This sermon is based on Matthew 26 and John 12:12-16, and it was delivered by Dr. Sergio Arevalo on March 16, 2008 at New Covenant Christian Fellowship, Chino, CA.
In the night of March 15, 2008, Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao won another belt of victory for the Philippines. Like in his past fights when he would go home, the government would give him grand welcome and parade. People are lining on the streets to see their boxing idol parading with victory. Confetti and shouts would welcome Pacman.
Illustration: Weber and Rice’s Rock Opera “Jesus Christ Superstar.” In the Weber and Rice’s Rock Opera “Jesus Christ Superstar” the following words were sung, “Hey sanna, ho sanna, sanna sanna, sanna, hey sanna, ho sanna sanna sanna….hey sanna, hey JC, JC won’t you smile at me. Jesus Christ, if you’re divine, turn my water into wine. Prove to me that you’re no fool. Walk across my swimming fool. Hey sanna, ho sanna, sanna, sanna, hey sanna. Ho sanna.”
With these words Weber and Rice’s rock opera have captured the glimmer of the first Palm Sunday parade; that nationalistic religious fervored carnival of Hey sanna ho sanna, sanna sanna, hey sanna, ho sanna; Jesus Christ if you’re divine, turn my water into wine. What a day. You couldn’t believe it. It was like a carnival. It was like a circus. It was like a parade. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were jammed into the holiest of holy cities. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims were jammed into those narrow little streets. It was like a carnival. Shoulder to shoulder . arm to arm. Body to body. You couldn’t walk. You couldn’t squeeze through this mob of people crammed into those little narrow streets of Jerusalem.
(i) Certain among the crowds were simply sightseeing. Here was a man who, as rumor had it, had raised a man from the dead; and many had simply gone out to gaze on a sensational figure. It is always possible to attract people for a time by sensationalism and shrewd publicity; but it never lasts. Those who were that day regarding Jesus as a sensation were within a week shouting for his death.
(ii) Many among these crowds were greeting Jesus as a conqueror. That, in fact, is the predominant atmosphere of the whole scene. They greeted him with the words: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who is coming in the name of the Lord!” The word Hosanna is the Hebrew for “Save now!” And the shout of the people was almost precisely like that of the British people: “God save the King!” The words with which the people greeted Jesus are illuminating. They are a quotation from Ps.118:25-26. That psalm had many connections, which were bound to be in the minds of the people.
It was the last psalm of the group (Ps.113-118) known as the Hallel. The word Hallel means Praise God! and these are all praising psalms. They were part of the first memory work every Jewish boy had to do; they were sung often at great acts of praise and thanksgiving in the Temple; they were an integral part of the Passover ritual. Further, this particular psalm was intimately connected with the ritual of the Feast of Tabernacles.
At that feast worshipers carried bundles made up of palm, myrtle and willow branches called lulabs. Daily they went with them to the Temple. On every day of the feast they marched round the great altar of the burnt offering–once on each of the first six days, seven times on the seventh–and as they marched they triumphantly sang verses from this psalm and especially these very ones. In fact it may well be that this psalm was written for the first celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles when Nehemiah had rebuilt the shattered walls and city and the Jews came home from Babylon and could worship again (Neh.8:14-18).
This was indeed the psalm of the great occasion–and the people knew it. Further, this was characteristically the conqueror’s psalm. To take but one instance, these very verses were sung and shouted by the Jerusalem crowd when they welcomed back Simon Maccabaeus after he had conquered Acra and wrested it from Syrian dominion more than a hundred years before. There is no doubt that when the people sang this psalm they were looking on Jesus as God’s Anointed One, the Messiah, the Deliverer, the One who was to come. And there is no doubt that they were looking on him as the Conqueror. To them it must have been only a matter of time until the trumpets rang out and the call to arms sounded and the Jewish nation swept to its long delayed victory over Rome and the world.
Jesus approached Jerusalem with the shout of the mob hailing a conqueror in his ears–and it must have hurt him, for they were looking in him for that very thing which he refused to be. This Sunday is not only a commemoration of the first Palm Sunday but also a reminiscence of the Passion of Jesus Christ. In Matthew 26, we might recall two things: Jesus prophesied his suffering. “It will be Passover, as you know, in two days’ time, and the Son of man will be handed over to be crucified” (26:2).
Indeed he suffered from denials of his disciples and followers, from those people he healed and fed. Jesus was later on crucified as foretold. However, his crucifixion is not actually a defeat but in reality a victory since Jesus saved the humankind from sins. Jesus prophesied his victory. “From now on, I tell you, I shall never again drink wine until the day I drink the new wine with you in the kingdom of my Father.” (26: 29). These are words of victory! Jesus knew that he would experience suffering but at the end he saw that he would be victorious. There is a saying, “There is light at the end of the tunnel.”
Our passages challenge us to become bold in our faith, strong in our faith and endure hardship for the glory of God. In the book, From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, Ruth Tucker writes about Dr. Eleonor Chestnut. After arriving in China in 1893 under the American Presbyterian missions board. Dr. Chestnut built a hospital, using her own money to buy bricks and mortar. The need for her services was so great, she performed surgery in her bathroom until the building was completed. One operation involved the amputation of a common laborer’s leg. Complications arose ,and skin grafts were needed.
A few days later, another doctor asked Dr. Chestnut why she was limping. “Oh, It’s nothing,” was her terse reply. Finally, a nurse revealed that the skin graft for the patient, a coolie, came from Dr. Chestnut’s own leg, taken with only local anesthetic. Indeed she suffered for her mission to serve the people of God. Not only that in 1905 during the so-called Boxer Rebellion, Dr. Chestnut and four other missionaries were killed by a mob that stormed the hospital. I am asking myself, can I sacrifice myself when the time comes? How about you brothers and sisters, are you willing to sacrifice for the glory of God? (sergioarevalo.net)