Sermons, Uncategorized

A Not-So-Sentimental Journey

Jesus procession in the streets of Jerusalem
“Procession in the Streets of Jerusalem” by James Tissot

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And as [Jesus] rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As He was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of His disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:35-38).

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

Have you ever felt like you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time? Or like you know where you are but can’t figure out how you got there? So it seems today? Everything is out of whack.

It’s December, and it’s Advent, the preparation for Christmas. We expect to be transported to Bethlehem, to a manger, surrounded by animals. Instead, our Gospel takes us to Jerusalem with Jesus riding on a donkey.

Strangely enough, the traditional Gospel for the First Sunday in Advent is the same as that of Palm Sunday—Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. It seems, in a way, wrong. Out of place. Say what you will about Christ’s coming at the end of time, but Advent’s all about preparing our hearts for the coming of the Christ Child. Children everywhere are already rehearsing for Christmas programs, getting ready to reenact the story of Mary, with Child, riding on a donkey into Bethlehem to give birth. And instead, we’re saddled with a story about Jesus riding on a donkey into Jerusalem to His death.

But maybe there’s something we can learn—something that, like Mary, we can take with us and ponder in our hearts. Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. “Ride on, ride on in majesty! In lowly pomp ride on to die” (LSB 441:2). For this reason, our Lord came from heaven. For this reason, the Son of God became the Son of Mary. The story that gives Christmas its meaning and lasting value.

The peace and joy of Bethlehem’s cradle is won for us at Jerusalem’s cross.

Indeed, Christmas seems, for so many, to be a holiday about nothing. Or else, about the things of this world. Many, I think, have completely lost their bearings. Imagine going to someone’s house for Christmas. Watch as everyone unwraps present after present. The next one bigger and better than the one before.

At first you might be a little jealous—maybe more than a little jealous. But as the day wears on, you start to get this feeling that something just isn’t quite right. Something is missing. Or more precisely, someone is missing. For all the gifts and celebration, there is nothing to it. No substance. There is no Christ and no Mass. No mention of our Lord’s birth and no celebration of His birth in the church service. It’s hollow and leaves you feeling empty inside. Or, at least, it should.

In our society, Christmas has become a largely secular, worldly affair. We celebrate Christmas, and we even fight for the right to say “Merry Christmas” at places like Wal-Mart, but we rarely talk about why Christmas is merry. The absence of Christ has left for many a big hold, an emptiness that needs to be filled. And so many folks try to fill the void with manmade traditions, songs, and stories.

Rather than tell the story of Christ, the world tells countless other stories. Off the top of my head, I can think of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, “The Little Match Girl,” How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, The Year Without a Santa Claus, The Nutcracker, “The Night Before Christmas,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “Frosty the Snowman,” not to mention It’s a Wonderful Life, A Miracle on 34th Street, Santa Clause 1, 2, and 3, and Elf.

The world has its own hymnal as well, with Christmas “hymns” ranging from Elvis’s “Blue Christmas,” to Bing’s “White Christmas.” Nat King Cole sings about chestnuts roasting in “The Christmas Song.” Gene Autry can still be heard singing of the advent of Santa Claus, coming down Santa Claus Lane. Mariah Carey assures us of her love, because “All I Want for Christmas Is You.”

I like a lot of those stories, enjoy a couple of those songs. But if that’s all there is, we don’t have much to celebrate. Just not a lot there. No wonder Christmas tends to fall flat.

But if we’re to be honest, even for us Christians, Christmas often falls flat. Perhaps we should blame the angels for raising our expectations. “It came upon the midnight clear, That glorious song of old, From angels bending near the earth To touch their harps of gold: ‘Peace on the earth, goodwill to men,” (LSB 366:1). A beautiful song and a beautiful sentiment. But whatever did the angels mean by singing, “Peace on the earth”?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t see much peace on earth, nor, for that matter, good will to men. So many folks become cynical. Do you remember that old Coca Cola commercial in which young people joined in chorus to “teach the world to sing in perfect harmony”? The hippies of the sixties really thought that with a good attitude and few folk songs, peace was just around the corner. Silly, but we still pray for peace. And for two thousand years, we’ve had nothing but wars and rumors of wars.

Again and again, the angels said, “Don’t be afraid.” Yet we live in what seems to be an age of anxiety; a low-level fear lurks just below the surface. Some of us have relatives or neighbors serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. Some fret over global warming; others worry the President is a war-monger, fascist, crony capitalist, globalist or communist (depending upon who is in office and which party you belong). Social media is listening in on all our conversation, shaping our opinions, and blocking our free speech. What if Iran or North Korea gets nuclear weapons? And, God forbid, actually use them? A while back, Stephen Hawking said that the human races should already be planning for life on another planet in preparation for the time when our own planet will become uninhabitable. Peace on earth? I don’t think so. Doom seems, if not imminent, inevitable.

