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Fickle Praisel

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Fickle Praise

Philippians 2:5-8 (Mark 11:1-11; 15:1-20)

Vicar Brian Henderson

Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and our Savior Jesus Christ, AMEN!  Our text this morning is taken from our Epistle lesson. “5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  Thus far our text.

INTRODUCTION:  If we think of our two Gospel readings this morning as hinges on a door, then our Epistle lesson is the very pin which allows the door to swing.  The Epistle text can also be thought of as a lens that will help us examine the two Gospel texts together and see them as one message; much like a coin collector uses a magnifying glass to examine the two sides of one coin in order to evaluate its worth.

In our Epistle text, the Apostle Paul is addressing the Church at Philippi concerning recent disagreements that were rooted in jealousy and self serving causes.  He immediately confronted the problem at hand by imploring all within this church to have within them the mind of Christ.  In other words they were to surrender their own self interest and act as their Savior did throughout His life.  And just in case the Philippians didn’t get the point, Paul spells it out for them:  “Jesus, who though he was God the Son did not even consider the status of His divinity to be something that he would ever use to accomplish what He was sent to do.  Instead, He came to us in human flesh and sacrificed himself upon the cross in order to accomplish his mission.”

So now that we have firmly placed this magnifying glass, which is our Epistle lesson within our hearts, let’s pick-up our Gospel texts and begin to examine them, and find what truths the Holy Spirit has for us to learn so that we too may have “the mind of Christ”. 

First, we find Jesus preparing for His jubilant entry into Jerusalem.  What we have to realize is it that there were actually two different crowds that met Jesus and celebrated his arrival into the city.  The first crowd had already left Bethany and has was in Jerusalem.  This is about the same as walking from Chula Vista into Downtown San Diego.  Once they arrived within the city of Jerusalem, they began to proclaim their eyewitness account, that the Prophet Jesus has just raised a man (Lazarus) from the dead in near by Bethany.  Soon many began to believe and exclaim that He must be the Messiah, and this word began to spread like wild-fire throughout the city.  The second crowd consisted of those who remained in Bethany and were still surrounding Jesus.  Jesus sent his two disciples into the next village along the road to Jerusalem, called Bethphagie, to obtain a donkey colt.  And you can be sure that Jesus knew that this was a fulfillment of the prophecy from our Old Testament reading this morning: “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.”  

Well the two crowds met at the outskirts of Jerusalem and became one.  Together they began to welcome Jesus as their Messiah and Savior, with the cheer Hosanna in the highest!  This cheer was also a prayer, because it literally means God Save Us!

II. Well after Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, Jesus began to look around the city, evaluating both the people and the places.  But His evaluation was not according to the way of man, but of God.  You see Jesus, because of his divine ability, was able to look right into the heart of people and know the complete truth about them.  He was able to rightly appraise all things.  He knew that in just 5 short days this same crowd that was cheering Him on, and praying for His help would soon be stunned to learn that their supposed Messiah was arrested like a common criminal, and forced to stand trial before Pontius Pilot himself.  He also knew that this same crowd would soon be calling for his crucifixion.  You see, while it is true to say that Jesus set aside his status as God, it would not be true to say that while on earth Jesus was only man and not God.  Rather we would say that Jesus decided to accomplish His specific work, His mission of salvation, as one of us.

ILLUST: There’s a story of a young medieval prince who wanted to find a maiden suitable to be his queen. One day while running an errand in the local village, he passed through a poor section. As he glanced out the windows of his carriage his eyes fell upon the most beautiful peasant maiden he had ever seen. During the ensuing days he often passed by the young lady and soon he fell in love with her. But he had a problem. How could he ask her to marry him?

I mean, he could order her to marry him. That was his prerogative as the crown prince, but even a prince wants his bride to marry him freely and voluntarily and not through coercion. Well, he could also appear to her in all of his royal splendor, uniform and a carriage drawn by six horses and then shower her with expensive gifts, but if he did this how could he ever be sure that she loved him or was simply overwhelmed with all of his wealth and power. As you might have guessed, the prince came up with another solution. He’d put aside his kingly clothes and his royal prerogative and move into the village, and there he would live and work as a peasant. He lived among the people, shared their interests and concerns, talked their language and even found employment; all in complete anominity. In time the maiden did grow to love him for who he was and because he had first loved her. Then and only then did he finally reveal to her who he really was!

