Palm Sunday April 2, 2023
Worship Supplement 2000: 725, 160, 151, 162
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Sermon Audio: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/ministrybymail
Prayer of the Day: Dear Lord God: On this festive day we join the crowds of Jerusalem in singing hosannas in welcome to Your Son, Jesus Christ, the King of kings. Yet even as we rejoice, we ponder the necessity for His coming. He rode into the city knowing what would happen. He came as the humble Servant to sacrifice Himself for the sins of all people. He came to pay for my sin in order to reconcile me to You. He died so that all who believe in Him might live eternally. Throughout this holy week may we remember the role we have in Jesus’ death, and with sincere repentance, trust in Him alone for forgiveness.
Create in us the mind of Jesus, that we might humbly help and serve others with His love. Help us to be different than the world by being kind rather than harsh, generous rather than self-centered, gracious not grudging. Above all, help us tell others that Jesus is their Savior too.
As we follow Jesus to the cross this week, may we walk in His humility and look forward to sharing in His glory. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (NKJV)
“You’re different!” is a comment Christians often hear. It doesn’t matter whether the believer lives in Wisconsin or Tanzania, people notice a difference in any culture. To a degree, it may be due to modesty in how they dress, although that’s not always the case. It’s not a matter of where they live or the car they drive. When Jesus’ disciple Peter was warming himself by the fire in the courtyard of the high priest, he was picked out of the group as being one of Jesus’ followers. He had been spotted in the garden. He had a Galilean accent. But I wonder whether there was something more as well. Believers are different.
It’s a matter of the heart which shows in the attitude of believers. They have a wide variety of personalities, but in his letter to the Philippians, Paul urges them to be “like-minded,” with the same attitude. Let Christ’s mind be in you. Think like Jesus. That makes you different, and that’s a good thing!
What was Jesus’ attitude? “Being in the form of God, he did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.” If anyone had cause for boasting, it was Jesus. He is in the form of God. He is God. He was in the beginning with God. He has all power and glory. He is without beginning or end. He doesn’t need anything or anyone. Rather, He made all things and all things depend upon Him for their existence.
Jesus could read hearts, feed thousands, control weather, cast out demons, heal the sick and raise the dead. Yet He did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation. He did not demand and cling to His rights as God. Instead, He set aside the full use of His glory and power. He still had it. Otherwise, He would not have remained true God. But He didn’t fully use it. He became man and humbled Himself. He was born of a humble virgin and laid in a manger. He grew up in the poorest of circumstances. During His ministry He said, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Matthew 8:20) He was “despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and familiar with grief.” (Isaiah 53:3) He put Himself under the Law which He Himself had made for humankind, in order to keep it for us. He was tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin.
He humbled Himself in obedience to His heavenly Father even to the point of death, and not just any death, but the most horrible and shameful one in the entire history of the world! Crucifixion was the worst form of capital punishment the Roman Empire ever devised. It was intended for the worst of worst criminals. It was slow and agonizingly painful. It was designed to be the most public and shameful form of execution. The authorities wanted as many people as possible to witness what happened to those who dared to break the law.
But there was far worse suffering for Jesus than the physical side of it! The Lord “laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6b) “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law…Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’).” (Galatians 3:13) God punished His Son for all the sins of the world. Barns and farmhouses used to be built with metal lightning rods on their roofs. The purpose was to draw lightning to the rods which were attached to cables anchored to the ground. The electrical current would flow harmlessly from the rod to the ground, sparing the building from damage. Jesus drew the curse of sin and the punishment of hell to Himself to spare a world of sinners. God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us. Our sin was charged to Jesus, and His righteousness is credited to us!
Jesus came to willingly serve in humility. Let this mind be in you! Think like Jesus. By nature, we’re not inclined to willingly go out of our way to help others. “It’s not my turn to do the dishes! I didn’t leave clothes on floor! Give me the remote. I want to choose what to watch. Why is that person ahead of me in line taking so long. Someone really ought to step up and take care of cleaning church, doing some outreach, fixing up the property!” It’s the same attitude as the world around us: “I’ll drive as fast as I want. I deserve all I can get. If someone insults or hurts me, they will be sorry. If someone doesn’t agree with me, they’re wrong, and I don’t want anything to do with them.”
On Thursday night in the upper room, the disciples had the same self-centered attitude. No one was about to take on the job of washing feet. That was someone else’s responsibility. That’s when Jesus got up, wrapped a towel around His waist, took a basin of water and washed all their feet. “Do you know what I have done to you?…If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet?” (John 13:12, 14-15).
Humbly walking in Jesus’ footsteps is not demeaning oneself but forgetting oneself in serving others in love for the Lord. That only takes place when the Holy Spirit enters the heart and creates a new attitude of faith through the message of Christ crucified. “Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)
Be different! Let Christ’s mind be your mind. “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” (Philippians 2:3) Why stay late to help a coworker, why be patient with someone who is always inconveniencing you, why forgive the one who enjoys aggravating you and poking fun at your faith? Because Jesus is loving and patient toward us, and even died to reconcile us to God and give us new life. We are responsible for Jesus’ death too. How can we not live as the new people He has made us? Let’s be different! Let’s walk in His humility. What might happen among us in the church, at work, and at home? How might things change in our relationships with others if we think more like Jesus with humility, obedience, love, and forgiveness?
The Palm Sunday cheers soon turned into cries of Crucify Him! Crucify Him! The Father could have intervened and stopped the crucifixion. Jesus could easily have come down from the cross. He had said, “No one takes my life from me. I have power to lay it down and power to take it up again.” (John 10:18) Yet He didn’t come down from the cross. He became obedient to death. From outward appearances it seemed like a horrible defeat and hopeless end! He was battered and bloody with a spear wound in His side, hanging lifeless on the cross!
But it was a victory. “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow.” Therefore, because of Jesus’ humble obedience, God exalted Him. He didn’t remain dead in the tomb. He rose proving His victory over sin and death. He declared His total victory to the souls in hell. He rose exalted, once again taking up the full, continual, and permanent use of divine power and glory! God “raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.” (Ephesians 1:20-21)
Titles like president, king, and CEO are given to people on earth as signs of their authority and power, but those are very temporary and limited in scope. Jesus is Lord and master over all things forever. One day He will return with the clouds, a trumpet call, and then every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him. Everyone will acknowledge Him, either in great joy because they believed or in fear and shame because they rejected Him.
Let Christ’s mind be in you. Think like Jesus. We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God. Believers at times suffer more than their unbelieving neighbors. We can become discouraged and pessimistic like the prophet Elijah in the wilderness. Being different from world makes you a target for mocking and persecution. But think like Jesus: “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 12:2) We have something glorious to look forward to…Think like Jesus and anticipate the glory to come!
Think like Jesus and look beyond this earthly life to ruling with Him in heaven. It has nothing to do with merit. We haven’t earned it in any way. This is a reward of pure grace. “He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26) “He will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body.” (Philippians 3:21) “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.” (Revelation 21:4)
When someone tells you, “You’re different!” that’s OK. They’re right. Be different! Through the message of Christ’s humiliation and exaltation, the Holy Spirit has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light! We are the Lord’s and citizens of heaven. Let Christ’s mind then be in us continually. Let us think like Jesus no matter where we are or what we are doing. Let us walk in His humility and look forward to one day sharing in His glory!
Sing my tongue, the glorious battle;
Sing the ending of the fray.
Now above the cross, the trophy,
Sound the loud triumphant lay;
Tell how Christ, the world’s redeemer,
As a victim won the day. Amen. (LSB 454)
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.