Palm Sunday – C LSB #’s 645, 761, 576
Text – Deuteronomy 32:37
Then He will say, “Where are their gods, the rock in which they took refuge?”
WHICH ROCK IS YOURS?
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine & does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24 ESV) Those are well-known words to people who’ve spent a good deal of time in the Christian church. Jesus’ teaching in that regard is completely obvious to anyone who has spent time constructing buildings.
However, even though Jesus was a carpenter, His point had nothing to do with the physical realities of this world. Jesus was actually teaching about the heart & the soul of man. Three verses earlier, Jesus had said: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
So, Jesus is teaching that the wise man who built his house on the rock is the one who will enter the kingdom of heaven. It is the will of Jesus’ Father in heaven that you & I should build our house on the rock. Do you know who that rock is? The only way any of us are truly alive is when our house, or life, is built on Yahweh, the Great I Am.
But Jesus’ teaching was not new in His day. It had been sung about already over a thousand years before in the Song of Moses. The OT reading for today is just a small portion of that song. See if these words, earlier in the song, remind you of anyone:
“Jeshurun grew fat & kicked; filled with food, they became heavy & sleek. They abandoned the God who made them & rejected the Rock their Savior. They made Him jealous with their foreign gods & angered Him with their detestable idols… You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth.” (Deuteronomy 32:15-16 & 18 ESV)
Jeshurun is another name for the ancient nation of Israel, but to my mind those words
could be written about a very much more modern country that all of you know about today. If you gage it by attendance at church on Sunday morning, the people of the USA have abandoned the God who made them & rejected the Rock their Savior. However, there are many other ways to determine which rocks our people are taking refuge in.
The point is, the people of our nation are increasingly rejecting the true God in favor of all kinds of false gods. Our nation has been prosperous for so long that, in the words of Moses, we’ve grown fat, filled with food we’ve become heavy & sleek.
What’s interesting about the song of Moses is that it had not yet happened to Israel when Moses spoke those words. Instead, they were a prophecy of what was to come. Israel had not even entered the Promised Land when Moses sang this song, but God knew they would turn their backs on Him. He also knew that when their false gods failed them, Yahweh would rescue them.
The sermon text could be taken as a taunt, “Where are their gods, the rock in which they took refuge?” Or, it could be simply a question to point out the reality that those false gods had failed to deliver whatever it was that Israel was hoping for by seeking them. In any event, Yahweh is pointing out that He is the only rock of refuge that will deliver.
Which rock is yours? Where do you turn for deliverance? Back in the year 1984 a movie made these song lyrics famous: If there’s something strange In your neighborhood Who you gonna call? If there's something weird And it don’t look good Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters! Ghostbusters!
As entertainment goes it was a great movie. As theology goes it’s a humorous way of pointing out that human beings are suckers for false gods. When we feel the stressors of time, pain, losses, sickness & past mistakes weighing heavily upon us, how often don’t we lean upon the wrong rock? And when that fails, who is there to pick us up? In the Garden of Eden, Adam & Eve chose to lean upon the wrong rock. By the time they realized they had been deceived, they could already feel the curse of death. Yet, in their failure, Yahweh came to deliver them, & what did they do, they ran away to hide. When He found them, they put the blame on anyone but themselves. Their Creator promised them a Savior anyway.
When, except for Noah & his family, all of human civilization had chosen other rocks, Yahweh came to Noah & delivered them through the Ark. Later, God came to Abraham, who was nobody & nothing. The Great I Am delivered him & made out of him a great nation. When that nation ended up in slavery to the Egyptian pharaoh, Yahweh sent Moses & delivered them.
Today, we remember the triumphal entry into Jerusalem when a single rabbi rode into town on a donkey. The people shouted, “Hosanna! Hosanna!” which means deliver us. By the end of that week, His own people, whom He’d been sent to deliver, were shouting, “Crucify Him. Crucify Him.”
In response, Jesus willingly submitted to their demand, in order to fulfill His Father’s promise to deliver, made in the Garden of Eden: “He shall bruise your head, & you shall bruise His heel.” (Genesis 3:15 ESV) Then, as Jesus hangs on the cross, with a criminal on either side, one of them still chooses a rock other than the true God:
“One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself & us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.’ And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom.’ And [Jesus] said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.’” (Luke 23:39-43 ESV)
Which rock is yours? Deliverance is what each one of us needs. Our Creator has promised to deliver us, & even to recreate us into something glorious & holy. Can we cling to Him & to no other? It’s difficult to be honest when faced with that question. The true answer is that no, we cannot cling to Jesus & Him alone. Even for that, we must rely upon the Savior. The corruption of our hearts & minds is too great. As St. Paul wrote, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions & sins.” (Ephesians 2:1 NIV) Dead people cannot do one solitary thing, not even cling to Jesus. He must save & Him alone. And so He does. Once God claimed us as His child in Holy Baptism, the only choice we can make is the wrong choice, the wrong rock.
In effect, every time we sin, we are choosing the wrong rock, but God has brought His punishment down on Jesus instead of you & me. As the sermon text closes, God speaks, “‘See now that I, even I, am He, & there is no god beside me; I kill & I make alive; I wound & I heal.” (32:39 ESV)
Those words may sound frightening, & they should be, however, Jesus stood in our place. He is the One who was wounded, & He was the One who was healed. Jesus is the One who was killed & He was the One who was made alive. And we are the ones who receive the benefit of His suffering, death & resurrection.
Today, Yahweh is calling you to leave the other rocks behind, whatever they may be. Since all of us are unique, we each have our own set of rocks, or false gods, that we are drawn to. Yahweh has made us alive. None of the false gods are even real, let alone able to accomplish anything on our behalf. As the opening verse of the OT said:
“For the Lord will vindicate His people & have compassion on His servants...” (Deuteronomy 32:36 ESV) Amen.
Not the labors of my hands can fulfill Thy law’s demands; could my zeal no respite know, could my tears forever flow, all for sin could not atone; Thou must save & Thou alone. While I draw this fleeting breath, when mine eyelids close in death, when I soar to world’s unknown, see Thee on Thy judgment throne, Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee. Amen. LSB 761:2, 4.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet