God’s Old-Covenant ways.  To the Priests, profits rate higher than allowing the Gentiles into the heavenly Father’s family.  They also insist on being paid in Jewish shekels, not other currency.  Why?  To manipulate the exchange rates and make more money.  So, our Lord drives out the money changers, the sellers of livestock, and calls them thieves.

Another event also takes place—one less confrontational and filled with joy.  In the outer courts, the chanting of children fills the air.  “Hosanna to the Son of David!”  The day before, children mixed with the crowds, waving palm branches, spreading their coats, and welcoming their Redeemer.  The next day, in excitement, they begin anew their acclaim of Christ, which they sang the day before.

These incredible events are messages.  The Messiah, the One we wait for, is here.  The children understand why Jesus came!  The traditional welcome cry for the promised Savior is “Hosanna,” which means “to save.”  The Son of David, another title, recognizes the King who comes to set God’s people free.

The children sing to the One promised from long ago, but they don’t do so on their own.  Through their lips, the Father is bringing forth the fruits of faith.  Don’t we expect God to work through His Word to change hearts and unloose the tongue?  Yes.   No one can miss what our Lord is doing and the children’s singing.  The Jewish leadership now begins to burn with fury.

Those priests and the teachers are the experts.  Long hours and days consume them as they study the Scriptures.  One day, the Fulfiller of the prophecies in Scripture arrives.  Still, they refuse to recognize Him.  Anger fills them instead of faith, for the people are calling out and honoring Jesus, not them.

The children recognize the Defeater of the Devil while the learned of the day do not.  Is life different today?  No.  The intellectuals of our society often smirk at the “foolish,” who believe Jesus is God in human form.

How ironic, for many people today will believe in almost anything.  In a past life, you lived as somebody famous.  Many will deny Jesus but will assert God talks to us through our feelings.  Still, God coming to earth to pay for our sins with His blood, so an eternity of damnation isn’t ours, sounds absurd!

Why is this ridiculous to one person, but not another?  Let’s think this through.  So, someone needs to die for our wrongdoings, which reveals the Almighty is judging us.  Now, if the Son needs to do this, we learn God is demanding something from Him, which is lacking in us.  The Almighty judges us from an unwavering standard—and if we don’t meet this standard, we are without hope.

Most in our society are unwilling to accept this.  For many, right and wrong become what is best for someone based on what’s going on.  Eternal standards, unchangeable rules—people refuse those.  For this means they are wrong, and God is judging them.

All is different with the Christian.  The world over, we gaze on our Ransom-Payer of sin with the trust of a child, recognizing He came to give us peace.  To our corrupted nature, which causes us to act out in sin, faith reveals to us the answer—Jesus.

For this to be true, a clear right and wrong must exist.  For our sin is a rebellion against God.  The repentant Christian admits as much, “I rebel against my heavenly Father all too often.”  So, this brings us to Jesus.  Atop a donkey, He rides into Jerusalem to be our Savior.  The waving palms mark the start of the end of His life.  In five days, others will demand, “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!”

The task before Him is a hard road to take, but our Savior will go.  For He chooses to die on the wood, forsaken by the Father.  Why?  So He can erase our record of sin against God’s Law.  For unless He dies our death, the life He delivers will not be ours.

So Jesus rides into Jerusalem.  The next day, He inspires the children to sing their song of devotion, pointing others to Himself as the Life-Giver.  For our sins, the Savior goes, and the Father forgives us because of His Son.  Where God gives us His forgiveness, He also delivers eternal life.  Listen to these children of long ago.

“Do you hear what the children are saying?”  The question the priests ask isn’t to find out if others are.  No, the sting of rebuke comes in their words.  The children of Abraham are calling Jesus the promised Savior in their songs of celebration.

How does our Lord answer?  “From the mouths of children and infants, God establishes praise.”  The Hebrew uses “strength” or “stronghold,” but Jesus quotes from the people’s Bible, the Greek-language Old Testament, which uses “praise.”

Oh, Jesus does more than take in their singing—He approves and consents.  For events are unfolding as His Father plans for our salvation.  So, the One soon crucified recites part of Psalm 8.  With our Lord as the focal point of Scripture, those few words are more than about events during Old-Testament times.  For hidden inside the verse is how the Son of the Father will leave His throne of glory and humble Himself to serve.

The all-knowing One teaches how He treasures the worship of children because belief is behind their words of blessing.  In those days, Jews understood Psalm 8 to be a prophecy about the coming Messiah.  So, Jesus quotes a verse, leaving His enemies sputtering.  The One going to the cross leaves them without words on their tongues.

Though no longer in the Father’s House, He leaves them something important to ponder.  Earlier, Jesus unmasked the eyes of many, revealing only those with the open ears of a child will enter the kingdom of heaven.  A child-like belief brings forth the response the Father approves.  The faith-driven cries from the children’s lips stem from God.  For He is the source of the words that they sing.

So also with us.  Through the spoken Word entering our ears, the Word in baptism and preaching and teaching, God unites us to Himself.  The Word does the doing, filling us with joy in our Savior and confidence in His promises.

How can we be sure?  The Lord Jesus says so.  Remember, before He returned to heaven, He left His Apostles with an enduring mandate, “Disciple the nations by baptizing and teaching” (Matthew 28:20).  Why such a command?  The Holy Spirit works through our Savior’s words, bringing someone into His Church and strengthening confidence in the Father.  Such is what takes place in “discipling.”

Too often, we limit our reliance on God by our assumptions, “Don’t bother Him with something so trivial.”  Not so with children—they take Jesus at His word.  The experience of life tells us to turn down our expectations of God.  For who wants to be burned by over-believing?  So, walking by sight overrides our walking by faith.  From the tongues of toddlers, God creates His words of worship and adoration.

Where can we adults receive the belief and trust of the little children?  Only in one place—the Gospel.  What is the Gospel?  The spoken Word with something valuable attached, in this case, eternal life.  Mere information does not contain such power, neither do we.  The power entwines itself within the Word.

This is the proclaimed Word—but also Jesus, who is the Word become flesh (John 1:14).  This Word went the way of death to forgive sins, which changes reality into eternity.  So, the declared Word of Jesus with the water makes baptism do what He says—giving someone spiritual birth (John 3:3, 5).  So also does the declared Word of Jesus with the wine and bread become His body and blood, with His forgiveness within them.

So, this reliance on God is not something we can conjure up inside ourselves.  No, the Father sends us His Spirit to renew and strengthen our trust in Him, changing our lives.  The change our Savior brings about is not only for old people like us.  No, from the mouths of children and infants, God establishes praise.

Such adoration in not only giving honor to the Almighty.  For praise is something full bodied, being lived out in all the ways we trust Him, in the times we turn to Him and ask for His help.  In the ways we serve Him, our lives honor Him, for such service springs forth from faith.

So, praise the Lord of heaven and earth!  Exalt Him because you are His.  For He is the source of our words of blessing, which we give back to God, who ordains praise from nursing babies, children, adults, and old people with Alzheimer’s.  Do you hear what they are saying?  Join them in their adoration of Christ!  Amen.