Our Humble King and Christ / Zechariah 9:9, Philippians 2:5-11, Mark 14-15 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday March 28th 2021 / Palm Sunday Holy Week / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Palm Sunday – Sunday of the Passion March 29th 2021: Season of Lent / Zechariah 9:9, Philippians 2:5-11, Mark 14-15 "Our Humble King and Christ"
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so 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. (Philippians 2:5-11)
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. “Behold, your King is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is He, humble and mounted on a donkey,” Holy Week is upon us. Today’s Gospel reading finds us in the thick of the events of that week. The Triumphal Entry has happened, Jesus has cleared the temple of the money changers, as we heard in the Gospel reading a couple weeks ago, and the whole city is stirred up. This miracle worker and preacher Jesus entered the city to great praise and His presence there was like a line drawn in the sand. It demanded an answer … which side are you on? Each heart was pressed to say where it stood. Each ear that heard Jesus preach and teach in the temple was forced to contemplate and think about what it heard. Every eye was upon Jesus watching for a miracle - or for a mistake - and every tongue in the city confessed something about Jesus either good or ill. And there was a buzz, ‘Had this Jesus really raised Lazarus from the dead in Bethany like people were saying?’ … ‘Some say they saw it with their own eyes and that Lazarus had been dead for four days!’ Who does such things?
And what of the people who greeted this Jesus as He entered Jerusalem with their loud hosannas? They seemed to believe Jesus was maybe something even more … could He be the legitimate King of Israel, the long foretold son of David returning to His rightful throne? King Herod wouldn’t like this news, neither would the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate, nor would the religious leaders in the temple. Because if that were true it would not be just the hearts and ears and eyes and tongues that would need to believe, hear, see and confess this Jesus to be a preacher and teacher, miracle worker and prophet, if all that were true, if He was indeed the rightful king of Israel, than the knee wound have to bend. Every knee in Jerusalem, in Israel, would need to bow, perhaps those in authority had pondered that even their knees might need to bend, but not everyone in those circles were ready to bend the knee to this Jesus. And so it is in every generation, and in every place, all the way down through time to our very day.
You and I know that Jesus was more than a long expected king, He’s the King of Kings and the Lord of lords and as St. Peter had said Jesus is “the Christ,” “the Son of the living God.” So Jesus then is not like other kings. In the last number of weeks our readings have pressed us to think about how we see Jesus, how the World sees Him and who He truly is. To see Jesus rightly truly is a gift of faith. The struggle for many in the days of His public ministry was to see past Jesus’ humble appearance and truly see that He was, is and ever shall be God in the flesh. This is still a struggle today.
Had Jesus arrived in Jerusalem with His followers and disciples trailing behind Him as a book of Exodus style Theophany, as a mighty Pillar of Cloud by day or a mighty Pillar of Fire by night, had He swooped down in a fiery chariot with horses aflame with Holy Fire with Elijah sitting at His side would the knees of the Sadducees and Pharisees, and the Scribes and the chief priests and the Elders of the people all have bent and bowed down; along with King Herod and even the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate? Would every one of their tongues have confessed that Jesus Christ was Lord, to the glory of God the Father? Perhaps they would have, but it would likely have been out of surprise and fear for the loss of their position in Society. Your Jesus didn’t arrive in Jerusalem in that way, He arrived in the most humble way of all in order to fulfil the prophecy of Zechariah, “Behold, your King is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is He, humble and mounted on a donkey,” which ought to have been a clue for the learned and well taught among those who lived in Jerusalem. The palm beaches, the strewn cloaks along His path, the loud Hosannas hardly scratched the surface of the praise His arrival warranted, even His Triumphal Entry was humble when you think on who Jesus truly is.
Let’s press this a bit further. Let’s say every time the pastor stood at the altar and said the Words of Institution a Pillar of Cloud and Fire appeared and sparks of flame shot forth landing on all the faithful forgiving their sins, burning their sins away in a crucible of white hot all consuming righteous fire leaving them unscathed but forgiven, but for all that did not believe they were driven out of the church by the sight of God’s almighty presence forced out by a host of angles. How many times would that have to happen before even the most incredulous and skeptical of people took heart to wrestle with God over their faith or lack thereof?
