Date: April 18, 1943

When He was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? And the multitude said, This is Jesus, the Prophet of Nazareth of Galilee. And Jesus went into the Temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the Temple, and overthrew the tables of the money-changers and the seats of them that sold doves, and said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. And the blind and the lame came to Him in the Temple; and He healed them. And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did and the children crying in the Temple and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David! they were sore displeased and said unto Him, Hearest Thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings Thou hast perfected praise?Matthew 21:10-16

O Lord God of Grace and Truth:

Give us contrite, reverent hearts, so that we may worthily observe this Holy Week commemorating the torture, crucifixion, and death of Thy beloved Son, Jesus, our precious Redeemer! Take away from us every thought of pride and self-righteousness! Humble us, until we know that we are less than nothing but the crucified Savior is more than all we need for eternal life! Use this broadcast, heavenly Father, as a means of leading many to this faith! May they in sincerity and truth sing their hosannas to the Christ who would hold His holy entrance into their hearts! Let the men and women of our armed forces, in the South Pacific, North Africa, the Aleutians—wherever they are—find time and rest this day to behold the Palm Sunday Prince of Peace and join their prayers with ours, asking Thee, with whom nothing is impossible, to grant us blessed peace and Thy daily, divine protection! Thy will be done! Hosanna to the heavenly Savior! May He come into our hearts now! We ask it, O Father, by the promise of His atoning love. Amen.

LAST week when our troops in Tunisia entered Kairouan, holy city of the Mohammedans, they were welcomed with loud, almost hysterical acclaim, Civilians, finally freed from Axis rule, lined the streets, cheered themselves hoarse, showered tanks with flowers, and vied in inviting our troops to victory dinners. Altogether it was a scene of unbounded rejoicing.

Today we think of another holy city, Jerusalem, and of an altogether different triumphal march through its streets. Along the very roads on which Babylonian battalions, Alexander’s armies, Roman legions, had entered that Judean capital as crushing conquerors, we behold, on the first Palm Sunday, the most startling cavalcade the ancient city has ever witnessed, with thousands lining the way, waving palm branches, throwing their garments on the streets as carpets for the approaching Hero, shouting hosannas and hallelujahs. Were they, too, assembled to greet a mighty warrior and his victorious veterans? Not a single soldier marched in those columns; neither sword nor bow nor spear was seen; no chariot rumbled in their ranks. Instead, unarmed men, defenseless women, carefree children walked side by side. And the Leader? Never in His life did He fight on a battlefield nor seek power. On the contrary, He spurned the call to become an earthly king. He told His disciple, “Put up again thy sword into his place, for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword!” He wore no shield and shiny armor; He rode on no prancing steed; He had no battle cry; instead, the promise, “My peace I give unto you. . . . Let not your heart be troubled!” He dealt not with violence and might, but with grace and mercy, for He was “the Prince of Peace.”

Strangely enough, while that Palm Sunday entrance into Jerusalem—one of history’s most vital processions—attracted wide attention, many of the bystanders did not know the Prince of Peace. Because millions in our own country likewise have only a faulty, incomplete understanding of His person, power, and blessing, let us ask the Palm Sunday question:

WHO IS THIS PRINCE OF PEACE?

and find the answer in Saint Matthew (chapter twenty­one, verses ten and following) : “When He was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? And the multitude said, This is Jesus, the Prophet of Nazareth of Galilee. And Jesus went into the Temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the Temple, and overthrew the tables of the money­changers and the seats of them that sold doves, and said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. And the blind and the lame came to Him in the Temple; and He healed them. And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did and the children crying in the Temple and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David! they were sore displeased and said unto Him, Hearest Thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings Thou hast perfected praise?”

I

HE IS THE DIVINE SAVIOR

“‘Who is this’ Prince of Peace?” When the Palm Sunday crowds at Jerusalem answered the question by stating, “This is Jesus, the Prophet of Nazareth of Galilee,” they were right, and they were wrong: right, because Jesus was a Prophet who did come from Nazareth in Galilee, despised though it was; and wrong, because He was far more. This error, the same belittling Christ and minimizing His greatness, is repeated today. It will require only slight effort to convince even unbelievers that Jesus was an outstanding Figure. Scoffers have often paid Him tribute. In 1877, when Robert Ingersoll made an extended speaking tour of the Pacific Coast, night after night he received huge fees for blaspheming the Bible, ridiculing our religion, heaping sarcasm on the Savior. At Portland he met a missionary to the Chinook Indians and began to debate with him the wisdom of devoting an entire life to the hopeless task of teaching a vanishing Indian tribe what he called “the questionable statements of the Gospel.” In simple, courageous answer the missionary explained the hardships of his work, but also his joy in bringing Christ to spiritually neglected natives. When they parted, Ingersoll, agnostic, enemy of Christ, pressed a twenty-dollar gold piece into the missionary’s hand with the remark: “It’s good work you are doing! It’s good work!”

However, to praise Jesus and exalt His work is not enough. We must call Him more than “Master.” We must go farther than say, “He is the greatest Man in all centuries.” We must go all the way and declare in firm faith, “This Jesus, as He rides into Jerusalem, meek and lowly, is my Lord and God, the Sovereign of my soul.”

No one less than God Himself can satisfy the desires of your soul. You need assurance above the possibility of error. You must have a sure Word of promise and hope which not only will make no mistake, but that has the power, the ability, the resources, to help you through those difficulties in which all human agencies collapse—the questionings of a disturbed soul, the accusation of many sins, the protest of an aroused conscience, the plea of your distress: “Who can show me the truth? Who can save me?”—Here in Christ is the answer, comfort, power you seek; for, as His Word testifies, as His miracles prove, He is the Lord of heaven and earth, your God of glory!

Yet this Palm Sunday Prince of Peace is more. Though His countrymen refused to see the Old Testament prophecies fulfilled in Jesus, He is the Messiah, the Christ, the anointed Redeemer, the suffering Servant of Jehovah, concerning whom Isaiah, seven centuries previously, had written, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed.” Unless you are ready to welcome Jesus into your heart as the Son of God and the Savior who atoned for your sins, washed away their stains with His blood, paid for their guilt on the cross, you do not know Christ, though you preach Him from a pulpit.

Even if you do declare, “Jesus is the Savior,” there is still this one step to take: you must be able to say, “Jesus is my Savior.” On no Sunday during the entire year should you realize more personally that Christ died for you than on this Palm Sunday, when you behold Him resolutely riding into the city which in a few days will nail Him to the cross.

Recently a book appeared entitled, Who Crucified Jesus? It was written by a professor at Dropsie College, Philadelphia, and Yeshiva College, New York, who repeats the ancient claim that the Savior’s countrymen are not responsible for His crucifixion. He insists that Pontius Pilate and the Roman authorities are to blame; that Christ was condemned for a political crime, as a rebel against the government. All this, however, is contradicted by the record of the four Gospels and the Epistles. True, Pilate had to go through the formality of issuing the death warrant; but, humanly speaking, had it not been for the deep-rooted hatred in the hearts of the Jerusalem citizens, Jesus never would have been sent to Calvary. The Jews of His day planned His destruction long before the first Good Friday. His own priests and church officials conducted the illegal hearings, incited the masses, bought the perjured witnesses, falsely charged Jesus, and systematically sought to kill Him. His own nation’s leaders blocked Pilate, who, convinced of Christ’s guiltlessness, sought to liberate Him and dismiss all charges. No; history is too clear, outspoken, unmistakable: those in the first instance responsible for the Savior’s death are His own countrymen.

