Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sermon -- Palm Sunday (March 29, 2015)


In the name + of Jesus.

     St. Paul testifies that Jesus Christ is God.  He is in his very nature, his very essence, true God.  And though he is God from God, Light from Light, very God of very God, Jesus did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. (Philippians 2:6) 
     The many miraculous signs that Jesus did proclaim that this man is God.  Jesus did what only God can do.  Nevertheless, Jesus never did miracles for the sake of showing off.  Jesus did not gather crowds around him so that he could flaunt his divinity with his miracles.  Jesus’ divinity was not a prize to show off.  Whenever Jesus did a miracle, it was always an act of mercy.  The blind needed to see.  The lame needed to walk.  The demon-possessed man needed to be cleansed of the demon.  Because there was a need, Jesus had mercy and aided them in their need.
     Christ Jesus, …though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant… (Philippians 2:6-7)  Though he is the King of the Universe, Jesus humbled himself to be a servant.  He came to serve you.  He emptied himself of power, glory, and honor in order to serve sinners in their warped and wicked condition.  He even subjected himself to their charges, their fists, their scourging, and their courts in order to deliver man from his sins.
     Most of you have heard these things over and over again, year after year.  Perhaps you are so familiar with it that you believe Jesus did all this because you are worthy of it.  But the fact is, we still have our minds warped and depraved by our sins.  Thinking we are worthy of Jesus’ humbling himself is evidence of that.
     St. Paul began this section of the lesson saying, “Have this mind among yourselves….” (Philippians 2:5)  In order to see what mindset or attitude St. Paul is speaking about, we have to refer to the previous verses.  There, St. Paul wrote, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3,4)  Now we may feel this way about our family, but not about coworkers or neighbors or strangers.  We live as if most people are not worth our time, effort, and attention.  When we figure there is nothing to be gained from them, we view them as nothing but a drain on our resources.  How many times have we muttered under our breath, “Don’t bother me,” and “I hate people”?  Far from thinking that others are more significant than we are, we consider them a nuisance.  Far from humbly serving them, we work hard to shun them or to shoo them away.  We do not love our neighbor as ourselves.  We do not love our neighbor much at all.  Repent. 
     The mind and heart of our Lord is remarkably different from ours.  Jesus Christ did not consider it inconvenient to come and save us from our sins.  Nor did Jesus consider it beneath him to empty himself, to lower himself to the form of a slave, and to take on the form of man.  This is what love demanded.  This is what Jesus had to do to save us.  And so Jesus did it.  Jesus is your servant-King.
     Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to establish the kingdom of God.  But he did not come with a sword drawn and mighty armies marching in behind him.  Legions of angels would have been available to him, but he did not call on them.  He did not need them.  He mounted a donkey—and a borrowed one at that!  He entered Jerusalem in fulfillment of the Prophets.  He came in answer to the Psalms which cried out, “Hosanna!  Save us, Lord!”  To establish his kingdom, he did not march on the palace of Herod or Pilate, kick in the doors, and stage a coup.  Jesus entered Jerusalem to establish his kingdom not by slaughtering, but by being slain.  He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:8)
     Jesus is your servant-King.  He serves you in love because you have not served in love.  He serves you in all humility because you are lacking in proper humility.  He serves you by submitting to a cursed death so that your death will not be cursed.  Jesus submitted even to death on a cross.  It is not that he simply goes into Jerusalem to be struck down by one brutal blow of the sword.  No, he goes to a cross—a time-consuming, shameful, cursed death in which he was on public display for all to see.  God saw to it that these things were not done in secret.  Rather, Jesus was crucified for all to see so that all people can look to him, call upon him, and be saved by faith in him.
     Jesus is your servant-King.  He is most certainly a king, but he is no tyrant.  He is above all your servant and your Savior.  Jesus established his kingdom by dying.  He died for you.  His kingdom is for you.  All things are for you.  Jesus, who is in very nature God, humbled himself to serve for the salvation of sinful mankind.  He made himself nothing in order to give you everything.  Jesus is your servant-King.
     St. Paul continues our reading with a “Therefore.”  Whenever you see a “therefore” in Scripture, it is good to ask, “What is it there for?”  In this case, St. Paul’s “Therefore” highlights what Jesus Christ has won for his perfect obedience and for his obedient sacrifice.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him 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. (Philippians 2:9-11) 
     God has exalted Jesus to the highest place.  Jesus Christ has the most exalted name, boundless power, and unlimited authority.  Now, it is not shocking to us that God reigns.  We expect that.  But now it is man who has the highest place.  It is man who possesses all authority.  Jesus Christ, who became flesh to redeem us, has been exalted in his flesh so that he is no longer a lowly servant, but an almighty King.
     God was pleased to exalt Jesus to the highest place because Jesus has fulfilled the work of salvation God gave him to do.  God was pleased to exalt Jesus because Jesus had gone into death for you, but then conquered death for you.  God was pleased with Jesus’ payment for your sins, and therefore, you are forgiven.  So, even though Jesus has been exalted to the highest place, has boundless power, and possesses unlimited authority, he is still your servant-King.  Everything Jesus does with his almighty authority is done for you—for your forgiveness, for your salvation, for your eternal security.  Jesus Christ is above all your servant and your Savior.  Jesus is your servant-King who lives and reigns and intercedes for you so that your place in his kingdom is not iffy.  He still serves you so that you are saved and that you are safe.
     So, 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. (Philippians 2:10-11)  To be sure, everyone will one day acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord—whether in heaven, or on earth, or even in hell.  The damned will find no joy in bending their knees or confessing this truth, but they will have no choice.  Jesus Christ IS Lord. 
     Every knee will bend, and every tongue will confess.  This is to the Father’s glory, for he so loved the world that he sent Jesus to redeem us, and Jesus has done that.  Jesus is our servant-King.  And we find it to be our greatest joy to bow before him, to bend our knees in humble obedience, and to confess his name.  For, we know that he has come in answer to our Hosannas.  He has saved his people.  We bend before him because we are eager to receive good things from him.  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.  For, he has come to save—to the glory of his Father and for the good of his Church.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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