Responsive Reading: Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29
Gospel Lesson: Luke 19: 28-40
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
When I was a student at Luther Seminary, I would have the chance to attend a lot of Minnesota Twins games. I lived about four miles from the Metrodome and on Student Night could get tickets for $3.
My first year at Luther was 2003. The Twins had a slow start to the season but ended the year strong winning the division and advancing to the playoffs. The Twins were considered to be the little, plucky engine that could. The Twins nearly folded as a team one year earlier, due to what they claimed to be a lack of money playing in the Metrodome. The Twins only survived due to a judge’s injunction.
So in the playoffs in 2003 the opponent was going to be none other than the New York Yankees. The Yankees were the wealthiest team in Baseball. Their players’ salaries were over a 180,000,000. They spent three times as much money on their team as the Twins and over 50% more than any other team in Baseball. The Yankees had won four of the last seven World Series. There was seemingly no bigger villain at the time then the really, big city New York Yankees. The Yankees were blamed by many Twins fans for us nearly losing our team.
The two teams were playing a best of five series. The Twins won the first game in New York but lost the second. They were now going to play in the same Metrodome where the Twins had never lost a World Series game. Optimism among Twins fans was high.
On the Friday before the Weekend games, there was going to be a rally in Downtown Minneapolis. I was going to go. I brought the one bit of Twins gear that I had in my room which was an over-sized plastic sundae Twins batting Helmet to wear upon my head.
The first speaker on this day was the Governor of Minnesota at the time, Tim Pawlenty. Pawlenty was celebrating a particularly good fall with both the Vikings and Gophers football undefeated into October when the Governor declared they might have to rename the state: “Winnesota.”
I would eat up every act designed to whip the crowd into a frenzy. The batting helmet kept sliding off my head in my cheering. There could be no greater victory for my native, Minnesota than beating the bigger, bad arch-rival New York Yankees.
My enthusiasm was such at the rally that in a crowd of thousands, I was interviewed and featured by the Star Tribune for a next days’ story on passionate Twins fans.
What ended up happening with the Twins and Yankees, we’ll get back to that story in just a little bit.
A similar scene of sorts takes place within our Gospel for Today. People were excited. Word of Jesus’ latest and greatest miracle the Resurrection of Lazarus had spread.
Jerusalem was already one of the bigger cities in the ancient world. Now with the festival of the Passover ready to begin, its population would increase seven-fold. Everyone would have heard about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead in nearby Bethany mere miles away.
The great enemy for the people gathered in Jerusalem on this day was the Romans. The Roman Empire was dominant during Jesus’ life. They controlled the World from the British Channel to the Deserts of North Africa. Their empire stretched from the Atlantic Ocean to the heart of the Middle East. The World was at relative peace in Jesus’ day because no one dared challenge Roman Rule.
Roman Rule though was despised among the people of Judea. Riots against the Romans were commonplace. The Romans were hated for the taxes they charged to subjects of the Empire. The Romans were hated for disrespecting the Jewish Religion by seeking to elevate their emperors to equality with God.
Like the Twins and the Yankees, the good guys and the bad guys were truly set up heading into Palm Sunday among the crowd who would soon gather.
On one side was the mighty Romans who dominated the world and its subjects. On the other side was the great hope coming from the rumors that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. If Jesus had done this, there was no telling what he might do next, especially if he confronted the Romans.
The week ahead was seemingly going to be the best chance to take down the Romans since they seized the land nearly ninety years prior.
Emotions were going to run especially high as the Roman soldiers were going to be on prominent display to try to stop further violence from breaking out during Holy Week.
So with this background in mind let’s look towards Luke’s Gospel from which our reading comes. Here’s what stands out from Our Gospel reading.
Jesus comes riding into Jerusalem upon a young colt, people through their coats on the ground as an act of reverence.
The exchange that ends the passage stands out.
As Jesus is coming down the road, the Disciples are excited!
They start shouting out: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Among the witnesses to this scene were the Pharisees. The Pharisees couldn’t believe that Jesus’ disciples would get so excited at his presence like they did. They ask Jesus to rebuke the Disciples for their enthusiasm. Tell them to stop making so much noise. The Pharisees would be mad if Jesus’ Disciples got so excited that their head coverings fell off.
You see this exchange sets the stage for Holy Week. The Pharisees would reappear later during Holy Week.
John 18:3-4: “So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons.” Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?”
As for the Disciples, Judas betrays him, and right before his trial.
Matthew 26:56: “Then all the disciples deserted him (Jesus) and fled.”
Holy Week had started pretty good for the Disciples. They witnessed Jesus march into town on a donkey to a cheering crowd; they then watched him stroll into the Temple and overturn the money-changer's tables. They sat down for what they never imagined to be their Last Supper. They saw Jesus arrested and the hope from earlier in the week was crushed before their very eyes.
Back to the Twins and Yankees. What happened in the day after I went to the exciting rally nearly losing my batting helmet? The Yankees won the next two days. The Twins season was over.
Fast forward to 2004; The Twins are playing the Yankees once again. The Twins win the first game in New York, lose the second in extra innings. Back in Minnesota, this time My Dad and I have tickets to the games. We watch the Yankees drill the Twins in Game 3. Game 4 was the Day of My 25th Birthday; victory seemed inevitable. The Twins were going to turn it around winning 5-1 heading into the 8th Inning. Yankees tie the game in the 8th Inning. The Yankees win the game in the 11th Inning.
50,000 Twins fans leave the stadium in silence as the mighty Yankees had triumphed yet again. The players go clean their lockers out. A long, cold winter comes to Minnesota.
The Disciples probably had a similar response when they heard the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate had put Jesus to death.
Crucifixion was previously undefeated as a death sentence. The Disciples probably imagined they were going to be returning to their lives as mostly ordinary fishermen in Galilee. When people ask if they knew “Jesus” put to death by the Romans. They like Peter would try to distance themselves. They would be hesitant to admit that they were ever as enthusiastic as they were on Palm Sunday.
Seeing Jesus march into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the Disciples could never imagine the turn of events that the week ahead might bring: potential victory, inevitable defeat, and finally Resurrection from the grave itself! The Disciples could never imagine what they were about to witness was soon to send them to every corner of the globe only now they would shout out: “He is Risen, He is Risen, Indeed.”
Palm Sunday reminds that no matter how mighty an opponent might appear to be within your life whether it be the New York Yankees, the Romans, or sin and death. Jesus is marching onward into Jerusalem towards victory. Amen
 Markquardt, Edward. “Riots of Pilate.” Sermons from Seattle. Web. March.19.2019.
 Taylor, Rev.Dr. Nancy. “Players and Protagonists in the Kingdom of God.” Day 1. 20.March.2016. Web. March.21.2019.
 Luke 19:28-40.
 Luke 19:36.
 Luke 19:38.
 Baseball Reference. “2004 American League Divison Series (Game 4).” Minneapolis. 9.Oct.2004. Web. Mar.21.2019.
Pastor Stew Carlson
These are all Sunday sermon's written by Pastor Stew.