And so, at Christmas, when peace on earth seems unattainable on a large, global scale, we attempt it on a smaller scale, at home with family and friends. Many folks, even Christian folks, will say that Christmas at its heart is about friends and family. And this side of heaven, the family is about the best gift there is. But families, too, can be turned into idols. Indeed, many Christians don’t even go to church on Christmas because they want to be with their families.

And even at home, there is not always peace. Throw in anxieties over work, your children’s struggles at school, ailing parents, a chronic medical condition, a dispute with the in-laws, the loss of a loved one, or broken relationship, and there’s a lot of strife and sadness. Some of this of our own making—bad choices we’ve made, people we’ve hurt, relationships we’ve damaged. Our families are a mess, and often, we’re part of the problem.

Where, then, is peace to be found? Nowhere else than in the Christ Child. Not in some Precious Moments Christ Child, but in the Child who was born to die. A real-world Savior for a world with real problems. The Babe of Bethlehem who would set His sights on Jerusalem. The One whose birth was lit by a star and whose death would be met with darkness.

And so at our Lord’s birth, the angels sang, “Peace on the earth, goodwill to men.” But there is still another song to sing, and we sing it as Jesus is riding on a donkey into Jerusalem: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38).

Peace in heaven? What do we mean by that? There’s always peace in heaven. Heaven is the place where angels ride upon the clouds, strumming along on their harps, isn’t it? Heaven is where we escape the evils of this world.

Well, there’s more to it. Peace in heaven is not just a description; it’s good news. There’s peace in heaven because God is at peace with us.

We have to ask: “How could God be at peace with us? How could He be at peace with a world that is constantly at war? How could He be at peace with a world that disregards Him, ignores Him, and takes His blessings for granted? How could He be at peace with a world that blatantly disregards His will? How could He be at peace with a world that has taken the celebration of the birth of His Son and turned it into just another time to eat, drink, and be merry? How could He be at peace with me, a sinner?”

If we are to recover Christmas, we must, I think, recover Advent. Advent is a season of preparation—not simply of our homes, meals, and presents, but a time of preparation for our hearts. A time of assessment and acknowledgment and a time to recognize why our Lord came in the first place. A time to recognize why that Infant Child, born to be King, would one day receive a crown of thorns. A time for repentance.

“Hark! A thrilling voice is sounding! ‘Christ is near,’ we hear it say. ‘Cast away the works of darkness, All you children of the day!’” (LSB 345:1).

“Cast away the works of darkness.” Look at your lives, and turn once more from sin. Think about your lives. Your hopes. Your dreams. What are you looking forward to? Are your hearts set merely on the things of this world? On new cars and new homes? On toys and vacations? On a stable financial future? What are your goals? Are they the goals that God would have for you? Are you thinking of the life to come, or are you setting your sights only on the things of this world? Are you putting your time and money in things to please yourself, or are you giving a generous portion to the Church, and thereby investing in eternity?

The season of Advent is one of assessment. It’s a time to remember that the things of this world are indeed already passing away, a time to set our hearts, once more upon things above. A time to look at the Child who came to die, a time to crucify our sinful passions.

And so we sing, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” And we recognize that He comes to die for our sins. We remember that we have been baptized into the name of the Lord. Returning to our Baptism, we renounce, once more, the devil, all His works, and all His sinful ways. We don’t simply cry out against all the evils of this world, but we repent of the evils of our heart. We recognize the troubles we have caused, the damage we have done, the friends we have hurt, and the responsibilities we have not met.

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, and we who also bear His name now also take up our crosses and follow Him.

Yes, Advent is a time for repentance, a time of sadness over sin. But it also a time of hope. For if we are sinners, we have Savior. And if the end is near, so also, in Christ, is there a new beginning. If we have made a mess with our lives, Christ has come to make things right. And He will come again.

For the world, Christmas is a big game of pretend—of creating an idyllic world that does not exist. But for us, Christmas is life itself. Therefore, in this season of Advent, let us prepare our hearts once more for our Lord’s coming. Let us cast away the works of darkness and be adorned with every good work and with acts of charity and generosity. Let us forgive as we have been forgiven. And let us embrace the Child who came to embrace us. And let is offer up our lives as gifts to the One who came to offer up His life as His gift of salvation for us all. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. 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.

