Palm Sunday (Palmarum) (John 12:12-19)

Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR

Palm Sunday (Palmarum) + April 14, 2019

Text: John 12:12-19

The anticipation was great.  This wasn’t something just thrown together at the last minute.  The people of Israel had been waiting for literally centuries for this day to arrive.  The Son of David had finally come.  How could they know?  The signs pointed to this: The water into wine, the healings, the feeding of the 5,000, walking on the water, and raising the dead.[1]  Now it’s nearing the culmination of the Son of David coming to accomplish what was foretold: “I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” (2 Samuel 7:12-13).

That is why they gave Jesus a king’s welcome, laying palm branches on the ground before Him, and crying out, “Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”  They were anticipating great things from Jesus, that He would bring an everlasting Kingdom of perfect righteousness and justice.  They were ecstatic about His arrival.

In contrast, you know who people aren’t excited to see arrive?  A representative from the government.  In our lives today, take for instance the county sheriff.  Far different from joyful anticipation, there’s a dread as he (or she) parks in your driveway, gets his things in order, and then walks up to your door.  What could it be for?  This visit usually isn’t just dropping by; there’s something behind it.  What could it be?  The good thing would be a welfare check (although that usually means your neighbors are worried about you).  But it could also mean someone is serving you with a lawsuit or divorce papers.  Oh great!  I guarantee nobody who gets a surprise visit like this says, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the law.

But, “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord” because of what had been foretold about His coming: “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming to you” and from the original Zechariah 9 adds: “Righteous and having salvation is he.”  The reason Jesus arrives is to bring something not found anywhere else in the world.  The sheriff brings notice of wrongdoing, impending condemnation, of failures and troubles.  Your conscience brings up the ways you’ve failed family and friends, how you’ve hurt others with your words and actions, and how people have put their confidence in you and you’ve let them down…again.

Blessed is Jesus, who comes in the Name of the Lord because He has righteousness and salvation with Him.  The prophecy from Zechariah goes on to say, “Humble and mounted on a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9) He comes not only as a King, but as a servant for your good.  Even though He is very God in flesh, He humbled Himself to take your place under condemnation.  Jesus came to carry the sins of the world—your wrongs, your failings, your hurts, all the putrid stuff that weighs you down.  He humbly carried all of it to the cross so that you might be free before God.  All of His passion that you heard today was in service to you.

The people that day, expected a very different fulfillment of the promise to King David.  Most expected Jesus to reign from Jerusalem in an earthly kingdom.  But that wasn’t the plan.  Just a few days later, the crowds were incited to shout, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” (John 19:6)  He would reign, but His enthronement was nailed to the cross.  His Kingdom would not be visible, but hidden and received by faith.

That’s where we find ourselves.  God’s promise has been fulfilled.  The Son of David did come to reign, and the Kingdom He established will last for everlasting ages.  But we have not reached the end of the age, the consummation.  So, we who believe in our King receive what He brings us: His righteousness and true salvation.

That’s what lifts the weight of what we continue to face in life—the unexpected bad turns, being cheated out of money, our health declining.  Because a Christian has the righteousness and salvation of Jesus, these troubles—though painful—are temporary.  They literally are not the end of the world.  Our sufferings should be of no surprise to us, for He says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)  So, if we follow in His train, singing Hosannas to Himn, this teaches us that God is not taken offguard by the things we suffer.  His sinless Son suffered all these things that were not His sins, so that through His righteousness and salvation, we would have peace.  Because Jesus has served us, the end of the world will unveil our hopes to be true. Amen.


[1] The seven signs in John include: Changing water into wine at Cana in John 2:1-11; Healing the royal official’s son in Capernaum in John 4:46-54; Healing the paralytic at Bethesda in John 5:1-15; Feeding the 5000 in John 6:5-14; Jesus walking on water in John 6:16-24; Healing the man blind from birth in John 9:1-7; The raising of Lazarus in John 11:1-45

Fifth Sunday in Lent (Genesis 22:1-14)

Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR

Fifth Sunday in Lent + April 7, 2019

Text: Genesis 22:1-14

Genesis 22:2: “[God] said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.’”

