Looking forward to the 6th Sunday in Lent: “Palm Sunday”: Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The lessons forbid getting lost in facinations of glorious fantasies and focus our hearts and minds on what´s at hand: “For just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3,14f). This is no joy ride, not by a long shot. Instead the Introit teaches us to remember our sinful predicament, which our good Lord Jesus willingly bore in our stead – going through death´s dark vale for us and our salvation. With Him we watch and pray:
I sink into the deep mire where there is no solid ground;Psalm 69,2-4.8-10.14.21b-22.30
I am indeep water, and the current overpowers me.
I am exhausted from shouting for help.
My throat is sore; my eyes grow tired from looking for my God.
Those who hate me without cause are more numerous than the hairs of my head.
Those who want to destroy me, my enemies for no reason, outnumber me.
My own brothers treat me like a stranger; they act as if I were a foreigner.
Certainly zeal for your houseconsumes me; I endure the insults of those who insult you.
I weep and refrain from eating food, which causes others to insult me.
I wear sackcloth and they ridicule me.
Those who sit at the city gate gossip about me; drunkards mock me in their songs. Rescue me from the mud. Don’t let me sink.
Deliver me from those who hate me, from the deep water.
Their insults are painful and make me lose heart;
I look for sympathy, but receive none, for comforters, but find none.
They put bitter poison into my food, and to quench my thirst they give me vinegar to drink.
I am oppressed and suffering. O God, deliver and protect me…
The great prophet of old points out that this happens to the innocently suffering servant, who himself was found without blame – yet was punished and pummeled in our stead – only to be vindicated in the end – but only after suffering, dying and being buried outside the city:
The Sovereign Lord has given me the capacity to be his spokesman, so that I know how to help the weary. He wakes me up every morning; he makes me alert so I can listen attentively as disciples do. The Sovereign Lord has spoken to me clearly; I have not rebelled, I have not turned back. I offered my back to those who attacked, my jaws to those who tore out my beard; I did not hide my face from insults and spitting. But the Sovereign Lord helps me, so I am not humiliated. For that reason I am steadfastly resolved; I know I will not be put to shame. The one who vindicates me is close by. Who dares to argue with me? Let us confront each other! Who is my accuser? Let him challenge me! Look, the Sovereign Lord helps me. Who dares to condemn me? Look, all of them will wear out like clothes; a moth will eat away at them.Isaiah 50:4-9
That was first and foremost the sacrificial mission of our Lord and God – Jesus Christ + Yet it also depicts the attitude we are to assume in His following – following His example and being liked to Him in every way:
You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death —even death on a cross! As a result God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow —in heaven and on earth and under the earth— and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.Philippians 2,5-11
At first all appears quite glorious and inviting. The city gates are wide open and the people sing His hosannas and all the world running off after Him:
The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm treesand went out to meet him. They began to shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,“Do not be afraid, people of Zion; look, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt!” (His disciples did not understand these things when they first happened, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about him and that these things had happenedto him.) So the crowd who had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead were continuing to testify about it. Because they had heard that Jesushad performed this miraculous sign, the crowd went out to meet him. Thus the Phariseessaid to one another, “You see that you can do nothing. Look, the world has run off after him!”John 12:12-19
Our sermon text from Hebrews points us back to the biblical fact, that it´s all about faith from the start and to the end: Sola fide + So, we too should “get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see. For by it the people of oldreceived God’s commendation… By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place he would later receive as an inheritance, and he went out without understanding where he was going. By faith he lived as a foreignerin the promised land as though it were a foreign country, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, who were fellow heirsof the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with firm foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith, even though Sarah herself was barren and he was too old, he received the ability to procreate, because he regarded the one who had given the promise to be trustworthy. So in fact children were fathered by one man—and this one as good as dead—like the number of stars in the sky and like the innumerable grains of sandon the seashore. .. And these all were commended for their faith, yet they did not receive what was promised. For God had provided something better for us, so that they would be made perfect together with us… Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set out for him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Think of him who endured such opposition against himself by sinners, so that you may not grow weary in your souls and give up.Hebrews 11,1-2.(8-12.39-40); 12,1-3
For now we join the exuberant band to laud and cheer His majesty:
1 Ride on, ride on in majesty!
Hark! all the tribes hosanna cry;
O Savior meek, pursue your road
with palms and scattered garments strowed.
2 Ride on, ride on in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die:
O Christ, your triumphs now begin
o’er captive death and conquered sin.
3 Ride on, ride on in majesty!
The winged squadrons of the sky
look down with sad and wond’ring eyes
to see th’ approaching sacrifice.
4 Ride on, ride on in majesty!
Your last and fiercest strife is nigh;
the Father on his sapphire throne
expects his own anointed Son.
5 Ride on, ride on in majesty!Henry H. Milman 1791-1868
In lowly pomp ride on to die;
bow your meek head to mortal pain,
then take, O God, your pow’r and reign.