Lent 6 Sermon – John 12:12-19/Matthew 27:11-54

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

The Pharisees cry out, look, the world has gone after Him! That’s one of the reasons why Christians begin Palm Sunday with a procession of palms. Cars driving by our church building probably think we’re a bit odd. A group of people dressed in their Sunday best holding palm branches, walking around their church while singing a hymn. Those who see us process into church might be thinking the same thing the Pharisees thought when they saw the crowds follow Jesus into Jerusalem.

Some follow Jesus because of the signs they saw Him perform. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead just before the triumphant entry into Jerusalem. There may be some who follow Him that were at the wedding in Cana when Jesus changed water into wine. Some follow Jesus because of His powerful preaching and teaching. Some follow Jesus because He is a friend of sinners. There may be a few who expect Him to overthrow earthly governments and establish heaven on earth.

The last reason is the wrong reason. The other reasons are much better. Nevertheless, Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world begs the question among us: Why do we follow Jesus? What brings us here week after week to hear the Gospel, receive Absolution of our sins, and eat His Supper? What’s more, why do so few in the world go after Him and instead go against Him?

If the Message of Jesus’ death and resurrection from the dead were false, there wouldn’t be so many people who try to silence the preaching of the Gospel. Those who despise the preaching of the cross take their cues from the Pharisees, the chief priests, and the scribes. Their piety was the best. Their leadership skills were quite shrewd. Their knowledge of Holy Scripture was impeccable to a fault. The fault was their failure to connect the line between the fathers of the Old Testament concerning Messiah and the fact that Messiah was in their midst doing what their fathers promised He would do.

Pontius Pilate, a Roman Governor, could discern that the case against Jesus was flawed. They bring Jesus to Pilate expecting him to do their dirty work, since it’s against their law to kill someone. Pilate marvels that Jesus doesn’t defend Himself except to speak the Truth, but in private and only to Pontius Pilate. Pilate’s wife knew Jesus was innocent because of the dream she had. Pilate tried every legal device he could to free Jesus. Nothing worked. Jesus remained silent. The Jews continued to accuse Him. Even the annual custom of freeing one prisoner did not work as Pilate thought it would. The crowds of the Jews demand Barabbas, a notorious man accused of insurrection and rebellion. The guilty goes free while the innocent is condemned.

No wonder the message of the cross is reviled and despised. It doesn’t make sense. It promises and delivers something for nothing. It deals with matters of the soul; sensitive things that women have no problem talking about but men squirm with anxiety when they have to deal with it. The message of the cross will always be foolishness. About a generation after Jesus died and rose from the dead, Saint Paul told the so-called “wise” Corinthian Christians that the message of Christ crucified is to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

The message of the cross is a message of foolish wisdom. That’s an oxymoron; two words put together that doesn’t make sense. But to a Christian the concept of foolish wisdom makes perfect sense. Foolish wisdom stumped the Pharisees. Foolish wisdom stumps much of the world’s wisdom today. Countless so-called Biblical scholars have tried to explain the Gospel away as a myth. Other scholars claim that Christianity herself is a myth. The only belief system that can be trusted is whatever belief system a person chooses. The bottom line is a triumph of the individual and his or her thoughts rather than any sort of organized religion, be it the true religion of Christianity or the many false religions outside of Christianity.

Look, the world has gone after Him! That is still the cry of so many so-called “wise” people today. Their “wisdom” pales in comparison to the message of the cross of Jesus Christ. The King in Zechariah chapter nine comes to us lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey…. He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be ‘from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. Wisdom from below reads Zechariah chapter nine and questions why a king would ride a donkey into a city as a conquering hero. Wisdom from below cannot see the King speaking peace by saying nothing in His defense and willingly suffering stripes, mocking, spitting, and crucifixion.

Wisdom from above sees Jesus entering Jerusalem to a chorus of Hosannas and waving palm branches and rejoices that our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The Word of the Lord says through Zechariah as for you also, because of the blood of your covenant, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. Return to the stronghold, you prisoners of hope. Even today I declare that I will restore double to you. Rather than extending a rope or a ladder to rescue us from the waterless pit, Jesus Christ jumps into the pit with us and frees us. Jesus stays in that pit and suffers in our place in order that we may be restored into the Kingdom of heaven.

Jesus is the stronghold of our return, especially as He suffers and dies on the cross for our sins. It makes no sense that a person should look to someone beaten and bloodied, hanging on a cross between two criminals. What doesn’t make sense to the wisdom of the world is comfort to one who is wise to salvation. In death, God has highly exalted [Jesus] and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Holy Week is what Holy Lent is all about. This week we bow our knee to the King of Glory, the Lord God of Sabaoth Who reigns from His throne of two beams of wood crossed together. The whole world goes after Jesus because of what Pontius Pilate wrote on the sign nailed above His head: THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS. Today the King of Kings enters into Jerusalem, the city of peace, to make peace between God and man by crushing the head of the serpent. Though Christ’s death brings us heartache, we rejoice that Jesus would die for the likes of sinners like you and me. We rejoice that through faith He makes us partakers not only in His death, but also in His resurrection. Because God is life, He must rise from the dead. Through faith in God made flesh, we too shall rise from the dead and shall live forever with Him in Paradise.

Look, the world has gone after Him! The world goes after Jesus because He is our Passover Lamb who suffers death so the angel of death may pass over us. The spoiler is spoiled. The King is victorious. As Saint Thomas said before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, let us also go, that we may die with Him.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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