We should be horrified at this

1) Because of what is being asked, and

2) Who is asking.

This is disgusting! An outrage!  And for God to ask for it?!  But over against the wrenching feelings in his gut that told him this was wrong, Abraham obeyed because of Who was asking.

  1. We also are told to believe God and trust what He says because of Who is speaking, even if it seems outrageous to our ears.
  2. In the world, when we are told that immoral things are acceptable and even good.
  3. We are flooded with examples of same-sex relationships that are supposed to validate them from Doc McStuffins[1] (a show for preschoolers which featured a “two mom” family in 2017) to Star Trek Discovery, which glorifies an intimate relationship between two men.
  4. Lawmakers harden their hearts against God and lead astray the ignorant by legalizing and encouraging murder under the guise of healthcare and destruction of gender distinctions and family structure under the banner of civil rights.
  5. We are told to believe and embrace some disgusting things, things contrary to nature, which even a healthy conscience says are wrong.  But who is telling us this?  Should we obey people, or God?
  6. Lest we become proud of how we haven’t been fooled by the world, we in our lives have made excuses for why it’s not so bad when we sin.
    1. The Lord condemns gossip, but we think He doesn’t mind our gossip, like when we get together and badmouth people who aren’t there to speak for themselves.  After all, we have their best interests at heart because we’re “good Christian” people.  But no matter how good our intentions are, we are going about it a sinful way, and we need to repent.
    1. There’s a lot in this world to be angry about—about what we hear on the news, corruption, the way people treat each other, and how people have treated us.  But the Lord says in Psalm 4:4, “Be angry and do not sin.”  When we feel anger over these things, we may be getting angry over genuinely bad things, but in our sin we go beyond our place.  We plot ways to make them see their error, ways that we can get an advantage over them.  But really what we need to do is get down on our knees and confess our pride and let God be right.  God will have His righteous anger, and act in the way that He knows is best.
  • But most of all in believing God over our understanding, we are to believe the Word of God that’s spoke in Confession and Absolution
    • Matthew 18:18-20: “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.””  – The Lord says an incredible thing here.  The keys are given to the Church, to be shared between each other.  And when we share that forgiveness, it isn’t just a human act—“whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven”—that forgiveness is valid before God.
    • John 20:22-23: “The Lord Jesus breathed on His disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” – The keys of the Kingdom are exercised publicly.
    • Reason would say, “Why should I believe that this word of forgiveness has any power beyond the person speaking it?”  “Who is the pastor to forgive sins?” But faith answers, Amen even when our reason says we don’t deserve it, or others don’t deserve it.  We believe this because of Who has spoken this Word.
  1. A faith that lives by God’s Word is called complete.
    1. James later says, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’” Abraham’s faith was completed by this work, as a matter of proof that his faith was living and active.
    1. Abraham’s faith was completed by his works.  How is our faith completed?  What sort of works does the absolution result in?  If we are absolved and immediately go out and condemn another, how have we taken grace to heart?  If we are absolved of our wretched thoughts, words, and deeds, and go out and freely do it again, are we actually letting the Holy Spirit sanctify us?  If our Christianity is only good on Sunday morning, but doesn’t change the rest of how we raise our families or live as citizens, are we really being salt and light as the Lord calls us?
    1. Abraham is an example for us, the man of faith.  The point is that faith in God and His Word changes who we are—how we think, how we speak, how we act.
      1. Biblical examples of this: Abraham went from being a pagan to a forefather of faith.  Peter started as a timid fisherman but God made him into a bold apostle.  Paul went from being a zealous enemy to a humble and powerful witness.
      1. God works these changes in your life as well, according to His own plan.  These are the fruits of faith. It isn’t going to be the same for everyone, because God has specific callings and situations for each of us.

[1] https://www.huffpost.com/entry/doc-mcstuffins-two-mom-family_n_59888da3e4b0ca8b1d49d483