Sunday, March 20, 2016

Partaking of the Resurrection of Your Lord

Palm Sunday
Sunday of the Passion
March 20, 2016
Palm Sunday stands at the head of Holy Week. As Jesus entered into Jerusalem, we enter into this week where we encounter the most remarkable events of Christianity. When Jesus entered Jerusalem He knew exactly why He was. He knew what would happen to Him. I seriously doubt anyone there laying down their coats and palm branches understood the gravity of Jesus entering the holy city as a king. They hailed Him as such, but the Collect we prayed a little while ago speaks of His great humility and patience. The prophecy from Zechariah which Matthew quoted in the Gospel reading speaks of Jesus as coming in humility.

And even though Jesus didn’t prohibit their cries in hailing Him as the one coming in the name of the Lord, He knew that He wasn’t the one they were looking for. He knew that come Thursday night all would desert Him. He was well aware that on Friday He would be hanging on the cross alone, taking upon Himself all the sin of the world. Palm Sunday was the kind of glory they were excited about. Jesus had His eyes set on the cross.

And if we are going to pray and take it seriously what we are praying for, then we will see Palm Sunday for what it is. It is the gateway into humility and patience. It stands at the head of suffering and trial. These are not the things we would think to rejoice in, but if we see through the expectations of the people and look instead into what Jesus was bringing about we will see that there is indeed something to rejoice in. Even though it means suffering and humility, patience and trial.

When we see exactly what Jesus was doing and how He was bringing it about, we learn to pray. And the prayer we pray today, a week from Easter, is that God would mercifully grant that we may follow the example of His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ’s great humility and patience and be made partakers of His resurrection. Being made partakers of His resurrection is something worth rejoicing in, but it does not happen apart from following the example our Savior’s great humility and patience.

That is why those crowds on Palm Sunday would have done well to stick with Jesus all the way to the end. To see Him as He was being arrested, and mocked, and beaten, hanging on a cross as the one who has come in the name of the Lord. And even knowing that in His death all was not lost but was rather the path He chose and that God would bring about the greatest good in raising Him from the grave. There is no resurrection apart from death. When we pray to be made partakers of the resurrection of our Lord we are praying that we follow Him into suffering and death.

This prayer is what Paul calls for in the Epistle reading. He says,

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The key here is Paul’s words, “which is yours in Christ Jesus.” How we follow the example of Jesus, how we have the mind of Christ among ourselves, is that it is ours in Him. That is why we pray God to mercifully grant this to us. We certainly aren’t ready for suffering and trial. We aren’t gung-ho about humility and patience. It is Christ who chose this path willingly and we have this mind among ourselves by virtue of Baptism.

In Baptism you entered into that descent into death, being joined with Christ in a death like His. And having gone through that descent you were raised up in a resurrection like His. You were raised up to a new mind, in which you see suffering as cause for rejoicing because you are joining in with Christ so that you may be raised up ever higher, partaking of His resurrection. You can never know what resurrection fully means for you until you know what it means that you must die to your sin. You must have the mind of Christ in yourself. You must see the example of His great humility and patience as something you embrace.

Otherwise you are living in your sin. You must die to your sin. You must repent of your sin so that it is dead to you and you are dead to it. Christ has no sin but in humility He became a servant, taking your sin into Himself and to death in His own. When you were Baptized you were joined into that death and therefore joined into the death of your sin. All of this was accomplished by Him. That you have died to your sin and have been raised to eternal life is a gift, given to you by grace.

This is how we know that it is all of Christ. God the Father sent Him to where we are and He orchestrated salvation for us. Knowing what would come about in the closing days of Holy Week, Jesus and His disciples went to the Mount of Olives. There He sent two disciples to the nearby village where immediately they would find a donkey tied up. Their task was simple, untie it and bring it to Him. What would happen if anyone said anything to them? It wasn’t their donkey, what should they do then? Jesus told them to say, simply, “The Lord has need of it,” and immediately they would send the donkey with them.

Did Jesus know the owner of the donkey? Did Jesus know the disciples would meet resistance, or was He simply prepared for the possibility? We don’t know how the details shake out, but we do know that Jesus was orchestrating this whole thing. Jesus had come to bring about salvation and He was going to bring it about in His way. His way had already been made known in the Scriptures.

Matthew says of Jesus’ actions in sending the disciples for the donkey, “This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet, ‘Rejoice, daughter of Zion. Behold, your King is coming to you, humble and riding on a donkey.’” This signified what kind of king He was. He was a humble King. He was a King who was coming to bring about salvation. His great humility and patience was simply the expression of His love for sinners.

The disciples did according to what Jesus had commanded them. This was not rocket science. All the disciples had to do was go get a donkey. And yet, the commands of the Lord are what brings about His will. They brought the donkey to Him and He sat on it. People laid their coats and palm branches on the road. The crowds were going ahead of Him and following Him and exclaiming, “Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.”

There’s no question it was a glorious day. The King was riding into Jerusalem to be the King. The one who was coming in the name of the Lord was coming to bring about the Lord’s salvation. But what all those people didn’t realize is that the true glory of that day was the glory of the King who was coming humbly, as a servant. He was bringing about a salvation in which there would be no doubt that it was accomplished because He would accomplish it completely. He would do it Himself.

And because He would, we would partake in His resurrection. He has and we do. Amen.


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