************ Sermon on Psalm 118:27b ************


By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman


This sermon was preached on April 9, 2017


Psalm 118:19-29; Mark 11:1-11
Psalm 118: 27b
"Palms and Thorns" Lent 2017

Introduction
Palms and Thorns (HOLD THEM BOTH UP). There is Jesus of the Palms and Jesus of the Thorns. However, we aren't allowed to choose between them. As I pointed out to the boys and girls, we can't have the one without the other. Yet that is exactly what the crowds of Palm Sunday wanted. They wanted the Jesus of the Palms without the Jesus of the Thorns.

The crowds of Palm Sunday were excited about Jesus' miracles, His concern for the poor and downtrodden, and His love for those in the grip of sin. Jesus was so popular they were ready to call Jesus their King. Picture Jesus entering into Jerusalem that day seated upon a donkey. He was surrounded by crowds of people; they spread cloaks and branches on the road; they waved palm branches and they shouted the words of Psalm 118:
(Mk 11:9-10) Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, "Hosanna! " "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" (10) "Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!" "Hosanna in the highest!"
This is the Jesus of the Palms that they wanted. It is easy to serve and follow this kind of Jesus, a Jesus that everyone else follows, a Jesus Who looks and acts so majestic.

That same day, Palm Sunday, showed another kind of Jesus. It showed a Jesus weeping over Jerusalem saying, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace" (Lk 19:42); He was talking about His coming suffering and death. It showed a Jesus Who went into the Temple and turned over the tables of the money changers; it showed a Jesus crying "'My house will be a house of prayer'; but you have made it 'a den of robbers'" (Lk 19:46).

Palms and Thorns (HOLD THEM UP). Like the Palm Sunday crowds many Christians and churches today are fond of the Jesus of the Palms. They talk and sing about "Gentle Jesus, meek and mild," of the shy little baby, of the woolly Lamb of God. On His shoulders they prefer to see the purple robe of royalty rather than the cross of suffering and shame. On His head they would rather see a crown of gold than a crown of thorns. Religious stores and gift shops are filled with sentimental scenes of Jesus and the children, Jesus and the crowds, Jesus at prayer. He has been turned into a white-cloud Jesus Who is all love and no anger, Who is gentle and caring and not judgmental and indignant.

What we must realize is that the Jesus of the Palms is not able to save the lost unless He becomes the Jesus of the Thorns. We can never understand Who Jesus is or what His mission was until we realize that the Jesus of the Palms must also be the Jesus of the Thorns.

Do you want an "almost" Savior? That's what happens if Jesus did not go to the cross and the grave. That's what happens if Jesus is not the Jesus of the Thorns. We are almost saved. Only a Jesus Who goes all the way to death is able to pay for our sin. Yes, He is the Jesus of the Palms. But He also needs to be the Jesus of the Thorns.

Jesus of the Palms and Jesus of the Thorns. We see them both in our text:
(Ps 118:27b) With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.

I The Circumstances Behind the Psalm
Let me explain the background to Psalm 118. Psalm 118 is a song of celebration. It charts the journey of a king to the Temple to offer thanks to God for victory over enemies in battle. Along the way he celebrates God's faithfulness: "His love endures forever" (vs 2,3,4). He recalls his prayer for help (vs 5) because it is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man (vs 8). He recounts the enemies that surrounded him on every side (vs 10). He mentions that it is the same LORD Who threw Egypt's horse and rider into the sea that also gave him a great and wondrous victory (vs 14).

We don't know how long the journey takes, but the king and his followers sing of the victory and rejoice in it right to the Temple gates. Once there the king calls for permission to come in:
(Ps 118:19) Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the LORD.
And the priests give permission:
(Ps 118:20) This is the gate of the LORD through which the righteous may enter.

What follows is a prayer for continued salvation and success. You said the prayer this morning in song: the word "Hosanna." "Hosanna." That is, "LORD, save us!" Then the king and his procession enter the sanctuary waving palm branches. The priests greet the king: "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord" (vs 26a). Then they greet the people with him: "From the house of the LORD we bless you" (vs 26b). Then, still waving palm branches, the king and followers proceed to the altar to offer sacrifice to God.

II The Christ of the Palms
A One day, when Jesus and His disciples were on the way to Jerusalem, much of this Psalm was reenacted. Jesus, His disciples, the crowds, the Pharisees -- they all knew that it was Psalm 118 that underlay all that was happening. They all knew that it was the king of the Palm, the king of Psalm 118, that was being greeted that day. Though it was unrehearsed and spontaneous it made such a tremendous impact that all of Jerusalem was stirred and asked, "Who is this?" (Mt 21:10).

B Jesus is the Christ of the Palm. The first detail we notice that supports this is the cry of the Palm Sunday crowds:
(Mk 11:9-10) Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, "Hosanna! " "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" (10) "Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!" "Hosanna in the highest!"
"Hosanna!" Remember what this means? "O LORD, save us!"