But what if instead, at the invitation of Jesus, when the pastor stood at the altar and said the Words of Institution Jesus arrived in the most humble of ways in with and under the bread and wine placed there by His faithful believers lovingly exalted on plates and cups of silver and gold fit for a King; and then one by one they would each receive Jesus by simply eating the meal He gave them to eat in remembrance of Him back during that first Holy Week, on that Thursday night in which He was betrayed? And what if week in and week out for thousands of years Christians remembered Him in this way and trusted that He truly is with them always to the end of the age not just spiritually in their baptism but with His very Body and Blood in Holy Communion. Well, only those with eyes of faith, who had been taught God’s Word and believed what was found there, would be able to discern the real presence of Christ Jesus in the meal just as He promises to be. And when you know, trust and believe this to be true - by the cherished God given gift of faith – then, as you are able, your knee will bow and your tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Where else would you rather be than in His presence.
Back to those who would not, could not, and flat out refused to see that Jesus was, is and ever shall be the Son of God, the Christ. They were put out by His faultless fulfilment of the Perfect Law of the LORD. They knew the law and they disliked being shown up over and over and over again, because the Scribes and the Elders of the people, the Chief Priests and the Sadducees and Pharisees all in their own way acted as examples to the people when it came to showing and teaching how a good Jewish person should follow the Law of God. They, not Jesus, were to do this work of living and teaching; so it was that they were the ones who plotted Jesus’ death. Now they wanted to do it after the Passover Celebrations, not during the Passover, to avoid spoiling the Holidays; but thanks to Judas’ eagerness to help them their plans were accelerated, even still they wouldn’t do it themselves, they rather looked for a way to have Jesus killed and removed from the public discourse through the might of the Romans garrisoned in the city. They sought a way to do it publicly but in a way that kept their hands clean. However their plan to have Jesus’ life blood poured out unto death was flawed, they were seeking to empty Jesus of His earthly power through death but they had no idea how much there was to empty, because they didn’t know who Jesus truly was, is and every shall be. The fullness of what was there to be emptied out was hidden by His humility, by His humble appearance.
In our own time we find individuals and groups who aren’t satisfied with simply not believing in Jesus, and not bending their knee or confessing Jesus to be the Son of God with their tongue. Yes even in our own day there are people who try to crucify Jesus all over again with claims that He never existed, or that Jesus was only a man and not God, or by pushing the Lord’s Prayer - which Jesus taught His disciples and all Christians - out of the public schools, by fighting to make formerly Christian universities secular, to debase Jesus in theses and in every way imaginable. The efforts of the Scribes and the Elders of the people, the Chief Priests and the Sadducees and Pharisees had only marginal temporary success, they hardly enjoyed three days rest from Jesus when before they knew it Jesus was risen from the dead and then following that first Easter Jesus’ disciples emboldened by His resurrection from the dead became an immovable force through history.
Jesus’ disciples, and those who followed after them, tasted from the cup that Christ drank down to the dregs at His cross, they faced martyrdom, persecution and imprisonments with joy because they finally understood what Jesus had taught them when Jesus said, “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” And because their fear of the LORD was transformed by Christ, into a healthy and good expression of respect and new obedience bolstered by the knowledge that God loved them and had saved them in Christ, they were then free never to fear the tyrants of this World because unlike God those tyrants had no eternal power over them, their judgments over them would prove to be short lived and they could not grant new life or eternal life. The fear of such men evaporated from their minds. Again as in their day so it is in our day, when you know this and believe it, you too can trust that the plans of such men and women to empty Jesus of His power in the lives of Christians and in the life of the World are flawed plans. Their perennial seeking to empty Jesus of His earthly power will come to nothing because they like those who came before them have no idea how much there is to empty in Christ Jesus, because they like those who came before them didn’t know who Jesus truly was, is and every shall be.
In the last hundred years we have seen people try to stamp out Jesus and His followers in places like Russia and then when those hostile to Jesus and His Church fall out of favour and out of power we’ve then likewise witnessed the Church flourish again, like one risen from the dead. Jesus, the Head of the Church, by the working of the Holy Spirit resurrects them to new life. In the heat of persecution, in the heat of the attack, the Church is often reduced to the most humble of settings, yes all the beautiful things bit by bit are stripped away until the Church appears to hang naked with Christ upon the cross of public crucifixion, looking to all the World as one practically dead. We have not known such a thing here in Canada but it doesn’t mean it can’t come to us: the brightness or dimness of the future maters not when you know where you stand and to whom you truly bend your knee.