You and I cannot understand the real meaning of the crucifixion unless we know, believe, and confess that our sins sent Jesus to Golgotha; that our transgressions helped nail Him to the cross; that our guilt made Him suffer agony, unfathomable and indescribable. Each one of us must gaze up to our crucified God and Savior and declare with a crushed and contrite spirit: “O Jesus, my sins brought You this unspeakable misery. My iniquities nailed You to the cross. My transgressions made You groan in agony. My wickedness made You gasp in feverish thirst. My guilt made Your head drop in death.” The hymn in your heart and on your lips every week, but this week especially, should be:

It was for me

He died upon the tree.

With this contrite confession you will be able to receive Jesus in truth as the Prince of Peace. You will read radiant promises like this: “He ‘made peace through the blood of His cross’”; or, “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God”; or, once more, Jesus’ own unbreakable pledge: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid”; and in a world of bursting bombs, whistling shrapnel, screaming sirens, and moaning agony you, kneeling at Calvary, can have peace, “perfect peace,” with your God, with your own conscience, with your fellow men. More: by the Spirit’s help you can bring that peace into our peace-robbed age.

II

HE IS THE CLEANSER OF HIS CHURCH

“‘Who is this’ Prince of Peace?” He also proved Himself the Cleanser of His Church. After Jesus had triumphantly entered the city, He went immediately into the Temple. What a necessary example for every one of us! Today the feeling is widespread, even in religious circles, that it is not necessary to join a true church. People think they can worship at home, outdoors, amid the marvels of unfolding nature. They can; but they must do more! When the Apostles preached the message of the crucified Savior, they founded congregations almost everywhere they traveled; and it was the Almighty’s will, expressed in His own Book, that the believers should not forsake those assemblies. If Jesus customarily went to the synagogue, we ought to attend His church. He Himself said, “Blessed are they that hear the Word of God.” If you want the blessing of regular instruction in God’s Word, the privilege of Holy Communion, and your share in extending the Savior’s kingdom, join a true church! Attend regularly and support it! Radio messages like these are not enough. Your private study of Scripture is not enough. Your own devotional reading is not enough. Do what Jesus did when, soon after entering Jerusalem, without waiting for the Sabbath, He headed straight for the Temple!—On Palm Sunday years ago many of you pledged yourselves to Him and His Church, promising to remain faithful even through the pains of death. Yet today you are without Christ. What a glorious day for you to return to your Redeemer, His Church and the joy of your salvation!

Some of you say: “My Church has lost its power and blessing. The congregations in my town are worldly.” Don’t let that stop you! The Temple in Jesus’ day was defiled with vile abominations; yet that did not keep Jesus away. We read that the meek, loving Prince of Peace “went into the Temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the Temple, and overthrew the tables of the money-changers and the seats of them that sold doves, and said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” When our Lord saw religious racketeers making money within God’s sanctuary, profiteering for the priests, since they demanded their share of the gains; when He knew that this buying and selling was rife with fraud, lying, and dishonesty, so that “the house of prayer” had become “a den of thieves,” He was seized by holy indignation and drove every one of those temple merchants away, silencing the noise of their bargaining.

Jesus could serve as the Cleanser of His church, for He was Lord of that sanctuary. While we are in no way authorized to use force, we, too, must be ready to act in preserving our sanctuaries as houses of prayer to the true God. How tragic that many churches today similarly stand exposed for engaging in money-making projects which transgress both the civil and sacred law, feature gambling, worldly attractions, indecent shows.

All this is bad enough and calls for protest, repeated and earnest; yet even worse is the dishonesty practiced by the present-day priest, Pharisee, and Sadducee—the cunning denial of the saving Gospel, the modern misrepresentation of the cross. At the time when our country as never before needs outspoken emphasis on Christ’s cleansing blood, His atoning death, His life-giving resurrection, men arise—they sound smooth and attractive, to some they sound convincing—and claim that to enter the kingdom of God, we must enter a new sphere of living, we must keep faith in ourselves, faith in the upward march of mankind. Only by living in harmony with the universe, they tell us, can our unconquerable spirit sail through today’s difficulties. Not once is Christ conceded to be God. Not once are sinners told to lay their guilt on Him. Not once is the Cross preached as proof of our Savior’s substitutionary suffering in our behalf.

