In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Ghost.
The events of this week are summed up in the description of Jesus in today’s Epistle: “Jesus, who, being in the form of God did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, … made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.” But what does that odd phrase “did not consider it robbery” mean? The Greek word itself is difficult to break down, and is only used once in the New Testament. The best understanding of this phrase is really, “Against all expectation, Jesus did not regard equality with God as a gain to be utilized” (TDNT). In His earthly life, Jesus never boasted that He is God. Though He could have done any number of miracles, could have fed Himself in the wilderness, could have taken Himself off the cross, could have changed His own Law to say that innocent Blood wasn’t required to forgive sin, He didn’t. He endured it all. He never abused His divinity, wiggled his nose, and made everything right. Just the opposite. He endured every hardship imaginable to earn your salvation, to say that He has been where you are—in hunger, depression, poverty, temptation, abandonment, and every other negative thing. He didn’t avoid the tragedy of human life in a sinful, dying world like a monarch avoiding the slums in a tour of his cities. He lived it all, He was at all times God in the flesh, possessed the same almighty power as God the Father, but refrained from always and fully using it.
Palm Sunday highlights this reality. Jesus was completely aware of what this week would hold. He may be welcomed in joy, lauded with shouts of praise, but soon the Palm Sunday crowds will be overpowered by the angry mob led by the scribes and chief priests and Pharisees. Today He hears “Hosanna,” but He knows that soon it will be “Crucify Him!” Today He is hailed as a king, but Friday He will walk the streets of the city in the same way as the worst of criminals. Yet He rode on in lowly pomp to die. In humility He endures all things to save His children from sin and death.
Like today’s Service, this week has a strong contrast in tone. There will be sorrow. We will come face-to-face with everything Our Lord endured. We will hear about His intense love for His disciples and all the world. We will hear about His agony so great that He sweat blood. We will follow Him through sham trials, to whippings within an inch of His life, and ultimately to the greatest piercing ever, as nails break through His hands and feet to attach Him to the cross. And we will watch Him suffer the true punishment: being forsaken by God, cast out of His presence, that is, Jesus will endure hell, the absence of God.
But through this week runs a note of victory. Just like we held our palms during the reading of St. Matthew’s Passion as a sign of joy and victory, we know what comes after all this. We will go to the Upper Room on Thursday and follow to the Mount of Olives and to Calvary on Friday in happiness. We know that Sunday will come, that Jesus will raise from the dead. We never mourn as those who have no hope. We know the full story for Jesus, that death and Satan look triumphant, but are crushed, buried, no more the enemy.
And more than knowing the full story for Jesus, we know the full story for ourselves as well. We know that everything Jesus has done, He has done for us. Because He was obedient to the point of death and hell, we will not be. He has paid the price the Law demanded. He did not cut corners or do things the easy way, but in all things gave Himself fully to the job of our salvation. And He gave to His Church the blessed gift of Holy Baptism, and through that saving flood His Blood covers us, washes away our sin, and makes His resurrection our own. He has left us the Feast of His Body and Blood that gives us the fruit and benefit of the cross for our forgiveness and the strengthening of our faith. What joy to know that everything Jesus has done that we will recall in this week’s Services He has done for us!
This week is one of repentant joy. This week Jesus will live up to His Name, “The Lord saves.” He saves, not by divine decree, by throwing His weight around as God, but in loving humility. He takes on our flesh, comes as the servant of all, and lays down His life in place of ours. Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!
The peace of God which passeth all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Matthew 26:36 - 27:60 (the St. Matthew Passion)
Sermons from Mount Olive
Mount Olive follows the historic one-year lectionary (series of readings).