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Palm/Passion Sunday–“Passion” (Luke 23:1-56)

C-42 Palm SundayGrace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

In order to get a glimpse of Luke’s account of Jesus’ crucifixion, one only needs to watch “The Passion of the Christ.” While the movie is not fully accurate, it describes the scene that Luke records for us today. The movie focuses more on the beating and torture of Christ, but not why Christ was beaten and tortured. Since death entered the world, it was no longer “good” as God had once declared it. Something had to happen in order for it to become “good” again and that’s where Jesus’ Passion comes into play.

As we have seen throughout this Lenten season, we have a world that is completely infested with sin with no human cure available. The only cure to sin must be a divine cure, and so we have Jesus, who comes as the divine cure to creation’s problem with sin and death.

Days before His crucifixion, the people sat in the temple, listening to the words of Jesus. Perhaps they thought of Him as the Messiah, maybe someone who would set them free from Roman rule. And when asked the question, “Are you the King of the Jews?”, answering anything other than “no” would surely mean death. But death was what was necessary to remove death. It would require death of the innocent to ride death from the guilty, guilty because of a crafty serpent asking if God really meant what He said.

Throughout the beatings and sneering and false statements against Him, Christ was the King. His being king is correct on levels, though they would only have acknowledged one at best. Christ is the King of creation. Everything is under His authority. This fact they would not acknowledge because there was only one king and his name was Caesar. Any king other than Caesar had to be silenced. The rulers of the people, to put down the perversion of Christ and His teaching, saw one mean to do it – death.

To return to Pilate’s question about kingship, Jesus’ answer was simple: “You have said so.” Christ is indeed the King of the Jews. He is the King of the Gentiles. He is the King of the Romans. He is the king of all who believe in Him. He is the King of creation. There was one thing that this King brought that no other king ever could: forgiveness. Paying taxes to Caesar did not bring forgiveness. Roman citizenship did not bring forgiveness. Simply being a Jew did not bring forgiveness. Forgiveness is the gift of God by grace through faith in Christ Jesus.

When the waters of Holy Baptism hit our heads, we were marked as a child of God. Forgiveness comes only through Christ and from no one or nothing else. He plainly says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Faith in anything other than Christ is futile, for it was His body and blood, pierced and broken on Calvary’s cross that defeated death and nothing else.

Time and time again in their mockery did they tell Christ to save Himself. “He saved others; let him save himself.” “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself!” All of them are mockeries of Christ and the salvation from death that He brought with Him. Maybe the greatest bit of mockery was the sign above Christ’s head, “This is the King of the Jews.” Not only does this mock Christ, but also the Jewish people as a whole. It says that if you want a king besides Caesar, here He is, a pathetic man dying on a cross. It mocks the divinity of Christ, His triumph over death and the belief of the people worked by the Holy Spirit. What they failed to realize is that Christ needed no saving because it was He that came to do the saving.

One person, a criminal being crucified alongside Jesus, saw Christ for what He was – innocent. His words were plain, but spoke volumes: “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” While he may have been speaking strictly because they were criminals, his words apply to creation as a whole. We were receiving what our deeds deserved: death. Death came with Adam and Eve but with death came the promise of a Savior.

Death was not meant to be in the equation. It was an unknown variable that set creation spinning a way that it was not meant for it to spin. Through Christ, Satan was defeated and death removed, though we still feel the effects of death.

All of creation is guilty and thus unable to do anything about it. Christ, the only innocent, took the guilt upon Himself in order to make creation innocent.

In the last moments of Christ’s life, the world around Him began to change. The Creator, who took on flesh and was born into creation, is at this moment of death, bringing in new and eternal life, a new creation. With the curtain of the temple torn, it symbolized the completion of Christ’s victory over death, therefore allowing Jesus to commit His spirit into the hands of the Father.

The death of Christ marked the end of creation as we know it. Sin and death no longer have dominion over creation. Satan lost the keys to creation which he wrongfully stole from God through sin. No intercessions by the priests were needed because the greatest intercession was made. No more animals needed to be sacrificed because the sacrificial Lamb was offered. When Christ uttered the words, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”, He signified that His work was finished, once and for all. Nothing could undo what had just been done.

Through the life of Christ and His Passion, we have received life – life that came at an expense – the death of Christ. The King of the Jews, who “humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross,” died so that all of creation would be reborn in Him, purged from death and made “good” in the eyes of God. This was the way that creation was meant to be and what took place at our Lord’s Passion was necessary for creation to be restored. Today is not a time to focus on the brutality of Christ’s death or death itself, but to focus on what that death brought about – the dying of death and a restored creation. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2013 in Lent, Palm Sunday, Sermons

 

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Palm Sunday–“Hosanna!” (John 12:12-19)

B-41 Palm Sunday (Jn 12.12-19)Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Palm Sunday Procession from John 12:12-19.

The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”

His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.” Here ends our text.