Now I know that this is a very simple, almost child like story, but I think that it explains quite nicely what St. Paul meant when he said that Jesus “… made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”  You see, it’s within this stooping down to our level that we encounter Jesus this Palm Sunday morning.  We see Him entering Jerusalem, as a king, but he does not come in a royal fashion, but instead on a humble donkey.  He is dressed for battle, but he is not dressed like other earthly warriors of the time, fitted with threatening weapons and armor.  No, instead He was clothed with a different sort of garb; it was a type that would guaranteed Him victory for the work that He came to do.  You see, Jesus did not come to conquer a fortified city.  He didn’t come to throw our enemy Satan into hell with the weapons of God; although He certainly could have done that.  No, but how did he come?  He came as a servant, and His weapons were the body of a servant and the mind of God Almighty.  His mission was to fulfill the Father’s plan of salvation through the vicarious payment for the sins of mankind by obediently suffering and dying for us!  You see Christ emptied Himself; he became so low that in the eyes of important men like the Sanhedrin and Pontius Pilot, He became nothing.  Why?  So that in our flesh He could pay for the sins of our flesh!  But do not misunderstand; Jesus did not cease being God Almighty.  He needed to apply the full weight of His deity so that He could obediently face his suffering and death; so that He could overcome death for us by resurrecting the temple of His body, and taking up His life again!  Jesus Christ did not simply “die as a man,” but He died for man and because of man so that His death would conquer sin, death, hell and eternal damnation once and for all.

So friends, the mind of Christ is this, even though Jesus knew that many of the same voices that were cheering Hosanna, would soon be chanting “Crucify Him,” He still humbly accepted their praise and their prayer, and continued to walk towards His certain suffering and death.  And as he looked about the temple, His temple he knew that in this very place, He would be arrested, beaten, and experience the humiliation of the Sanhedrin’s phony trial, yet he did not alter His plan to die for them.  And as he looked towards the Praetorium (The palace of Pontius Pilot), he must have experienced a taste of the pain that would come through the flogging that He would receive there at the hands of the Romans, and yet He did not waiver.  And as His eyes wondered up towards Golgotha, He spied the place that would ultimately take His life.  He saw the cross, His cross occupied by His lifeless body; a body that absorbed so much pain, and yet His love and commitment for them; for us, did not diminish.  The fear that he experienced, and He did know fear, was immediately surpassed by His desire to do His Father’s will and by His intense love for us.  It was a love that caused Him to be obedient to death, even death on a cross.   

III. In the words of Martin Luther: “Whose heart will not melt here for joy?  Who can refrain from loving, praising, and giving thanks and from becoming on his part, too, not only a servant of all the world, but gladly becoming meeker and lower than anything, when he sees that God Himself regarded him so dearly and so richly that He poured out Himself and exhibited His fatherly will in His Son’s obedience?”  In other words, who can know and believe all of these things and not willingly offer everything to Him who first loved us and emptied Himself for us?

Now it is very easy for us to look at the action of the Palm Sunday crowds who offered their praise to Jesus and judge them FICKLE!  But we are only able to do this from the perspective of the present looking into the past.  But can’t we do this same thing in regards to our own lives?  How many times have we one day portrayed the pious life of a saint and the next done things or failed to do things that we knew were contrary to what Jesus would have us do?  If we are honest, we too are very fickle with our praise.  We too need the mind of Christ.  So what would “Putting on the mind of Christ mean for us this morning?”  Now I could use this time to give you various examples of what it means to have the mind of Christ.  But I won’t.  Instead, let us allow the Holy Spirit to teach us what it means to say that Jesus suffered and died for us; that He poured Himself out for us.  And then, after we have realized this truth, I ask that we allow ourselves to be poured out as Christ poured Himself out for us.  Let’s allow our hearts and minds to be captured by His Holy Spirit, and then we can joyfully allow Him to lead and guide us to do the things that He would have us do.

CONCLUSION: Through our message this morning, we see a God that throughout all eternity has had this passion for us as part of His very nature; a nature that is outgoing, self-giving and self-sacrificing.  This nature becomes completely visible and apparent to us through one supreme revelation in Christ, and this revelation reaches down to each of us this morning, in order to lift us out of ourselves and into a new union with the selfless life of God.  And through this revelation we learn that ultimately this was the very reason for which our spirit was created.

Once this revelation becomes clear to us, we can then understand just what it means to say that we must have the mind of Christ.  Then we too can say that Christ emptied himself for us, and because of that I will do the same for Him, with His help.  Nothing else can save man from himself and at the same time leave him his freedom.  May you have no doubts or fears this morning,  that this is most certainly true, for behold, dear friends, your King comes to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on the foal of a donkey, and His name is Jesus, and at His name every knee shall bow!  And it is in that name that we say together…AMEN!

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