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Hosanna In The Highest!

Rev. Philip Miller | April 10, 2022

Scripture Reference: Psalms 118, Isaiah 53:3—5, Zechariah 9:9, Luke 9:51, Luke 18:31—33, Luke 19:28—40

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Scripture Reference: Psalms 118, Isaiah 53:3—5, Zechariah 9:9, Luke 9:51, Luke 18:31—33, Luke 19:28—40

Selected highlights from this sermon

The final week of Jesus’ life changed all of history! Each of the four Gospels in the New Testament allocates approximately a third of their biographies to this week. It’s as if everything shifts into slow motion. Why? The Gospel writers want us to see it, feel it, experience it, and attend to it.

In this message, Pastor Miller is going along with us as we walk with Jesus through this final week that changed history. We’ll walk from the Triumphal Entry to the rejected Savior on a cross. But that’s only just the beginning, isn’t it?

Each of the four Gospel accounts that we have in the New Testament—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—each of them allocates about a third of their narration, their biographical material to the final week of Jesus’ life. It’s as if, if you were watching a movie all of a sudden everything moves into slow motion to capture everything, every definitive moment, every snippet of dialogue, every meticulous detail captured for us, because this is the week that changed all of history.

The Gospel writers want us to see it. They want us to feel it. They want us to experience it and attend to the details. And so that’s exactly what we’re going to do this coming week. We’re going to walk through Holy Week with Jesus from Palm Sunday to Good Friday to Resurrection Sunday. We’re going to walk with Jesus through this final week that changed all of world history.

And it all begins today with what we call the Triumphal Entry, Palm Sunday, named for the palm branches that were waved, as Jesus rode into Jerusalem. And as I was reviewing, studying the account that Luke gives us in his biography of the triumphal entry, I was struck by how he sets up and previews what is about to unfold this week as Jesus lives it out. There are little hints in this event that are seeds, little thematic seeds that are planted that will grow into fruition as the week develops. It is a revelation of who Jesus truly is, and the storm that He will face that is brewing on the horizon, so grab your Bibles. We’re going to be in Luke, chapter 19, this morning. I want to show these things to you.

Luke 19, verses 28 to 40. You’ll find today’s reading on page 878, 878 in the pew Bible in the pew Bible there, if you want to grab that. Listen as I read these verses.

Luke 19:28 to 40: “And when he (this is Jesus) had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, ‘Go into the village in front of you, where upon entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” you shall say this: “The Lord has need of it.”’ So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’ And they said, ‘The Lord has need of it.’ And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. And as he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying (Let’s say this together.) ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’ And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.’”

Thanks be to the Lord for the reading of His Word. In this passage, this triumphal entry, it reveals Jesus in three ways. We’re going to see that He is: the Sovereign Lord, the Blessed King, and the Rejected Savior this morning.

The Sovereign Lord, the Blessed King, and the Rejected Savior. Those are our buckets for this morning. All of this is foreshadowing the week that is to come.

Would you bow your heads? Let’s pray together as we open God’s Word.

Heavenly Father, we come to see Jesus. Let us see Jesus in all of His glory, in all of His humility, His strength, His perfection. Let us fall on our knees and worship Him this morning. Move our hearts we pray for Christ’s sake, Amen. Amen.

First, Jesus is the Sovereign Lord, the Sovereign Lord. Now since we’re dropping midstream into this story, let’s take a moment just to find our bearings. Luke has been recording for us the story of a Galilean carpenter turned rabbi. He grew up in a rural town with no formal education, and yet, as He has now become a rabbi, a teacher in Israel, He is taking the land by storm. Crowds are gathering in the thousands to come and hear His teaching and to experience His miracles. His words, they have found, are powerful, insightful, brilliant, full of authority, unlike anyone they have ever heard. And His miracles are undeniably powerful. He has healed the sick, given sight to the blind. He has calmed the seas and fed the multitudes. He’s even raised the dead.

