Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. John’s gospel account the 12th chapter (John 12:12-19).
Beloved in the Lord,
The whole world chases after power. The Pharisees know this. The Pharisees echo this. “You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look! The world has gone after him.” The crowds are after Jesus. Jesus does signs. Lazarus is back from the dead. Thousands are fed with little bread and a few fish. The blind are made to see. Water becomes wine. “No one can do these signs unless God were with Him.” Jesus does signs. Jesus must have God with Him. With God is power, so the crowds go after Jesus because Humanity chases after power.
But the pursuit of power is downfall of humanity. For in coveting strength man lusts to be His own God, to be free from the LORD, free to know and decide right and wrong, good and evil, life and death. The crowds see in Jesus one who does great things, says great things, and promises great things. They see a free man, a son of David, one who can – they hope – ascend the throne in Jerusalem and be for them king. The throne is the seat of power. The king sits on his throne and wields his authority.
Thus the crowds gather about from all around Jerusalem. They are there to choose their Lamb. Passover is upon them. There is much fervor. The energy is high. Expectations are great. The Lord once delivered Israel at the feast. At the feast He shall deliver Israel once more. Seeing Jesus, the crowds expectations begin to be met. Who else but a Son of David could be king? Who else but a doer of signs, a worker of wonders, deliver the Nation from their oppression? Power must defeat power. Jesus has come to do just that – so the crowds think. And so the crowds sing. “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.”
But Jesus is not come to be such a King. All authority in heaven and earth will be given to Him but He is not processing into Zion to flex his proverbial muscle. No, beloved! Jesus comes to surrender. Humanity chases after power! Power gets things done. Power conquers! Power defeats opponents! Power wins the day! Authority exercises Power! Kings have power! Jesus is King. And He surrenders? What can be accomplished through surrender? What can be won by losing? How does life rise from death?
These questions are not exclusive to the crowds, or the Jews, or even unbelievers. The heart of humanity is drunk with humanity’s omnicompetence, our all powerful ability to accomplish anything we want. We believe we can do more than we really can! Bingeing on our brokenness we belly up to whoever will stroke our egos, encourage our self-esteem, and pour into our hearts the praises of men. Thus when it comes to God we expect the same from Him and for Him.
And when the Lord is true to HIS Word, true to Himself, Faithful and loving according to His revelation – we are aghast! When our expectations are not met the way we want, when the cancer doesn’t go away or isn’t healed, when loved ones fight and families break up, when sorrow fills our hearts and despair burdens our souls, when it looks like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, no savior coming in on a stallion to rescue us, when our enemies continue to exercise their power over us, we turn, not towards the Lord, but away. For how can one survive by dying? How can you win by losing? If the King surrenders what about the people? If power is set aside what perseveres? How do I persevere? How do I live? Truly the passion of our Lord is a stumbling block. For the doer of signs and wonders refuses to give any sign except the sign of Jonah.
It is true, our Lord does not ride into the fray upon a stallion. Surely He is come for our rescue, but Jesus chooses the path of humility. Rather than flex His muscle, puff His chest, work His wonders, do His signs, claim His glory, He chooses surrender. His kingdom is not of this world. His subjects are not like the nations to their lord. His is a kingdom of prophets, priests and kings. He is their vision, their High Priest and thus King of kings. And Jesus will not be for you what your fallen nature expects. He is not a bread king, a warrior king, nor any sort of temporal king. “Fear not daughter of Zion, your King comes to you sitting on a donkey’s colt.” He is come to wage war – not against earthly enemies – but against the Last enemy – death. Thus His wrestling is not with men but with men’s sins. The wages of sin is death. To destroy death Jesus bears our sins. He bears them in His flesh. He bears our guilt. He bears our shame. He bears our drunkenness. For He is consumed with godly passion for the salvation of the world.
His path to victory runs through the valley of the shadow of death. He surrenders to the Law’s accusations. He allows the brutality of man to pummel Him. For every sin is rebellion against our God and such rebellion is made manifest in the soldiers blows against Jesus body. The omnicompetence of humanity strikes down his omnipotent LORD. And Jesus bears it, suffers it, endures it, receives it, allows it, sweats it, bleeds it, offers every last ounce of Himself to save you from the consequences of such depravity. He goes to the cross and dies. How is anything accomplished in surrender? How does suffering earn peace? How does blood cover over sin? How does the death of one man destroy death for all men?
You see beloved, in our sin we expect too much of ourselves and so we chase after power that we might meet our expectations. At the same time we expect too little of the Lord and wish Him to bless our efforts. We get everything mixed up and we stumble and get confused and sin compounds sin. Thus the Lord would have us turn, not away but towards Him. He would have us, you, repent and believe the gospel.
He is not come to war against you, but to humbly offer Himself on your behalf. Remember, today is the day Israel selects a Lamb. The Lord once delivered Israel at the feast. At the feast He shall deliver Israel once more. Jesus has come to be your Lamb, THE Lamb, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. For the last enemy is death. Death is what our strength has merited. Thus the way to life cannot be strength, nor power, but must be through weakness and surrender. Jesus surrenders into death that He should destroy death. Death dies in Jesus. Sin is vanquished on the cross. The grave has no seal, cannot be stopped up, but now must surrender its captives. For in the surrender of Jesus the greatest work and wonder is accomplished. The sign of Jonah is fulfilled. By losing Jesus wins. By rising from the dead eternal life is for all people.
Therefore beloved, gather your palm branches and wave them on high! Set before His path your filthy garments – your sin, your arrogance, your idolatry, yes, even your omnicompetence – and let the Savior trounce them underfoot. Lift up your voices and cry with the crowds of saints who have gone before you – Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.” For this Jesus has come to be your prophet, priest and king. He is come to be your Lamb, to give Himself, to shed His blood and mark the doorposts of your heart in baptism. He’s come to forgive sins and raise the dead. You ought not expect anything less from your God. For such expectations have been promised, revealed, written down for you and for your children for everyone who is afar off, that all who believe and are baptized shall be saved. Do not stumble over His passion, He is faithful. Do not be confused at His surrender, He is loving. Take heart and rejoice, He is yours and you are His. AMEN!
Pastor Tony Sikora
Hope Lutheran Church
De Witt, MI