Rejoice? Yes! But for what? Zechariah 9:9-12 First St Johns March 29, 2015

[For the audio of this sermon, click on the above link]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who rejoice in our Savior Jesus Christ and His sacrifice said … AMEN!

A local radio show a man was saying that he was in traffic around D C and they had just blocked off the lane that he was in and he had to get over. He rolled down his window and pleaded with a woman to let him in. He says that she just let him have it, every blank, blank, blank, what she thought about him and his mother etc. He did get into the next lane and ended up ahead of her and they were going into a toll booth. He gets up to the toll booth and goes ahead and pays her toll.

Yes today is Palm Sunday, it is the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. We also have to remember that today is Passion Sunday too. Yes, Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem, no doubt the disciples were convinced that this was it, that Jesus was finally going to make His move and restore the kingdom and that they would be on His left hand and His right hand ruling over the new Davidic Kingdom. They had no thought whatsoever of how it would really turn out. The week started in triumph, but it would end in what they probably thought at the time was disaster. There weren’t going to be any cheers, no one was “hosannaing”, cloaks weren’t being laid in front of Him. Instead, He was dragged through an all night trial, the beating began, he had no sleep, no food, no water, thrown into a cell, beaten again. The next day He would be flogged, excruciating torture, forced to drag a rough wooden cross through the streets of Jerusalem, being jeered and hounded. Finally nailed to a cross, left hanging, no mercy, suffering in front of all these people that had been cheering Him a week ago. Instead of cheering they were jeering, they were mocking Him, we can only imagine what else to make His anguish on the Cross even more wretched.

The man in the car could have driven off, cut the woman off, been a jerk too. He didn’t, he showed this woman grace, no doubt when he drove away from the toll booth he felt the satisfaction that he did show her grace. I can’t say I’m as gracious as that, and I know I should be. After Jesus had been so despicably treated, He had every reason to just proceed along. Why would He have to do anything to save these miserable sinners who treated Him so disgustingly? Who could blame Him if He said “let those miserable sinners rot, why should I do anything else for them? He could have just driven off, and let us deal with our own fate, the fate that those who are not in Jesus all face. A life without Christ and an eternity of suffering, of separation from God, of torment.

Jesus didn’t leave us to our fate. God had decided earlier in the Bible to leave people to face the results of their sickening, sinful behavior. He pulled the plug on the world, found the only righteous man and told Noah to build an ark and to save creation for a new beginning. He decided to stomp on Sodom and Gomorrah for their appalling sin, telling Lot and his family to get out of Dodge.

But that wasn’t the plan going forward, that wasn’t how Jesus, God the Son, and God the Father and God the Holy Spirit decided to leave things. They would save us, by the sacrifice of God the Son. He was going to be the payment for all of our sins. He would not destroy the world again until He decides to end time in this world. He gave us a way to be saved, He paid the toll on His way through and not only that, but then returned. Friday He was shamefully treated, on Sunday He overcame our greatest enemy, not His, God the Son will never die, but we will. Jesus overcame death in order for us to live and not just life as we know it here, or life in some spiritual state in heaven. Jesus was resurrected on the Sunday after Good Friday not to perform some magic trick, not just to show us that He could, that since He is all powerful He can overcome death, but as a very powerful promise to us that we have the hope in Him that we too will be resurrected in our perfect bodies, to live in the perfect world where He had always intended for us to have that perfect life.

Now as we enter Holy Week, we have to take it as a composite and remember not just the triumphant entry, but how that will play out, that He will be abused by sinful men, and we are well served to remember that we are sinners just like them. Looking at verse 42 in our Gospel reading, that there are too many who forget Jesus today, some even here, many that we meet outside of this church: “Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue.” You can’t be halfway about Jesus, you can’t “believe” and yet still carry on in the world. You are either a confessed child of Christ here and now or lost. The world can’t save you, the world is doomed to destruction. We can’t put our agenda on Jesus and expect that He is there for our convenience and our plans. We are His, He is our Lord, He is our Savior, He is our resurrected God. If He is not the Lord of our life in the world, He will not be the Lord of our resurrection. He will leave us to our own plans and that can only result in eternal damnation.

Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday, Holy Week are a composite of our life journey, we have to see it in terms of how the crowds cheered Him on Sunday because they expected Him to carry out their agenda and how they turned on Him on Friday. Martin Franzman lays out Holy Week very pointedly to us: “The sign of the resurrection of Lazarus has made Jesus a man of note, sought after by the Passover pilgrims in Jerusalem (John11: 55-57); Mary’s anointing of Him is a token of the devotion He has inspired in His own (John 12: 1-8); a crowd hails the King of Israel at His entry into Jerusalem (John 12: 9-19) Greek proselytes present at the Passover seek Him out ( John 12: 20-22) even among the authorities there are many who believe in Him, though they cannot find the courage to confess Him (John 12: 42-43). But to Israel as a whole the Word has been spoken in vain: Judas, one of the Twelve will betray Him … The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified (John 12:23)”[1]

We see the world glorifying Jesus because they think He has come to carry out their worldview, those who believe but want to see their agenda carried out and will then sign up with Jesus, the winning team. But Jesus clearly knows how this is going to end and He also knows why and it’s totally contrary to what everyone around Him wants: “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified (23) The seed must fall into the ground and die before it can bear much fruit – life for the world is won by dying” (John 12: 23-26)[2] We think we know what is best, but in God’s eyes we haven’t got a clue. We have been born into this world as sinners, we have been brought to Christ, through His church, to be baptized, to be made His children. We take His body and blood, we hear the preached Word from His Word and live our lives in the church to be saved because of what He has done for us and to be given new and perfect life in the resurrection. Our friend showed grace at the toll booth to the woman who treated him so rudely, our friend Jesus, our mighty Lord and Savior showed us so much more grace, in His death for the forgiveness of our sins and His resurrection for the promise of eternal true life in the perfect world to come.

Nolan Astley writes: “In our post-9/11 world, we talk a great deal about heroes and victims. Heroes are often portrayed as utterly selfless individuals who willingly throw themselves in the path of danger to save others. Victims are often portrayed as innocent people who did nothing to deserve the tragedy that has come upon them. While there is a certain level of truth in those portrayals, God’s Word tells us something different. We all fall short of the glory of God; this world’s heroes and this world’s victims are all sinners.”

“Hero and victim are not so distinct. On Palm Sunday, we focus on the only true hero. Jesus is the true hero because He selflessly rides into Jerusalem to become the victim. Neither the heroic efforts of our lives nor the innocence of our lives makes us worthy of his love. Our salvation comes only from the Righteous King, who comes to conquer sin and death (Zechariah 9:9). He is our hero because he is the victim!”[3]

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

[1] Martin Franzman “The Concordia Self-Study Commentary p 96

[2] Ibid

[3] Nolan Astley  Concordia Pulpit Resources Vol 25, Part 2, Series B p 6

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