Sermons, Uncategorized

Jesus Comes into His Kingdom

“Crucifixion” by Andrea del Castagno

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And he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And He said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:42-43).

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

The road to the cross has been christened by Christian tradition as the Via Dolorosa, the way of pain and grief. The road begins at the fortress of Antonia and winds its way through Jerusalem about one-half mile to just outside the northwest wall of the city. It is this path that He treads in His final steps before Jesus comes into His kingdom.

But His is no ordinary coronation procession. He is not astride a proud war horse, nor carried on a palanquin by four strong men, but He stumbles beneath the burden as He carries His own cross. He is not accompanied by a band of loyal and chivalrous knights, but a couple of convicted criminals, rebels. The soldiers are not there to protect Him, but to see that He is put to a horrible death. The crowd does not greet Him with cheers but tears as He is led out of the city. Jesus had Himself wept over the city of Jerusalem. Now, He tells these daughters of Jerusalem that their tears would be better shed for themselves than for Him.

The reason for the tears is the impending destruction of Jerusalem. That will be a time when children are no blessing from the Lord; rather, the barren woman will regard herself as blessed because she won’t have to witness the suffering of her child. That will be a time when people again cry to the mountains and hills for protection from violent destruction as they did in the days of Hosea the prophet. Jesus’ concluding question is based on proverbial wisdom: if green wood burns, just think what blaze will result from setting fire to dry wood. If Jesus, who is innocent, suffers so terribly, what kind of suffering will befall guilty Jerusalem?

Jesus is crucified at the place called “the Skull” between two criminals. The Jewish historian, Josephus, speaks of crucifixion as “the most pitiable of deaths.” The Roman statesman and author, Cicero, describes it as “the worst extreme of torture inflicted on slaves.” Jesus endures the pain of having nails driven through His hands and feet before being hoisted into the air to die a slow death, usually from suffocation when the victim becomes so weak and filled with pain that he can no longer lift his torso up to take another breath.   

It is customary to say that Jesus spoke “seven words” from the cross. This is based on compiling His statements from the four Gospels. No Gospel contains all seven of these words. In Luke, we find the first, second, and seventh. The first is Jesus’ prayer for those who are inflicting death upon Him: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). They truly do not know what they are doing: killing the Son of God, by whose death the world is ransomed from sin.

Luke’s account of the crucifixion is striking because it contains one small moment of intimacy. It is a moment which is good for us to see and remember.

Crucifixions were not known for their intimacy, but rather for their cruelty. One of the purposes of public crucifixions was dehumanize the person being crucified, to strip them of any honor and make them an object of scorn. Literally stripped of all His clothing, Jesus—the sinless Son of God—hangs naked on the cross accused and condemned as a criminal and an enemy of God—the grossest kind of humiliation possible.

In Luke’s account, this is certainly true. Jesus is an object of scorn. The religious leaders mock Him as a Messiah unable to save Himself much less His people. The soldiers mock Him as a king, not receiving rich wine from a steward, but being given sour wine—the poor man’s cheap drunk—instead. Even one of the criminals joins in the act. When someone being crucified looks down his nose upon you, you can’t get much lower than that.

But Luke records one more interaction. A strange moment of intimacy between Jesus and the repentant criminal.

First, the criminal makes a confession of sin as he rebukes the impenitent evildoer. He admits he is being crucified justly. His death is deserved because of his misdeeds. Then, he makes a confession of faith. Jesus has done nothing wrong. His death is not deserved, and He will be vindicated. The criminal foresees a day when Jesus comes into His kingdom.

Having heard Jesus pray for God to forgive those who know not what they do, this criminal prays Jesus will forgive someone who now knows what he did. “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” The man’s request reveals a remarkable now/not yet tension in God’s kingdom. Now, on the cross, Jesus is King, and now His Word bestows forgiveness. Not yet has Jesus entered into His kingdom—of glory—yet Jesus’ word of forgiveness now opens the door for this dying evildoer to enter the not yet kingdom when it comes. And it will come that same day!

The catechesis of the penitent evildoer is brief, and his initiation into the life of Christ comes quickly. The dying “King of the Jews” who “saved others” says to this dying man, “Truly, I say to you, today, you will be with Me in paradise.” Jesus, crucified, is the source of forgiveness for all—even the worst, the least, and the last. With these words, Jesus invites the man to participate in this forgiveness forever.

Such intimacy stands out at a public execution. It is extraordinary because it is strange. But it also stands out because it is true. In this one small moment of intimacy, we see truth in the midst of the mockery. Here, we see a true sinner meeting His true Savior.