Were Jesus’ disciples and followers always good at confessing Jesus as Lord, to the glory of God the Father? Are we always good at confessing Jesus as Lord, to the glory of God the Father? No, the disciples struggled to do so during the end of that first Holy Week; for the most part they ran away from Jesus when they could have stood firm and we like the disciples may at times find ourselves likewise running away into the night, as they did, when the mob comes to assail and arrest us. We may even wriggle out of our cloths to run away naked into the night as that one poor young man did in the Gospel of Mark. We might find ourselves denying Jesus like Saint Peter had when asked by hostile voices if we follow Jesus. We won’t all fail in these ways but some of us will and do fail in these ways, and if things truly become dyer and dangerous, if the line was drawn hard in the sand and we were forced to publicly answer the question of whose side we are on, there may be some of us who could fall into sin who we might not expect to do so. In whatever circumstance you find yourself to be in, be encouraged. Christ died for you, and by His death your sins are forgiven. You are now free, in Christ, to stand firm in your faith and confess Him without fear.
And when you are able to confess Christ to your friends and family, to your neighbour and community, you are now free to follow Jesus’ example and confess Him as your Lord, the very Son of God, with humility, and you don’t need fancy words or grand gestures to do it.
Yes, there is a time and place for the honourable and the beautiful, a time to see Jesus’ transfigured and shining like the sun as we saw Him at the end of the season of Epiphany with Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration back when we were just about to start our journey through Lent to Holy Week; just as there is a time and a place to look upon the crushed, and afflicted Jesus, beaten and hung upon the cross of Good Friday. A time and place to know the heights and depths of the glory of God, the fullness of Jesus’ love for us that drove Him to be obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross for us all.
Yes there is a time also for humility, “Behold, your King is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is He, humble and mounted on a donkey,” humble and mounted upon a cross, humble and mounted upon simple bread and wine, humble and mounted upon words preached from the pulpit and spoken to you from the pages of Holy Scripture. In the Pillar of Cloud by day and the Pillar of Fire by night of the book of Exodus Jesus emptied Himself to be visible to the Children of Israel while He was rescuing them from captivity; in the incarnation when He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary Jesus emptied Himself even more gloriously to live among us and walk in our shoes, drawing our humanity into Himself in order to faultlessly keep the Perfect Law of the LORD in our place; and at the cross Jesus emptied Himself completely of His very life for you: Jesus emptied Himself in these ways, Jesus empties Himself in these ways pouring Himself into our lives in order to be present with us. Present with us in our life and present with us in our death. Year in and year out we watch God, in the person of Christ Jesus, emptied Himself in Service of His creation choosing the humble path so we can be redeemed and saved. This Holy Week we hear and see this wondrous love unfold again. What a blessed joy to be able to bend the knee at the coming of our humble Lord and King, and confess Him to be the very Son of God, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 John 11:45-46, 12:17
 John 12:12-19, Luke 19:38, Matthew 21:1–11
 Revelation 19:16
 Mark 8:29
 Matthew 16:16
 Exodus 40:34–38
 2 Kings 2:11–12
 Matthew 28:20
 Mark 14:22-25
 Mark 10:39
 Matthew 10:28
 “Article VI. Of New Obedience” Augsburg Confession 1530 Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions Pocket Edition, Concordia Publishing House 2009. “Our churches teach that this faith is bound to bring forth good fruit [Galatians 5:22-23]. It is necessary to do good works commanded by God [Ephesians 2:10], because of God’s will. We should not rely on those works to merit justification before God. For forgiveness of sins and justification is received through faith. The voice of Christ testifies, “so you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘we are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty’”, (Luke 17:10). The Fathers teach the same thing. Ambrose says, “It is ordained of God that he who believes in Christ is saved, freely receiving forgiveness of sins, without works, through faith alone.” 37.
 Mark 14:51-52
 Mark 14:66-72
 Matthew 17:2
 Philippians 2:8
Photo Credits: Main Photo Palm Branches from pexels; Donkey from pexels; Man Kneeling (Tinted for Lent) from pexels; Clouds from pxhere; Fire from pxhere; Holy Communion @ Mount Olive Host by schultzphotographic; Holy Communion @ Mount Olive Cup by schultzphotographic; Crucifix (Tinted for Lent) from pexels; Crucifix Stone Building from upsplash; The Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed Russia from unsplash; Light Through Romanesque Dome Window from pexels; Woman With Palm Branch and Bible from upsplash; Jesus Mosaic from pexels; Open Bible from pexels.