 

This sermon is an adaptation of a sermon by Peter J. Scaer in Concordia Pulpit Supply, Volume 20, Part 1, pp 13-15.

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Glory of Christ Hidden in the Humble

palm-sunday.jpg!HD
“Palm Sunday” by Octavio Ocampo

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

“Behold, your king is coming to you!” Were you to hear such a glorious announcement, what would you look for?

Or to make it a little easier to imagine: Let’s suppose the president of the United States is coming to town. You pack up your family and drive to the route on which you suppose that he would travel to his speaking engagement. Your family sets up their chairs at the side of the road and you wait. Others gather, many holding welcome signs and American flags.

Time slowly passes and the excitement builds. Your son notices that the traffic has begun to thin out on the road. Police officers have started to direct traffic at intersections. A helicopter flies overhead, and you wonder if that is a sign that the president is on his way.

Ten minutes later, the road is eerily empty. Occasionally a police car zooms by with its lights flashing. The president must be on his way. He will be here soon, but not yet. The highway is empty again for a while.

Suddenly, you see two police cars in the distance coming toward you. They drive by and a swoosh of air hits you in the face. Then, far off, you make out some vehicles. The excitement builds and you think you can see…

Well, what do you think you would see? After all, this the president of the United States, and he is coming to town. You know what to expect. You have seen motorcades on television. The power, the honor, and the glory of such a prestigious office is manifested in the limousines, SUVs, law enforcement vehicles.

On this glorious day of the majestic entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem, God Himself enters into His glory. The very Creator of all that is, the omnipotent power of the universe, the One who was, is, and always will be, begins His triumphal trek to His most glorious and honorable day on earth. How does He enter? Like the president of the United States? Like the conquering king of a Middle Eastern dynasty? Like an A-list celebrity on the night of the Academy Awards? No.

In our scenario with your family at the side of the road, would you expect to see the president and his motorcade drive by in a rusted-out mini-van? An old Ford Tempo? Perhaps a wood-paneled station wagon? Of course not! But how did God enter into the glory that you and I see and believe? He entered on a donkey! The prophet Zechariah announces: “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” (9:9).

This is our Savior? Why would God ride in on a donkey? Why would He do such a thing? Because this is exactly how He said He would come. God would do such a thing for the very purpose of His coming—salvation. The salvation of His people, the salvation of the world. The Righteous One would become the Unrighteous One. The Blessed One would be cursed. The Sinless One would bear our sin. The holy must become unholy to save us from our sins. The glory of God comes in Christ’s humility and servitude. He humbles Himself to take our sin and suffer the consequences of the eternal wrath of God as His own punishment.

But unbelievers and the world in which we live look for a triumphal entry. They look for limousines and well-armed motorcades. Or given the day and age of that first Palm Sunday—war horses and iron chariots, escorted by soldiers and accompanied by personal attendants. The world wrongly assumes a majestic and glorious entrance that reflects the honor and power befitting the Creator of the universe like any other powerful ruler.

The unbeliever, though, sees with his eyes and not through faith. The sinner looks and lusts for the excitement and honor found in the power of an earthly king. That is true of our Old Adam as well. We sinners want to win! We seek a popular Jesus that attracts more and more people or an eye-candy Jesus who makes us feel happy and important. But alas, this thinking is an entry not into Christ’s glory, but rather an entrance into hell. It is a road to the tomb with no chance of a resurrection into the presence of the Christ. Our sin—and our sinful nature!—is ever before us.

Yes, even we believers, who confess the suffering and death of our Lord for our sins, we, too, yearn for a Jesus of glory who would be popular and successful. We sinfully seek a kingdom builder of wealth and power and numbers so that we might have bigger churches for the sake of recognition or influence or just the simple hope of survival for a few more years. A Jesus who will make our church great again. A Jesus who will make our own lives great again. A Jesus who will return us to the glory days.

However, Jesus, the Lowly One, calls us not to glory, but to lowliness and repentance, to have the same humble mind as Jesus, who emptied Himself of His glory, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men, who humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Following in our Savior’s footsteps, we carry our own crosses and bear one another’s burdens. Our new man rejoices in the glory of the lowly and humble. The believer rejoices in the poor, the sick, and the needy. The believer rejoices where only faith can see the glory of God: in suffering and death.

We poor sinners need the glory of the God who died. We need a God who suffered. We need the glory of the cross. That is the irony of the Gospel. It is a scandal to sinful thinkers. That is the hidden truth that eyes cannot see, but only faith can believe and confess. The glory of God that saves us is, ultimately, the death of God!