This should not surprise us, of course, because this is what we have seen through the Gospel of Luke. Jesus loves those who are lost, the marginalized and mocked, the disabled and disenfranchised, the hopeless and humiliated, the suffering and the sinner. These are the ones Jesus seeks out and saves.

When Jesus was presented in the Temple as a little baby, Simeon sang of God’s salvation for all peoples, “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory to Thy people Israel.” When Jesus preached His first sermon, He offended His hearers by reminding them of Elijah’s mission of mercy to a Gentile widow and Elisha’s cleansing a Syrian of leprosy. In Jesus, God’s merciful mission extends beyond the bounds of Israel. A Samaritan leper falls down in thanksgiving before Him. A Roman centurion stands as an example of faith for Israel. Luke reveals the faith of those on the margins, the place at the table for the outcast, the love of God for the lost. In Luke, Jesus summarizes His mission with the words, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (19:10).

And so, at the very end, as Jesus speaks His last words, He reserves one word of promise for someone most unlikely—a criminal who repents. In mockery, people cry out for Jesus to save Himself. In truth, Jesus came not to save Himself but to save others. He came to save you.

On this, the Last Sunday of the Church Year, our Collect reads, “Lord Jesus Christ, you reign among us by the preaching of your cross.” Today, our Savior rules not in spite of the cross, but through it. He would not free Himself from the cross because by the cross He frees others; then and now.

Our world has changed. The Church has lost privileged status in our culture; it is viewed by many as restricting, bigoted, and discriminatory. And so, the culture no longer does the heavy lifting for Christin mores. Christians are no longer tempted to see themselves as powerful. They no longer set the cultural agenda. Instead, they have been set aside. They are not serious partners in cultural conversations. If they appear at all, it is as jokes on late night television or as dangerous figures fostering hate speech.

Yet, it is among the despised that Jesus comes into His kingdom and reigns. One by one, He gathers the marginalized and mocked, the disabled and disenfranchised, the hopeless and humiliated, the suffering and the sinner. These are the ones Jesus saves.

And so, today, God calls us to be servants of Jesus, a king who reigns by a personal word of welcome to the least. God invites us to have intimate conversations in a world filled with mockery and hate. To trust Jesus reigns whenever and wherever He extends a word of promise to the displaced and the disfavored, welcoming them home.

The world has changed, but God has not, and neither has His Word changed. In a broken chaotic world, there are plenty of broken people who need the healing message of Jesus Christ. The Church must see itself as “a company of recovering sinners.” The fields are white for the harvest. So, pay attention to the invisible people. Befriend your community. See people not as evangelism projects, but as neighbors to love and to show mercy. Each one is a precious soul for whom Jesus has shed His holy and precious blood. Remember: In Christ, we always work from a position of strength and plenty, not lack and weakness!

Jesus comes into His kingdom on the cross. He was crucified that we sinners might enter into that kingdom with Him. Because Jesus sacrificed Himself for us all, we have His word of absolution and the promise of being with Him in paradise. For Jesus’ sake, you are forgiven for all of your sins.

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

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Sermons, Uncategorized

Another View of the Ascension

Ghent Altarpiece
“The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb” by Jan van Eyck

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Then I saw in the right hand of Him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that He can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And He went and took the scroll from the right hand of Him who was seated on the throne. And when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the scroll and to open its seals, for You were slain, and by Your blood You ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and You have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped. (Revelation 5:1-14)

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

This is an adaptation of a sermon by the Rev. James I. Lamb, former executive director of Lutheran For Life.

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The King Who Serves and Saves

christ-on-the-cross-1587
“Christ on the Cross” by El Greco

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“Pilate also wrote an inscription and put in on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (John 19:19).

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

“Give us a king like all the other nations have,” the people demanded. Their request had to come like a vicious kick to the gut. Samuel had served Israel long and well as their judge. But the years were taking their toll. No longer could he maintain the grueling schedule he once had kept as a young man. So Samuel appointed his two sons, Joel and Abijah, to assist him.

Sadly, the sons were not as unselfish as their father and not nearly as devoted to duty. They used their office for personal gain and, for a price, perverted justice. It’s difficult to explain their actions. You wouldn’t think that Samuel would be one to neglect the training of his children. After all, he had grown up alongside Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phineas, and had seen firsthand what such permissive parenting can lead to. But it appears Samuel’s sons simply had given in to those temptations that so commonly beset those in public office.

By the time the elders had arranged a meeting with Samuel to discuss their concerns, their minds were already made up. “Behold, you are now old and your sons do not walk in your ways,” they said. “Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” Samuel asked for time to think over their request and to discuss it with God in prayer.

