"The MIGHTY Lord is with us; the God of Jacob is our FORTRESS." Psalm 46:7
 
 

Palm Sunday 
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Philippians 2:1-11 Sermon
April 9, 2017

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Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal):
160 "All Glory, Laud, & Honor"
55 "Come, Thou Precious Ransom, Come"
162 "Ride On, Ride On In Majesty"
161 "Hosanna, Loud Hosanna"  

RICH MAN, POOR MAN

TEXT (vs. 5-8):  “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of 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.”

            The Palm Sunday story is one pretty much every Christian knows.  Even a kid in Sunday School will tell you that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey while people spread palm branches and their cloaks on the road.  That's basically what happened in one sentence.

            But there are other things going on as well.  In fact, a lot of the background stuff explains what was actually going on, and why it is important to the whole scenario. 

            Jesus didn't just arbitrarily pick the Sunday before his crucifixion to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey.  He didn't just wake up one morning and say to himself, "You know, I think I'll head into Jerusalem today and see what happens."

            First, there was Zechariah's prophecy.  We read about this in Zechariah chapter 9 verses 9-12:  "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!  Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!  Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.  I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.  As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.  Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double."

            And that's exactly the way it happened too.  Christ the King came riding into Jerusalem on a donkey amid loud shouts of Hosanna!  Lord save us!

            So let's look at why this happened at this time.  What was so special about Jerusalem at this particular time?  Why would Palm Sunday have this unique

 significance? 

            We know that this was Passover time, or as it says in Hebrew, "Pesach."  This was one of the high holy days in the Jewish calendar.  And it is one that Jews from all over would celebrate.  The most dedicated of the pilgrims would head to Jerusalem if they could.  So the city was bustling with people at this time.  None of that should come as any surprise to you either, especially since we focus upon the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday.  And of course we shall do that very thing later this week.

            Let's first look at the lamb.  We're so familiar with those words, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."  We'll be singing those words in a little while as part of our Communion Liturgy.  They are recorded in John chapter 1 verse 29.  That's what John the Baptist says when he sees Jesus.  And this theme carries right through to Palm Sunday and beyond.

            Just prior to Jesus' descent from the Mount of Olives into the city, the annual procession of the national Passover lamb was taking place.  The lamb, which would be the public sacrifice for all of Israel, would be taken to the temple inJerusalem. It was led into the city from the east. 

            The lamb was met by crowds of people waving palm branches and joyously singing Psalm 118 as they remembered God’s miraculous delivery of their ancestors from the clutches of the Egyptian Pharaoh.  One passage based upon the Psalm that was sung was, “Oh Lord, please save us, Oh Lord, please save us.  Oh Lord, send us prosperity, Oh Lord, send us prosperity.  Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord!”

            Immediately following the procession of the Passover lamb is when Jesus came down from the Mount of Olives, riding a donkey.  He followed exactly the same path to the temple that the Passover lamb had just taken.  The crowds of people, who previously had witnessed Jesus’ great miracles, placed more palm branches on the pathway in front of him and shouted to him as he passed, “‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’  ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’  ‘Hosanna in the highest!’”

            For four days, the Passover lamb was kept in public view at the temple for everyone to examine to make sure that it was perfect and without defect.   During the same four days, the chief priests, elders, Pharisees, and Sadducees interrogated Jesus; but he always left them speechless, because they could find no fault with his impeccable logic and character.  Moreover, after Jesus was arrested, Pilate and Herod could find no evidence against him nor fault with him.  Indeed, Jesus was perfect and without defect, just as the Passover lamb was expected to be.

            There are more points of comparison that I'm not going to detail right now.  These all have to do with the correlation between killing of the Passover lamb and Jesus, and how it all fits together.  For example, it was forbidden to break any of the bones of the Passover lamb.  David prophesied that none of the Messiah's bones would be broken either.

            Palm Sunday was no arbitrary day; in fact, it is so full of symbolism and fulfilled prophecy that it almost boggles the mind.  God's logic is absolutely astounding!

            So now we at least have an understanding as to why some of the people were there.  But there were more than just those who attended the "lamb parade." 

            Many people in that crowd were those who had either witnessed or heard about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  John's gospel explains that many people came to faith in Jesus because of this miracle.  They knew who he was and that he was the promised Saviour.

            Of course this infuriated the Jewish leaders.  They not only plotted to kill Jesus, but to kill Lazarus also.  They felt that they would be financially ruined because of this; so the only way they could see to get things back to normal was to eliminate the troublemakers.  Jesus and Lazarus would have to go.  This was the threat that loomed in the air amidst all of the Palm Sunday pomp and celebration.

            However, the crowds welcomed him.  And more than that, they shouted "Hosanna!  Hosanna to the Son of David!"  "Hosanna" means "Lord, save us!"  Those in the crowd knew that Jesus had come to save them. 

            Our Epistle lesson for today defines what we know theologically as Christ's state of humiliation.  If you're wondering what that is, this is the time where Jesus, of his own doing, voluntarily set aside his divine majesty and glory, came down to this earth, and became a fully human man.

            This is something we talk about virtually every Sunday.  When we say the Apostles' Creed, his state of humiliation is described in this manner:  "He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried."   That in a nutshell describes Christ's entire state of humiliation.  In our confirmation classes, we learn about this when we study the second article of the creed.