And now after three years of ministry, Jesus senses that His time has come. The very reason that He has come to Earth is at hand, and ever since Luke, chapter 9, verse 51, Jesus has been moving steadily, resolutely, inexorably toward Jerusalem. And so He has an appointment with destiny.

And now here we are in Luke 19, and He is here. He has come to Jerusalem. He is about to enter into the city of the great king. In verse 29 we learn that He is arriving at the edge of Jerusalem from the east. Bethphage and Bethany are two towns that are located on the Mount of Olives, which is the middle of three peaks that stand in a range to the east of Jerusalem overlooking the city, and Jesus’ route will take Him up over the Mount of Olives, down the side of this grade, through the Kidron Valley, up the other side into Jerusalem where He will ascend the Temple Mount, and into the very heart of Jerusalem. But before He does this, He must secure a ride. 

So look at verse 30. “Go into the village in front of you,” Jesus says, “where upon entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’”

Now, I don’t know about you, but I find this set of instructions to be a bit fascinating. “Go into the village. You’ll find a colt tied up somewhere, on the fence. Whatever! It’s never been ridden. (How did you know this?) Untie it. Bring it here. If anyone says, ‘Why are you doing this?’ tell them ‘The Lord has need of it.’”

It almost feels like Jesus has made prearrangements, a reservation here for the colt. You know, it’s like he called 1-800-Rent-a-Colt. You know? And He said, “I want to place a reservation for Sunday. I’d like your basic colt package.”

And they say, “Well, we do...Good news! We do have some in stock that are available.”

“Do you have anything with low mileage?”

“Well, actually we do. We have our colt right off the trailer. It’s never been ridden.”

“Great! I’ll take it!”

“Now, for just two drachmas more per day we can upgrade you to a Mustang!” (laughter)

“No, thank you very much, I’ll stick with the colt.” (chuckles)

Now, of course, nothing like this happened. Right? Nothing...There’s no reservation. There’s no prearrangement. The reason Luke records it for us like this is because it’s so very unusual what happens.

Jesus had no time to make these reservations or arrangements. They’d never been to this village in months. It’s been a long time since they’d been in this part of town. There’s no reason on Earth that Jesus should know all the particular details ahead of time of what unfolds here. And yet, verse 32, “So those who were sent away found it just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’ (just like Jesus said) And they said, ‘The Lord has need of it.’”

And I love this! “The Lord has need of it.” Picture yourself. You’re one of the owners of this colt. These random dudes come in and start untying your animal, and you’re like,

“Ahem, (laughing) what are you doing with my...?”

“The Lord has need of it.”

“Oh, okay.”

Now, in Greek, the “Lord” is the same word for “Master.” And so you could read this, “The Master has need of it.”

In other words, Jesus is claiming mastery, lordship over this colt. He’s saying: “It belongs to Me.” You may own the colt, but it really belongs to me. I am its master.”

This is amazing to me. The audacity! Jesus acts here as if He is the true Lord and Master of this colt, as if it actually belongs to Him, as if He has rights to it whenever He wants it, as if this colt was made by Him and for Him! And, of course, if anyone else would have made this request, they’d be grossly out of line. But for Jesus, it makes all the sense in the world because He is the Lord of all creation, and He is the Lord of this colt.

He’s also the Lord of the future. This is why (verse 32) “they found it just as he had told them.” The colt was there in the village, just as He said. The colt was tied up at the entrance, just as He said. The colt had never been ridden, just as He said. They were questioned about taking it, just as He said. And the answer He gave them satisfied them, just as He said. It’s as if Jesus can see the future and knows exactly what’s about to happen. And, of course, that’s the point, isn’t it? That’s the point!

Jesus knows exactly what the road ahead will bring, not just in terms of the colt, but in terms of everything else that will unfold in these coming days. In fact, in just the previous chapter Jesus told His disciples in Luke 18:31 to 33: “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that was written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.”

