PALM/PASSION SUNDAY – April 9, 2017

SCRIPTURES – Zechariah 9:9-10; Philippians 2:5-11; Matthew 21:1-11

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in very form God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Phil. 2:5-8

 

Palm Sunday began with Jesus choosing two disciples to go into the village they were nearing. They probably thought, “He has it in mind for us to purchase a lamb for the Passover.” For, that is what the people of Israel were doing on that day: choosing the lambs that, four days later, they would sacrifice and eat in remembrance of the Passover. But, no; Jesus sent them to get a donkey and her colt. What did He have in mind? When they saw the joyous welcome of the crowd as He rode into Jerusalem upon the colt, those disciples probably thought, “Oh, now I see what He has in mind. He’s coming to be crowned our king, but a humble and gentle one!” They didn’t get at all what He had in mind.

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,” says our reading from Philippians. If you want to know Jesus and “get” Him, you need His mind, His understanding. What was in His mind on that Palm Sunday? Not earthly glory, nor hanging onto equality with God and heavenly glory, but making Himself nothing:

Ø  Not just like you, but worse than you. He came to be the Passover Lamb who would take your sins and the sins of the whole world upon Himself and bear them in His body.

Ø  And then be punished for those sins by being put to death upon a cross.

He made Himself nothing. The horrible sufferings and death He endured didn’t just happen to Him. Jesus chose them!

Ø  He chose the donkey, the beast of burden, for He chose His Father’s will. His spirit was willing, and so He did not take up the sword or call upon angels to come to His defense.

Ø  He chose to not defend Himself before the Jewish court, but then did confess Himself to be God, even though this meant being charged with blasphemy.

Ø  He chose to be silent before Pilate and to be falsely condemned.

Ø  He chose to suffer on the cross, refusing even the anesthetic effect of wine mixed with gall. When He cried out in anguish He chose to speak the words of Scripture: Psalm 22.

“Have this mind among yourselves.” You don’t know Jesus, you don’t know the mind and intention of God regarding Him, apart from the cross. That is why, on this Palm Sunday, we go so quickly from the joyous acclamation of Jesus as King to His rejection and the horror of His sufferings and crucifixion. This was in His mind.

Have this mind among yourselves. You will not know Jesus or have Him as your King who will be powerful to help you until you know Him as your Lamb who sacrificed Himself to save you. Our problem is, we prefer the King over the Lamb. Do you not want Jesus to be strong for you and not weak; to be great and not humble? Do you not want to be great in Him? Holy Scripture says that at the name of Jesus “every knee [will] bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” (Phil. 2) Oh, to see this! If you want to see this, if you want to be one who gladly bows before Him and not one who is forced to do so, you must first, and above all, see Him as your humble and sacrificial Lamb.

And what does this mean, to see Jesus as your Lamb? To see Him as your Lamb is to make yourself nothing, to see and know and confess yourself to be a sinner who is deserving of God’s condemnation, even of hell for your sins.

Hell is what we see in Jesus’ arrest, His trials and His crucifixion. The “mind” of hell, the hatred and deceit and violence of the sin that fill Satan and hell’s inhabitants, was behind all that was so unjustly done to Jesus. Surely we see this. But, the mind of God in making hell the place for the eternal punishment of Satan and of all who by their sin oppose Him, the place where there is no forgiving God and no peace, is also seen. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus cries out in anguish on the cross. He feels no comfort and help from God but only anger and punishment. He feels hell. Why? Because He is a sinner; and God hates sin. Because He bears your sins and my sins and the sins of all people God’s righteous anger over and punishment of sin is laid upon Jesus, the Lamb… and it passes over us.

You are a sinner. This is not only true; it is obvious. The point of Christ’s sufferings and death, the mind of Jesus and His Father in them, is this: that you choose to make yourself nothing and be a sinner. Don’t deny your sins, but confess them. Don’t belittle them, but magnify them. See your sins for what they are: not small and inconsequential mistakes that are easily passed over and forgiven, but the cause of God’s anger and Jesus’ sufferings and death!

It will not be easy to say this. “How bad this is for your psyche, how destructive of your self-esteem!” people will say. “Making yourself nothing is what a troubled mind does, not a good mind!” The message of the cross is foolishness to the world.

But it is God’s message. It was the Father’s will, a will which Jesus embraced. Jesus chose to become nothing and be punished as the worst of sinners. He chose to be your Passover Lamb, that in His sufferings and death God’s righteous anger and punishment of your sins would pass over you. As you choose Him – as you admit your sins and confess them as the cause of His sufferings and death – His blood marks you, and God’s anger and punishment passes over you. You are set free from sin’s guilt, and so from death and from hell, and eternal life with your Father in heaven is given you!

“Have this mind in yourselves.” It is yours – and with it eternal life with the eternal Father in heaven is yours! – in Christ Jesus, your Passover Lamb. Amen.