Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sermon - Palm Sunday/Sunday of the Passion - Philippians 2:8

Sometimes I think God asks too much of me. I mean, really. What is he thinking? I can understand giving some general guidelines to follow, some flexible rules to kind of give me an idea of which way to go in life. But commandments are a different story. The law of God is just so... oppressive! What do you mean I can't have ANY other gods? What, you expect me to be kind and loving ALL THE TIME? I wouldn't argue too much if there were some qualifications on all of this. A sort of, “do unto others in the same way they do to you”. Or just, “be nice most of the time”. But he says, “Do as you would HAVE them do to you”. And “love your enemies, even pray for them”. And that's a whole lot harder to do. Sometimes it just doesn't seem fair.  Of course all this is my Old Adam talking.

And then there's Jesus. We know he was like us in every way, yet without sin. And I have to say, I can't imagine what that must be like. No sin of deed, or word, OR thought. I can't even roll out of bed for a couple of minutes without some sinful thought dumping out of this brain. I'm sure you are the same. But Jesus, though human, was also God. He was different, special, holy. He was the only one who could do this. Walk the walk, perfectly. Talk the talk, think the think – of one without sin.

And so he was perfectly obedient. As Paul says, right? Though he was God, he didn't think much of that. He listened when his Father sent him to take on human flesh and leave his heavenly throne behind. He obeyed perfectly, fulfilled the law – honored God, honored his name, his day, his parents. He loved his neighbor with a compassion you and I can only dream about having. It's like they said about Jesus, “he has done all things well!” He cast out demons, healed the sick, he even raised a man from the dead. But there was one more thing God would ask of his Son.

“He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

I want you to go to Jerusalem, and there you will die. You'll hand yourself over to those pompous hypocrites, and they will put you, the judge of all things, on trial. They, sinners from birth and sinners to this day – will judge you as a criminal, innocent though you are. And they, dead in their sins, will condemn you to death – by the shouting jeers of a bloodthirsty crowd, the cynical machinations of jealous and power-hungry men, and the cowardice of the one who was given authority from above.

Yes, all of this will happen, and it will all happen in spite of your holiness, my son, and you will die, and die a miserable death for them all. And I have to say one more thing, I can't even be with you at the darkest moment. When you take their place, I have to turn my back on you. I can't just wink at sin, you know, it must be condemned. And it will be condemned in your body, as you die, on that cursed tree. You'll bear the brunt of it, my condemnation for all sin, for all people of all time and place. This is your mission. This I ask of you. I am sending you to do it.

And Jesus said, “Thy will be done”. Even in the garden, with death so imminent it made him sweat blood, he prayed, “Thy will be done”.

Truly no greater love has someone than that he lay down his life for his friends. Jesus Christ laid his perfect life down not for friends, but for his enemies, to make us his friends, his people, God's children.

In this holy week, we will meditate on his sacrifice for us. In a way, it began even before he was born. But his passion puts a fine point on it, and crescendos to Calvary, where it is finished. Jesus takes the place of Barabbas. Jesus takes the place of all sinners – condemned to die – apart from God. Even in his tomb, he is our substitute. He goes in our place.

And you, forgiven sinner, go in his place. You go to resurrection. You go to an inheritance. You go to the throne room of the Father, and receive a crown of glory. You receive what Jesus has, what he deserves, what he gives freely, by grace, through faith in him. Trust in him all the more, for it is finished. In Jesus' Name.

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