Have you ever had one of those experiences that brain study experts call a déjà vu experience? If you have, wouldn’t you agree that déjà vu is one of the strangest things that can happen inside our minds? If you have ever experienced déjà vu, you know that strange, almost other-worldly feeling that what you are doing right now is something you have done exactly the same way before. In fact, it’s like you can actually see yourself doing it in your mind in the past at the same split second you are actually doing it in the present. Déjà vu is a very hard thing to understand or figure out. It just happens some times.
In our lesson for today it is very possible that Jesus had a real and actual déjà vu experience that we could maybe call a déjà vu experience of prophecy. You see, when Jesus heard the crowds say, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”, his mind would have gone back one thousand years in the past to a beautiful Psalm (Psalm 118), which spoke in this way of the coming Messiah, “O Lord, save us; Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” The word “Hosanna” that the crowds cried out on Palm Sunday – and the word that you and I sing out today – is a word that means just what Psalm 118 said it meant, “Lord, Save Us!” “Hosanna!” So now as we begin Holy Week – and in keeping with our midweek Lenten theme of “Three Words of Truth” — we are going to think about a slight take-off on the three listed in our worship folder – “Save Us Now” — and see how the three words of truth, “Lord, Save Us,” give us every reason to move forward in life with the joy of knowing that we are now and always God’s saved people – people who have every reason to cry out, “Hosanna in the Highest!”
To help us do that, I am going to suggest that there are three other key words in our lesson which can direct us. They are the three words in verse 10 right near the end: “When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” Would you agree that those three words – Who is this? – are the key to figuring out life and the key to being able to handle death? So, who is this – this one whom we join the Jerusalem crowds in saying, “Lord, Save Us?”
Well, from the first part of the lesson, it is very clear that he is someone riding on a donkey. What did you notice about how Jesus came to get on that donkey? He sent those disciples with information that was exactly correct. There in that particular village there was a particular donkey which had a particular colt which another gospel-writer tells us had never been ridden before. That’s because it had been pre-arranged that way by God, who had prophesied seven hundred years earlier that that is exactly the way it would happen.
So, who this is to whom we say, “Lord, save us,” is someone who fulfilled the prophecy that he would enter the city of kings as a king on a donkey. Now many kings of the past likely rode on donkeys, but it would seem kind of odd, we would think, for a king to ride on a baby donkey. What would have seemed even more odd, however, was for a king to come into a major city on a baby donkey without an army with all its weapons or without some show of force. Jesus was entering Jerusalem with twelve disciples who were probably wondering what in the world was going on that would lead all these people – and even the children – to cry out, “Hosanna in the Highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
Who this is riding on a little donkey is the gentle Lord Jesus, who, because he knew what lay ahead in four days, could have most understandably turned that donkey around the other way and said, “I think I’ll go back to Bethany with Mary and Martha and Lazarus and stay there for a while.” But as we sing in one of our hymns,
“A lamb goes uncomplaining forth, Our guilt and evil bearing
And, laden with the sins of earth, None else the burden sharing…”
On that little donkey – a beast of burden—was riding a little lamb – the Lamb of God who was the one bearing the real burden – going forth so meekly as a real human being who was so soon to give up his real human life for the real human sin of world. That’s who this is. That’s why to this someone riding on a donkey we can say – and we must say — “Lord, save us.” He has real blood that would really pay for everything you and I have done to cause him to be on that donkey in the first place.
Who else can we say this is? The prophets said he was someone who would come riding on a donkey. The prophets also said he would be someone coming in the name of the Lord. Many people in the crowd seemed to get it: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” — to the point that another gospel writer tells us that the Jewish leaders told them to be quiet – and to tell their kids to be quiet, too.
Why did they care if the people got a little excited about this Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee? What they cared about is what the people were saying about Jesus by saying he was “coming in the name of the Lord.” To do something “in the name of” someone means you are doing that with the full authority of the person you are representing. Who was Jesus coming in the name of? The Lord. The all-powerful, all-knowing, all-everything eternal Lord God – the Lord God that Jesus had said he was the Son of – the Lord God that Jesus had said he actually was, since, as he said, “I and the Father are One” – the very blasphemy, which, his enemies said just a few days later, made him worthy of death. “Why do we need any more witnesses?”
What they were witnessing on this day was a crowd of people saying that Jesus was the eternal Lord God – and they were crying out to that Lord God, “Lord, save us.” That so-called blasphemy is for you and me glory – and the reason why we are so happy today. Jesus is not just a meek little lamb who rode into Jerusalem on the back of a little donkey to go to his death; he is also the all-powerful Son of God who exactly one week later would walk out of a tomb in Jerusalem because the death he died could not keep him dead.
That is who this is – someone so humble to help us sinners and someone so powerful so we sinners can know we have been helped. We can know we have been saved. We can know that we have every reason to go forward today in a very humble way and in a very confident way, as we look at the people in our lives as special people who either join us in saying, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” – or whom we pray will someday be able to say that with us, so we keep praying for them and we keep asking God to give us an opportunity – or to give someone else an opportunity – to help them know who this was who came riding into Jerusalem in victory just five days before he died in what looked even to his followers as total defeat.
Four days later it is quite possible that something happened that could have made this Palm Sunday ride into Jerusalem not only a prophetic déjà vu past, but also an emotional déjà vu future, if we can call it that. The reason I say that is because part of the songs that people would sing at the Passover festival, which was about to begin in four days, were verses from Psalm 118 – the Psalm I mentioned at the beginning of the sermon. If you remember, we are told that after the Passover meal Jesus and his disciples sang a song – and that Jesus then went with his disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane. The words that normally ended their Passover singing of Psalms were these same words, “O Lord, save us… Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord…You are my God and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you. Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his love endures forever.” In other words, if those were indeed the words Jesus sang as he left the city for the garden outside the gates on the night he was betrayed, can you imagine what it must have been like for Jesus to have heard those very same words as he entered the gates of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday – knowing full well as the Son of God what lay ahead of him because he was also the Son of Man?
Even if they didn’t sing those words that night, Jesus knew those words that day. All we can say because of who he is is, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” He is the one who has done what we have prayed in those three words, “Lord, save us.” So, because of who Jesus is and what he has done, “Hosanna in the Highest,” everyone! God bless for you these special days in the Holy Week ahead.