[In our services this Sunday, the processional Gospel for Palm Sunday (Lk. 19:28-40) and the Holy Gospel for the Sunday of the Passion (Lk. 22:1--23:56) were read. The text for the sermon is the alternate Gospel for this Sunday (Jn. 12:20-43). Have a blessed Holy Week as we prepare to remember the Passion of the Christ and celebrate His resurrection.]
IN NOMINE JESU
The Lord was gaining mass appeal. Many of the Jewish laity came to see and hear Him. They lined the street in Jerusalem with palm branches and cloaks. They sang the Benedictus: "Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" They sang His praises. The people welcomed Him into the Holy City. Many had come to believe in Him on account of the signs He performed. Word about Him had spread throughout the entire Mediterranean world. Some Greeks were in Jerusalem, some non-Jews from outside the Holy Land, who came to the feast, and said to the disciple Philip, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." Philip told Andrew, and they both told the Lord these two Greeks wished to see Him.
The time was fading fast for the Son of Man to be seen, for the Lord knew what was awaiting Him. The Lord, who had turned His face toward Jerusalem, was now in Jerusalem, where He would soon bring His ministry to its gory yet glorious climax. In just a matter of days the crowds' shouts of praise would become cries of condemnation, from "Hosanna" to "Crucify Him!" Now His soul was troubled, for He knew full well what He was soon to undertake. He knew the purpose for which He came into this world, to do the will of His Father, and the hour to accomplish this had come. He would accomplish this feat in five days, on Good Friday. There was no turning back. His face had been turned toward Jerusalem for some time, and the time had come for the Son of Man to give glory to His Father by sacrificing Himself for the life of the world.
But there were many who would not accept His self-sacrificial act of love. They rejected the many signs He had performed in their midst. Their hearts were hardened. They reviled Jesus Christ, the Light of the world. They shunned the light, and in their hearts it was night, just as it was in the heart of Judas, who betrayed Him. Jesus taught the Word. He performed the signs. Still they refused to believe in Him. When He fed the 5000 with five loaves and two fish, they asked Him what sign He would perform, that they might believe in Him, but they never would. They cared nothing about Him. They wanted to remain in darkness and in the valley of the shadow of death.
We have inherited their condemned real estate. We live and move and have our being in this same valley. Even while there is light, we walk in darkness. Just as the unbelievers then refused to trust in the One who comes in the Name of the Lord, we too are diametrically opposed to Him. Our hosannas are all but hypocritical. We read and hear of the signs the Lord has performed, but we regard them lightly because these signs did not affect us directly. We expect from the Lord that which He has not promised us, and we neglect and reject what He has promised. Like the 5000, we want something more, something better, than what the Lord has already promised and given us. He who rode into Jerusalem on a donkey comes to us through ordinary words, bread, and wine, but we want something else. Yet we are not sure what it is we want, but we know it is not an extraordinary Lord who comes through ordinary means. We have begun the holiest week of the year, but we have the unholiest of attitudes. We are not passionate about the Christ. We are not passionate about the cross. Unlike the Greeks, we do not wish to see Jesus. As long as we do not wish to see Jesus, He will not see us in heaven, for we shall not be there. Our hearts are not right with God. We should have been in Jerusalem, for it should have been our bodies hanging from the cross.
The key words in the previous sentence are "should have been." Yes, our bodies should have been hanging from the cross. Yes, we should have been crucified for our sins. Yes, we should be in hell in eternal condemnation. Those are a lot of _shoulds_, are they not? These _shoulds_ exist because we really should have been crucified. We really should have paid for our sins with our very lives. But we really do not have to make satisfaction for our sins. We do not have to go to Jerusalem and die for our sins, for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has done it all for us. He went to Jerusalem for us. He entered the Holy City riding on a donkey and left carrying His cross—carrying our cross. On Palm Sunday He received the praise He deserves. On Good Friday He received the condemnation we deserve. Today we hold our palm branches. On the first Good Friday He carried His cross—rather, our cross—to His death that we should have died.
But our heavenly Father, out of His unlimited love for us, sacrificed the only One who could make full atonement for the sins of the whole world, His only-begotten Son. By offering up His Son on the cross, He glorified His Name and did so again by raising Him from the dead. And the voice of our gracious God booms in our midst today. He has glorified His Name among us this day, for He has come to us in His holy Word. He has come and declared to us that He has forgiven our sins for His Son's sake.
In a few moments we will behold the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He came into this world, taking our humanity upon Himself, coming in the likeness of men. He came into Jerusalem in all humility, riding on a donkey. He came to the cross to win our forgiveness, becoming obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. He came out of the tomb that we would have life. He comes to us today in His body and blood, given and shed for us for the forgiveness of sins. The forgiveness He won on the cross for us He gives to us in His Sacrament. As the Greeks who came to the feast, so also we, moved by the Holy Spirit, wish to see Jesus, and so we will in a few moments at this feast as we behold Him sacramentally, and through this feast in this, His house, He prepares us for the feast to come, where we will forever praise Him and sing, "Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" Amen.
"Now to Him, who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen" (Jude 24-25).
SOLI DEO GLORIA
Send Pastor Mark Schlamann an email.