Friends, Jesus is going into this week with eyes wide open. As the divine Son of God, He has foresight, not only into the generalities of what will take place, but He knew all the particulars as well. You see them here, where exactly this colt will be and in what condition, that He will be spit upon and mocked, and the exact timetable of His resurrection on Sunday.

He knows everything that awaits Him, the suffering, the agony, the rejection, the humiliation, the shame, the death. He knows it all, and yet He rides. He rides boldly, courageously, resolutely. Jesus rides into Jerusalem as the Sovereign of creation and the Lord of history. Don’t you see this? Jesus rides into Jerusalem as the Sovereign of creation and the Lord of history. This is the Sovereign Lord who exercises command over all creation, man and beast, who knows the future in exhaustive detail, and He embraces His destiny as He rides into the future. He is the Sovereign Lord.

He’s also the Blessed King, the Blessed King. Verse 35: “And they brought it to Jesus (the colt), and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. And as He rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As he was drawing near (to Jerusalem)—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

I love this scene. They bring the colt to Jesus. They use their outer garments as a kind of saddle on the back of the colt. They place Jesus on the colt. And as He rides along, they roll out the red carpet, you know. They throw their garments on the path, laying down their cloaks before Him.

This is a kingly procession, kingly imagery. They’re treating Jesus the way they would treat their king, a king riding victorious into the city, having conquered and won a great battle, a king returning to the city of his throne, welcomed home by his subjects. That’s the picture.

For hundreds of years, the Jewish people had been waiting with eager expectations and hope for the coming of their Messiah, their King, the One who would come and rule and reign on the throne of his great-great-great-great grandfather, David, the son of promise who would rule and reign forever, who would bring true and lasting peace to the ends of the earth. And everything in this scene is dripping with Messianic hope. The descent from the Mount of Olives was associated with the coming of the king. The mighty works of God had been occurring in their midst: healing of the sick, sight to the blind, raising of the dead.

They’re waving palm branches which is royal imagery, a detail Luke omits because of his primarily non-Jewish audience, but one that is captured for us in the other Gospels. Those palm branches were associated with the Jewish king and the Messianic age. They quote here from the great Messianic Psalm 118: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord.” The other Gospels preserve the Jewish word, “Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest (God save now in Hebrew),” also from Psalm 118.

Luke records that they also shout, “Peace in heaven and Glory in the highest!” Does that sound familiar to you? You may remember this kind of language from the angelic birth announcement of Jesus in Luke, chapter 2, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among those on whom his favor rests.”

Friends, it is impossible to miss the fact that in these events Jesus is being presented as the King of Israel, the long-awaited Messiah. And you’ll notice, Jesus doesn’t correct their enthusiasm. He doesn’t refocus their attention. This is His appointed time. He is lifting the veil. He is showing His true colors.

And yet, one piece feels so out of place, doesn’t it? And that’s the colt. What is up with the colt? Why...the other Gospels tell it’s not just a colt. It’s a donkey’s colt, the colt of a donkey. This is the last thing we would expect. If a king comes to a great city, how does he arrive? On a great big stallion, a war-horse, regal, ferocious, majestic, adorned! Right? But that would miss the symbolism of what Jesus is trying to portray.

Zechariah 9:9 says, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

See, 500 years before Jesus climbs on the back of this donkey’s colt and rides into Jerusalem, Zechariah had prophesied that one day the true king, Messiah Himself, would come to Jerusalem, not on a war horse, but a donkey; that He would come with righteousness and justice, that He would bring salvation and deliverance to the people, and that His arrival would be surprising, that He would ride not on a mighty war horse wielding a sword with fury, but He would come gently, humbly, lowly riding on a donkey’s foal. And it’s as if Jesus is calling the shot. Do you see this? “I want you to see, as I ride this colt, who I really am. I am not the kind of a king you might have expected.”