Understandably, Samuel took the people’s request personally and regarded it as a rejection of himself. God reassured Samuel he was not the one they had rejected. The people had forgotten they already had a King. The Lord God was their king, enthroned on the Ark of the Covenant, between the cherubim. In calling for a king like all the nations, they were rejecting the kingship of God.

An earthly king might have used a show of force to put down such a rebellion; but our patient, loving God relented. “Give them a king,” He told Samuel, “but let them know up front the consequences.”

Samuel warned the people: “If you get a king, instead of your king helping you and serving you, you are going to make matters worse for yourselves… for you are going to serve the king, not the other way around. He is going to want your money. He’s going to want your property. He’s going to want your sons and daughters. And he is going to want you to bow down before him. The day will come when you will cry out for relief from this king you have chosen.”

And that is exactly what happened. God gave the Israelites a king. And he was just like the kings all the other nations had. He demanded to be served. He demanded their money. He demanded their property. He demanded the service of their sons and daughters. And he demanded them to bow down before him.

For 400 years they had a king. First Saul, then David, then descendants of David. Some, like King David, were men after God’s own heart, most were usually worse than the one preceding. Those kings led the people to worship other gods. They led the people to make peace treaties with other nations who were God’s enemies. They permitted people to harm their neighbor and said nothing. And those kings were usually getting something on the side to keep their mouths shut.

Because of the disobedience and rebelliousness and injustice of the kings and the people, God eventually took away their land and left it mostly empty around Jerusalem. The people of Judah were taken away in exile to Babylon for seventy years. Even when they were allowed to return, they had no king. For 600 years after the city of Jerusalem was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, until the time of our Lord, there was no son of David who ruled as king. Even Herod, who had taken the title for himself, was no king, but a puppet put in place by Rome as governor of a small portion of the region of Galilee.

Now, a thousand years after the glory days of King David, the people of Judea were waiting for another king. They wanted a king to give them back what David had—a little bit of real estate where they could be safe. Self-rule free from the dictates of a foreign conqueror. A king like all the rest of the kings of the world—only one they could call their own.

When Jesus came, He said, in effect: “My kingdom is not of this world. I am not the kind of king you want, but I am the kind of King you need. I have not come so that I can bring some glory to you, so that everyone else will do your bidding, and work for you, as the people once did for Solomon. I have not come to keep your belly filled with bread and fish so that you can sit back and do nothing.

“The problem that you have is much deeper than having a roof over your head, beautiful clothes on your back, wonderful children, and someone to serve you. From the time that your first father and mother sinned, you have rejected God as your King. Oh, occasionally, when it was fresh on your mind, you would celebrate God’s love and deliverance. But very quickly you would forget again that He is a king who saves you and serves you and bids you to do the same for your neighbor. And you would go back to your old sinful, selfish, and rebellious life.

“Such treasonous behavior carries the threat of capital punishment in earthly kingdoms. But I am going to suffer the consequences of your sin and rebellion. I am going to suffer your death, destruction, and eternal damnation, so that you don’t have to, so that I might be your King.”

Christ’s coronation as King is most shocking. Human beings kill God the Son. The Jews do so, claiming Jesus committed blasphemy by saying He was God. And that was the truth. He did claim that. The irony was that they did not know that He was telling the truth. The Gentile governor, Pontius Pilate, who didn’t know what truth was, puts Jesus—the Truth—to death, because he wants to save his own skin and keep on playing king, as if his were the final authority.

But even more shocking is that King named Jesus willingly suffers eternal death. The Crowned Prince is punished by His own Father in the place of subjects who are unwilling to be ruled by anyone, not even by a loving king, their God. Jesus goes to the cross because He wants to be our Lord and must go into battle against the powers which hold His own subjects captive—the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh.

Jesus yields His Spirit to His Father and He declares publicly that everything needed to bring every human back into His kingdom has been done. It is finished. All of that brokenness which humans experience over against God, self, and others, all of those problems, all of the blindness and deadness and being at enmity with God, with ourselves, and with each other, is at an end.

The once crucified King comes to us, offering forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life, solely out of His mercy and grace. And the only thing we have to bring to Him is our sins. But that’s okay—that’s exactly what He wants from us!

We are summoned to stand before our almighty God, that we might confess what in us caused our Lord’s death, what wickedness in our hearts moved Him to love us sinners. We are asked to examine our heart: “Where have I sinned? Where have I rejected what You are and what You have done for me, O Lord, my King?” We are called to ask Him to open our eyes to see and to confess the many ways in which we wish God would be a different kind of God. We are called to lay our sin-filled lives before His cross, that we might go forth, washed in the blood of the Lamb, freed, restored, and alive.

