Sunday, April 5, 2020

Sermon -- 6th Sunday in Lent: Palm Sunday (April 5, 2020)

MATTHEW 21:1-11


In the name + of Jesus.

      When Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, he was greeted as both a prophet and a king.  The crowds confessed with their words: “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” (Matthew 21:11)  The crowds testified by their actions: “Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.” (Matthew 21:8)  For not even the king's mount should touch the ground.  The best and greatest statement they made, however, was the refrain which was commonly heard at the Passover: “Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9)  
     The crowds were spot-on with their song of praise.  “Hosanna to the Son of David!”  While it was true of his genealogy, it was uniquely true of his Messianic office.  He is the Son of David and he is the King of Israel.  “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”  He was sent by his Father for the benefit of his people.  He is the Lord, and he comes to do the work of the Lord.  Hosanna!  “Lord, save us now!”  If they call upon him to save, then he is also a Savior.  All of these things were true, and true only of Jesus.
     Blessed he is who comes to save!  It was the cry of many people who were in Jerusalem on that Palm Sunday.  It is still the cry of many people today.  “Blessed is he who comes to save!”  But the question is this: saved from what?
     What do you want to be saved from?  COVID-19 rises to the top of the list these days.  We want ourselves and our loved ones spared from this highly contagious virus, especially since it endangers lives.  The medical staff who are dealing with this every day describe what a horrible death is brings.  And the COVID-19 virus is having residual effects on our lives as well.  Feelings of isolation and loneliness have been increased exponentially.  God designed us to have contact with other people.  When God says, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” that suggests that you will deal with others.  If that is cut off, loneliness sets in.  If someone is already struggling with depression, this only makes it worse.  Temptations for suicide become more intense.  Perhaps you have been laid off from work, or fear you will be soon.  Even if work stops, bills don't.  So we have the stress of running low on money.  All of these are problems you may wish to be saved from.  And who can blame you?  No one enjoys problems. 
     But all our problems are merely symptoms.  They all result from the fact that this is a corrupt world.  Even the creation desires to be set free from this corruption.  St. Paul writes to the Romans: “The creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption.” (Romans 8:19-21)  COVID-19, poverty, stress, depression, and death do not happen in a perfect world.  Our Lord taught us to pray, “Deliver us from evil,” for a reason.
     But if this is all you long to be saved from, you will find Jesus to be a very disappointing Savior indeed.  You my long to be saved from COVID-19, a thin wallet, loneliness, or the loss of employment, but these are short-term problems.  What if Jesus had you win the lottery?  What if Jesus miraculously emptied the hospitals?  What if Jesus got you your dream job and delivered all kinds of friends to you?  If that is all you want, then you will find Jesus useless.
     Blessed is he who comes to save.  Jesus comes in the name of the Lord to do what his Father sent him to do.  And it was not to make you rich, to provide health, to win you friends, or to produce an economy to guarantee jobs for everyone who wants one.  Politicians promise that.  We vote for the ones who sound the best making those promises, and then we mock them when they can't fix the world or our lives.  Jesus is no politician.  He never promises to make you rich, popular, successful, or even healthy.  That's because these are not your problems.  Your problem is not that you have struggles or even that the world is corrupt.  Your problem is that you are corrupt and that you are going to die.  Whether that is by COVID-19 or not is irrelevant.  “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23)  Death comes to sinners.  Sinners stand under God's judgment.  That is the problem we all share.
     When you end up lying on your death bed, Satan will not mock you about your bank account.  He will not tell you that you should have had more friends or better job security.  He will not even belittle you if you die of COVID-19, as if there is great shame in it.  Satan will only be there to taunt you about your sins.  “You said that.  You did this.  You should have behaved better, and you didn't.”  The devil knows these are the things you will have to answer for.  Satan will be there to darken your mind with guilt, to burden your soul with fear, and the pierce your heart with guilt.  For Satan wants to squeeze every last bit of hope out of you.  He does not need pandemics to do it; he only needs to show you what you are.
     Fear not!  For behold!  You have a Savior!  Blessed he is who comes to save!  Jesus has come in the name of the Lord.  He comes meek and gentle.  Jesus does not come making threats, issuing ultimatums, or breathing fire.  He comes to do the work his Father has given him to do, and that is to bear the burden and to suffer the curse for sinners in order to save you. 
     Blessed is he who comes to save!  Jesus enters Jerusalem to answer your prayers of Hosanna!  Lord, save us now!  He comes to save you from matters much worse than the threats to your health, your wallet, and your isolation.  He comes to save you from divine wrath you have earned because you find more value in a government stimulus check than in divine mercy.  In order to save you from death and damnation, Jesus left eternal glory to come to the world corrupted by sin.  Jesus even denied himself the earthly glory that could have been his.  He knew what he was getting into when he rode into Jerusalem.  He could have rallied excited crowds to himself and brought a life of health and wealth to Jerusalem.  But his was not a parade of tossing candy and coins to appeal to the crowds.  His was a journey to suffer on behalf of those people to rescue them from death and damnation, even if they would have preferred candy and coins.  Instead of coming to receive a crown of gold and a throne, Jesus came to receive a crown of thorns and a cross.  Rather than bask in the praise of men, Jesus submitted to the wrath of God. 
     Blessed is the one who comes to save!  He comes to save you from your sin and from the cursed death that results from it.  Jesus makes himself a sin offering—designated to die on your behalf, shedding his blood as the payment for your guilt, and consumed in the fiery judgment of God's wrath.  Instead of leaving you to have your heart pierced with grief over sin and regret, Jesus' heart is pierced at the cross.  From his wound would pour forth blood and water to show you how the Lord delivers his forgiveness to you.
     Blessed is the one who comes to save!  It is one thing for Jesus to suffer and die at Mt. Calvary to make the payment for your sins.  It is another that Jesus actually bestows to you the gifts he has won for you.  In the waters of Baptism, he cleanses you of your sins.  In the sacrament of the Altar, he supplies the blood which has atoned for all of your sins and feeds you with the body that died and overcame death.  Behold!  Your King still comes to you in gentleness and meekness.  He still comes without threats or ultimatums or fire.  He comes in water, word, bread and wine to provide the forgiveness of all your sins and deliverance from death.  He even shushes every accusation from the devil by proclaiming divine pardon for every mark against you.  Jesus lives, and his word stands.  Hosanna!  Blessed is he!  For, he blesses you!
     Blessed is he who comes to save.  All the little things you long to be saved from, Jesus will finally grant those too.  He does not promise temporary relief, but everlasting glory.  He will deliver us from all evil for all eternity when he delivers us out of this world and to the glories of heaven, when he converts this corrupt world into the home of righteousness.  There, Jesus puts an end to all problems and pain.  There, we are united with all the saints, never to be parted again.  Even if you suffer crisis and chaos now, glory and grandeur are coming.  For the king who came in meekness to suffer and die for you lives and reigns.  He will come again in glory to bring you to glory with him. 
     Blessed is he who has come to save by his cross!
     Blessed is he who comes to save now by his word and sacraments!
     Blessed is he who will come again to save us from every evil forevermore!
     Hosanna!  Lord, save us!  Hosanna in the highest!

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

No comments:

Post a Comment

Due to recurring spam, all comments will now be moderated. Please be patient.