Friends, Jesus rides into Jerusalem as the anointed King and the humble Messiah. Jesus rides into Jerusalem as the anointed King and the humble Messiah. This is indeed the King of kings and the Lord of lords. This is David’s royal Son. This is the Anointed One, the Messiah they’d been waiting for. But He does not come on a war horse to run over the top of His enemies and crush them to death. No, He comes on a donkey’s colt, a beast of burden to bear the sins of His enemies, even if it crushes Him to death. This is a different kind of king. He is the Sovereign Lord. He’s the Blessed King, and finally He’s the Rejected Savior, the Rejected Savior.

As all the multitudes are worshiping Jesus as King and Messiah, some of the Pharisees get upset. Verse 39, “Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples.’”

“All this Messianic worship! It’s so inappropriate, Jesus. Tell them to stop! They have no business talking like this. They’re out of line, Teacher.”

Do you notice they call Jesus “Teacher, Rabbi”? It’s not a term of respect. It’s a term of correction. Everyone else is worshiping Him as King, and they’re trying to put Him in His place. Teacher! And we see in His Word the short little sentence, the seeds of the rejection that Jesus will face at the hands of the religious leaders in the week to come. It’s a foreshadowing of the King’s cross.

You and I know where this week is headed. What began with joyous fanfare and praise and excitement on Sunday will end in brutal rejection and betrayal and hostility on Friday. You and I know how the political machine of the Jewish leadership will turn their sights upon Jesus and take him down in cold blood. You and I know that the shouts on Sunday, “Hosanna in the highest!” will be drowned out by other shouts on Friday. “Crucify him! Crucify him! Crucify Him!”

And the King of heaven, this Messiah riding gently, humbly on a donkey’s colt, David’s true heir and the hope of all the world, will be nailed to a cross and abandoned to die. A donkey now bears him as King, but soon the King will bear His own cross to die, and He will be the rejected Savior.

We recall the prophetic words from Isaiah 53, verses 3 to 5. It speaks of the suffering servant who would come to redeem Israel. “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; and yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”

Friends, don’t you see? Jesus rides into Jerusalem as the rejected Savior and the suffering servant. Jesus rides into Jerusalem as the rejected Savior and the suffering servant. Even in this moment of triumph it is tinged with the rejection and hostility that gathers like a storm on the horizon. “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” And I love Jesus’ response. Verse 40: “He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.’”

It’s an enigmatic reply, isn’t it? Isn’t it? At one level it’s pretty straightforward. You know, Jesus is saying that one way or another He will receive the worship that is rightfully due His name. And if the Pharisees silence the disciples’ worship of the King, then creation itself will cry out in worship, the worship He deserves. But it’s an interesting picture, isn’t it? Stones crying out!

How exactly would that work, stones crying out? It’s not like a little slip opens up in the side of a boulder, and a mouth appears and it’s just like, “Hosanna.” You know? All Jim Henson-like! No, that’s not what it, how would stones worship? They can’t speak. They can’t sing, but stones can split. Stones can tumble. They can roll. They can “rock and roll.” Right? Sorry! (laughter) But if rocks were to cry out, it would sound more like an avalanche or an earthquake than a musical number, wouldn’t it?

Why do I bring that up? Because over the course of this week that unfolds, the Pharisees, the religious leaders, will effectively silence the worship of the King, won’t they? That’s what they do. They shut it down. And Jesus says, “If you keep me silent the very stones will cry out.” And here’s my crazy idea. This is a “Philip” crazy idea. Sometimes I give you lots of solid stuff in the Word. This is just off in left field, but I think I’m right. Okay? You figure it out, if this is right.

Here’s my crazy idea. What if the stones did cry out? What if the stones did cry out when the Pharisees silenced the worship of the King? When Jesus died, what happened? There was an earthquake, and the tombs carved into the stone side of the hill split open, and dead people came to life, and the temple curtain was torn in two. And on resurrection morning, there was a violent earthquake and the stone rolled away. (applause)

Could it be, could it be, could it be that when the worship of King Jesus fell silent, the stones themselves cried out as only stones can do, because Jesus, the King, will receive all worship that is due His name? Could it be? (applause)

Now, three quick thoughts as we close.