            If somebody is humiliated, it means that they are brought down to a lowered position.  We can feel humiliated when somebody exposes something we've done that is wrong.  People feel humiliation when, for example, their boss chews them out in front of other employees.  Children can feel humiliation when they get punished in front of their friends.  It's not a very good feeling.

            It's here where I'm going to bring in the theme of my sermon I have chosen for today, "Rich Man, Poor Man."  I did this based upon a verse from 2 Corinthians chapter 8, verse 9 where Paul writes: "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich." 

            People have understood this to mean that Jesus grew up in abject poverty, and that Mary and Joseph were basically destitute.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  If we go back to Christ's birth in Bethlehem, he was born in a stable because the inn had no room, not because Mary and Joseph couldn't afford it.  Joseph was a tradesman, a carpenter, who wouldn't have been necessarily wealthy, but he would have provided for his family in an acceptable manner.  Besides, the Bible indicates that Jesus had siblings, so there would have been a few mouths at the table that needed feeding. 

            We have to remember that nobody humiliated Jesus.  The Pharisees didn't do it.  Caiaphas, the high priest didn't do it.  Pontius Pilate didn't do it.  Oh they might have tried, but it was something they could not do.  It is something that Jesus did to himself.  Jesus didn't have to be born in a stable; he could have been born in a palace.  That was his choice.  As an adult, he could have had the most luxurious home.  But to live the itinerant life he did was his choice.

            If you can imagine those times in your life when you felt humiliated, you know it isn't something pleasant.  You want to escape it.  You don't want to be embarrassed in front of other people.  Now could you imagine intentionally doing it to yourself?  That's what Jesus did!  Something like that just goes against every fiber of our being.

            To take this even further, we look at Hebrews chapter 12 verse 2, which describes Jesus as "...the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."      

            Not only did Jesus willingly humiliate himself, but he found joy in doing so!  What in the world could be going on in all this humiliation that could be conceived as being a joy?

            That's a fair question; and I'd like for you to keep it in mind as we head back now to the road to Jerusalem, and the account of Palm Sunday.

            That's where we see the joy in all of this.  When we confess the Nicene Creed together, it states the reason why Jesus humiliated himself.  It says, "Who for us men, and our salvation, he came down from heaven..." That's the whole purpose!  That's why Jesus came to Jerusalem! 

            If you want to see the joy in Christ's humiliation, just look in the mirror!  Even though he was rich by all standards, yet he became poor for me!  He came down from heaven, for me!  He was conceived by the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary for me!  He became a fully human man for me!  He was crucified under Pontius Pilate for me!  He suffered death and was buried for me!  He rose again according to the Scriptures for me!  He ascended into heaven for me!

            It's for the salvation of sinners the likes of you and me that gave Jesus the joy in all of this.  It's his love and the fulfillment of that love that gave Jesus the joy along that road of humiliation.

            Think of it this way.  A small boy is lying in the hospital.  If he doesn't receive a kidney transplant, he will die.  So his father donates one of his kidneys in order that his son might live.  There is the possibility that the father might not survive the procedure.  The operation is painful, and the recovery time is long.  But the father gladly and willingly does this so his son has a chance at life.  The joy of his son's survival is worth everything the father has to endure to make that happen.

            That's the joy our Saviour has when he looks ahead at what he has to endure to give life to us.  His whole trip down the road of humiliation was to live the life we couldn't live, and to die the death we because of our sins deserve.  The road to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday was a prelude to the ultimate humiliation anybody could experience, and that was to be put to death as a common criminal on a cross.

            Our Saviour traveled down the road of humiliation, so that we could travel down the road of faith.  The road of faith tells us that our sins have been forgiven, and that Jesus has done everything so that we might be saved.  The road of faith is one that clings only to Jesus for the hope of eternal life and salvation.  When we're on that road of faith, we know that it is God who is taking us down that road.  We do not have to do anything; rather all we do is just believe that through faith in Christ our road of faith will eventually lead us to our eternal heavenly home. 

            Therefore we have a joy that is all our own.  We rejoice and are thankful for what Jesus has done for us.  A little boy who is receiving a kidney transplant from his father can do nothing to help with his father's gift that will give him life.  All he can do is lie there on the operating table and receive the gift his father is giving him. 

            That's what happens to us.  God gives us the gift of faith that will give us life.  That gift of faith is what joins us to Jesus our Saviour.  Jesus willingly traveled down the road of humiliation so we might be eternally exalted.  Even though he was rich, he became poor for us.

            For Jesus, that road of humiliation wasn't easy at all.  Certainly there were times of rejoicing along that road, but there were also times that were difficult and tragic beyond what we could even comprehend.  Things got so difficult that Mark 14:36 records how Jesus even prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane these words: "Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will." 

            Even though Jesus willingly and gladly carried out his mission, the road of humiliation was very tough.  But there was no other way.  There was no turning back.  Things had to go the way they were going.  And Jesus knew what was ahead for him.

            On that first Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, which was representative of the road of humiliation upon which he was traveling.  Jesus knew full well what was ahead of him, and it wasn't a pretty sight.  But he also knew that there was a sinful world of God's children that needed to be saved.  They needed the life he came to give them.  And even though it wasn't a pleasant journey, there was joy in giving life to the humanity God loved.

            Today, as we sing "Hosanna, Lord save us," we know that he has done just that for us.  It's ours through faith alone in Jesus our Saviour.  And thanks to him, he walked the road of humiliation on this earth, so that our walk down the road of faith will lead us to our eternal heavenly home.

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