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Lent 6 – John 12:12-19/Zechariah 9:9-12/Philippians 2:5-11

by pastorjuhl ~ March 26th, 2010

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

Congratulations! With the help of God, you’ve made it to Jerusalem. Do you have your palm? Good. Are you ready to greet the Son of David with a thunderous “Hosanna”? Great! It should be an interesting parade because there are bunches of people around here who want to see Jesus dead. They think the whole world has fallen into the trap of believing He is the Son of God. You believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God or else you wouldn’t be here. You wouldn’t have undertaken such a long journey with Him if the destination weren’t worth seeing.

There’s good news and bad news about what is going to happen. You might as well hear the bad news first. The folks who want to see Jesus dead are going to get their wish. The triumphant procession leads from where you are sitting to the Upper Room, the Garden of Gethsemane, and a number of other locations. This whole mess will lead to the Place of the Skull where you will see Jesus die a long and horrible death. You will see Noble Joseph give up his tomb for Jesus. Christ’s Body goes in the grave and a guard will seal the opening with a stone and a guard.

Here is the good news. There is a happy ending. However, there is even better news today. Palm Sunday is the great memorial to our Lord’s solemn entrance into Jerusalem where He was about to suffer and die. The palm leaf you have is a visual reminder of the day when our Lord entered Jerusalem just as the prophet Zechariah said He would. Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah’s words are familiar because you hear them every year about this time. What you may have never thought about is the phrase He is just and having salvation.

This short phrase tells so much about why Jesus comes to you as He does both then and now. Jesus is just. He is the perfect Son of the Most High God. He is our heavenly Father’s love for fallen creation wrapped in flesh and blood. Everything He thinks, does, and says is upright. Jesus never sinned. He is the only person wrapped in flesh and blood Who makes that claim. Instead of using that claim against you as He should, for you have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God; instead of holding His just and righteous nature against your nature that despises God and His holy Word, He swaps His just nature for your unjust nature. Your sin becomes His. His righteousness becomes yours.

Saint Paul summarizes this sweet swap in the Epistle. He writes to the Church in Philippi: being in the form of God, [Christ Jesus] did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Some think Paul’s words are a hymn of the early Christian Church. If it is, what a hymn! Jesus Christ makes Himself of no reputation for you. Jesus Christ humbles Himself for you. Jesus Christ dies for you. His obedience to the Father’s will for wayward creation go all the way to the cross. It should be you up there. Jesus is there instead.

Jesus is on the cross for you because, as Zechariah says, He has salvation. His blood makes the perfect offering necessary to redeem creation from sin, death, and the devil. Zechariah writes, because of the blood of your covenant, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. The waterless pit is reserved for Satan, his angels, and those who follow them. Those who are covered in Christ’s blood; those who have not wiped off his blood by means of unrepentant sin or willful self-exclusion from the Means of Grace, are rescued from falling into the waterless pit.

What more can you do to honor the Savior of the Nations but bow the knee and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father! Today is the first time in Christ’s earthly life that He allowed royal homage to be paid Him. Keep today’s images clear in your mind’s eye, especially when you will be brought face-to-face with His suffering and death in a few days. Today is also an introduction to Christ’s sacred passion. The reading of a portion of Saint Matthew’s account of Christ’s sacred passion prepares you for hearing John’s passion account on Friday. The silence will be unusually loud Friday. There will be lots of time to contemplate what Jesus went through for you.

When those images reappear in your mind’s eye later this week, rejoice. You may not want to rejoice in the death of Jesus, but Palm Sunday may be called the golden gateway leading to the joy of Easter. There is a thread of joy and victory that runs through everything you hear today and this coming week. The thread of joy and victory comes from resurrection glory. That’s the good news at the end of the journey. That’s what you packed your bags to see as you walked the long Lenten road to Jerusalem. The sacred, wounded head of Jesus and His tortured, beaten Body will rise triumphant three days after it went into the tomb. God dies, but He does not die eternally. God must come back to life in order that you will come back to life with Him because of Jesus Christ.

Cling tight to your palm this week. It’s a reminder that Jesus Christ, the Son of David, comes to save you from sin and death. Joy becomes sorrow, yet sorrow becomes joy. Jesus lives. So do you.

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

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