Sunday, April 29, 2012
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Sunday, April 8, 2012
April 8, 2012 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA
“[The angel] said to [the women]: ‘Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter that He is going before you to Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you.’”
The angel’s words bring an unexpected message to the women. Their trek to Jesus’ tomb had a particular intended purpose: “When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint Him.” They came to finish a task that could not be completed right the first time. The women carry spices and oils to place on a dead body, the corpse of an honored and loved one. But all this changes when they reach the tomb.
The Gospel Writer captures the women’s initial shock: “And they were saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?’ And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large.” Their eyes behold a disturbed tomb, one that has been opened. But there is more; the tomb is occupied by someone unanticipated: “And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed.” And then the capper; the expected body is not there: “And he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; He is not here. See the place where they laid Him.’”
The angel was correct: the women were seeking Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. They sought Him in the tomb, because that is where dead people are meant to be. Those who have died are to be found where they were laid to rest. But that is not what was meant to be for Jesus. In fact, He had declared it so. That is what the angel reveals to the women and instructs them to remind Jesus’ disciples: “But go, tell His disciples and Peter that He is going before you to Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you.” While the resurrection of anyone is unexpected, Jesus’ rising had been foretold—not only by Him, but prophesied centuries before: “For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let Your holy one see corruption.”
This resurrection of Jesus means a reversal of what is expected. That is so not only for the women who traveled to Jesus’ tomb, but for you. There is a new end to expect, a new fate to anticipate. This is what the Lord has revealed in word and deed. His promise was made through the prophet: “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And He will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of His people He will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.”
The Lord’s words allude to what people normally expect and experience: death, sorrow, shame. They are the result of sin—people’s own sin, other people’s sin, just the plain old imperfection that is found in the world. That drives what happens in the world. It is why you anticipate your own death, even if you don’t spend hours dwelling on it. You know well the sadness that comes from the events of life, even the sorrow of going to tombs where you have laid your loved ones. All of you encounter shame in some way: shame at what you’ve done, shame at what others think of you, shame at what family and friends do, even some shame at what you believe. These form your experience in this world. But the Lord’s word of promise says that this is going to come to an end—death will be swallowed up, tears will be wiped away, reproach will be removed.
Yet the Lord does not simply make a promise; He gives an action that shows its validity and possibility. That is what Jesus’ resurrection achieves. Had Jesus remained deceased, there would be no reason to put trust in the Lord’s promise. How could He swallow up death, if He was powerless over it? How could He wipe away tears from your faces, if He could not even end the grief of His closest followers? How could He take away the reproach of His people, if all the claims of lying and deceit made against Him were shown to be true? But the Lord is shown to be trustworthy through the raising of Jesus. It establishes that He can do what He says He will.
So now there is a new expectation for you. That is what Jesus’ resurrection shows. It is the heart of your faith, what you anticipate to receive from the Lord. This is what the apostle means with his statement: “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.” Jesus’ resurrection takes place in accordance with what the Lord has said. It is the way that salvation is given to you. You hold fast to what is of first importance: that Jesus’ death atoned for your sin and that His raising from death has provided life for you.
What the Lord has revealed in word and deed is now the object of your faith. Your trust is put in Him, believing what He promises and relying on what He does. So now you look forward to receiving what He has said He will give. Your eyes are not only focused on what you see here and now—death, sorrow, shame. No, you look up and see the empty tomb of Jesus. Because of that, you look forward to what is yet to come: the time when the Lord will prepare the feast of victory for you to experience forever. You expect what the Lord has said about you: “It will be said on that day, ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, that He might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for Him; let us be glad and rejoice in His salvation.’”
Why do you wait on the Lord? Because He has acted for you and has promised more. Jesus’ death and resurrection is the way He has brought you forgiveness, life, and salvation. It is a proof of what He will do for you in the future. Your faith, hope, and trust are put in Him. So you can pray the words of the psalm, believing that it is so: “Preserve me, O God, for in You I take refuge. I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from You.’ … I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let Your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
With the resurrection of Jesus, those words become your own. There is a change in expectations. Hearing about empty tombs is not unexpected. Hearing that Jesus is raised from the dead is not unexpected. Hearing that He goes before you and that you will see Him is not unexpected. No, this is what you now anticipate. It is your great expectation. That is the great news of Easter Day for you to carry all the days of your life. That is the message of first importance received by the women and the apostles that they have delivered to you: “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.”
