A Palm Sunday sermon based on Luke 19:28-40

First Baptist Church of Lynchburg

April 14, 2019

By Paul Dakin

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord our Strength and our Redeemer. Amen.


                In the course of preparing today’s sermon, I came across something that has become the newest addition to my “bucket list” of things that I want to do. It is something that perhaps some of you have already done, seeing as how it is located fairly closely to Lynchburg. Because of my interest in history, and especially that of the War Between the States, it may surprise you that I had not discovered it already. But now that my curiosity has been piqued, it is on my “to do” list. What I am talking about is a visit to see Stonewall Jackson’s stuffed horse, Little Sorrel, which is on display in Lexington, Virginia.


From the website “Roadside America,” which describes itself as “Your Online Guide to Offbeat Tourist Attractions,” here is a description of the display:


Little Sorrel was nobody’s pretty pony. An undersized, dumpy, homely little horse, he was the favorite mount of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. Jackson appreciated the chunky charger for his toughness, smooth gait, and intelligence. Little Sorrel was beloved in Dixie, particularly with Southern ladies who would clip hairs from his mane and tail to make wristlets and rings. [I promise that I am not making this up…]


General Jackson was killed by friendly fire [at the Battle of Chancellorsville on May 2, 1863 while riding Little Sorrel.] In the chaos that followed, Little Sorrel was captured, then recaptured, then recaptured again, then graciously allowed to return to the Confederacy for keeps.


For the next 20 years, Little Sorrel was a hit at Southern fairs and Rebel reunions, even making a trip to the New Orleans World’s Fair in 1885. His health deteriorated quickly afterward…and he died the following year.


Little Sorrel’s hide was immediately mounted and presented to the Virginia Military Institute Museum, where it is still a popular attraction. The taxidermist took the bones as partial payment and gave them to the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburg, something that never sat right with Southerners. The VMI Museum eventually got the bones back, cremated and interred them in 1997 on the school’s parade grounds at the feet of General Jackson’s statue.


Today, Little Sorrel stands near the raincoat that Stonewall Jackson was wearing when he was mortally wounded. The coat is displayed so that visitors can see the bullet hole.[1]


This is perhaps one of those instances that proves that sometimes “Truth is stranger than fiction”…


Today’s sermon text is one of the traditional passages for the day that has come to be known in the church as “Palm Sunday.” This is Luke’s version of the story of Jesus and his disciples, as they enter the city of Jerusalem after an eventful and arduous journey. It is also the beginning of the end of the story, as it would only be a few days later that some of those in the crowd that welcomed him into the city would later be the same ones who would shout out “Crucify him!” at his trial.


In this story there are elements of revelation—that is, parts of the story that help to proclaim and identify who this Jesus is to the people of the city…and to us. But a number of the important players in this story are totally anonymous. They are unnamed individuals who play unheralded, but no less vitally critical, roles. This will be our focus as we examine the passage together this morning…


In verse 29, Jesus and his disciples stop near the towns of Bethphage and Bethany, near the place known as The Mount of Olives. This is near the eastern entrance to the city. It is noteworthy that this is the entrance that is closest to the place in Jerusalem where the Temple stood. Ironically the Temple was the place where Jesus would make some powerful enemies the next day. You may recall the story of when he made a whip and drove out the moneychangers from the Temple, calling out to them, “My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have changed it into a den of thieves.” The Temple was also home to some of Jesus’ most virulent opponents…namely, the chief priests and the scribes. These are the people who would ultimately be responsible for having him murdered. Jesus proved himself to be unafraid as he paraded past the Temple right under the noses of his enemies…


But this entrance to the city was also significant for another reason. As stated earlier, it was near the place known as The Mount of Olives. The attentive reader knows that the Mount of Olives figures prominently in the prophecies of the coming of the Messiah. For example, Zechariah 14:4 says that, when the Messiah comes, he will stand on The Mount of Olives. And so Jesus would stand on The Mount of Olives, for it was there in the Garden of Gethsemane, located on that mount, where our Lord would pour out his heart to God before being arrested and put on trial. It was another one of the clues that reveal Jesus’ indenity as the Messiah…for those who had eyes to see…for those who had ears to hear…


In verse 29, Luke tells us that Jesus sent two of his disciples into the city to bring a colt back to him. Luke does not tell us the names of these disciples. Out of the twelve disciples and out of all of the other people in the crowd that were following Jesus, it could have been any of them that he chose. But Luke does not tell us who they were. The most important thing to note, though, is that they were obedient. They did what Jesus told them to do.