Today marks the beginning of Holy Week. The city of Jerusalem is abuzz with the preparations for the Feast of the Passover, a celebration in remembrance of what God had done for His people when they were slaves in Egypt. As Moses tried to get Pharaoh to release God’s people, Pharaoh would agree to their release, only to have his heart hardened. God had sent a series of plagues to make Pharaoh release the Israelites, only to have the whole ordeal repeat itself. Finally, God unleashed the tenth and final plague: the death of the firstborn. The Israelites were instructed to mark the doorposts of their homes with the blood of a spring lamb and, upon seeing this, the Spirit of the Lord passed over these homes.

On Friday, Jesus had arrived at Bethany. As John records for us, “When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.” Needless to say, there was quite of following on account of Jesus and what He had done raising Lazarus from the dead. The news had spread that Jesus was in Bethany and large numbers of people headed there to see Him. With the pilgrims in Jerusalem getting ready for the Passover, it wasn’t long before a great crowd had gathered. Besides that, their curiosity was doubly piqued, since they could also see Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.

As Jesus made His way from Bethany to Jerusalem, not only did you have the usual traffic of people going there for the Passover Feast, but you also had the crowd following Jesus. As Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, there was a different feeling in the air. The people began to do something that they normally had not done upon entering Jerusalem: they begun to have a palm procession. This wasn’t just any palm procession that they were having; this procession was for Jesus. They cut palm branches and went out to meet Jesus. They received Him as their king, as the Jewish leaders feared they might.

The people had just one simple message they were shouting: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” But what was it exactly were they saying? Hosanna, “save, I pray.” This psalm was one that was sung as part of the Passover feast. Jews sang it when the Passover lambs were sacrificed. Now, they sung it for their Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, on His way to be their sacrifice. But they weren’t thinking of sacrifice. They received Jesus as heavenly royalty, Israel’s King.

As they were preparing to celebrate the Passover feast, they didn’t even know that their own Passover Lamb was coming to be sacrificed for them. Today, you celebrate your Passover Lamb coming to be slaughtered for your sins.

For you, Jesus had set His face toward Jerusalem. He had an appointment that only He could keep: He had an appointment with the cross. He had come from Galilee preaching and teaching with healing as He went, but ultimately, Jerusalem was the goal of His journey. This sets in motion everything that was going to take place during the week: His betrayal, His arrest, His mock trial, His crucifixion, and ultimately, His resurrection. Everything that was going to take place began with this one moment – His triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

Most of the people who were gathered there that day had no idea what was taking place when Jesus entered Jerusalem, what it meant to them personally. Jesus had taught them that the definition of the Christ is to suffer, die, and rise from the dead on the third day, and yet, they still missed what was taking place here.

Do you understand what is going on here or are you missing it as well? This is meant for you. Here comes your Passover Lamb, to make death pass over you and earn for you everlasting life. This Lamb goes forth uncomplaining, doing the task by which He has been sent: to bring about the salvation for God’s creation. Unlike every other lamb that was brought to the slaughter for the Passover, Jesus Christ not only died to purge from you your sins, He also rose for you as well. He rose triumphant for you, to proclaim your victory over sin, death, and the devil, once and for all. He has opened heaven for all mankind by His blood shed on the cross.

As John records for us,His disciples did not understand these things at first….” Truth be told, the disciples weren’t alone in not understanding what was going on as Jesus entered. The people were shouting “Hosanna!” but didn’t know why they were shouting it. Nonetheless, it doesn’t take away the reason why they were shouting it. They needed to shout it, just as we need to shout it even today. This is the very reason that He came, was crucified, died, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven to occupy His kingdom. By His blood and Holy Spirit, He has swept us clean of all filth, so that all who believe in Him are righteous and blessed, and will someday pass through temporal death into His heavenly kingdom.

It is interesting to note what the Pharisees say to one another: “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.” It might have been true at the moment, but would we agree that it is true today? Does the world really go after Jesus or does the world go after something or someone else? Does the world find its salvation in the cross of Christ or is salvation found somewhere else? Maybe a better question to ask is this: do you go after Jesus or do you go after something or someone else? We might find temporary comfort in what this world has to offer, but the comfort that this world gives is fleeting at best. It is here today but gone tomorrow. What Christ has done for you was here yesterday, it is here today, and it will be here tomorrow. The gift of salvation won for you by Jesus Christ on the cross was here yesterday, here today, and will be here tomorrow. We cannot say the same about the false comfort that we receive from the world.

Jesus would fulfill every sacrifice that God had demanded. He would live a sinless life as the Lamb without blemish. He would die the death that was meant for us; a death filled with suffering and eternal separation from God. Instead, we reap from His death on the cross. He gives to us His righteousness in exchange for our sins. It is no coincidence that in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, we recite the words of Palm Sunday, singing, “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord. Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest.” You and I can be thankful that Jesus has gone to Jerusalem to pour out His life, for by this He has forgiven our debt to God and set us free. May we forever sing, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2012 in Palm Sunday

 

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Palm Sunday and Sunday of the Passion

A-38 Palm Sunday (Jn 12.12-29)Almighty and everlasting God, You sent Your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, to take upon Himself our flesh and to suffer death upon the cross. Mercifully grant that we may follow the example of His great humility and patience and be made partakers of His resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Readings

Isaiah 50:4-9a
Philippians 2:5-11
Matthew 27:11-66

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2011 in Lent

 

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