Palm Sunday—Palmarum 2023 (Mt 21, 1–9; Zech 9, 9–12 Phil 2, 5–11; Ps 118, 19–29)

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The Lord does things His way. He does what He wants, says what He wants, goes where He wants. “Our God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases.” (Ps 115:3) And what exactly does He want? He “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (2 Tim 2:4) So, God doesn’t just stay in the heavens.

**“For there is one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a Ransom for all, the Witness given at the proper time.” (2 Tim 2:5–6)**

He comes! He comes as the Ransom, the Payment, the Sacrifice for all. God comes to die. You couldn’t guess that or expect it. It’s not our way of doing things, but it is the Lord’s way.

For “the word of the cross is [foolishness] to [the] perishing, but to us who are being saved [it’s] the power of God.” And so “we preach Christ crucified…the power of God and the wisdom of God.” “God chose what is low and despised in the world…so that no human being might boast in [His presence]. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became [for] us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor 1:18, 21, 23–24, 28–31)

So, when the Lord does things His way, when He saves, when He’s the Ransom, it’s unsuspecting, unexpected! When salvation comes, it’s impossible, by human thinking, to predict, but that’s the Lord’s way of doing things. He likes it that way. It’s the punchline not to a joke but to best news ever:


(I. Salvation is held by unexpected things.)

The Lord doesn’t just give Salvation: He is Salvation! Last week’s Psalm is just one example of many from the Bible: “Hope in God for I shall again praise Him, my Salvation and My God.” (Ps 43:5) So Jesus is named Jesus (“Yahweh saves”) for “He will save His people from their sins.” And there’s the unexpected! Jesus, God your Salvation, is carried in Mary’s womb. “Our God comes; He does not keep silence.” (Ps 50)

The unexpected keeps on going. Salvation rides a donkey! “The war horse is a false hope for salvation.” (Ps 33:17) The Egyptians figured that out at the Red Sea. Their horses and chariots couldn’t save them from Yahweh saving His people, as Moses sang: “The LORD is my strength and my song, and He has become my Salvation.” (Ex 15:2) To Jerusalem that same Yahweh comes, riding a donkey. The donkey isn’t what’s humble, but its Rider. Jesus comes as “the Greater than Solomon,” (Mt 12:42) like Solomon, at his father’s command, rode David’s own donkey to his coronation. (1 Ki 1:33ff.)

The unexpected humility the cross. That’s where Christ is going. That’s His coronation—with thorns! There “King of the Jews!” He “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil 2)

Then there was Salvation’s final, but not so final, resting place. Salvation was held, buried, locked-up in a tomb! So our Psalm today: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.” (Ps 118:22–23) [He] laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame.’ (Is 28:16)



In the womb of a virgin. Riding a donkey. Dead on a cross. Buried in a tomb. Your Salvation, your Jesus was held and carried and put in many unexpected places for you, to save you. That was how He came and saved you. How often we shrug off the topsy-turvy nature of Salvation! But the Lord, true to form, keeps the unexpected going, when He PUTS SALVATION IN UNEXPECTED PLACES FOR YOU. It’s not only that Salvation is held by unexpected things. His Salvation Word comes in unexpected ways for you.

(II. His Salvation Word comes in unexpected ways for you.)

The God who gives salvation to you, and Who is, in fact, your very Salvation brings His Salvation Word to you. That’s not the message about Salvation, but His Word that saves. And yet nothing is set aside more often than that. Sola Scriptura has become merely a bumper sticker slogan of a bygone era—faded, tattered, torn, barely hanging on.

We feel that we can safely avoid His Salvation Word and still be saved, still be forgiven. As if it’s of little or no importance because it’s so insignificant or simple or humble compared to personal feelings or experience. Because of His Salvation Word, the Lord commands, under penalty of losing His favor, that you “should not despise preaching and His Word but hold it sacred.” Yet, when the Lord causes His Salvation Word to come in unexpected ways for you, He’s (1) doing what He always does and (2) suffering Himself to be rejected. (He’d let you reject all the way to your own doom.)

His Salvation Word comes unexpectedly tied to water. Jesus commands, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to Me. Make disciples of all nations by baptizing them.” (Mt 28) Or as Zechariah says today: “He shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.” (Zech 9) This promise of Peace in the watery salvation Word of Baptism is “for you and for your children and for all.” (Acts 2) Yet Christian parents delay…

When His Word joins bread and wine, thereon, therein, therewith, and thereunder comes His body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins. (The bread and wine are His body and blood.) There He satisfies your hunger and thirst for righteousness. “Because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. [Jesus] restores to you double.” (Zech 9) “Body given for you; Blood shed for you.” So we also sing at His coming: “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the Highest!” (Mt 21)

But it’s not just Salvation Word splashed on us or put into our ears or even into our mouths. Salvation Word comes out of our mouths, too! So, we worship the way we do. We sing Psalms. (Col 3:16; Ps 8; Ps 46) We sing hymns. (Col 3:16) We even sing the Words of Matthew 21. We sing Scripture. The Words we sing go into the ears and hearts of others, even the ears and hearts of our children. What do you end up with then? Well, you get what happens shortly after our Gospel reading ends:

When the chief priests and the scribes saw … the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what [they’re] saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” (Mt 21:15–16)


The Lord does things His way. What’s doing things His way? Well,


He is Your Salvation, and Salvation was held, carried, and put in unexpected places to save you. The womb of the Virgin, a manger, on a donkey, on a cross, in a tomb. Salvation dying. Unexpected—“foolishness!”—but wonderful!


His Salvation Word comes in unexpected ways for you. His Word from a preacher to save you. His Word tied to water to baptize all nation. His Word tied to bread and wine so that they are His body and blood for you for the forgiveness of your sins. His Word not just splashed over us or in our ears and hearts or into our mouths. Out of our mouths! Even out of the mouths of babes and infants.

So we sing! The not only the joy of Salvation, joy over Jesus and what He does for you. But there’s a joy to how He does it.

It’s the punchline not to a joke but to best news ever:


᛭ INI ᛭

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