Jesus wants us to acknowledge what we really are, who we really are. We are poor miserable sinners who justly deserve God’s temporal and eternal punishment. We are by nature sinful and unclean and have consistently sinned against God in thought, word, and deed. We have rejected our King!

But even on this Good Friday, our King does not want us to go away with our heads hung low, in fear and in shame and in doubt. Even, and maybe especially this day, He wants us to go forth in joy knowing that the Creator and Lord of the universe loves us so much that He would give Himself up to a horrendous death because He wants us to be with Him forever. He does not say, “Go away from Me,” but says, “Come unto Me, you who labor and are heavy laden. I can give you rest.”

Jesus really is a King who comes to serve and save us! He gives us forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation as He makes us His sons in Holy Baptism. He feeds us His own body and blood for our forgiveness and the strengthening of our faith. Through His called and ordained servant of the Word, He speaks words of forgiveness and life. Then, He who took up His cross tells us that, for the joy set before us, we can follow in His footsteps, enjoying the challenge to love as we have been loved.

So go forth in the peace of the Lord. Your King Jesus reigns. Crucified, risen, and ascended to the Father’s right hand, He lives and reign to all eternity on behalf of His Church. He intercedes for you before the Father, and comes to you with forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life. For His sake, you are forgiven of all of your sins.

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

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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In Like a Lion and Out Like a Lamb

Brooklyn_Museum_-_The_Procession_in_the_Streets_of_Jerusalem_(Le_cortège_dans_les_rues_de_Jérusalem)_-_James_TissotClick here to listen to this sermon.

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is He, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

I’m sure you’ve heard that old phrase about March weather that goes, “In like a lion and out like a lamb.” Well, according to the late stargazer Jack Horkheimer, it appears that the phrase got its imagery from the two constellations, Aries—the Ram or Lamb, and Leo—the Lion. A long time ago, someone noticed that their movement in the March skies coincided with the fiercer weather at the beginning of the month and the milder weather at the end of the month.

“In like a Lion, and out like a Lamb.” That could describe Jesus’ movement as He comes into Jerusalem for Holy Week. Jesus comes into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday like a lion—with all the pomp and circumstance of a mighty King. By the end of the week, Good Friday, He goes out as the meek and mild sacrificial Lamb.

To better seen this tie-between the Lion and the Lamb, we must go back to ancient Egypt. Nearly two thousand years before Christ, twelve brothers gather around their dying father’s bedside. And one by one, he speaks a blessing or woe upon them. The father is Jacob, and these are the brothers of Joseph, whom they sold into slavery. Judah waits his turn, and he ought to be worried. Jacob has spoken to three of his sons so far, and each one has received an ominous curse.

Clearly, Judah is not saint. Along with the betrayal of Joseph, there’s some public immorality that brought shame upon the family. He got drunk and fathered a child by his eldest son’s widow, whom he had mistaken for a cult prostitute. But even worse, his transgressions put the birth of the promised Seed in jeopardy. Yes, Judah’s sins are well known, and he certainly does not deserve a blessing.

Having finished with Reuben, Simeon and Levi, his father turns to Judah, who must brace himself for the worst. If a curse comes, he’s got it coming. But incredibly, Jacob speaks not a woe, but rather a blessing. He says, “Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down before you” (Genesis 49:8).

Jacob’s words involve a pun, a play on words, since the Hebrew name Judah means “praise.” This son will be praised by his brothers since God will accomplish wonderful things through him and his descendants. The covenant blessing, which God had given to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, will now be carried forward through Judah. Judah will assume the position of leadership that his three older brothers have forfeited for their selfish weakness and violent natures. From Judah’s line through David will come Israel’s kings and the Messiah.

Jacob continues this blessing, prophesying about the future age of the kingdom of God. Judah and his offspring are described with contrasting images of war and peace: “Judah is a lion’s cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until [Shiloh] comes; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. Binding his foal to the vine, and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, he has washed his garments in wine, and his vesture in the blood of grapes. His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk” (Genesis 49:8-12).

From Judah’s descendants, prophesies Jacob, a Lion will arise. This Son of David will be King, a son of the royal line that bears the scepter in Judah throughout the ages. He will come to His people; and when He comes, He will be called Shiloh—that is, He will be called “peace,” because this coming King is the Prince of Peace who removes the strife of sin. He will be Shiloh—the Rest-bringer—who brings eternal rest for weary souls.