So you are not alarmed at what the angel said; instead you expect it. You are not full of trembling and astonishment; instead you are glad and rejoice greatly about it. Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified, is no longer in the tomb. He has risen. He has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel for you to receive. And He goes before you—through death and the grave to resurrection and Paradise, where you also will see Him—just as He said. That is now what is meant to be.
+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Saturday, April 7, 2012
April 7, 2012 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA
“Moses said to the people, ‘Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will work for you today…. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.’”
“The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” Moses’ words point to the actor of salvation for the Hebrews. They will not save themselves. The Lord will act for them. The Lord will be their Deliverer, their Conqueror, their Redeemer. He will bring victory over Pharaoh and his army. Through the prophet’s statement, the Lord says: “Move over. Step aside. Let Me do it.”
That is what we see in all the readings for this night. You have heard the Scriptures’ testimony about the Lord’s actions, His doing things that humanity could not. His words: “Let there be….” bring creation into existence. The Lord discloses the flood to Noah and shuts him in the ark to keep him safe. He gives Isaac to Abraham as an only son, then He supplies the substitute for Isaac, leading Abraham to call the mountain in Moriah, “The Lord will provide.” Only the Lord’s words and His Spirit bring Israel’s dry bones to life. The Lord’s presence protects the Three Young Men from Nebuchadnezzar’s fire. Each time, the Lord’s actions bring life, save the day, work salvation, grant deliverance.
So it has been through time. History is a timeline of the Lord’s action, especially for His people. You belong to that group. You belong to that history. That history culminates with the appearance of the Promised Christ and the actions that He performed, when He told you and all humanity about salvation: “Move over. Step aside. Let Me do it. You cannot keep the Law, but I will. You cannot offer anything to atone for your sin, but I will. You cannot free yourself from slavery, but I will. You cannot defeat death, but I will.”
That is what this night is about—to remember and recall what the Lord has done for you. It is a night, when you are exhorted: “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will work for you today…. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” You weren’t present at the events described in the Scripture Readings, but they speak about the Lord who is present now for you. Christ’s work that accomplished salvation—His death and resurrection—was in the past, but is effective and active in your day.
So tonight, you participate in the acts that deliver the Lord’s salvation to you. The Lord has renewed your baptismal covenant with Him, uniting you again with Christ’s death and resurrection, drowning all sin in you, separating you from the multitude of unbelievers, and keeping you safe and secure in the holy ark of the Christian Church. The Lord’s herald has proclaimed the great news of Christ’s rising from death: “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; He is not here.” The Lord prepares a paschal meal for you to eat, so that you receive the salvation accomplished for you by the all-availing sacrifice of Jesus’ body and blood on the cross.
In each of these, you are passive; the Lord is active. You are recipients; the Lord is the Giver. You are freed; the Lord is the Deliverer. You are saved; the Lord is the Redeemer. What Moses describes about Him is true: “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” And what he says about the people’s reaction is also true: “I will sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously.” The war has been waged and won. Christ has died, but He has risen. Your enemies—sin, death, and Satan—lie eternally defeated. The victory has been accomplished for you, bringing great joy. That is the message of this night.
The Lord has fought for you, while you remained silent. But receiving the benefits of His actions, you need not be silent anymore. So you with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Ezekiel, the Three Young Men, the Women at the Empty Tomb, and all the Lord’s people who have received His salvific acts will again sing to Him:
“The strife is o’er, the battle done; Now is the victor’s triumph won; Now be the song of praise begun. Alleluia!
Lord, by the stripes which wounded Thee, From death’s dread sting Thy servants free That we may live and sing to Thee. Alleluia!”
+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Friday, April 6, 2012
April 6, 2012 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA
“Pilate went out again and said to them, ‘See, I am bringing Him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in Him.’ So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Behold the man!’”
Judgment is rendered on Good Friday. Not guilty is the verdict. It is applied to Jesus. That is the decree from Pilate, the one who carries authority on that day. Throughout his treatment of Jesus’ case, the prefect comes to the same conclusion: “I find no guilt in Him.” It is an acquittal, the statement that a person on trial wants to hear: “Not guilty. No reason to punish, incarcerate, or condemn.”