First, do you realize Jesus chose this week for you? Do you realize Jesus chose this week for you? Jesus knew exactly what was coming His way. He knew about the betrayal. He knew about the rejection. He knew about all the false accusations and the kangaroo court and the political corruptions and the beatings and the torture and mockery and the shame and the dishonor and the jeering and the agony and the shuddering and the heaving. And He could have run away. He could have disguised Himself, fled the country, deserted His post. But knowing all that it would cost Him, Friends, He chose this week, and why? For you and for me!

Because of His great love for us, Jesus went to the cross where He died in our place and for our sake, bearing all of our sin and shame, and rose again to make us right with God forever, sons and daughters of the King. This is why He came. He chose this week for you.

Secondly, friends, Jesus is a King worth following. Don’t you see that? Jesus is a King worth following. Most kings show up on horses with swords and might and power. And they slay their enemies and intimidate and cut down their foes to establish their kingdoms, and they rule in fear and oppression, but not Jesus. Jesus is a King like no other. He comes gentle and riding on a young donkey. He comes, not to slay His enemies, but to be slain by His enemies. He comes, not to cut down His foes, but to be cut down by His foes. He comes, not to pierce with a sword, but to be pierced through Himself.

Friends, Jesus is the true King who lays down His life for His enemies for people like you and me. And, of course, the irony is that because He laid down His life for us, we are all gathered here this morning to worship and bow down before our King, aren’t we?

Other kings and emperors and politicians have tried to flex their power and might to gain the allegiance of people. But Jesus has won our allegiance through His self-sacrifice and love, hasn’t He? His great love and sacrifice for us has melted our hearts, won our allegiance, and now we’ll do anything for Jesus because He did everything for us! (applause)

And friends, Jesus has built the greatest kingdom in the history of the world. There are 2.6 billion Christians who are gathering this morning to worship a crucified Lord, a suffering Savior, and a donkey-riding King. (applause)

But one day, the Bible tells us, He will come back. He will return in glory and majesty astride a white horse, and will take up His rightful throne and will rule and reign as King of kings and Lord of lords forever. When He gets there, the one who wears the crown, He gets there because He bore the cross first. Beautiful!

So here’s my last question.

Is Jesus your King? Is Jesus your King? See, friends, for many of us this is the sticking point we have with Jesus. We’re Americans, after all. We don’t like kings. We are deeply distrustful of monarchs and authorities, and anyone who wants to be the boss of us (Right?) because we’ve seen how power can corrupt. We’ve seen authority get abused. We’ve seen leaders who are selfish and self-serving. And so when Jesus comes along and He says, “I’m your King,” Our instincts are to push back on that, to be distrustful of that. So many other people have let us down. Right? So we’ve learned to survive, to look out for ourselves because nobody else will. That’s what orphans do after all.

But don’t you see, friends, how very different this Jesus is. He uses His power to serve. He uses His authority to bless. He uses His strength to sacrifice. He uses His rights to lay down His life. He is the King of the cross, the Lion and the Lamb.

Friends, anyone who loves you enough to die for you will never do you any harm. This is a King that is worthy of your trust, all of your life and all of your yesses and amens. His love will teach you how to kneel. He is the King!

So is He your King? Have you said “yes” to King Jesus, Jesus’ sacrifice, to His life? Oh that you would! We live when we bow before the King.

Would you pray with me?

Father, we marvel at King Jesus. We’re blown away by His love, by His choice to suffer and die for us, that He would use His power and authority not for Himself but for us, to serve us and rescue us and redeem us. Father, if we let this love in, it will knock us out. There is no greater love than this. This is life-changing, history-altering love. Jesus is our King. He is the only one worthy of all power and honor and strength and majesty and glory forever and ever. We worship the One who gave up His all that we might be His. And so we bow before our King who rides the donkey to save the world. It is in His name we pray, Amen.


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