Sunday, March 28, 2010

What Do You See?

Palm Sunday
Sunday of the Passion
March 28, 2010
Luke 19:28-40

The whole multitude of His disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen.

On Palm Sunday the people were rejoicing and praising God because of the mighty works of God that they had seen.

If you saw mighty works of God wouldn’t you rejoice also? There are some who don’t believe in God and even if they saw the mighty works of God they wouldn’t rejoice and give Him praise. They’d harden their hearts. Or they’d explain away the mighty works. But they most certainly would not rejoice. Under no circumstance would they give praise to God.

There are some who would come to see that the God of the Bible, the God who has revealed Himself in Jesus, is the true God. And they would rejoice. They would praise Him as the only true God.

Why do we rejoice? Why do we give Him praise? Are we like the people in the Gospel reading in that we have seen the mighty works of God? Or are we unlike them in that we haven’t seen His mighty works? We rejoice as they did, so in that we are like them. As they did we give praise to God. But do we do so despite not having witnessed the mighty works of God? Is it along the lines of what Jesus said to Thomas, because you have seen, you believe—blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe?

Well, yes, it’s along those lines. But there’s something else going on here. We’re not just similar to those people on the first Palm Sunday in that we rejoice in God and give Him praise. It’s not just that we can’t say, Well, we haven’t witnessed the mighty works of God in the Person of Jesus as He walked the roads of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem, so we haven’t seen the mighty works of God in the way they did. What do we see? We know what they saw, the mighty works of God. How about us?

Isn’t one of the problems people have is that there are no mighty works of God to be seen today? There are natural disasters, predators who do heinous things to teenagers, an economy that limps along, wars and rumors of wars. If God is so great why doesn’t He do some of those mighty works so that we can rejoice in Him?

Yes, that’s a problem people have with God. And let me say that I can identify with them. I’d love to see God do some spectacular things in my life so that I’d have no doubt He’s the true God and I’m completely in His care forever. I’d love for Him to step in and remove the struggles from my life.

But is this problem people have, including us at times, a problem with God? Or is it rather a problem with us? It’s a problem we have because we know what we want to see from God and usually that’s not what He shows us. The problem really is with us, not God.

It’s safe to say that the mighty works of God that those people on Palm Sunday saw were not these details Luke recounts in the Gospel reading: He went up to Jerusalem —He drew near to Bethphage and Bethany — He sent two of His disciples — He told them to “go into the village where you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat” — they were to untie it and bring it Jesus — if anyone asked them why they were untying it they were to say that “the Lord has need of it” — they found it just as He had told them — and it all happened just as He told them — they brought it to Jesus — they threw their cloaks on the colt — and they set Jesus on it.

These aren’t mighty works. They’re simple things. The mighty works Jesus had been doing were the miracles, the healings, the raising people from the dead, the powerful preaching. But what would happen in only a few days? He would be delivered over. He would be beaten and crucified. There would be no rejoicing in or praising of God.

But could it be that the people were looking for the wrong thing? Or, maybe the right thing for the wrong reason. Perhaps the things Luke tells us about in the Gospel reading, that Jesus did on Palm Sunday, were the mighty works of God. It’s easy to miss them because they don’t seem mighty. They seem simple, almost ordinary. Jesus very well could have set it all up beforehand with the owner of the colt, so that there was nothing really spectacular in the owner saying what Jesus said He would say. And Him riding in on a donkey isn’t the most grand way to enter into a city.

The thing they really needed to see in order that they might rejoice and give praise to God was the thing they despaired of: Jesus being tormented and hanging on a cross. Jesus in weakness and saturated with the sin of the world.

What about you? What do you see? Do you see the mighty works of God in your life? Let me suggest that you do. Jesus’ words to Thomas—blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe—apply to you, but even though you haven’t stood before Him as Thomas did, and put your fingers in His hands and side as he did, you do see the mighty works of God. The reason you rejoice and praise God is because of what you see, not simply that you go through life holding out hope that in heaven you’ll finally be vindicated that it was all true after all.

The mighty works God does in your life are just like those He did when Jesus walked the roads of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. They’re just like them because they’re not always spectacular. In fact, most of the things were far from eye-catching. Most of them were mundane. Ordinary. Simple.

Just like today. He takes water, something you and I make use of every day, and does the mighty work of saving you and forgiving you all of your sins. He takes bread and wine, things you can get at any store, and brings about the mighty work of giving you in that bread and wine His body and blood.

What do you see? Do you see these things? Well, no, in that you can’t see your sins being forgiven. You can’t see yourself being united with Christ in Baptism. You can’t actually see the body and blood of Christ in His Holy Supper. But when you witness a Baptism, you see the mighty works of God, it just looks like an ordinary thing, much like Jesus sending His disciples to get a colt. When you witness and participate in Holy Communion you see the mighty works of God, it just looks like a very simple meal, much like Jesus having a colt brought to Him and His disciples putting their cloaks on it.

What do you see? As you enter into this Holy Week, do you see God as far removed, or do you see the God who comes to you in this place, at this altar, from this pulpit, at this font? Do you see the God who does mighty works through ordinary things like words and water and bread and wine? Do you see what those people back then saw? Yes, you do, because that’s what God shows you. That’s how He does His mighty works.

Jesus Himself is the preeminent mighty work of God. Jesus in the flesh, walking those roads of ancient provinces and cities. Jesus, sitting on a donkey entering one of those cities. Jesus, turning His cheek to be struck one more time. Offering up prayers of forgiveness for His persecutors. Jesus humbly and in weakness enduring the scorn of sinners and suffering for their guilt and sin. This is the Mighty Work of God, Jesus in the flesh, suffering for the sin of the world on the cross.

This is what you see. The world will not see it. Your sinful flesh will try to blind the eyes of your faith so that you can’t see it. You will constantly be tempted to look elsewhere so that you can see something more spectacular. Something God would really do! But you will never see it. You will look in vain.

It is only in Christ that you will see the mighty works of God. Only in Him you will rejoice and give praise to God. This Holy Week, look nowhere else. Look no further than this altar where He gives you His Body and Blood. Look no further than this pulpit where He forgives your sins in the proclamation of His Gospel. Look no further than the font where you were brought into the eternal Kingdom of the God who does mighty works. It is only in these things you will see who the God is who does mighty works. Who takes simple things and does mighty things. Eternal things. Forgiving you, loving you, saving you.

What do you see? Christ. Now as in a mirror dimly, then face to face. Amen.


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