Thursday, March 21, 2013
Sermon on Psalm 118, for Lent 6 Midweek, "Hosanna--Save Us!"
· Psalm 118 finds its prophetic connection to Jesus in the Gospel reading (Matt. 21). Triumphal entry: both Ps. 118 & 8 are quoted. Jesus coming into Jerusalem on the donkey, fulfilling Zechariah’s prophecy (Zech. 9:9). The people shout triumphantly the words of this Psalm to praise and acclaim Jesus as the promised Messiah. “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Their confidence in His identity reached a fevered pitch. The city was exuberant with excitement, and the chief priests and scribes were trying their worst to quell the fervor. But when the celebration continued into the Temple courts, and the priests protested to Jesus, He replied with the words of Psalm 8, that “Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise.” God Himself had prepared this worship for Jesus from the mouths of children.
· Perhaps as much as 1,000 years before those events of Jesus’ triumphal entry, and the Holy Week of His passion, His suffering, Psalm 118 and the other Psalms laid the events out in prophetic detail and through poetry. Like the other Psalms, this also reflects on His suffering and distress, His being surrounded by enemies and those who hate Him. The Psalmist describes being pushed hard, so that he was falling, but the Lord helped him. But in the midst of this great distress and uncertainty, the Psalm takes a decidedly hopeful tone, as the psalmist expresses their confidence that “the Lord has answered me and set me free. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” He is already certain of his answered prayer. And so was Jesus also confident of the Lord’s help in His distress.
· V. 17-18 “I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord. The Lord has disciplined me severely, but he has not given me over to death.” Reflect on these words as they apply to Jesus: easy to see all, except perhaps the last phrase. First part, “I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord” is a confident witness of faith in the resurrection from the dead. It also happened to be Luther’s personal motto, and this Psalm was his favorite in all of Scripture, and said of all Scripture, he fell in love with this Psalm particularly. Beyond even the grave, we as Christians can confess that we will live to recount the deeds of the Lord. To recite the great and mighty deeds of salvation that He has accomplished for us. That the words, “The Lord has disciplined me severely” are descriptive of Jesus certainly causes no difficultly, when reflecting on the cross—but what about that last phrase “he has not given me over to death”? How could Jesus, or for that matter David or any other Christian have prayed that? Jesus, after all, died and went to the grave. David went to the grave. We are all headed there unless Jesus returns first. So what does this mean?
· Borrow insight from Psalm 16:10, directly prophetic of Jesus according to the apostle Peter: “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.” Jesus was not abandoned to the dark grave, and His body did not see corruption. In other words, He was not given over to death. He was not left in death’s cold hands, not a prisoner of war to the power of death, or held in subjection to it. Rather, as in the words of Hebrews, Jesus was for a little while made lower than the angels, so that by “the grace of God He might taste death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9). Far from being “given over” to death, Jesus experienced it, endured it, suffered it, but rose victorious over it! He entered into death’s tomb to burst it from the inside out! So the only way that both Jesus and we believers can pray that “The Lord has disciplined me severely, but he has not given me over to death” is because we know that even through physical death we stand in the victory of Jesus life. Death may take us briefly, but it has no hold on us.
· Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we can enter the gates of righteousness; enter and give thanks to the Lord. Jesus, the door or the gate to everlasting life. We can stand in God’s heavenly courts to recount His deeds in thankfulness. So when we sing and pray this Psalm, when we echo the cries of the crowds: “Hosanna (save us) O Lord! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”—we have our eyes on Jesus who saves us far more completely then the crowds could ever have imagined. Jesus saves us from sin and eternal death, a far deeper rescue than the crowds were hoping for, from the man they would have crowned king, but so quickly fell out of favor by the end of that same week. So let us all turn our eyes with focused attention to Jesus, who comes in the name of the Lord, and may our hearts and voices ever be filled with that great cry, “Hosanna! Save us Lord!” For the Lord is our strength and our song, and however dark our road, He has become our salvation!