The glory of God that saves us is in the scandal of His conception, the humility of His birth and His life, and His suffering and endurance of the wrath of God—all of this in our place. Our sin did this to Him. Your sins, your hidden sins, your silly sins, your big sins, in fact, your entire sinful life was given to Christ. He endured what we could not. It is really insulting—shameful, even!—that God Himself gave up the holiness, power, and glory in exchange for our sinful, lowly, and suffering existence. However, there is where we see the glory of God. There is where we see the extent of His love and grace.

Well, then, how do we see the glory of God in our lives? We do not—that is, we do not see His glory. Rather faith confesses and sees the glory of God where He has told us He hides it. Our eyes do not see the glory; our faith does.

“How does that work?” you ask.

God’s Word teaches us where to see His glory. In the lowliness of this sinful world, God hides His glory. Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem was humble and lowly—swaddling clothes and a manger for a bed. His entry into Jerusalem was humble and lowly—riding on a donkey. His death was humble and lowly—crucifixion, the cursed death reserved for slaves and the most dangerous criminals. That is how Jesus accomplished the work of salvation—His glory hidden in humility and lowliness. In the same way, Christ’s glorious and triumphant entry into your life hides in the reality of your humble, everyday life.

God has called you according to your vocation to do what you do. He calls you to be a mother or father, a son or daughter. God calls you to be a teacher or a student, an employer or employee or retiree, a neighbor or friend. He calls you in so many ways, and you do what He has given you to do—love and care for your neighbor, that person who is in need of your love—for there is the glory of God.

“But, Pastor, it doesn’t look like the glory of God. It looks like, well, normal daily life. At best, it is mundane and routine, but it is often more draining—emotionally, mentally, and physically—sometimes, it’s more overwhelming, or just plain scary than it is glorious.”

That’s it! Now, you’re getting it! The glory of God is generally found in the in trials and troubles, in humility and servitude through your daily call. It’s not flashy or popular. It’s not big and powerful. It rarely makes the nightly news or social media. It is most often found in the normal grind of daily life. However, it is still the glory of God.

Getting the children up and ready for school reveals the glory of God. Loving your wife and caring for her needs is the glory of God. Washing clothes and changing diapers is the glory of God. Going to work and bringing home money to support your family is the glory of God. Giving your neighbor a ride to church or the grocery store is the glory of God. Praying with your neighbor who has just gotten a bad report from the doctor is the glory of God. Reading a book to your grandchildren or great-grandchildren is the glory of God. Picking up your room without making a fuss when your mother tells you is the glory of God.

How can this be? Because our Lord makes your work holy by His grace and His call for you to be His own in your Baptism. He gives you the faith that receives the holiness Jesus earned on the cross. Therefore, you are holy through faith in Christ. All the works done for your neighbor are holy and done to God’s glory.

The glory of God is seen through the eyes of faith trusting in God’s Word. As Christians, we confess our Lord and His glory in our normal, sometimes painful and hurtful life. Christians also understand that God and His glory come into our lives in the least of these Christ’s brothers—in the poor and the sick, in the lonely and in the hurting, even—and especially—in death.

Our Lord’s death on the cross is His greatest glory. There in all humility He served our most desperate need, the payment of our sins. On the triumphant day of entrance into Jerusalem, our Lord Jesus sat on a donkey in humility. In that triumphant entry, He entered the way of the cross. That entrance took Him to His most glorious moment: His death on the cross.

Through the glory of the cross, our Lord gives to us and teaches us to see His glory in the hidden reality of our faith. When we turn to our lives and see them in faith, we see the glory of God in our suffering, in our humility, and in our servitude. He calls us to love Him and others. But once again, our love for God is hidden in our love of our neighbor. When we love our neighbor, we love God.

So the love of God and His mercy come to you hidden in the waters of your Baptism and in the eating and drinking of bread and wine, Christ’s body and blood. These bring the glory of the kingdom of God to you for your salvation. Like the donkey Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, they are lowly, humble, and simple means. But there is exactly where He brings us to the triumphal entry into His kingdom, in everlasting joy and blessed righteousness. Through these humble means the Lord strengthens you in faith toward Him and fervent love toward one another. By them you have forgiveness, salvation and eternal life. Indeed, through these means and for the sake of the glorious death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, 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.

 

This sermon is an adaptation of a sermon by Ronald R. Feurhahn, published in Concordia Pulpit Resources, Volume 16, Part 2, Series B, Concordia Publishing House, 2005.

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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.