Palm Sunday/ Sunday of the Passion
March 28, 2010
Text: John 12:12-19/ Luke 22:1-23:56
Jesus enters Jerusalem as a conquering King, albeit in humility, riding on a donkey. He leaves the city as a humiliated criminal, to be executed among murderous thieves, yet He is crowned with thorns and enthroned upon the cross. The charge Pilate has nailed could not be more true or more poignant; for here upon the tree, lifted up as the royal standard of our salvation is “the King of the Jews” (Luke 23:38; ESV), indeed, the King of all humanity, the King of all creation, our King and our Savior. His Kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36), yet His Kingdom encompasses this world and all things, the whole universe, Pontius Pilate, Caesar himself, even the devil and his demons, for this King is no mere earthly claimant of an earthly throne, but Almighty God in the flesh. And He rules all things for the good of His people, for the good of all who believe in Him, for the good of His Church. “Are you the King of the Jews?” Pilate had asked Him at His trial (Luke 23:3). “You have said so,” was Jesus’ pointed reply. And now above His head Pilate says so again, for every witness to read for himself, and much to the chagrin of the chief priests: “This is the King of the Jews” (v. 38).
Beloved in the Lord, behold your King. Behold Him enthroned upon His cross, gathering the nations to Himself, sheltering them under His wings, His outstretched arms. He beckons you, too, into His bloody embrace. Behold your King, bearing your griefs, carrying your sorrows, stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted, all for you. Behold your King, pierced for your transgressions, crushed for your iniquities, punished that you might have peace with God, wounded, that in His wounds you might find healing. God has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. For we’ve all gone astray, like dumb sheep, eating poisonous weeds and drinking dirty water and wandering right into the clutches of the wolves and the thieves. Christ, our Good Shepherd, our Suffering Servant, is oppressed and afflicted, that He might win us back. He takes our place, submits Himself to the wolves and the thieves and the butchers so that we may be saved. He goes willingly. He does not open his mouth in protest. Though He could at any moment call upon a legion of holy angels to come to His defense, He is silent (cf. Is. 53). He endures it all for us. He takes it all, all the sin, all the wickedness, all the fallen-ness of this world into Himself. He who knows no sin becomes sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). He takes all the wrath of God for us. He is forsaken of His Father for us. He goes through hell on the cross for us. Indeed, “it was the will of the LORD to crush him” (Is. 53:10), that we might not be crushed, but brought to eternal life.
And so it is in this way that Jesus is your King. He is King precisely in His humility and suffering, by which He purchases you for Himself. The price on your head is His blood. His blood be on you and on your children, that you may be His own, and live under Him in His Kingdom. The cross of Calvary is the location where the Son of God is glorified as King. Here very God of very God does not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but willingly, deliberately, makes Himself nothing, having taken on the form of a servant, your human flesh, making Himself obedient to God in your place, as your stand in, obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. And in this way God highly exalts Him. Only through the death of the cross can our Lord Jesus be raised from the dead and so be victorious over death. God has raised Jesus from the dead and placed Him at His own right hand to rule as both God and Man, so that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow in homage to the King, every knee 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 (Phil. 2:6-11).
This is the way God works in the world. He kills and He makes alive; He wounds and He heals (Deut. 32:39). He casts down the mighty from their thrones and lifts up the lowly. He chooses what is foolish in the world to shame the wise. He chooses what is weak in the world to shame the strong. Our God chooses what is low and despised in the world, even the things that are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, so that no human being might boast (1 Cor. 1:27-29), so that all must come under the reign of the crucified King. Jesus is the foolishness of God. Jesus is the weakness of God. Jesus is the last, the least of these, the One who is not who brings to nothing the first, the greatest of these, the things that are. And so He rules. He brings all things into subjection to God by His blood and death. All people, believers and unbelievers alike, are under His government, which is a government of grace for believers, and of judgment for unbelievers. Finally, even Satan must acknowledge the Lord’s Kingship. “Are You a King then?” Indeed. “You have said so.” It is as plain as the charge nailed above His sacred head.
Your King Jesus has graciously redeemed you, a lost and condemned person. He has purchased and won you from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood, and with His innocent suffering and death, all so you may be His own and live under Him in His Kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness (Luther’s Small Catechism). How do you serve this King? By believing Him. By trusting Him in everything, especially for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. You serve Him by faith, rejoicing in His salvation and living daily in His gifts in His Word and in your Baptism into Him, being nourished by His body and blood in the Supper. You serve Him by living lives that bring Him glory by serving your neighbor in love. Because this King has freed you from your bondage to sin, death, and the devil in His death for you. He has freed you to serve Him without fear of condemnation or the accusations of the Law. He has freed you that you might be subject only to Him.
Behold your King, high and lifted up, upon the cross extended, His royal wooden throne, thorns His only crown. Behold your King, glorified in His humiliation, humiliated that you might be glorified. Behold the One who became nothing that He might be your Everything. Behold your Savior, your crucified God, your eternal King. Today is the first day of Holy Week. Holy means “set apart.” Set apart this week. Set it apart for meditation upon the image of the crucifix. Set it apart to behold your King, for in beholding Him, you behold your redemption. Come faithfully to His house this week, where He meets you with healing in His wings, where you have an unobstructed audience with your King. God strengthen you for this week. God strengthen us all, and grant us faithfulness. For this week we journey to Golgotha, to Good Friday, to the cross, for it is the only way to Easter and resurrection. You cannot skip over death if you are to have a resurrection. The Lord kills before He makes alive. He wounds before He heals. But Easter is coming. Be patient. Wait upon the Lord. The King will deliver you. Take up your cross now and follow Him. He will lead you on straight paths to the place of healing and life. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
 Thanks to the Rev. Timothy Winterstein for this admonition.