Palm Sunday/ Sunday of the Passion
March 25, 2012
Text: John 12:12-19; Mark 14:1-15:47
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.
 The concept for this sermon comes from Bo Giertz, To Live with Christ (St. Louis: Concordia, 2008), pp. 257-58.