And yet, the one who exonerates Jesus hands Him over to death: “Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’ So he delivered Him over to them to be crucified.” Handing over an innocent man to be crucified: that is an act of injustice. It is not right. Who does such a thing? An unjust man does. But the events in Jerusalem are much more than a human act of injustice, as Jesus discloses: “Pilate said to Him, You will not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You and authority to crucify You?’ Jesus answered him, ‘You would have no authority over Me at all unless it had been given you from above.’”
What is happening in Jerusalem? Why is sentence pronounced against Jesus, though the judge declares, “I find no guilt in Him.”? An exchange is taking place; a substitution is being made. It is the fulfillment of all that the Lord had promised in days of old, as you have heard in the responses interspersed between the Scripture readings tonight: “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”
Guilt—your guilt—is placed on Jesus. He is condemned for your sin—not by the human judge in Jerusalem, but from the One who carries authority from above. Guilt is placed on Jesus, so that you might have the innocence that He always possessed. That is the exchange, the substitution. Pilate sends out Jesus, saying: “Behold the Man!” The Father sees Him carrying the guilt of mankind. The divine condemnation for that sin is doled out against Him. It is the condemnation deserved by the first man, Adam, to the last man that shall ever walk this earth.
So Jesus dies, just as the Lord promised for those who break His commandments and incur His wrath. Not that Jesus broke them, but since He bore your iniquity. Jesus dies, suffering the judgment visited upon your unrighteousness: “They made His grave with the wicked and with a rich man in His death, although He had done no violence, and there was no deceit in His mouth. Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush Him; He has put Him to grief….”
And yet, there is divine promise of restoration, as the prophet declared: “When His soul makes an offering for sin, He shall see His offspring; He shall prolong His days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.” Jesus shall see what His offering achieves, what it attains for you: forgiveness, life, and salvation. He serves as substitute for you, receiving the Lord’s condemnation. But what is said about those who receive it? “Come, let us return to the Lord, for He has torn us, that He may heal us; He has struck us down, and He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live before Him.” Just as Jesus was torn and struck down for the sin of mankind, so He was healed and bound up. And as it was done to your Substitute, so it is also done to you.
Judgment is rendered on Good Friday. Not guilty is the verdict. It is applied to you. This is not the decree of a Roman prefect, but the decision of the Lord God Almighty. Throughout the treatment of your case, the Lord comes to the same conclusion about you: “I find no guilt.” It is an acquittal that you want to hear. But it comes because of the condemnation delivered against Jesus. The exchange, the substitution is made—innocence for guilt, guilt for innocence: “For our sake [God] made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
So the Lord God Almighty sends out the Crucified and Risen Jesus and says: “Behold the Man!” First see your guilt borne by Him and the condemnation visited upon Him. But then see His innocence that is made yours and hear the acquittal that is declared for you. See the result of that great exchange—resurrection and everlasting life—and ask for it to be yours: “Since then we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession…. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
This is what Jesus has accomplished for you as your Substitute. It has been earned for you, made to be yours. Divine healing, binding, and raising are yours. Jesus declares it to be full and complete. He says: “It is finished!” And His Father, the Lord God Almighty, makes His declaration about you. The Just Judge renders His verdict on this day: “I find no guilt in them.”
+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Thursday, April 5, 2012
April 5, 2012 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA
“And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples said to Him, ‘Where will You have us go and prepare for You to eat the Passover?’”
“Where will You have us go and prepare for You to eat the Passover?” That is the question posed by Jesus’ disciples to their Master. This night was unlike any other nights. It was the time for the Lord’s faithful people to remember what He had done for them so many centuries ago. A prescribed meal was to be prepared and eaten: lamb, unleavened bread, bitter herbs, blessed wine. Through these means, the belief in the Lord’s activity that brings salvation would be reinvigorated.
So the disciples ask: “Where will You have us go and prepare for You to eat the Passover?” They want to know where Jesus wants to eat this meal. Their expected task is to make it ready for their Master. It is the role of disciples. And that task is given to them: “And He sent two of His disciples and said to them, ‘Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, “The Teacher says, ‘Where is My guest room, where I may eat the Passover with My disciples?’” And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.’ And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as He had told them, and they prepared the Passover.”
