Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Amen.
In the name of Jesus dear saved ones:
Today we begin the solemn celebration of Holy Week! By faith we stand on the crowded streets of Jerusalem and strain to see Jesus riding on a colt the foal of a donkey. We join in crying out our hosannas! We hail him as the King of kings. It all seems so joyful. But we know where this all leads. This King is marching off to shame, to suffering, and to sin-bearing. The King is not about his own glory – but ours. The King offers himself for sinners. This is the real glory and grace of this day. What a remarkable celebration! What a red-letter day! But it is bitter sweet. We still need to watch the blood flow that pays the price for sin. We still need to hear the groans of agony as he is forsaken by his Father for us. We still need to hear the cry of “It is finished!” There will be the lifeless time in the tomb. Then in a week we will celebrate the resurrection. This is a great day to contemplate the salvation Jesus has won for us and the impact his forgiveness has on our daily life. So we watch King Jesus enter Jerusalem to suffer, to die, and to rise again! He empties himself for us and our salvation. Jesus’ emptiness makes us full!
Paul reminds us on this festive day that Jesus’ humble service for us fills us with a heart of service. Don’t fail to see the impact that the events of this week that we call “Holy” has on our eternity and our daily grind. Listen carefully to the humble service our dear Lord offered! Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!
What has Jesus done? He is true God – but he didn’t consider himself to be equal with God. He did not seek his own gain and glory but our forgiveness and eternal life. He emptied himself by taking on the form of a servant. Here we watch in amazement as Jesus willingly exchanged the “form of God” for the “form of a servant.” He voluntarily gave up the full use of his divine attributes for a time to accomplish his divine task of saving us. The Son of God became man to accomplish the salvation of all people by his perfect life and his innocent sufferings and death. It was for this reason that he emptied himself so that he might do and suffer all that needed to be done and suffered to accomplish our salvation. Jesus emptied himself and humbled himself so that we will be exalted for eternity. This is what we see happen during this Holy Week.
What does this mean? It means that Jesus took our place. That he lived a perfect life in our place. That he suffered the punishment for our sin. That’s all fine and good – but where, where is the practical value of it? Remember that Jesus took your place under God’s Law –so through faith in Jesus we are credited with his perfect life and covered with his robe of righteousness. Remember that Jesus was punished for your sin. God will not and does not punish you for your sins even now, because he punished Jesus instead! You have no punishment to face!
What does this move us to do? It moves us to take up our cross and follow him. It moves us to walk in his footsteps to serve and love others, to place them before self. It really is all about an unconditional love for all. It is indeed about service. Precisely the lesson Jesus was teaching in the Upper Room on Maundy Thursday when he took the time to wash his disciples’ feet. Listen in on the conversation as recorded in John’s Gospel: Do you understand what I have done for you? He asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” All service – godly service – begins with God’s service to us in Christ. So set out to be of the mindset that you need your Savior’s service to you. You need his love, his forgiveness, his comfort, his peace. You need his Word, his Sacraments, his strength. These things are the things that strengthen the new person to willingly serve the neighbor as a way of serving the Savior who served us by going to the cross.
Today we begin the final leg of Jesus’ journey to the cross for our salvation. We follow. We rejoice. We look forward with pain. We anticipate the sorrow and the rejection. But we know in a week’s time we will celebrate with vigor the accomplishment of all Jesus did for us and for our salvation. We pause now to contemplate how deeply Jesus loves each one of us – enough to die for us on the cross of all places – a symbol of the most wretched, wicked sinner. His death is your life!
Yes, we have life in Christ. Paul sets our eyes on the prize as he reminds us that Jesus’ glory fills us with hope for eternity. Jesus is our trailblazer. He walked the road to hell for us and now leads us on the narrow path that leads to heaven. So Paul continues: Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 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.
For a brief moment in every Communion service we join the Palm Sunday crowd in praising the Lord Jesus. We sing, “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” We join our voices with those who have entered into the glories of heaven before us. All this because Jesus has been emptied and exalted. In fact, it was Jesus’ emptiness that is his greatest glory. For God’s glory really must be measured by grace and not powerful physical signs. The power of God is strongest in the gentle whisper of his gospel. Ultimately everyone will bow before King Jesus and confess that he is Lord. But not everyone will be a beneficiary of his gift of grace. Those who have rejected the message of an empty Christ, will not enjoy the blessing of heaven. May we not be left outside the gates to suffer! Rather may we be found among the faithful praising Jesus for his dying love!
What does this mean for us? Because Jesus nailed our sins to the cross and has blazed the trail to heaven – we are going there also. Remember he is the only way to heaven! Those found in faith will be welcomed into heaven. John saw this sight and describes it for us in Revelation 7, After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. So we will join a different and prefect Palm Sunday crowd in the heavenly Jerusalem!
We live in this sure and certain hope. We look forward to our heavenly home. We have a glorious future. Lord keep us faithful to you, so we join you for eternity! Amen.