Last week a perplexed listener in Fostoria, Michigan, sent me the summary of a radio address delivered by a man called “America’s greatest Christian.” Contrasting that modernist’s message with ours, he wrote me: “I am convinced of this: You are a liar or else this other preacher is a liar. Either you are a fool, or he is.” And he concluded: “I am miserable. I am sinful. I am helpless. Oh, that I had the peace I long for!” A few days after he sent that letter, the Holy Spirit touched his heart and he now said: “Like old Bartimaeus, at last I see. In profound and humble gratitude I thank God that in Jesus’ blood my sins are forgiven and my eyes are opened. No ‘upward march of mankind,’ no ‘moral philosophy,’ no ‘world understanding,’ no ‘faith in man’s unconquerable soul,’ can ever atone for my sins that cry to high heaven. Only Christ can, and not a mere manmade Christ who is only a splendid example to follow, not a mere manmade Christ who shows me how to take up my cross and earn heaven by my picking it up, not a mere manmade Christ who lived in harmony with the universe and showed us how to live in communion with nature! No! No! Only Christ who is both God and man could redeem me—only Christ, who was crucified by my sins!” Thank God, we say, for this enlightenment; but pray God to stop every perverter of His truth! It was criminal for those Jerusalem temple merchants to rob people of their money; it is doubly damnable, however, for modern pulpit pirates to rob hearers of their soul’s salvation.

This was the second time Jesus had cleansed the Temple. Three years previously He had similarly driven away the profiteers; now the sanctuary had to be purged again. Once, before our own generation, God purified the churches in Martin Luther’s mighty Reformation. That was four centuries ago, and four hundred years is a long time, too long for men to keep their desecrating hands off Christ’s truth. The day for another reformation has dawned. Churches must drop the search for wealth, power, money, pomp, privilege, and seek faith, humility, and service. They must go all out for Christ, as the sole but sure Savior of mankind. The pulpit must ring with 100-percent loyalty to Scripture, not with denial, double talk, deception.

III

HE IS THE HELPER OF THE HELPLESS

“‘Who is this’ Prince of Peace?” There in the Temple our Lord gave us another answer, for He showed Himself the Helper of the helpless. When the news spread that Jesus of Nazareth had come to the Temple, large numbers of “the blind and the lame came to Him”; and though torture, crucifixion, and death were only a few days away, the Savior, instead of remaining engrossed in the thoughts of His suffering, took time to heal everyone brought to Him.

“If only Christ were with us today to continue that healing ministry!” you, the sick and sufferers, are saying. Our Prince of Peace is still with us—not bodily, to lay His hands on the wounded in war, on those bruised in life’s battles, but spiritually, so that, not confined to one place, He can bless His children over all the world. He who has never made a mistake nor uttered an unfulfilled promise assures us, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world!” Build your hope on that pledge! Let it comfort you! Believe that the same Jesus is personally, directly, sympathetically concerned with every sorrow which may overtake His followers! Often in the history of proud empires have the sickly, lame, disfigured, blind, been removed from the road along which the procession of a mighty king or haughty queen took its course. Only the strong, healthy, robust, were to be seen by these monarchs. How utterly different our compassionate Christ! Read the record of His Gospels, and you will see that He spent more time with the sick and bereaved than with any other group!