The disciples are sent with their expected assignment. They have the room ready and the meal prepared. All is as it should be. But this night would truly be unlike any other nights. Remember the question that the disciples asked: “Where will You have us go and prepare for You to eat the Passover?” A place was determined, and Jesus’ disciples made it ready. A meal was eaten, food prepared by Jesus’ disciples. But Jesus does something unexpected: “And as they were eating, He took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is My body.’ And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And He said to them, ‘This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’”
What is happening here? The roles are reversed from the norm. The Master is preparing a meal for His disciples. He is making it ready and distributing it. Though He is greater than the Twelve, Jesus serves them. This is not expected. And Jesus gives this meal a significance equal to the Passover. He states that it is part of a covenant, just as the Passover of old was linked to the promise that the Lord made to His people and His relationship to them.
That is why we commemorate this night. Jesus’ action establishes a meal for His disciples. This meal brings benefits as His people participate in it and remember His activity for their salvation. That is the purpose of the Lord’s Supper. The food is lamb—not a sheep from some shepherd’s flock, but the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The drink is the fruit of the vine—not a plant from some vintner’s garden, but the Vine to which we belong as branches. So Jesus says: “Take; this is My body…. This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”
Why do we eat this meal? To participate in the covenant that has been made with us through the sacrifice that Jesus offers for us. So the apostle writes: “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” Eating and drinking this meal—the body and blood of Jesus—we have the confirmation of our belonging to Him as His people: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” That is what we do, as we have become part of the Church, united as members of a body with Christ our Lord.
The Lord’s Supper gives us the opportunity to remember what Jesus has done for us. We are confronted with the sacrifice of Jesus every time we partake of this meal: “As often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” His words are spoken to us—the words that make the bread His body and the wine His blood, as well as tell us what He has done: “My body given into death; My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” Jesus’ sacrifice is unavoidable. It is how He has prepared salvation for us. This is the Passover that He accomplishes for us. Jesus’ meal makes it clear that He has done it. It shows that we are in a covenant relationship with Him, so that we are kept safe from sin, death, and Satan.
So we eat and drink, believing what Jesus has said about this meal—that it is His Body and His blood given to us. We eat and drink, confessing that “the Son of Man goes as it is written of Him”—that was betrayed, was rejected, was convicted, and was crucified to fulfill the Lord’s promise of salvation. We eat and drink, receiving the service that Jesus provides for us—forgiveness, life, and salvation. And we eat and drink, anticipating that day when the Risen Jesus will feast with us in the kingdom of God.
This is why we prayed: “O Lord, in this wondrous Sacrament You have left us a remembrance of Your passion. Grant that we may so receive the sacred mystery of Your body and blood that the fruits of Your redemption may continually be manifest in us.” Again on this night, our Master Jesus has prepared this meal for us. Our Lord again serves us. Here is where He wants us to eat it.
So what shall we do? “What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.” We will eat and drink, just as He tells us. Come again this night and partake of the meal that the Master provides. Hear His description of it and believe it is true, just as He has told you. Receive the benefits of His redemptive acts that He performed. For whoever eats this bread and drinks this cup, confidently believing this Word and promise of Christ, dwells in Christ and Christ in him and has eternal life.
+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Sunday, April 1, 2012
April 1, 2012 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA
“[Jesus said]: ‘Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself.’”
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” For centuries, the Lord’s people had heard these words proclaimed to them. Zechariah’s prophecy had spoken of a king who would come to the capital city of Israel. Kings had come and gone in Jerusalem throughout the centuries. But the level of monarchy and regality had been on a downward angle. The kings of Israel had started with Saul, soon followed by David and Solomon. That was the zenith. After that, a series of kings ruled over a divided nation, one that had devolved into rivalries and religious indifference and impiety.
By the time Zechariah came with the message about a coming king, Israel was no more. Samaria, the Northern Kingdom, had been absorbed into the Assyrian Empire. Judah, the Southern Kingdom, had fallen to Babylon. There was no king in Jerusalem. The line had ended with the exile. Only the foreign, pagan rulers of the East exerted authority. The kings that the descendants of Israel knew were tyrants, conquerors who had to be served. And yet, the Lord’s divine promise remained. A pledge that an heir to David’s throne would arise had been given.
It is that divine promise which is the foundation of Zechariah’s prophecy. He calls the exiled people of Israel and those who were left under oppression in the homeland to rejoice: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” A king is coming! But not just any king—“your king,” your ruler, one who belongs to you. He is bringing benefits for you: “righteousness and salvation.” He is not a tyrant full of pompous glory, but is “humble and mounted on a donkey.”
