Sermon for Palmarum, 2021

Text: Philippians 2:5-11; Matthew 21:1-9

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Jesus enters into Jerusalem to shouts of exultation. Hosanna in the highest! Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! The people were right to rejoice at Jesus’ arrival. This is God in the flesh, after all. More than that, Jesus comes to do exactly what they want him to do. Hosanna means “save us now.” In just a few days, Jesus will do just that. He will save them as he will hang from the cross, earning redemption for all people of all time.

This redemption was made necessary because, unlike Jesus, man does count equality with God as something to be grasped. Every sin that is committed is, at its root, idolatry. It places fear, love, and trust into something or someone besides the true God. When the serpent tempted Adam and Eve to disobey God in the garden of Eden, he told them that God didn’t want her to eat of the fruit of the tree because he knew that their eyes would be opened and that they would be like God. Adam and Eve wanted to be like God, so they took the fruit and they ate. We repeat this sin over and over again, day after day. We want to be like God. That is, we want to make our own rules. We want to live our lives the way we want to live our lives. We don’t want anyone to tell us what to do. More than that, we want everyone to recognize how wonderful we are. We want them to notice every little thing we do and commend us for it. After all, we deserve their respect. Satan comes to us with the same temptation that he came to Adam and Eve with: do this, whatever “this” is, and it’ll be way better than anything God has in mind for you. And we fall for it over and over again. We try to put ourselves in the place of God. We count equality with God as something to grasp.

Jesus deserved every single one of the hosannas that came his way on that first Palm Sunday. He could have had it all if he wanted it. He was well-loved by the people as a whole. Yes, the leaders of the Jews hated him, but that was nothing that a little well-planned (or even just spirited) revolt couldn’t overcome. Besides all of that, though, Jesus is the Son of God. He is God himself! He is the one who created all things in the universe. He’s the one who sustains the every need of his creation. There is truly nothing that he can’t do.

This is not, however, the way that Jesus operates. He never has. Jesus had equality with God. St. John writes that Jesus, the Word made flesh, was with God in the beginning. He is God. There is nothing that was made in the universe that wasn’t made by him. Jesus has equality with God for eternity. But he did not count this as something to be grasped. That is, he didn’t hang on to. He could have, but he didn’t. He willingly sets aside his glory. This past Thursday was the Feast of the Annunciation of our Lord. Every March 25 it comes around. It always lands somewhere during Lent, in fact. This is when the angel Gabriel came and announced to Mary that she would give birth to the Savior of the World – that she would be the Mother of God Himself. This is the beginning of what we call Christ’s state of humiliation. As a man, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, sets aside his divine abilities and doesn’t use them. Instead, he makes himself like us. He humbles himself and puts himself under the authority of those who should have been under his authority. This was the case throughout his life. As a young boy, he obeyed Mary and Joseph as his father and mother even though he was their God. As a man, he obeyed his governing authorities, exhorting the people to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, even though he was the source of their authority, whether it be religious or secular. As he rides into Jerusalem, he could have entered in on a powerful horse ready for conflict and war and taken his rightful place on the throne in the palace, but instead he comes in humbly, mounted on the back of a donkey. There will be conflict for Jesus during Holy Week, but not armed. Instead, his humiliation will take him all the way to the cross. He is, indeed, obedient unto death – even death on a cross.

At the cross, the height of Jesus’ humiliation, his greatest work is accomplished: the sins of the world are paid for. Your sins are paid for. The obedience of the obedient One is credited to you. You are forgiven and redeemed. Jesus said “it is finished” from the cross, and it was. Salvation is accomplished for you.

For Christ, the humiliation ends with his burial. Now he is exalted. The Father accepts his sacrifice and now Jesus, as a man, is exalted. The one who humbled himself when he didn’t have to is now rightfully exalted. Now every knee will bow to him. Not every knee will necessarily have faith, but every knee will bow. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord because there is now no more denying it. In his exalted state, there is no doubt about who Jesus is. The glory of Jesus that was hidden during his humiliation will be revealed for all to see plainly.

So it is with our salvation. We live ordinary lives that seem to not have any advantage over the lives of the pagans. That’s because the kingdom of God is revealed in such ordinary means. Jesus comes among us today not in miracles and laser shows, but hidden in water, Word, bread, and wine. Make no mistake about it, these means are powerful, but they are unassuming. The world looks at them with indifference and perhaps even disdain, but we know that these means deliver to us forgiveness, life, and salvation. We also know that when the exalted Christ appears on the Last Day, our mortal bodies will be exalted and made like his glorious resurrected body.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s