In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dear Friends in Christ,
The question I struggled with this week was “What should be the focus of the sermon?” Should the emphasis be on the Palm Sunday gospel reading from Saint Mark with its “Hosannas” and the familiar words of the people, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord?”
Or should the focus be on the Passion Sunday gospel reading from Saint Luke that tells us about Christ’s suffering – the trial, crucifixion, death, and burial of Jesus? Should the insults hurled at Jesus be the words we hear again, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ.”
The words of Moses in the Old Testament reading are incredibly powerful as he tells us that the Lord will have compassion on his people when he sees that they are completely helpless. We hear how all the false gods that we chase after have no power to heal us from the sickness called sin or make us alive when we were dead in our trespasses.
Saint Paul tells us that Jesus could have grasped the power of an earthly king, he could have avoided the trial, crucifixion, death, and burial. But Paul tells us that Jesus “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
There is so much to unpack in these readings, so much to study, so much to preach about. What took away my anxiety about preparing a sermon for today was that all of these readings are the same. They are all about a gracious and merciful God. All of these readings are about the God who is to be blessed and the God who has blessed us.
The Lord is certainly right when he tells us that we are helpless when we trust in ourselves. We do not have the power to live according to God’s will and therefore we cannot save ourselves from being judged guilty. We have no power to change the sentence of death that is pronounced on all who sin and fall short of the glory of God.
How successful have you been in living a perfect life, a life without sin? How many times have you told yourself that you were going to clean up your act and have found yourself unchanged? How many times have you confessed the same sin over and over again promising God you will change yet failed to amend your sinful way?
The Lord also tells us how useless it is to trust in false gods to save us. How many times have you taken refuge in a false god who you believe overlooks your sins because they are not as bad as the drug dealer, the child molester, the identity thief or the phone scammer? James tells us, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.”
How many times have you worshiped a false god who you believe will forgive you because you have sacrificed your time and money to keep the church going? The Lord said “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart [he will not despise].”
There is no power in us or in any false god to redeem us from our sin, to heal our broken hearts, and to make us alive again. That is why God made the promise that he would have compassion on us, heal us and make us alive through the forgiveness of our sins.
The whole Old Testament pointed to the one who would come in the name of the Lord, the one who would reveal God’s compassion for the sinner, and the one through whom the forgiveness of sins would come.
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” The Introit began and ended with those words. Those words are true whether they are spoken at Christmas, at the baptism of Jesus, at his entry into Jerusalem, as he is taken to Pontius Pilate, or as he hangs on the cross.
“Hosanna!” the people shouted, “save us now.” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” “Blessed is Jesus” who entered Jerusalem for one purpose – to save you from your sins by dying on a cross. “Blessed is Jesus” who stood before Pilate as a common criminal, who was crucified, suffered, and died for one purpose – to save you from your sins by being forsaken by man and the heavenly Father.
Christ and Him Crucified
Saint Paul wrote to the church in Corinth about Jesus. He wrote, “we preach Christ crucified.” A few verses later, Paul repeats his intention as a pastor to the Corinthians, “For I have decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
It doesn’t matter that we are not Corinthians. It does not matter what Sunday we come here. The message for today and every day is the same, “Blessed is he who came to Jerusalem to be crucified for us.”
Charges Against Him
The religious leaders brought many charges against Jesus to prove that he was a threat to Pilate and the government. The religious leaders wanted Jesus out of their lives. If only they knew all the charges that were about to be brought against Jesus.
Jesus was not crucified because he was a threat to the Roman government. He did not die because of the charges brought against him by the Jewish leaders. Jesus gave his life, he laid it down, because of God’s charges against all of us, the charges against YOU.
Jesus said to his disciples, “the Son of Man came not to serve but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” He said to them, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.“
Yes, we are guilty, but no, we are not charged. Even though we go astray, even though we sin and should bear the shame of our sins, we are not charged. Isaiah wrote, “and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
“For our sake [God] made [Jesus Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” In the heavenly court, Christ was charged with our sins so that through his suffering and death we might live and be free of our sins.
In Colossians chapter two, Saint Paul puts it this way, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your fresh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”
If our sins were charged against us we could not stand before God, but in his passion Christ was charged with our sins. He was forsaken so that we could be made alive to live as God’s beloved children.
Jesus Christ suffered and died so that we could be free from the power of sin and free from the verdict we deserve. Satan’s joy would be to take each one of us to God with a list of our sins. He would love to charge us with each and every one of them so that God would have no choice but to condemn us.
This is not possible anymore. You have been blessed.. You have been connected with Christ. His death is your death, his resurrection is your resurrection. Satan can no longer bring charges against you because they have been cancelled out through the suffering and death of your Savior.
Why is it so important that we preach Christ and him crucified? Why is it so important that we understand that Jesus suffered and died because of our sins? It’s important because that is how God reveals his love for you.
God has revealed himself to you in the suffering and death of his Son. “God is love. In this God has shown his love to us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not hat we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the payment for our sins.” 1 Jn. 4:8b-10
In the name of Jesus, Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria