Palm Sunday – C LSB #570
Text – Luke 22:2
And the chief priests & the scribes were seeking how to put Him to death, for they feared the people.
The Jewish holiday of Passover is a celebration of their deliverance from a type of death. It is similar, in a way, to the Christian celebration of Easter. Being slaves in Egypt was like death, but the blood of the lamb caused the angel of death to pass over their homes. After that 10th plague, the Pharaoh gave them their freedom. Being set free gave them life.
Setting off towards Mt. Sinai, the people of Israel were as good as brought back from the grave. Jesus & His disciples were about to celebrate that meal. It was supposed to be a time to remember how Yahweh had rescued them & delivered them from the agony of their suffering. Unknown to the people leaving Egypt, their deliverance also foreshadowed the coming Messiah.
Now, He was here, on earth, preparing to shed His blood, by sacrificing His life so the angel of death will pass over the homes of everyone who believes in Him. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. That is what this morning’s Gospel reading from Luke is all about. Jesus suffers death & hell in order that we might be freed from slavery to sin.
We’re used to hearing the events of Palm Sunday as Jesus enters Jerusalem to the joy & celebration of the crowd. However, the Church also refers to this as the Sunday of the Passion, what the Gospel is about on this morning. As Jesus & His disciples were celebrating Passover, we are gathering this week to remember His death; next Sunday to remember His resurrection.
Doom & gloom, yet life & celebration. They’re brought this close together, all in a span of eight days. We begin as St. Luke writes: “And the chief priests & the scribes were seeking how to put Him to death, for they feared the people.” It all began with the first-born son of Adam & Eve: “One day Cain suggested to his brother, ‘Let’s go out into the fields,’ & while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, & killed him.” (Genesis 4:8 NLT) Cain sought how to put his brother to death. The chief priests & the scribes sought how to put Jesus to death.
“Caiaphas, who was high priest at that time, said, ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about! You don’t realize that it’s better for you that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed.’” (John 11:49-50 NLT)
In the next verse, St. John wrote this to explain what was happening: “[Caiaphas] did not say this on his own; as high priest at that time he was led to prophesy that Jesus would die for the entire nation.” (John 11:51 NLT)
Satan, Cain, the chief priests & the scribes, Caiaphas himself, men like Adolph Hitler & Joseph Stalin, you, me, & everyone we know, in some way or another all mankind is seeking death. After all, the wages of sin is death. That is the reality of this broken world. At some point you might as well get used to it.
In this day & age, it seems there are many people willing to help others find death. Every week, sometimes every day, we hear about suicide bombers, terrorism & mass killings. It appears to us, even in our sinful nature, as if the world has gone mad, yet King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived wrote in Ecclesiastes 1:9:
“History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new.” (NLT) “Just as I am without one plea but that Thy blood was shed for me & that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.” (LSB 570:1)
How many times have you heard that hymn? You’re hearing it today. You’ll hear it again on Maundy Thursday, if you’re here. Yes, the sinful world looks to death for answers. It’s the answer to rage & anger. It’s the answer to embarrassment & shame. It’s the answer to wealth & power. It’s the answer to politics & corruption. It’s the answer to ending your life with dignity. Jesus called Lucifer the father of lies, & maybe the greatest of his lies is that death is the answer to our problems. How many times have you heard these words, & yet, never once considered, that in singing this hymn you & I are seeking death – “Just as I am without one plea but that Thy blood was shed for me…”
I’m not saying it’s a bad hymn. I’m not asking you to consider this because I want to shame you, or embarrass you. Along with the high priest Caiaphas, we too should seek the death of Christ, because it is better “…that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed.” It was, after all, God’s Holy Spirit who led him to prophesy that.
Jesus Himself predicted His death on numerous occasions, yet Peter rebuked Jesus for doing so. That’s when Jesus spoke these famous words to His disciple: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Matthew 16:23 ESV)
Our sins are too great, our suffering too agonizing, hell is too eternal for you or me to pay the price & live. “Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way & live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’” (Ezekiel 33:11 NASB)
As priest & prophet during the darkest days of Judah’s history Ezekiel presents the promise of God’s grace that He will restore & renew His people spiritually. Each day of our lives, our Lord & Savior would call us back to Him, for shelter & rest & joy & life. The harsh reality of this sinful world is that we must seek the death of Christ for us to live.
“Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away & conferred with the chief priests & officers how he might betray Him to them. And they were glad, & agreed to give him money. So he consented & sought an opportunity to betray Him to them in the absence of a crowd.” (Luke 22:3-6 ESV) “Just as I am, though tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt, fightings & fears within, without, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.” (LSB 570:3)
The Son of God took on human flesh in order that He might live & die in our place. He did so in order to offer us eternal life in heaven. Fortunately, His mission did not end in the grave. His resurrection began the new creation. With Jesus’ ascension to the right hand of the Father the rule & reign of God in that creation has been established in Jesus Christ.
That reign & rule does not look at all like the earthly kingdoms we’ve known or studied. This kingdom is one of mercy & peace which is all too invisible today. On Judgment Day it will be obvious for all to see. The reign of peace, in heaven & on earth, announced to shepherds in Bethlehem, was brought to fulfillment in the suffering, the death & the resurrection of our Lord.
The Gospel reading for today, highlights, against the Satanic power of darkness, Jesus’ courageous conviction that Yahweh would fulfill His gracious promises through the suffering & death of His only-begotten Son. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 ESV) Amen.
Just as I am, Thou wilt receive, wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve; because Thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come, I come. Just as I am; Thy love unknown has broken every barrier down; now to be Thine, yea, Thine alone, O Lamb of God, I come, I come. Amen. (LSB 570:5-6)
Pastor Dean R. Poellet