PALM/PASSION SUNDAY – April 9, 2018

SCRIPTURES – Zechariah 9:9-10; Philippians 2:5-11; Matthew 21:1-11 

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in very form God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Phil. 2:5-8

 

Well, Palm Sunday this year is not as glorious as usual. We usually begin the Divine Service outside, among the blooming flowers and bright sunshine and singing birds. If we began outside this year we’d be pulling our coats tight to protect us from the cold and gazing upon the few remaining piles of dirty snow from our latest Nor’easter. Forget that! Of course, even when we do begin outside we’re only “playing,” getting the smallest taste of what it was like on that day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and was greeted by the joyous cries of the people. Boy, He sure attracted crowds that day! I suppose some things haven’t changed. Churches also draw many more people on this day and on Easter. The glory of exciting news and joyful music and inspirational customs and bright new clothes and a dynamic, powerful Savior is attractive, isn’t it?

Yes, it is; but this is man’s glory. It’s inspired by God, of course, and it is fitting that we honor our Savior with joyful music and inspirational customs and even bright, beautiful clothing. But they are not the glory of Christ and of His Father. To prefer them and so come to church on just these Sunday’s while ignoring most of the others is like going to the Super Bowl and seeing just the halftime show. You miss the main point, the reason why the other things exist. You miss Christ and His glory!

Do you remember the request we heard last Sunday from James and John? “Teacher, grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” They were completely off base with their request because they completely misunderstood Jesus’ glory. Don’t be like them and miss it yourself by focusing on what is most appealing and seems glorious to you!

What is Jesus’ glory? The glory that, “though He was in very form God, He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil. 2) Listen to your Savior, for He tells you Himself that His glory is His suffering and death! Right after Judas left the upper room where Jesus was celebrating the Passover with His disciples and went to betray Him, Jesus told the others, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.” (John 13:31) He entered into His glory when He was arrested, tried, sentenced to death and nailed to a cross. Those who were at His right and His left in His glory were the two criminals who were crucified alongside Him. His humbling Himself to endure a terrible suffering and death appears very ugly and horrible, but it was truly glorious, for by it He rescued us from the death and hell we deserve for our sins.

Do you see Christ’s suffering and death as glorious, as Christ’s glory? Listen to our father in the faith, Martin Luther:

“There is no greater bondage than that of sin; and there is no greater service than that displayed by the Son of God, who becomes the servant of all, no matter how poor, wretched, or despised they may be, and bears their sins. It would be spectacular and amazing, prompting all the world to open eyes and ears in uncomprehending wonderment, if some king’s son were to appear in a beggar’s home to nurse him in his illness, wash off his filth, and do everything else the beggar would have to do. Would this not be profound humility? Any spectator or beneficiary of this honor would feel impelled to admit that he had seen or experienced something unusual and extraordinary, something magnificent. But what is a king or emperor compared with the Son of God? Furthermore, what is a beggar’s filth or stench compared with the filth of sin which is ours by nature, stinking a hundred thousand times worse and looking infinitely more repulsive to God than any foul matter found in a hospital? And yet the love of the Son of God for us is of such magnitude that the greater the filth and stench of our sins, the more He befriends us, the more He cleanses us, relieving us of all our misery and of the burden of all our sins and placing them upon His own back. All the holiness of [men] stinks in comparison with this service of Christ, the fact that the beloved Lamb, the great Man, yes, the Son of the Exalted Majesty, descends from heaven to serve [us].” (LW 22:166)

 

Jesus also glorified His Father when He took upon Himself the sins of the world – including your sins and my sins – and was nailed to a cross to be punished for them. By His incredible sacrifice He showed His Father to be unlike every other so-called god.

Ø  Some believe the greatness of God is seen in His punishing of the sinful and rewarding of the good. The Islamic terrorist cries out “God is great!” as he attacks and kills people. Thankfully, few are motivated to do this. But, that God will above all reward the good and punish the evil is the focus of many religions.

Ø  Some proclaim a god of mercy who will forgive sinners who try to change their lives and do better. Still, the burden is on you to change, to improve and earn God’s mercy.

Our God shows His glory by the cross. He has highly exalted His Son for humbling Himself to become a servant, for bearing the sins of all people and giving His own life to pay for them, even though He had done no wrong. In Jesus on the cross we see God to be a Father and Savior for sinners. It is on His crucified Son that God has bestowed “the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

One of the criminals who was crucified with Him came to see this glory. Although at first both he and the other criminal reviled Jesus, Jesus’ humble acceptance of His cross and forgiveness for His persecutors changed him. He then rebuked the other man, confessed their punishment to be deserved but not Jesus’, and then said to Him, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He heard Jesus say to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Glorify your Savior by being like that criminal; not in his sin, but in his confession. We do indeed deserve to be punished by God for our sins. We are the sinners, not Jesus. But God has shown us great mercy and love by putting our sins on His Son and punishing Him, and not us, for them. In Christ crucified we are declared forgiven and free, and even recipients of eternal life! Humbly worship the crucified Jesus and confess His worthiness, and not your own. Show forth His glory, and that of God your Father, by doing as Jesus did: humbling yourself before others, even those who revile you and sin against you, and dealing mercifully with them. Be to them as Jesus is to you. “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” – to the glory of God the Father, who “so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) Amen.