The Joy Set Before Him (Palmarum/Passion Sunday 2011)

Todd A. Peperkorn, STM

Holy Cross Lutheran Church

Rocklin, California

Palm Sunday (April 1, 2012)

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.

In the beginning, the Scriptures say, there was nothing but a formless void.That void, that chaos, is what God overcame in creating the world.There was darkness and light, day and night, evening and morning.We confess it together every Sunday: I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.His creation was a simple as it was beautiful.It was perfect.No, it was more than perfect.It was filled with the wonder of a new creation.And God gave it to Adam and Eve to tend, to grow, to nurture.He gave them that same creative spark of love that brought forth the world.There was order, but not a rigid order.It was wonderful in its beauty and simplicity and depth.

But that order, that beauty of creation, was lost in the Fall.From that creative beauty came sin and death and chaos and sickness and disease and hatred. Adam and Eve hide from God to cover their shame.Cain murders his brother Abel. We saw the indifference of the people to Noah’s preaching of repentance.We saw the confusion of the tongues at the Tower of Babel.Abraham, Isaac, Jacob.We saw Joseph sold by his brothers and left for dead.

And these stories are only the stories of the Scriptures, the true stories of our forefathers.If we were to look at other cultures and peoples, we would see even more violence and disruption.The Egyptian gods are vindictive and cruel.The gods of the Canaanites would have the people sacrifice their own children upon the altar of worship.The greek gods can only be described as capricious, petty, and often pitted one human against another just for their own amusement.It is sick.It is what we have wrought since the Fall.

This story of humanity is one mess of confusion after another.Sure, there is progress, but with that progress comes more creative ways to hate, more passionate and more efficient ways to reject God and to become our own gods.Stones become knives.Spears become bows.Muskets become machine guns.Dynamite goes nuclear.And that is just the beginning.What could we say about Genghis Kahn, or Ivan the Terrible, or Hiter, or Stalin, or Mao Tse Tung, or Saddam Hussein, or Kim Jong Il?We need not even go beyond our own shores, but simply look at the forty million unborn children murdered these past thirty nine years.Or the increasing spread of euthanasia.Or our inaction about the poor and in need in our country.The list could go one and on.We are all guilty of it, on the small scale or on the grand scale.This is your life, and mine.God have mercy upon us all.

And He did.Into this insanity we call life our Lord steps in.He breathes our poisoned air.He heals. He preaches and gives the forgiveness of sins.He does everything that we cannot because of our sinfulness and pride.He made Himself nothing, took on the form of a servant, and does He ever serve.He serves to the very point of death itself.

So what we see in our Lord’s passion today is a microcosm of the whole of human existence.We get the history of the world packed into a night.He creates new life by giving Himself to His disciples in the Eucharist.He is double-crossed with a kiss by one whom He loves, whom He called brother.He brings peace and healing, and is met with anger and betrayal.

If there is one thing we learn from Jesus’ death, it is that there was anything but clarity and serenity in the whole process.He goes to one high priest then another.He goes to Pilate, who wants to release Him, then to Herod who wants a show, then back to Pilate.Pilate even offers to release Him, but the people want Barabbas instead.He’s flogged, mocked, spat upon, and then takes the way of sorrows outside the city to Golgotha.Can you imagine following all of these events in the crowd, wondering what is going to happen next?Fearful yet glued to the events unfolding?

I remember what it was like ten years ago when the twin towers were destroyed by terrorists in New York.I’m sure many of you remember the day as well.It was a day when you could not keep away from the horror.You were glued to the television, wondering what would happen next, and to whom it would happen.New York, Pennsylvania, the Pentagon.Who else would fall under the knife of terrorism?

That is the sense we have with our Lord’s death.It is gruesome, confusing and just simply messed up, but the crowds could not stay away.They had to know what would happen to this man who would be their king.They could not stay away from the spectacle of a man who claimed to be God Himself dying as a common criminal.

And through all of it, through the shame and mockery, the abandonment, the apathy, the betrayal, the scorn, through it all, our Lord is faithful to God and therefore to you.When He is dying on the cross, it is you that He is thinking about.That is what it means for us to say that He died for our sins.He takes our place in line to pay the penalty for our sin.Perhaps Isaiah put it best:

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. 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.” (Isaiah 53:4–6 ESV)

Behold, your God.Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.He comes to suffer so that you may rejoice.He comes to heal.He comes to restore everything that was broken.He comes to die so that you might live.This is our God, who loves us with a love that knows no bounds.

So come and receive Him at the altar.Come, and receiving His deepest blessings.Come, and journey with Him this week, so that you may know the power of God, made perfect in the weakness of Christ.Come, come, come.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting.Amen.

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