Believe also that the same Savior who touched those sightless eyes and made them see, laid His hands on those withered, paralyzed, broken limbs and infused them with life and strength, can still heal. Every Christian doctor throughout the land knows that often when medicine and treatment fail, the Almighty succeeds; that men and women are snatched from the edge of death by direct, divine aid. Therefore, whatever the burdens of your bodily weakness and physical pain may be; however heavy the sorrows of war’s bereavement or sudden death; whenever your spiritual worries seem overpowering—and this week again brought those agonized pleas asking: “Can Jesus forgive my shocking, terrifying transgressions? Is there any hope for me with all my evil thoughts against God? Have I committed the sin against the Holy Ghost?”—take it all to Christ, and because He is your God and Savior, He will help you in every earthly sorrow! He may not heal your body, for such healing would not advance your soul’s welfare; but He will always—and this is a thousand times more important—heal your soul and sanctify your suffering. He will fortify you with courage to meet the most distressing reverses, even death notices from the battle front. He will put sympathy for others into your heart. Above all, He will make the days of your affliction a time of spiritual triumph by bringing you closer to God, making you lean wholly on Christ, rely entirely on the Spirit’s guidance.

Therefore on this Palm Sunday, which marks the beginning of our Lord’s last week of earthly life, I appeal to you, the blind in the United States, the victims of paralysis, the 2,000,000 on the nation’s sick list, the thousands of wounded who have been returned to military and naval hospitals in our country or who hear these words beyond our boundaries: in every darkened hour, when you are threatened with despair, when you deny that life is worth the agonies you have suffered, bring all your anguish to our sin-removing, grace-bestowing Christ! Did He ever refuse to receive any racked, tormented soul? His promise is, “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.” Approach Him now, just as you are, and the Prince of Peace will come into your life with an entrance much more blessed even than that Palm Sunday procession. He will give you heaven-sent, heaven-directed assurance, by which you can join the afflicted, persecuted Apostle in saying, “I know that this shall turn to my salvation.”

IV

HE IS THE CHAMPION OF CHILDHOOD

“‘Who is this’ Palm Sunday Prince of Peace?” He is also the Champion of childhood. While Jesus was healing the sick in the Temple, the children gathered about Him and sang in happy voices, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” With childlike simplicity those boys and girls believed the Lord was truly the promised Messiah, and joyfully their praise rang through the Temple. The jealous priests and envious scribes were enraged; but when they demanded of Jesus, “Hearest Thou what these say?” He answered: “Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings Thou hast perfected praise?” If those proud churchmen really knew their Bible, so our Lord implied, they would have understood the Eighth Psalm’s prediction that God uses even babes and nursing children for His praise and mighty purposes.

You see, then, our blessed Savior is earnestly concerned about receiving the acclaim of our American children. As the youth in Jerusalem sang, “Hosanna”—that means literally “save” us—so the youth in the United States should plead, “‘Hosanna’—save us, Jesus!” Tragically, however, the average American child spends more time in clay modeling, basketry, and sand play than in the study of God’s Word. A typical boy or girl in our country knows more about crime, the underworld, international spies, than about Christ. Even our high-school and college youth are woefully misinformed in religious matters. Recently 7,000 students in thirty-six colleges and universities were given a comprehensive examination in United States history. Twenty-five percent of them did not know that Abraham Lincoln was President during the Civil War. Thomas Jefferson, the 200th anniversary of whose birth was observed last week, was called a Salvation Army worker. Alexander Hamilton was described as a watchmaker. Theodore Roosevelt was identified as the man who helped free Texas. This is dangerous ignorance. Far more appalling, however, is the lack of spiritual understanding. Our young people should know that this land was colonized quite largely by men and women who came to spread the Gospel on our shores. They should recall that America’s foundation is not atheistic, agnostic, but positively Christian. They should feel that for our nation’s future we need, above all, a return to God in Jesus, a reaffirmation of these early American ideals.

Instead, however, many young people are not only growing up without any understanding of the Savior, the Bible, and the Church, but their minds are also being poisoned by hideous unbelief. Last week, in Detroit, the faculty of Wayne University, a public, tax-supported school, invited an outspoken infidel—the man whose poem, “Good-by, Christ,” I mentioned some time ago—to read his writings before the student body. If you parents knew the filth, the savagery, and the brutal attacks on God and His Son which this man has put into his verses, you would seriously wonder how in the name of common sense and ordinary decency educators, whose salaries are paid largely by Christian citizens, would ever dare feature such blasphemy. One of those college girls read aloud that satanic poem, “Good-by, Christ,” and sneeringly told the courageous women picketing the meeting to mind their own business. Another co-ed declared publicly that she would kill her mother if she ever caught her picketing for the Bible. But here is the worst! Some of you will not want to believe this, yet I have it black on white in one of his own books: this atheist, this infidel, who speaks of God having a hemorrhage, who mentions spitoons on church altars, received a literary reward of $400.00 and a gold medal from the Federated Council of Churches! Talk about the high priests giving Judas thirty pieces of silver for betraying his Lord!

Is it any wonder that crime, vice, and wickedness among juveniles has reached an altogether shocking height? J. Edgar Hoover, head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, reports that last year the arrests of girls under twenty-one increased 55 percent and immorality jumped 104 percent.

This neglect of children is America’s most menacing danger for the future. Our youth must be won for Christ today if we are to stave off tomorrow’s disaster. We must return to the early Colonial ideals. They had no million-dollar school plants, gymnasiums, cafeterias, playgrounds, swimming pools, these pioneer settlers; indeed, they were often thankful if they could conduct school in a log cabin; but despite their primitive poverty they kept Christ in culture. Let me read you this summary by an educational expert: “Everywhere and at all times in the Colonial period the religious element was prominent in the schools. The Psalter and Testament were used as textbooks, the primers were filled with religious ideas. Every school taught the catechism.” We likewise must be ready to give our Christian children Scripture-grounded training, for what is a nation profited if its youth can answer quiz questions, but not soul questions; if its boys and girls are clever and cunning, but not obedient and truthful?

Once again, I offer our American families a practical help. My Church conducts hundreds of Christian day schools throughout the country, where children are taught to sing hosannas to the coming Christ—schools noted for their sound secular training, but especially for the solid, spiritual life-foundation they build. They are open to your little ones. Let me tell you how your son or daughter can be enrolled without charge to learn daily the most sacred of all truths, the Bible record of God’s love in Christ!

Before this Palm Sunday ends, I ask, “What does this Prince of Peace mean to you?” Can you begin this week, commemorating His captivity, torture, and death, with the same neglect of your Redeemer that has marked every previous week of your life? Can you hear Him cry from the cross, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” and turn away unmoved? Are you one of those who acclaimed Jesus in momentary fervor, but disclaimed Him in some crisis, like these palm branch wavers and hosanna singers who soon became His enemies? He will return, no longer in meekness and humility, but with heavenly power to judge the world and take His children home to heaven. The signs with which He foretold His second coming are being fulfilled, particularly in widespread warfare. The world fire lighted in 1914 and again in 1939 may never be put out. World War III may soon follow if bungling diplomats keep Christ from the peace table.

When Jesus returns—or when you face Him in eternity—will you be ready to meet Him? It will be too late in the crash and flash of His coming for you to repent suddenly. Acclaim Him now! It will be too late to accept Him when you meet Him face to face in eternity’s Judgment. “It is appointed unto men once to die,” the Savior warns, “after this the Judgment.” Receive Him as your Redeemer now!

With all the insecurity of life today, the plea to acknowledge Jesus is direct and urgent. On Friday, Saint Louis lost one of its Christian physicians, a man in the prime of life, who without any previous warning whatever died in a few short seconds, while treating a patient. That beloved physician was prepared for his departure. Are you? Can you face the holy God if today or tomorrow death’s skeletal hand reaches out for you? There is only one way by which you can remain ready—by clinging to the Lord Jesus as your own, everlasting Savior! Then, though the way of your salvation be through sorrow and searing pain, it will bring you into the radiance of the new Jerusalem! May we all be found in the sacred assembly which Saint John was privileged to behold: “Lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations and kindreds and people and tongues stood before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God, which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb!” Grant us, O Father, through faith in our crucified Savior, that we join the angels around that throne and sing in exalted strains, “Amen: blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be unto our God forever and ever” through Jesus Christ! Amen.

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.