Lent 6: Palm Sunday

Preached: April 13, 2014

Your Savior Pressed On
Psalm 110:7

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The word from God before us today through which the Holy Spirit points us to our Savior is Psalm 110:7

He will drink from a brook beside the way; therefore he will lift up his head. (Psalm 110:7 NIV84).

This is the word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

By itself this verse sounds confusing. What’s it talking about? Recall the rest of the Psalm, which we’ve looked at over the past several weeks. From the very beginning, the Psalm directed us to our Lord Jesus Christ. He is seated at the right hand of the Lord, who makes his enemies his footstool. In fact, his rule extends into the very midst of his enemies. He is our Priest forever, who sacrificed himself for us. And in the end he will crush even the mightiest kings of this earth who have opposed him and oppressed his people.

And now we come to the last verse, which summarizes our Savior’s life work with a wonderful picture, a picture that fits well with Palm Sunday. Let’s look at what we can see.

A. Resolute in his mission

Picture a warrior from days of old, maybe like David leading his men. They are pursuing the enemy, pressing on to victory. Is he going to stop and build a campfire for dinner? Is he going to spend the night in a warm bed at a inn? Of course not. He’s going to press on. When he comes across a brook, he’ll take a quick drink, but then onward resolute in his mission. And so the Psalm says, “He will drink from a brook beside the way” (Psalm 110:7 NIV84).

Your Savior pressed on resolute in his mission, letting nothing distract him. During Jesus’ ministry of teaching, preaching, and healing, