PALM/PASSION SUNDAY – March 29, 2015

  

“Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” Did the people know what they were saying when they welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem with these words? I doubt it.

  • Some thought He was coming to save them from the Romans, with their unjust laws and heavy taxes and controlling, oppressive presence.

  • Others looked for a similar deliverance from their religious leaders, who laid on them strict religious requirements and high temple taxes.

  • Some may have even thought Jesus was coming to establish a kingdom of peace and prosperity without earthly worries or fears.

    All were blind to the fact that being a follower of Jesus would guarantee none of these things. For, what He had really come to do was to be crucified.

     

    “Hosanna! (which means, “Save us now.”) Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Is this your cry? I hope so, for Jesus did come in the Lord’s name:

  • He brought God’s message. He spoke for Him. And so, He carried out God’s plan and had God’s approval for all that He did.

    To see Jesus is to see God. To listen to Him is to listen to God. He is God, and so if you look to and trust in Him you have God. Bearing His name, you are forever blessed!

     

    But, His name is not so easy to bear. As Christians, we are taught to make the sign of the cross when we proclaim the name of God. It’s in Luther’s Small Catechism. Why do we do this? Because the one God in three Persons is known in Jesus’ crucifixion, and not apart from it. God the Father is the One who sent His Son into the world to be crucified for the world. God the Son’s main purpose in life was to be crucified for us. “I have not come to be served but to serve, and to give my life as a ransom for many,” Jesus told His disciples. God the Holy Spirit caused Jesus to be conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary so that He could be born and be crucified; caused the Bible to be written so that you would know of Christ crucified; and then, when you were baptized, came down to you and joined you to Christ so that His death – and resurrection! – would be yours, and would mark you.

     

    You must have this Jesus, the One who comes in the name of the Lord to be crucified, if you wish to see and have and worship God. You must confess Him and bear His cross, for apart from Christ crucified God does not save, but destroys.

  • Consider the sun in the sky. The power of its fire and brightness is essential for our lives. Our world would be cold and dead without it. And yet, you cannot look upon it without a filter, for its brightness would destroy your eyes and blind you. This is not the sun’s fault, for its essence, its nature is to shine brightly. You must have the filter of dark lenses to safely look upon it.

    God is mighty and holy by nature, the brightness of purity itself. The brilliance of His holy presence will consume and destroy all that is wrong and evil and sinful. And, each of us will stand in His brilliant presence one day for His judgment upon our lives! Our sins must be covered, must be removed. We must be purified.

     

    As Christians we embrace in faith a great God and Savior. We confess a good and holy faith that saves. But, God’s salvation is not seen primarily in His power and authority. It’s not seen primarily in Christ’s miracles; not even in His resurrection from the dead, as if He died so that He could show forth His ultimate power even over death itself by rising from it. God’s salvation, His goodness for us, is seen above all in Christ’s death.

     

    Blessed, then, is He who came in the name of the Lord… to be crucified! You know, I suppose you might think that today, Confirmation Sunday, should be a day with a bit more exciting and uplifting liturgy. Why this message of Jesus’ rejection and death, why all of these slow and sad hymns with their focus on suffering and death, on this day when we celebrate Dylan’s and Xena’s and Michael’s and Michelle’s confirmation? Well, it’s not all about them, you see; nor is it about us. It’s about Jesus. It’s about His death on the cross as our substitute, paying the penalty for our sins. Christ crucified is the essence of our faith, for He is the rescue and salvation our faith brings. He is the forgiveness of our sins and the death of our death. Christ crucified is our life!

     

    It’s easy to confirm this faith, to stand up and say that you believe in the Triune God and in His Son crucified for you, when you are among friends who share this faith. It’s easy to believe that God loves you when life is good and your problems are small and you are happy and content. It’s easy to forgive as God commands when sins are small and don’t hurt. But, God will not allow this confession to be easy, like it was on Palm Sunday. He will put you in situations when it will be difficult and costly.

  • Such as when you’re among people who consider your faith foolish and reject it. Will you confess Jesus or say nothing?

  • Or, when life confronts you with struggles and sorrows and pains.

  • Sometimes you just won’t feel like confessing your own sins, or forgiving the sins of others. Perhaps it will seem unnecessary, or even be detrimental to you.

    Confessing Christ is meant to be difficult. For, in Christ crucified we confess that God knows and condemns sins.

     

    Hosanna! Save us, Lord! How we need to cry this, for our confession is often the easy Palm Sunday confession and not the difficult Good Friday confession! Confess Christ crucified, however, for in Him you have the One who has come to you in the name of the Lord:

  • Testifying to you that God forgives you, for He knows your sins and has borne their guilt and punishment for you. God has set your sins aside!

  • Confessing faith and trust in God, even unto death, thereby covering your faithlessness with His faithfulness.

     

    Hang onto Jesus Christ crucified, the Son of God who confessed the faith for you and then laid down His life for you to save you from your sins. Confess Him, who came in the name of the Lord to be crucified for you. God’s eternal kingdom is then yours, and will always be yours, for your Savior will always be the crucified One who forgives your sins and is confessing for you.