And unlike Little Sorrel, who is famous and is stuffed and mounted at VMI, the horse that the two disciples are to bring back is a horse with no name…a purely anonymous colt that is the property of an anonymous owner. In giving these two disciples instructions on how to secure the horse, Jesus was very specific as to what they were to do and as to what they were to say if questioned. And Luke tells us that everything happened just as Jesus had predicted…


In verse 35, the horse with no name is brought to Jesus. The disciples put some of their cloaks on the colt to act as a makeshift saddle. Then Jesus sat astride the horse. As they enter the city, we are told that the people spread out their cloaks on the road. And in addition, Luke tells us that they began to shout and to praise God for all the things that they had seen Jesus do.


What kinds of things were they shouting and singing? What deeds would be worthy of such a celebration? Words that remembered the miracles that they had seen Jesus perform—like the countless instances of healings that he had performed…the feeding of the five thousand with just five loaves and two fish…the raising of a widow’s son from the dead outside of the town of Nain…the casting out of demons and his glorious power over the forces of darkness…These acts of our Lord had captured the imaginations of the people and they praised God for the things that they had witnessed that Jesus had done in their midst. These were again clues identifying who Jesus was—clues that pointed to Jesus being the Chosen One of God to bring salvation to the people…


Among the all the many things that the people were shouting and singing as our Lord entered the city, Luke records these words in verse 38: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” That first phrase “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord” is derived from the passage from Psalm 118 that was read in your hearing earlier in the service—“Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” This was a psalm that was widely understood in Jesus’ day to refer to the coming of the Messiah into his glory. So once again, here is a subtle reveal that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah that the prophets had promised hundreds of years earlier.


The second phrase that Luke records is one that only he records as being shouted that day. None of the other gospels mention it in their accounts of Palm Sunday. The phrase is “Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven.”


Do those words sound kind of familiar to you—although in a different context? The words are reminiscent of the song that the angels sang to the shepherds on the night when Jesus was born, aren’t they? You all remember the story. We read it every year at Christmas—about how the angels appeared to a group of shepherds, who were out “abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night.” You remember that the angels appeared to the shepherds, and after the announcement of the birth of Jesus was made, Luke 2:14 tells us that the angels sang these words, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace”—y’all finish it with me together—“good will toward men.”


Luke tells us that the crowd on Palm Sunday was echoing words similar to those of the angels on that first Christmas Eve. The words that the angels proclaimed were “good tidings of great joy which shall be for all people.” In a very real sense, these good tidings of great joy had now come full circle in the life of our Lord. Similar words to those sung at his birth were now being sung again. Only this time, they were being sung as Jesus faced his impending death. And instead of being sung by the heavenly host, they were being sung by the people in the streets of Jerusalem. They were being sung just a few days before he would be betrayed, arrested, tortured and executed by the government—by being hung on a cross on Good Friday…It was yet another indication on what scholars have called “Jesus’ Triumphant Entry Jerusalem” of who Jesus really was. It was the confirmation of his mission to bring salvation to the world as part of God’s plan…


Here is the main takeaway from today’s sermon: While the celebration of Palm Sunday fulfilled many of the prophecies surrounding Jesus, our Lord chose ordinary people who worked behind the scenes. It was the way Jesus worked then. It is the way that Jesus works now.


Naturally the focus of Palm Sunday is Jesus, which is as it should be. There is no other focus. But the story also shows us that Jesus used regular people like you and me to accomplish his purposes. Anonymous disciples, a horse with no name, and an owner whose identity is never mentioned—all of these had important parts to play on Palm Sunday. The Lord needed all of them.


Teresa of Avila was a 16th Century Spanish mystic and church reformer whose writings are considered to be classic expressions of Christian spirituality. In her book, The Way of Perfection, she wrote these words:


Christ has no body but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours,

Yours are the eyes with which he looks with

Compassion on this world.

Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,

Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.

Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,

Yours are the eyes, you are his body.

Christ has no body now but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours,

Yours are the eyes with which he looks with

Compassion on this world.

Christ has no body now on earth but yours.[2]


Regardless of how modest or anonymous your gifts might be, however small and insignificant they might appear to you, the Lord needs them. Turn them over to Jesus. Let him take your gifts and use them that, through those gifts however humble, he can bless those whom you know…and bless those whom you do not know…that he can demonstrate his love to the world…that his compassion may be shown to all…that his kingdom may come on earth, even as it is in heaven…


To God alone be the glory! Amen.




















































[1] www.roadsideamerica.com/story/3611 (Accessed April 12, 2019)

[2] www.journeywithjesus.net/PoemsAndPrayers/Teresa_of_Avila_Christ_Has_No_Body.shtml (Accessed April 13, 2019)