Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Palm Sunday/ Sunday of the Passion

Palm Sunday/ Sunday of the Passion (B)[1]

March 25, 2012

Text: John 12:12-19; Mark 14:1-15:47

It doesn’t seem fair, does it? Jesus enters the Holy City to shouts of “Hosanna! Blessed is he who is coming in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (John 12:13; ESV), and by Friday He is crucified between two criminals outside the city, having been convicted in Jewish and Gentile courts of crimes He did not commit. At any moment, Jesus could have answered the false accusations of his accusers. At any moment, Jesus could have spoken a word, given a glance toward heaven, made a simple appeal to His heavenly Father, and at once more than twelve legions of angels would have been at His disposal, to fight for Him and annihilate His captors. He does not do that. Willingly, He allows Himself to be betrayed by one of His own, Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve. With a kiss, no less. Willingly, He allows Himself to be arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane and led to the high priest, where the chief priests and elders and scribes have gathered for His trial, having predetermined their verdict. There many bear false witness against Him, though their testimony does not agree. It could not be more obvious that this is a set-up, a mockery of justice. The Savior remains silent. He makes no answer. Finally, the high priest, Caiaphas, stands up, exasperated. “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you? … Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed” (Mark 14:60-61). “I am,” Jesus answers, YHWH, the Name of God, Jesus claiming it for Himself, “and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds out of heaven” (v. 62). Now you judge me, dear Caiaphas, but the Day is coming when I will come on the clouds to judge you and all the living and the dead.

Now, we know that Jesus is telling the truth. But His Words earn Him the judgment of death. No mere human claims to be God. Such a claim is blasphemy, and the punishment for blasphemy is death. “And the high priest tore his garments and said, ‘What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?’ And they all condemned him as deserving of death” (vv. 63-64). Unfair! Jesus is innocent! He’s telling the truth! He’s God! He can’t possibly be blaspheming!

“The strange thing is that this judgment, the most unjustified verdict ever given on earth, was at the same time the most completely just verdict ever given. Jesus kept secret something that the high priests knew nothing about—He carried the sins of the whole world. He took the burden of guilt for the whole world upon Himself and made it His own. From where He stood, in front of His accusers, He was responsible for their sins also, for their envy and lust for power, their deceit and heartlessness. He took upon Himself all the trespasses of everyone in the past, in the present, and in the future. That sin warranted death. Without knowing it, Caiaphas sentenced his own sin, and all our sin, to the punishment that since the beginning of time had been waiting to deal with the wickedness and selfishness that said no to God’s love: that death must die.”[2]

St. Paul says it this way: “For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). Martin Luther called it the happy exchange. Jesus gets all our sin. We get all His righteousness. Jesus, the sinless Son of God, becomes THE sinner, that He might take the place of sinners to receive God’s justice, God’s punishment. As a result, we sinners are covered with the very righteousness of Jesus Christ. God no longer looks at our sins, for He has nailed them to the cross, and buried them forever in Jesus’ tomb.

The Jews mock Jesus, beat Him, and spit on Him. And then they hand Him over to Pilate. Pilate finds nothing in Jesus worthy of death. But the crowd wants blood. “Crucify him,” they cry (Mark 15:14). How different is this from the shouting that accompanied His triumphal entry. It is not the just thing to do, but Pilate wishes to satisfy the crowd. A murderer, Barabbas, goes free, while Jesus is handed over to be crucified. And yet, the strange thing is, this is all God’s plan. Jesus is murdered on the cross, precisely so that all of us murderers can go free. Jesus is scourged as we deserve. Jesus is mocked and beaten as we deserve. Jesus is put to death as we deserve. And all this He allows to happen, willingly. Because He loves us.

They lead Him out to Golgotha, the Place of a Skull, where they nail Him to the cross and lift Him up. Behold, the King of the Jews. Behold, your King, beloved. His sacred blood flows for you. The three-hour darkness marks His death in your place. His bitter cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (v. 34), is His suffering the hell that you deserve. He is forsaken by God so that God will never forsake you. He is damned so that you will never be accursed, but have eternal life. The punishment that brings you peace is upon Him, and with His stripes, you are healed. He is punished, that you may be forgiven.

And then, when it is all over, when the sins of the whole world have been paid in full by the sinless Son of God, He utters a loud cry and breathes His last. And of all people, a Roman centurion is the first to get what it is that has happened here. “And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was the Son of God!’” (v. 39).

Of course, we’ve barely touched on the details of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ as we read it in its entirety from the Gospel according to St. Mark this morning. But know this about all that we have heard and witnessed with the eyes of faith here today. All of this is for you. All this your Lord Jesus Christ did willingly, for you, because He loves you. He did this that you may be His own. Beloved, this Palm Sunday/ Sunday of the Passion marks the beginning of Holy Week. This week, let us stay awake and alert, and watch with Jesus, and pray, that we not fall into temptation. Come to the Holy Week services. Hear the Word of the Lord. Receive the holy Sacrament of His Body and Blood. Because in this way the Lord gives to you what He has won for you in His sacrificial death for your sins. The Lord Jesus Himself comes to you this morning and throughout the week in the flesh with His good gifts and the Holy Spirit. Faith strews palm branches before Him and receives Him with great delight, to the shouts of “Hosanna! Save us now, O Lord! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" Let us not sleep. The events of our Lord’s Passion for us unfold before our very eyes. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] The concept for this sermon comes from Bo Giertz, To Live with Christ (St. Louis: Concordia, 2008), pp. 257-58.
[2] Ibid.


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