Let us pray: Dear Savior, on this glorious day we join with those people of old in Jerusalem to praise You for coming to save our souls! We praise You for saving us from our greatest enemy: death. We praise You for showing us the most excellent of all ways to live our lives—in self-giving service to God and to others. In all this You have fulfilled our destiny of being human. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR KING!
TEXT: Philippians 2: 5-11
Dearly Beloved By Christ the King!
1984 is the title of a classic book by George Orwell. 1984 is also the year I graduated from the Seminary and was ordained. But most importantly, 1984 is the number of years since Christ first entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday!
Every Christian knows about Palm Sunday. We know all about Christ humbling riding into the city on a little donkey colt. We know about the crowd cutting down palm branches to wave exultantly into the air in celebration. We know that as the Son of God He alone deserved praise and honor from the crowd and if they had kept silent, “the stones would have cried out.” Yes, we well know the facts of the day. But what about the theology of it all? What does everything mean and how does it impact us today? Well, we’re going to find out this morning as we consider St. Paul’s words under this theme:
GET TO KNOW THE THEOLOGY OF PALM SUNDAY
Was Jesus happy during His life on this earth? If you consider that He knew His life was all about suffering for our sins and that He’d have to eventually die a horrible death to save us, you might think: “He wasn’t really happy, just somber.” But, that viewpoint would be wrong. To me it’s very clear that Jesus was generally very happy. Not the joke-cracking, always smiling kind of happiness, but the deep-seated over-arching happiness that stems from a fulfilling life. Every person born of a woman, including Jesus, possesses emotions and also a deep need to feel purposeful. When we don’t understand our purpose in life we’re listless and basically unhappy. But when we realize exactly why God put us here, a sense of happiness and general contentment reign. Now, that purpose may not always be easy street. It may embrace hard work, blood, sweat and tears. But, when you realize why God gave you life and when you don’t shy away from His plan for you, all the earthly pain is worth it and doesn’t really destroy a happy heart and a happy soul. Jesus’ purpose in coming here was to save us. On Palm Sunday He was embarking on that final journey. As a result, He was at peace with His life, His ministry, and with His Father in heaven. Yes, a peace-filled heart is also a happy heart.
St. Paul now applies this truth to each of us by pointing us to Christ’s example. “In your relationships with one another have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”
We know how all our lives will end here in time. They will end with death, just like Jesus. Does that thought weigh you down and make your entire life bitter? It didn’t with Jesus. He, the eternal Son of God in the flesh, found true joy in being humble and serving us humans, becoming our slave, all in order to save us. He even agreed to die a shameful death on a cross, the ultimate torture weapon of the day, to buy us back from sin, death, and Satan’s power. And in all this, God’s Son was thankful for the opportunity to save us. He was thankful for the joy it would bring to His Father, to us, and ultimately to Himself. So, when He rode into Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday, Jesus, knowing all this, was happy. He was happy the crowds gave Him their due, happy the disciples could witness a little glimpse or heavenly joyfulness, content that soon the battle would commence and the victory would be achieved.
I’ve told you before that praising God from the heart is the ultimate in pure happiness. It’s true. Whenever you’re truly thankful and that thankfulness grips your soul, there is no room inside from discontent. Thankfulness and discontent are direct opposites. Christian faith is nothing more or less than such thankfulness is action. Believing in Jesus as your Savior, faith, is being thankful to God for a blessing beyond our imagination. A blessing that will last forever—His gift of complete forgiveness to you. Many in the crowd on Palm Sunday had such faith. At that moment in time they were happy, joyful and at total peace with God because faith-generated thanksgiving filled their hearts and gave voice to their mouths. This was their ultimate purpose in life. This was the reason why God created them, and us, to begin with. So, yes, it was a very happy day!
We humans are all control freaks who really aren’t in control. If we all knew the future of what the coming week or year contained we’d all probably jump off a cliff somewhere in fear and despair. But, Jesus was in control. He knew exactly what the next week would bring. You’d think that would depress Him and wipe out any happiness in His heart. But it didn’t! Because He knew that from the dust of death would come victory and eternal life! So, He rode on in majesty 1984 years ago.
St. Paul now discusses the outcome of this this when he says: “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Palm Sunday was a mini-forerunner of those words played out in human time. Easter and then Ascension were the main events. And exactly what does this mean for us, today, 1984 years afterwards? It means that your thankful, Christian, faith-based hearts can and will be happy whenever you praise your God from Whom all blessings flow! It means that by living your faith and putting it into daily action—joy will predominate in you. And it all starts and ends with a self-sacrificing heart, just like it did with Jesus your Palm Sunday King! Amen