PALM SUNDAY 2014

(Preached by Martin Luther on Palm Sunday, 1534; from Sermons of Martin Luther: the House Postils)

 

[Christ’s riding into Jerusalem on a donkey] was foretold beforehand for us, and is preached to us year after year, so that we might learn the difference between Christ’s kingdom and the kingdoms of the world, between our Christ-King and other earthly kings. This Christ-King comes to Zion’s daughter humbly, riding on a donkey; he does not rule a realm where men gather wealth and property, conduct wars, become rich and powerful in this world – all the marks of worldly kings. In the realm where he is King and Lord, Christ is not concerned about teaching us how to farm, build, invest, pile up money, conduct war, or rule over land and people. All such things he entrusts to earthly kings and lords.

 

Here, then, is the difference between this King and worldly rulers: they are concerned about people managing house and home, governing lands and subjects, acquiring money and property, becoming rich and powerful – all for the present time.  Our Christ-King, on the other hand, wants us to know how to inherit the kingdom of heaven, how to be saved and become eternally rich, so that we may finally enter that other better life.  Over there, eating, drinking, and working to sustain physical life will no longer be necessary, as it always is in this world.  Yes, there these bodies of ours will be eternally beautiful and lovely!  There we will no longer be sad, weak, or sick, but everlastingly happy and healthy, strong and vigorous.

 

In his kingdom and by his Word Christ not only teaches us that we are poor lost sinners, condemned to death and in the devil’s clutches, but also that through his death and blood, he has redeemed us from all sins, from death and the power of the devil, so that by faith in him we are righteous and blessed forever.  What wonderfully different teaching, wisdom, and insight this is compared with what is offered by human reason, legal experts, and the wise of this world. [They teach about] how to live here and now, managing house and home, acquiring goods, and protecting land and people.  Even if we do live here a long, long time, finally and eventually we still have to depart and leave it all behind.

 

This is the reason why Christ entered Jerusalem as he did, without worldly pomp, meekly riding on a donkey.  He not only wanted to fulfill the words of the prophet Zechariah, but also to point out the manner and character of his kingdom, so that we may never be deluded into thinking that he came to earth to help us become rich and heap up treasure, when actually he came so that we might be delivered from sin, death, and the devil, and become truly rich in the life beyond.  To sum up, this then was his true purpose in coming to earth, his kingdom’s real nature and power and fruit: namely, that we may one day escape this wretched, mortal, decaying existence and enter that happy, glorious, eternal life beyond.

 

We Christians should get really well acquainted with this Christ-King, and place all our hope boldly in the life which is to come, where we will be forever happy, free of all sin and infirmity.  It’s for that reason that Christ came, and was crucified, died, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven to occupy his kingdom.  That’s how he overcame sin, death, and the devil for us, and by his blood and Holy Spirit swept us clean of all filth, so that all who believe in him are righteous and blessed, and will someday pass through temporal death into his eternal, heavenly kingdom.

 

That’s why all of us should truly welcome this Christ-King, recognizing him as our righteous helper and, by the power of the Word, Sacraments, and faith, enjoy him now and forever!  A Christian, you see, has not been baptized so that he may collect treasure and get rich here on earth – all of which he can do without the gospel and baptism. Instead, he was baptized so that through Christ he may attain eternal life.  To reach that life is why we should faithfully use the gospel and our baptism.  I am a baptized Christian so that I may inherit and attain Christ’s kingdom.  And if I’m also blessed with possessions, I use these for my physical needs—certainly not to lift myself up into heaven!

 

We should, therefore, mark all the difference between Christ’s kingdom and worldly powers, as he himself clearly showed by his extraordinary entry into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, without a saddle, the animal a borrowed one at that!  He sat on it without pretense, just as he was, barefoot, without boots and spurs.  From the human point of view the whole incident looked ridiculous, and yet this beggar-King, riding on a donkey, was Israel’s King, promised by God and foretold by the prophets.  That was evident also from the way his followers greeted him: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”  All of which made it crystal clear that he was in no way like worldly rulers who have amassed a lot of treasure and property for the purpose of displaying worldly pomp and circumstance for their public appearances.  Christ was no such earthly king; on the contrary, he is an eternal King, with an everlasting kingdom where one needs neither gold nor silver, and yet will never suffer any want or need in all eternity.

 

The world has nothing but high disdain for this King and his kingdom with its eternal blessings; it is concerned only with temporal goods: power, honor, and riches on earth.  We Christians, however, are to labor here and use the world’s goods for our bodily needs, all the while not forgetting the other life.  After all, we must in the end depart and leave behind the goods of this earthly life; that should help us remember where we really want to be, namely, with Christ, our eternal King.  For if we accept him here, that is, believe in him and heed his gospel, he will also receive us over there, saying to us, “Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

 

            This, then, is what our dear Lord Jesus Christ meant to show by his entrance into Jerusalem, so that we might truly understand him and his kingdom. One the left hand, as it were, we still live here in the kingdom of this world, but always on the right hand we reach forward and upward to his kingdom everlasting in the world to come. It was for that future life that we were baptized. May God grant us his grace so that we may joyously welcome and accept this King and remain with him forever. Amen!