Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sermon: Palmarum (Lent 6)

28 March 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Matt 27:11-54 (Zech 9:9-12; Phil 2:5-11, Matt 21:1-11)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

“Jesus Christ is Lord.” Jesus Christ is God. The name of Jesus is “the” name, the divine name, the “name that is above every name.” The name of Jesus is the Trinitarian name into which we are baptized. Jesus is the “I AM” that the Angel of the Lord spoke when Moses wanted to know God’s name.

Not every tongue confesses that Jesus is God, that His name is the “name above every name,” the name at whose mention “every knee should bow.”

In fact, there are billions in the world today who do not make such a confession. There are even some who claim to be Christians who will not bow the knee and “confess to the glory of God the Father” that Jesus is Lord and has the divine name.

In seeing with the eyes apart from the eyes of faith, it is difficult to see a humble man riding on a donkey and consider Him to be God. It is equally taxing to our reason to see a child born of a disgraced mother lying in a manger as the maker of heaven and earth. And there is no greater act of faith than to gaze upon the lifeless body of the crucified One and proclaim: Truly this was the Son of God” like the centurion; or to stick one’s finger into the nail print in the living hands of the risen One and confess: “My Lord and my God!” like St, Thomas.

This is because our sinful nature has a difficult time synthesizing God’s Almighty power with the humility of our Lord Jesus. For He “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant.”

The prophet Zechariah implored the children of God to “rejoice” and to “shout aloud,” for as he proclaims: “your king is coming to you, righteous and having salvation is He, humble and mounted on a donkey.”

But in spite of this king’s gentleness toward His people and His taking of a form of a servant, the prophet tells us: “His rule shall be from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.” From the river in which He was baptized to the very ends of the earth where His baptism is carried in His name, there is His kingdom, His domain, His might – all cloaked in humility.

The sinful nature hates humility. Indeed, the Old Adam loves raw demonstrations of might. Those who deny our Lord’s divinity make a grave error: they interpret His forbearance as weakness; they misread His mercy as a lack of power.

And yet, St. Paul points out that every knee will indeed bow before our divine King Jesus – not because of His power, but because of His humility. In love, Jesus was humble enough to lay down his life, and powerful enough to take it up again. There will come a time when even those who pierced Him, those who deny Him, those who attempt reduce Him to the status of a guru or dismiss Him as just another failed Messiah will indeed kneel in submission before His divine name.

Pilate was amazed with Christ not because of His cleverness and forcefulness, but rather by His silence. When the people had the opportunity to show mercy to a prisoner, they chose to release Barabbas, a terrorist whose name means “son of the Father” rather than release the true and only begotten “Son of the Father” who was accused falsely of being a terrorist. They petitioned for the freedom of a criminal who sought to overthrow the government while seeking the death of the rightful King, who in no way revolted against either the Jewish King or the Roman Caesar.

And when Pilate asked the mob point blank what evil Jesus committed, they gave the same answer as Jesus: nothing. Rather than answer the simple question, a reasonable question considering this was a trial, they instead “shouted all the more, ‘Let Him be crucified!’”

Not knowing what they were saying, the crowds said: “His blood be on us and on our children.” And having said this, Pilate had our blessed Lord scourged, causing that blood, that royal blood of David’s line, that priestly blood of the order of Melchizedek, that sacrificial blood of the “Lamb of God pure and holy” to be spilled and placed on the daughter of Zion, the daughter of Jerusalem. For this is the blood of the covenant, the New Testament in His blood, shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins.

For truly we are all Barabbases, sons of the Father, having been released by our Lord who takes our place at the cross, who spills the blood we deserve to shed, who died the death we have earned by our many sins. And like Barabbas, we walk free thanks to our Lord’s humble mercy.

In humility Jesus endures the humiliation of the mockery and thorns, and in love he suffers the pain and agony, restraining Himself of His mighty and divine power, all for the sake of showing mercy – even to those who crucified Him, even to us whose sins were atoned for by His act of love.

They mocked Jesus for being king, and that is exactly what He is. They mocked Him for His statement about destroying the temple and rebuilding it in three days – and yet that is what He did as the Redeemer. They mocked Him for saving others – and yet that is what He did as the Savior. And the crucified God, the giver of life, yielded up His own Spirit, and the temple curtain that once separated God from man “was torn in two” as the God-Man Himself was being torn on the cross. Creation itself trembled for the sake of the Creator, and “the earth shook.” Even the dead walked out of their graves in a little preview of the resurrection – both that of our Lord and that of those who bow the knee to Him in faith and confess Him as Lord.

For indeed, He is Lord. Our eyes see the weakness of mortal humility, but faith sees the strength of divinity. Our eyes see a man defeated by death, but faith sees death defeated by a Man who is also, in the good confession of the centurion: “the Son of God.”

Jesus is the one name above every name, the single and strong name of the Trinity, the sole name into which we are baptized, the unique name before which every knee will bow, the only name in which we can be saved.

And indeed, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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