"Hosanna," said the Palm Sunday crowds. They were jubilantly greeting Jesus as King, as King of the Palms. Over time, "Hosanna" became more a word of praise to God than a prayer for salvation. "Hosanna," because God saves us.

C Jesus is the Christ of the Palm. Quoting from the Psalm, the crowds jubilantly greeted Jesus as the King "who comes in the name of the LORD." The expectation is that Jesus, like the king of Psalm 118, will be used of the Lord to defeat the enemy. The enemy this time is not the Philistines or the Egyptians but the Romans. And it is expected that the victory will be as great and as glorious as the victory at the Red Sea when the horse and rider were thrown into the sea.

D Jesus is the Christ of the Palm. Where did Jesus go when He first entered Jerusalem? He went straight to the Temple. Do you realize why? On the part of Jesus it was a deliberate reenactment of the events of Psalm 118. Like the king of the Psalm, Jesus journeyed to the courts of the Lord; and, like the king of the Psalm, He journeyed there as part of a festal procession, with a multitude of people.
(Ps 118:27b) With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.

E Jesus is the Christ of the Palm. The final thing we can mention in support of this is the "boughs in hand." In its excitement and enthusiasm, the Palm Sunday crowd took Palm branches. They waved branches and were part of a festive throng just like the crowd with the king of Psalm 118.
(Ps 118:27b) With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.

III The Christ of the Thorns
A As I mentioned earlier, the Christ of the Palms is not enough to save us; the Christ of the Palms is not enough to accomplish the mission of God. Jesus must be both Jesus of the Palms and Jesus of the Thorns.

The Palm Sunday crowds did not understand this, however. That's why it was so easy for their "Hosannas!" to be changed to "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" That's why it was so easy for the waving palm branches to be changed into shaking fists. That's why it was so easy for the praise to be changed into mocks and jeers.

B A close study shows us that it isn't only the Christ of the Palms but also the Christ of the Thorns that is to be found in Psalm 118. The first detail that supports this is the altar. In Psalm 118 the king leads the festal throng right to the horns of the altar.
(Ps 118:27b) With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.
On Palm Sunday the crowd is gone by the time Jesus enters Jerusalem. The crowd certainly does not enter the Temple with Jesus or go with Him to the altar. There is a reason for this. The crowd goes with Jesus to the altar, but does so a week later on Good Friday; and it is no longer in the Temple but on Golgotha Hill; and it is no longer an altar of stone but a cross of wood.

C Jesus is the Christ of the Thorns. The Psalm speaks to this when it tells us "the stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone" (vs 22). As I said last week, the image has to do with the building of the Temple. As the foundation was being laid and the walls erected certain stones were rejected as unsuitable building material -- either they were too big or small, the wrong shape, the wrong color, or didn't appear strong enough. We all realize Jesus is the rejected stone. He is the Christ of the Thorns.

D Jesus is the Christ of the Thorns. As with the king of the Psalm, He needs to be righteous before He can enter in to the altar. Jesus, of course, is the Sinless One, the Perfect One, even though He was tempted in every way. He not only meets God's requirements for righteousness but also exceeds them.

Conclusion
Like the crowds surrounding the King, like the crowds of Palm Sunday, we also sing "Hosanna!" And, our song -- like Israel's song -- is a song for salvation: "O LORD, save us." "Hosanna!" Why? Our call to worship this morning reminds us why?

Maybe you noticed that our call to worship came from Psalm 118. It was the same words said by and to the king as he came to the Temple:
(Ps 118:19-20) Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the LORD. (20) This is the gate of the LORD through which the righteous may enter.
Notice, it is the "gates of righteousness" and it is the "righteous" who may enter. That is, those who may enter are right with God. Let me remind you that every person has a problem here. Man's first response to God is rebellion. The reason is because fallen man exalts himself instead of exalting God. Mankind, therefore, refuses to give God the honor and respect He is due. Man's second response is fear. We fear God because He is holy and we are unrighteous. This is true for every single person, none excepted.
In preparation for a meeting in a large city, famed evangelist Billy Sunday wrote a letter to the mayor in which he asked for the name of individuals he knew who had a spiritual problem and needed help and prayer.
How surprised the evangelist was when he received from the mayor a city directory.

We, all of us, need saving. We, all of us, can only cry out "Hosanna!" "O LORD, save us." And He does because the Jesus of the Palms is also the Jesus of the Thorns.

Like the crowds surrounding the King, like the crowds of Palm Sunday, our "Hosanna!" is also a word of praise to God for the salvation He give us in Jesus Christ. "Hosanna!" "Hosanna because God saves us."

Any sinner who cries "Hosanna" receives this salvation. Any sinner who comes to Jesus in repentance and faith receives this salvation. Any sinner who believes in the Jesus of the Palms AND the Jesus of the Thorns receives this salvation. So with God's people of all ages we say and we sing, "Hosanna to the Son of David. Hosanna in the highest."
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