Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church - Marshfield, WI

Lent Devotional - April 4, 2023

Hymn: “No Tramp of Soldiers’ Marching Feet” (LSB #444, v. 3 & 4)
 What fading flow’rs His road adorn;
The palms, how soon laid down!
No bloom or leaf but only thorn
The King of glory’s crown.
The soldiers mock, the rabble cries,
The streets with tumult ring,
As Pilate to the mob replies,
“Behold, behold your King!”
Now He who bore for mortals’ sake
The cross and all its pains
And chose a servant’s form to take,
The King of glory reigns.
Hosanna to the Savior’s name
Till heaven’s rafters ring,
And all the ransomed host proclaim
“Behold, behold your King!”
 The older I have gotten, the more I have realized that the cries of Palm Sunday are shallow on their own. It is a day of celebration that quickly becomes forgotten and soon was replaced with terror and evil. The crowds are fickle. They are like grass, here today and gone tomorrow. As our hymn puts it, “with fading flowers His road adorn; the palms, how soon laid down!” The pomp and the circumstance that we saw on Sunday is fleeting. They should never stop, yet they do. The people move on. The spiritual high is at an end. The praises that should never stop do.

Jesus does not come to embrace the shallow praises of people who will soon be swayed to crucify Him. He does not rely on the disciples, who will soon betray, deny, and abandon Him, to carry Him in. No. Jesus is after a different prize. No bloom or leaf but only thorn. Jesus comes to embrace the curse. “Thorns and thistles the ground shall bring up for you, Adam. Until you return to the dust.” That is what God had told Adam.

It reminds us of what Paul said in Galatians, that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written—Cursed is everyone who hanged on a tree—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. Jesus Christ is after the crown of death and the curse so that we might be delivered. It is not the praises of men that moves Jesus onward. It is the love of God to free all from the bondage and to have mercy on us all.

The praises that Jesus will receive is the mocking of the soldiers, who should be like the legions of angels and should come to His defense (though He needs none). The praise that Jesus comes to win is the cries not of Hosanna, which means “Save us now!” Soon they will jeer, “Save yourself!” Jesus will not be so easily swung to abandon the cry to save us and not Himself. For He has come to take away all your sins. We should stop and find this remarkable that this is the level of commitment that your Lord Jesus has for you. Don’t think that Jesus will leave you when you sin. He will always commit Himself to you, so that grace will overflow.

The praises that Jesus came to receive were the taunts He received on His way to the cross. This is the King of Glory’s entry. The ironic thing about the events of the Passion of our Lord Jesus is that all the taunts and mockings He receives are true, but everyone speaks better than they know. The Jewish leaders condemn Jesus to death by saying, “Let His blood be on us and our children.” Of course, it will be. When Pilate to the crowd replies, he says, “Behold, behold your king!” Of course, He is. They cry out, “Crucify him!” As the one who bears my sin and your sin’s awful load, this is what Jesus has come to do for you. We hear these said in mock jest, but we know now that this is all true. This is my King. This is what he goes through…for me.

This is not the end. The grave is not where this will end. He who bore for mortals’ sake the cross and all its pain. He who chose a servant’s form to take now reigns. He has risen from the dead. He who humbled Himself even to the point of death, even death upon the cross, Paul writes, is now exalted to God’s right hand. God the Father has crowned His Son Jesus with glory and honor. He is given the name YHWH, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow. Every mocking tongue and taunt silenced. And truly the praises that will sing will not be for a moment…they will be for eternity.

The King of glory does reign. He still does right now. His reign is just as mysterious now as it was when Jesus ascended the throne that is the cross. His reign is hidden in weakness and folly. The world mocks the weakness of the cross. That this would be the way that God reigns. But it is indeed how God does reign. For if God does not reign in cross and thorn, suffering and death, then where exactly does God reign?  Now we see that Jesus Christ is Lord, that He has in His hands the keys to death and Hades, and that He has come to destroy the works of the devil. But the day will come when what we hold to in faith will become sight. Those who mock Him now will in horror acknowledge Him and look upon Him whom they have pierced.

For you who wait and long for His appearing and the appearing of His kingdom in power and glory, loud Hosannas indeed to our Savior King!  The “Save us now!” will become, “You have saved us!” This is a cry that will not fade. It will not stop. The palms will not be set down. The flowers will no longer fade. They will instead grow and grow until indeed all of heaven’s rafters ring.

And all the ransomed host, all those who have been purchased by the sweet atoning blood of Jesus Christ, that precious blood shed for you on the cross will be the everlasting flow that paves the streets of God’s renewed creation that allows for our entrance, as we cry out truly and sincerely: “Behold, behold your King!”
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