Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
Palm Sunday (April 5, 2009)
For an audio MP3 of this sermon, CLICK HERE
TITLE: “The Joy Set Before Him”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text is the Gospel lesson for Palm Sunday from St. Matthew, as well as the words from Hebrews as follows: “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 11:27; 12:2 NKJV)
It is hard to hear the story of our Lord’s death and think of joy, yet that is the theme that runs through many of our hymns during this week of our Lord’s passion. The author to Hebrews says that Jesus endured the cross because of the joy that would come. What was the joy which would keep our Lord’s eyes fixed so resolutely on Jerusalem and death at the hands of sinners like you and me?
Our Lord’s joy, his continual joy in the midst of the way of sorrows, is you and your salvation. It is hard for us to fathom this level of love, that God would send His Son to die for sinners like you and I. Yet that is what motivated God. His passion for your salvation is His greatest desire. Sometimes we cut God short, treat Him like He is a stern old man who just barely lets us squeak by to get into heaven. Nothing could be farther from the truth! It is His earnest desire from the very beginning that you would enjoy eternal bliss with Him and all the saints in paradise.
We get this picture again and again in the passion of our Lord, heard for the first time this week. Our Lord’s silence before Pilate tells of His love for you. He could have released Himself with a word. Legions of angels could come to His defense. But He opened not His mouth. Even Pilate’s question to the crowd points to our Lord’s love for you, “Why, what evil has he done?” The answer, of course, is none. He was without sin, perfect in every way, yet He bore your sins and mine to the cross and grave. A guilty man is set free and Jesus is condemned to death for you and for your salvation.
Even when He is on the cross itself, in unspeakable pain, His love for you shines forth. He endures what you cannot. He suffers real, true separation from God, praying from the Psalms, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” At His death for our salvation, the temple veil is torn in two, showing that the separation between God and man is now gone forever. The earth shook, the tombs were opened, and the dead came out of their tombs at His holy death.
Then we have that great confession of faith from the centurion on guard at the cross. Upon seeing the death of Jesus, he cried out and said “Truly this was the Son of God!” Truly indeed.
So this week, fix your eyes on Jesus. Stop your worry and fear for the future. The future is secure in His hands. Fix your eyes on Jesus, for when you fix your eyes on Him, the doubts and the trials and heartaches of this life cannot eat away at you. Oh to be sure, the trials are still there. The pain. The suffering. But by fixing your eyes on Jesus, this great, beautiful reality sets in: no matter what happens today, tomorrow is secure in Christ. With heaven in your future, the things of this life cannot harm you for God.
This is what God demonstrates to you and me in the Lord’s Supper. This is his pledge and guarantee, given to you on the eve of our Lord’s betrayal and death, that God is with you, God is for you, God forgives you, and that God will join you together with Him in an everlasting covenant. A covenant of life, not death. A covenant of peace, not hatred and war. A covenant of forgiveness. It is yours in Jesus Christ. Fix your eyes on Jesus. In His holy name. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.