The text from Isaiah is one of promise, the anointed one (i.e. the messiah, the royal child) is also the sent one (the suffering servant). The anointed one is sent with one purpose, “to proclaim good news to the poor”. What that means is then accomplished through the purposes of his sending. This sermon walks through that promise. That is the good news which deserves the longest time which answers how Christ binds the broken hearted.
But promises always rest on something. You get the promise from Whimpy and you know you will never see that dime tomorrow. The promises of the messiah rest upon the Character of God who “loves justice…and has made an everlasting covenant.” And attached to this promise and the reassertion of the character of God are a couple of proof points. Israel shall be known by the nations and Israel shall be known as blessed of God. We spend a bit thinking about the promises to physical Israel, and also spiritual Israel, and how these are proofs for us today.
The final bit of the text is the reply of Israel – praise and exaltation.
Ever felt that everything was going to crap? That something you had invested all your hopes in was coming up snake-eyes? That moment in the ministry of Jesus is what this sermon is about. That moment is the Word of the Cross. That is what I hoped this preaches.
Biblical Texts: Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday Matthew 21:1-17, Matthew 27:32-66 Full Sermon Draft
Have you ever been in a situation where you knew exactly what was going to happen, what was going to happen was a travesty but the desires of everyone involved are just too set in stone? Every action and reaction is a cruel inversion of the claims of those doing them? That is Holy Week. The desires of the Galilean crowds, the desires of the Jerusalem priests and the desires of Rome are locked into a danse macabre . The thing about the dance of death is that it reveals all of our follies. All of our false pieties and crass ambitions are laid bare and open for us to see. Those groups dancing 2000 years ago desired messiahs not very much different from those we often desire. Jesus exposes them, and defines what the messiah is. The sermon explores our false messiahs and how they tyrannize us, and the freedom the true King offers us.
Worship note: I’ve left in a bunch of music this time. The hymns for Palm Sunday are probably the greatest in the hymnal. Between the palm and passion lessons the choir sings a pretty arrangement of the Palm Sunday Hosanna. The Hymn of the Day was LSB 444, No Tramp of Soldiers Marching Feet, a modern hymn which keys off of Pilate’s ironic words in the gospel of John “behold your King”. Truer words were never spoken that came off a tongue so false. The closing hymn, LSB 441, Ride on Ride on in Majesty, also beautifully connects the Palms and the Passion.
“Remember you were slaves in the Land of Egypt”
Levirate Marriage, the Messianic line, and the inclusion of the gentiles
Honor, the things of man, and the cross
We collected the pledge cards this week. Believe it or not, that was planned before actually looking at the text. If I had looked at the texts first, I’m pretty sure I would have said, “can’t do it that week”.
There is a really crisp and clear direct application that feels just a little too easy. You could say, like Jesus did, look at the widow and go and do likewise. But to me the widow is not where most of us Americans are at. We are not that poor. We are not forced by circumstances to completely trust on the providence of God. Most Americans are more than likely in the scribal position.
So here I concentrated on scribe a little bit more trying to illuminate the vocational problems and the problems with providence. The law in both cases is clear and comes from the larger context. At the start of the larger section the text comes from Jesus answers what the most important commandments are – love the Lord your God and love your neighbor. The first is reliance upon providence and the second is carried out in our various vocations. What the scribe was doing, what we do so well, is instead of using our vocations for our neighbor, we use them to avoid or deny providence. The good news is that none of us have the vocation of messiah. That is Jesus alone. So we are still called to reliance upon providence and vocations of service to our neighbor, but when we fail Jesus is our salvation and our righteousness, because he did not fail.
On a grading note, that above paragraph is a better summary than is probably in the sermon itself. The spirit of the staircase rules this week. As I left the pulpit certain things became clearer. But the Amen had already been said.
I’m a long time basketball fan, although I usually like the NCAA better than the NBA. But somewhere close is an image of LeBron James after the game 6 loss. The Miami Heat were put together with one idea in mind – glory. They were built to win. Yet they lost. LeBron’s face says it all. This was not supposed to happen.
It interests me that a guy often called ‘the chosen one’ who goes around as the new ‘King James’ doesn’t really get the karma he’s tempting. The chosen one may win in the end – the messiah sits enthroned – but it is after the cross. The story of the authorized King James is that God is most fully revealed in suffering. The hour of his glorification is when he is lifted up…on the cross.
We naturally equate losing with the loss of God’s favor. God smiles on us when we are winning. And that is almost exactly the opposite of the truth. Any athlete knows he’s on the right path when the coach is yelling at him the most fierce. There is that moment in Hoosiers when Gene Hackman is trying to explain why he punched that kid all those years ago. “He was the best I ever coached…” Paul tells us to “rejoice in our sufferings (Rom 5:3)” or “that he might share in his sufferings (Phil 3:10)”. But that is not how we act.
What do I brag about or publish? And upward trending attendance line. A successful Sunday School. A balanced church budget or at least close. Why? Because those things mean God is working, right?
Maybe. But the suffering might be closer to the glory. It might be more real. It might be the better preparation. Because suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance character, and character hope; and hope does not disappoint.
Did you ever have a time in your life where you had all the glory but felt nothing? or were completely defeated, but yet new that this was real?
Text: Matt 1:18-25
This text from Matthew has a really clear purpose – to explain how Jesus is the Son of David even though he is the Son of the Virgin Mary. But I have to admit that what this text was written to address is just not relevant to today. Now before anyone goes nuts (‘the Parson has lost it, he’s throwing out the scripture!’), I’m perfectly willing to say its scripture. It is interesting in and of itself. But it was written in an apologetic mindset. It was written to convince people that Jesus was born of a virgin and still the Son of David.
There must be something important about Jesus being the Son of David. Something that maybe just escapes me, but I’d bet escapes most Christians today. I suggest three things, but it is more of an open question.
My thoughts were: 1) The eternal throne of David is in the new Jerusalem. What goes on in the Old Jerusalem carries no special religious significance. (i.e. the evangelicals that encourage a pro-Israel policy because of religious prophecy are badly misguided). 2) The Son of David – the fact that Jesus was the Jewish messiah – says something about how important culture is. God incarnated himself in a very particular culture, and then he forms a new people and calls them his body. Christians are the body of Christ. It is our task to incarnate Christ to our very specific time, place, culture. 3) The Son of David was the first to hold the key (see Isa 22:22). That key was given by the Son of David to Peter and the Apostles (i.e. the church). (see Matt 16:18-19, and Rev 3:7). That key is our salvation from sin. The king has the authority to pardon. Jesus as the eternal King – the eternal son of David – can pardon eternally.
So maybe it is relevant, but not easy to think about. About as easy as how God was born of a virgin.