This King shall be the obedience of the people. Where they—like Jacob and Judah and David and you and me—have failed to keep God’s commands, the One who comes as a Lion will obey God for His people. While many of Judah’s descendants who sat on the throne in Jerusalem were not interested in Israel’s messianic hope, and did not deserve to be kings, this is the One in whose hand the royal scepter belongs. His will be a magnificent and universal reign, “and He will reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15). When sinners are brought to see this, and believe it, they will bow before this righteous King in glad obedience.

This descendant of Judah will come with donkey and colt; and He will bind them to a vine. And having come, He will wash His garments in wine, in the blood of grapes. For Judah and all of his sons and daughters, Jacob announces hope: The Lion will come and bring peace, riding in like a ruler mounted on a donkey. He stops, ties up His mount, and walks the vineyard, tasting the wine and smiling joyfully. His garments are dyed scarlet purple—the color of wealth and rulership.

As I hear Judah’s blessing, I can’t help but think of Palm Sunday and the days of the Holy Week that follow. Jesus Christ, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5), rides into Jerusalem of Judea on a colt, the foal of a donkey. He is the righteous Son of God, obedient to His Father in all things for your sake. He is the Son of David who comes in the name of the Lord. He comes to bring peace with God by defeating sin. Thus, when the crowds cry out “Hosanna!” or “Save now!” they are crying for the peace that He brings with them.

During the week, Jesus pounces on the moneychangers and drives them away, and no one can lift a finger against Him. He eats supper with His disciples; and during that Supper, He binds them to wine and Blood, along with bread and Body, for the forgiveness of sins. He does all this, and no one can do a thing to stop Him. His power and authority are evident. Truly, this entry into Jerusalem is a triumphal entry. Jesus comes as King. He comes as Savior. He comes in like a lion.

Five days later, Jesus goes out like a lamb. He goes out like the Lamb of Isaiah 53: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.”

In Old Testament times, the Passover Lamb was bound for four days before its slaughter. Christ, the Lamb of God, is bound to four trials (one each before Caiaphas and Herod, two before Pilate) leading up to His death. After four trials, He is found guilty of no sin; in fact, His innocence is only reinforced. Like that Passover Lamb, Christ remains blameless and without spot. He has done nothing to deserve this fate. Although He is accused of many sins, He remains silent and opens not His mouth. He is not there to defend Himself, but to redeem you and me.

In Egypt, the Passover lamb was sacrificed to save the firstborn sons of Israel. It suffered plague and death instead of them. This is why Christ leaves the city that Good Friday. It is not that the stray sheep are driving the Lamb out of the fold, but that the Lord has laid the iniquity of us all on Him, and He is going to destroy it on the cross. Rather than have us suffer plague and death for our sin, Christ shoulders the sin, takes the judgment, suffers God’s holy wrath and the torments of hell, and dies in our place for them. Like the Passover Lamb, He is the substitute—the Sacrifice for our sin, so that we might have forgiveness and life.

Now, to be certain, lambs don’t have the fearsome reputation of lions. In fact, they’re helpless, meek, easily defeated. But do not be dismayed or deceived by the weakness you see in the Passion of our Lord. Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, saves you there. He bears your sin and weakness to the cross, suffering for it there. Risen again, He declares that you are forgiven, that He has forgiveness for your sin and strength for your weakness.

So on this Palm Sunday, ponder again Christ, the Lion and the Lamb, the Victorious Victim and Conquered King, who knows your weaknesses and carried your sins. He is your refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Take heart; you need not fear. The Lord of hosts has defeated all your enemies, including sin, death, and the devil. And if those greatest of enemies are under His feet, you can be sure that those afflictions of the world and your own sinful flesh that you experience now have also been overcome by the Lion and the Lamb.

Affliction would seek to render you so weak to believe that not even God could help you. At such times, remember Palm Sunday, how Christ comes in like a lion to defeat His enemies, and yours. Remember that Shiloh comes with peace, to save now, and do not be dismayed. He comes to bring peace to you, to give you His righteousness and salvation.

Guilt would seek to have you say, “God is indeed powerful, but I am far too sinful for Him to care about me.” Remember Judah, who though sinful and undeserving, received his father’s blessing and the promise of the Lion of Judah, the Savior who would come from his own line and open the kingdom of heaven to all believers. When your conscience is heavy, remember the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. For if He has taken away the sins of the world, then He has taken away your sin, too.

Rejoice in His cross. Hear His Word of peace and forgiveness. Cling to Christ the vine, who gives you wine and Blood, bread and Body for your salvation. The palms and Passion, the life and the death, the Lion and the Lamb, the cross and the empty tomb, are all part of the Lord’s work for you. All that you may be sure of your salvation. For Jesus’ sake, you are forgiven for all your sins.

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

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.