Cruce Tectum

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

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Palm Sunday/Sunday of the Passion


Palm Sunday/Sunday of the Passion (C)
March 24, 2013
Text: Phil. 2:5-11

            It may be laborious to our sinful, and frankly, lazy flesh, but it’s also refreshing to hear the entire Passion of our Lord in one sitting, in this case, from the Gospel according to St. Luke (22:1-23:56).  After all, how often do we do that in a year?  The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is to say, His suffering and death, along with His resurrection on Easter… well, this is the central event in human history, and the determinative event for you and me.  For our whole salvation depends on this.  If this didn’t happen, we’re doomed to eternity in hell.  But it did happen, and we ought to rejoice to hear it as God reveals it to us in Holy Scripture.  This is what Holy Week is all about.  This is what Christianity is all about.  This is the sum and substance of all of Scripture.  Jesus Christ was crucified for your sins.  And He is risen and distributes the blessings of His death and resurrection, namely, forgives of sins, eternal life, and salvation, in His Word and Sacraments.  This week the Church participates in the divine and very real drama of our Lord’s Passion.  This morning we waved our palm branches and sang, “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.”  Then, after a time of silence, the festive mood gave way to solemn meditation on the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus for us.  Throughout the weak, we’ll be participating as the drama unfolds: The institution of the Lord’s Supper and the command to love one another on Maundy Thursday; the betrayal, trial, suffering, and crucifixion of our Lord on Good Friday; His sacred Sabbath rest in the tomb and the joy of the first service of Easter at the Saturday evening Vigil; and then, of course, our Sunrise and Festival Divine Services on Resurrection morning.
            So it is good that we heard in one sitting the history of our Lord’s Passion.  This morning, in our Epistle lesson, St. Paul gives us the theological explanation of what we heard in the Gospel.  Our Epistle is St. Paul’s preaching to us for the Sunday of the Passion.  He speaks of our Lord’s humiliation and exaltation.  He starts with Christmas, or actually, even before Christmas, with our Lord’s conception in the womb of the Virgin Mary.  This man, Jesus of Nazareth, is also the Son of God from all eternity, of one substance with the Father, equal in divine majesty, the Word of God through whom all things were made, eternal, ineffable, incomprehensible.  And yet, this Son of God takes on flesh.  Our flesh.  He “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,” (Phil. 2:6; ESV), a thing to cling to, though it belongs to Him.  Instead, He “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men,” (v. 7), a man for us men and for our salvation.  This is His State of Humiliation, which, if you remember your Catechism, is the time in which our Lord Jesus did not always or fully use His divine powers.  He gave glimpses of those powers, healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead.  But He also limited Himself.  The all-knowing God, in His flesh, grew in wisdom and knowledge, and confessed there were things that He did not know (according to His human nature), such as the time of the end of the world (Matt. 24:36).  He could walk through a murderous mob trying to throw Him off a cliff (Luke 4:29-30), but He did not walk away when the soldiers bound Him and beat Him and crowned Him with thorns.  He could have called upon twelve legions of angels to deliver Him (Matt. 26:53), but He did not.  Because He was determined to die, for you, and for the world.  He was determined to be obedient to the Father to the point of death, “even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8).
            Death on a cross, the most humiliating of all deaths.  It is a cursed death, a death that, according to the Law of Moses (Deut. 21:22-23) cuts you off from God, as it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” (Gal. 13).  Jesus Christ redeemed us from the curse by becoming a curse for us.  God heaped the sins of the world upon His Son, Jesus.  For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).  That is what is happening in our Gospel this morning.  The sin of the world, your sin, my sin, heaped upon the sinless Son of God, Jesus Christ, who bears it all the way to the cross.  He is pronounced guilty for our sin.  The Lord Jesus is condemned while the murderer goes free.  Barabbas is released, you are released from the prison of sin and death.  Because Jesus takes your place.  Such is His obedience to the Father for your sake.  Such is His great love for you.
            Therefore God has highly exalted him” (Phil. 2:9).  His State of Exaltation.  God exalts the crucified Son who was obedient unto death.  He could have exalted Himself and avoided death altogether, but He does not do it.  He waits for God the Father to do it, by raising Jesus from the dead.  That’s the Good News we’ll hear about especially on Easter.  Now, bodily risen from the dead, in His State of Exaltation, our Lord Jesus always and fully uses His divine powers, not just as God, but as a Man.  He has ascended bodily into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, ruling all things for the benefit of His Church, the people He purchased for Himself with His own blood.  He knows all things.  He is glorified as a Man, even as He has been glorified as God for all eternity.  And now His Name is above every Name, the Name “Jesus,” “The LORD saves,” for that is what He has done.  He’s saved His people from their sins.  And so now, “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” (vv. 10-11).  Here, Paul records the earliest Christian Creed: “Jesus Christ is Lord.”  And he says that every knee will bow and every tongue confess it.  Those in heaven confess it with great rejoicing.  We Christians on the earth confess it even now in our Creed and in Scripture and liturgy and hymn.  And those under the earth, those in hell, confess it to their everlasting shame… and regret!  For now they know that Jesus died for their salvation, too, if only they had received it with faith.
            Why hear the whole Passion history in one sitting, as we did this morning?  Because “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).  That’s why we have all the Church services this week, too.  You don’t get any brownie points with God by coming to so much Church.  This is not a good work you do so that you can impress Him.  No, the reason you come is simply to receive.  To receive His gifts by hearing His Word, the faith He imparts to you by His Spirit in that Word, the faith He strengthens by that Word.  To receive the forgiveness of your sins in that Word.  To receive Christ Jesus Himself as He comes to you to dwell with you, really and truly, bodily, in His Word and the Sacrament of His body and blood.  The things we heard this morning in our Gospel are real.  They really happened.  They really happened for you.  And the Word of God has this power that even as you hear it and read it, it imparts this reality to you as a gift.  Scripture has the power to make itself your own.  Time in Holy Scripture is time redeemed.  Let us pray: “Blessed Lord, You have caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning.  Grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that, by patience and comfort of Your holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord” (LSB 308), who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.
            Christ, our Lord, strengthen you for the week ahead, and richly bless you as He comes to you in His Word and Sacrament.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.       

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