The prophet reveals more details about this coming king. His rule is going to be great and restorative as he fulfills the Lord’s will: “I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.” The exile will be brought to an end: “As for you also, because of the blood of My covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.” All things will be made good, right, and whole again: “Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.” That is the king whom the Lord’s people were to expect and receive with great joy.
This prophecy speaks about Jesus, the Messiah. He is the fulfiller of the divine promises made through Zechariah. Those promises set the agenda for what He accomplishes on earth. So as Jesus goes up to Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, He acts according to what the Lord had spoken: “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 trees and went out to meet Him, crying out: ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!’ And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written: ‘Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!’” The actions of that day were signs given to draw people’s minds back to the divine promise that had been made. The people were to recall what the expected Messiah was to bring to them: joy, righteousness, salvation, an end to war, a proper rule, restoration.
But Jesus does not limit Himself to signs. He also speaks about what He is going to do: “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself.” This is the fulfillment of the divine promises. It is the purpose of Jesus’ presence in the world: “Now is My soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.”
So what is it that Jesus is meant to accomplish? What is this matter of casting out the ruler of this world? What is the lifting up that He speaks about? Jesus is discussing the matter of His death for the life of the world. He is talking about what His act of redemption is meant to achieve. Jesus brings judgment to the world: with His presence, righteousness is now standing in direct contrast to the world’s evil. Jesus is bringing order to the world: with His presence, the rightful King of heaven and earth is taking back authority from Satan, the ancient usurper. Jesus is bringing faith to the world: with His presence, people are led away from the wandering into the ways of unrighteousness and are drawn to Him.
But how is this accomplished? Jesus’ words speak to that: “when I am lifted up from the earth”. The Gospel Writer provides the understanding of this statement: “He said this to show by what kind of death He was going to die.” And there is the unique nature of Jesus’ work: His rule begins with an act that looks impotent and weak. He brings righteousness and salvation, but it is accomplished by acting in full humility. It is described in the apostle’s words about Jesus: “who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
A marker is put down at Jesus’ crucifixion: here is the true Ruler of all things and He is reversing the damage that had been done to His world. The damage had been done from early days. Death had been brought into Creation, where only life had been. Exile from Paradise was imposed. Mankind was removed from being the Lord’s steward to Satan’s serf. An impostor was exerting rule. Enmity runs through the generations of humanity. But this was coming to an end with Jesus’ presence: “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.” It is done through His crucifixion, the act of redemption for which we praise Jesus “who accomplished the salvation of mankind by the tree of the cross that, where death arose, there life also might rise again and that the serpent who overcame by the tree of the garden might likewise by the tree of the cross be overcome.”
In the humility that is shown in Jesus’ crucifixion, divine glory does shine through. He dies. And yet, that is how life is given. He serves. And yet, that is how His rule begins. He is victimized. And yet, that is how victory is achieved. So Jesus says: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Jesus comes as humble king, but He does bring righteousness and salvation with Him, just as Zechariah had promised. It is how He delivers the promised benefits to the people.
This is how you are delivered. Jesus’ dying is cuts off the assaults of sin and death from you. You suffer from these, but Jesus gives you victory over them in everlasting life. Jesus’ atoning sacrifice brings divine peace. You are no longer ostracized from God. His redemptive act achieves freedom for you. You are set free from bondage from sin and slavery to Satan. His serving as substitute for all mankind restores you to your rightful place. You are again declared to be recipients of the Lord’s favor that grants both temporal and eternal blessing. The fruit that Jesus’ death bears are all the benefits of salvation that are given to you, the citizens of His eternal kingdom.
That is what the promised king has brought to you. He came in humility, but bringing righteousness and salvation for you. It was accomplished by His obedience unto death, even death on the cross. He was lifted up from the earth, a few feet from the ground in crucifixion. But Jesus has also been glorified much more—in His resurrection and ascension: “Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should 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.” That’s the rule that your humble King now possesses in His glory.
What was promised has come to pass. The seed was planted and died, but it bears much fruit. Jesus’ soul was troubled, but He has brought comfort for yours. Jesus was lifted up on the cross, but has drawn you to Himself. The darkness of death seemed to snuff out the light, but it still shines so that you may be led by it. The hour for Jesus’ glorification has come and you are called to share in it. So rejoice on this day and this week, even as you hear of the suffering that your King has undergone for your sake. For your now Risen and Glorious King is still coming to you—righteous, having salvation, and giving you a place where He rules for eternity.
+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.