(The text is the third reading of the Gospel here this day. First was St. Mark's account of Jesus' triumphal Entry into Jerusalem (the Processional Gospel, Mk. 11:1-10); St. Mark's Passion account (the chief reading, Mk. 14:1-15:47); and the text for the sermon below.)
IN NOMINE JESU
Be careful with what you ask for, because you just might get it. The Greeks who came to Jerusalem had no idea what they were about to receive when they asked of the disciple Philip, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus" (v. 21b). They had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, and they wanted to see the King of the Jews. Little did they realize that they would behold the Angel of Death passing over the Holy City. But it was not for their death that He came, but He came for the death of the Christ—He came for the life of the world.
What the Greeks would see would not be what they expected of their wish to see Jesus. Here is this Jesus speaking to them in terms of being lifted up, of dying, and of rising. They may have thought it all to be Greek to them—or at least Aramaic—but this may well have caused some consternation among them, for the Son of Man whom they came to see was speaking of His impending death, speaking in terms of His immediate future, in terms of their eternity.
What an eternity it must have seemed to the Lord as to His human nature. The Son of Man was soon to give His life as a ransom for many, for the salvation of mankind, for the life of the world. Here was the world before Him: Jews, Greeks, people from near and far, all there in Jerusalem for the feast. Little did the Greeks, or even the Lord's disciples, know that they would one day feast on His body and blood, given and shed for them, poured out for many, for the forgiveness of sins and for the glorification of His Father in heaven, whose voice boomed from the heavens, "I have both glorified [My Name] and will glorify it again" (v. 27b). The glory of the Father would come at the expense of His only-begotten Son. The Son would glorify the Father with His own holy precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, the death that brings us life—eternal life to the fullest—for we have no life in and of ourselves, as we are dead in our trespasses and sins. We are spiritually blind, dead, and enemies of God, for we are all conceived, born, and living in sin.
We are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves, and for our sins the Lord was bound in chains and brought before the Sanhedrin, Pilate, and Herod, to be handed over to be crucified. It is for us and for our sins that the Lord would be crucified, dead, and buried, for we and our sins nailed Him to the cross, with assistance from the Roman soldiers, for, while we cry "Hosanna!" today with the crowds in Jerusalem, we will join them in a few days as they too turned on their King and cried out "Crucify Him!" And it is for us that the Father's voice boomed from heaven that first6 Palm Sunday and for us that the Son cried out from the cross on Good Friday, "Father, forgive them!"
Yes, we may call Good Friday "good," for the time had come for Jesus, whose Name means "YHWH saves," to save sinful mankind, to lift up fallen man by His being lifted up on the cross, so that all who look to the Son of God will see the light that is Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, the light no darkness can overcome. We may call Holy Week "holy," for in this holiest of weeks the hour of the King had come. The Son, out of His obedience to His Father's will and out of His own great love for us, did not cry out, "Father, save Me from this hour," but He prayed, "Not My will, but Yours, be done" (Lk. 22:42b), and saved us at that hour, as St. Paul says to us, "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son…to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons" (Gal. 4:4a, 5b). Again he says, "For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. …But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him" (Rom. 5:6,8-9). For this reason our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ came to this hour, for Jesus has come and brings pleasure eternal. It is our pleasure that He bled and died to take away our sin. It is our pleasure that He paid the price for our sins that we could not even begin to hope to pay.
It is our pleasure; even more so has it been the pleasure of God our heavenly Father, who desires not the death of the sinner but the death of His saints, for blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. Blessed are you whose Old Adam has drowned and died in the living waters of Holy Baptism. Blessed are you whom God has called His child and marked you with the sign of the cross, the sign by which your sinful nature died with Christ, for you are baptized into His death and resurrection.
The Greeks had no idea they would see Jesus and the fullness of His love. The received more than they asked, but this is the modus operandi of our Lord, for when we ask to see Him, He gives us to see Him for who He truly is: the God of love, His love shown us in His being lifted up on the cross to draw us to Himself, to win the total, complete, and perfect forgiveness of our sins, the same total, complete, and perfect forgiveness He gives in Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, Holy Scripture, and Holy Communion, and by the Holy Spirit we receive these gifts in faith. Our Lord, who comes to us in Word and Sacraments, gives us the fullness of who He is, for when we see Jesus, we see the whole lot of Him, for He does not deal with us or give His Means of Grace fractionally. He does not give us a percentage of Himself, but He gives us all of Himself, His Name, and with His Name all His blessings and gifts. In a few moments the bread will be broken, but you will receive the fullness of the forgiveness He won for you while He was lifted up on the cross, giving you the very body He gave and the very blood He shed for you.
The hour has come for your heavenly Father to be glorified as you taste and see that the Lord is good and His mercy endures forever. Now the hour has come, "For He says: 'In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.' Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor. 6:2). "Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world [is] cast out" (v. 31). Now is the time to look unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and was once lifted on the glorious tree, and, as He has promised, has drawn us now to Himself. In a few moments He will draw us unto Himself at His Table, for He has come down to us, He has come down to serve us. Now is the time to see Jesus, for "'blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! …Hosanna in the highest!" (vv. 9b, 10c).
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
SOLI DEO GLORIA
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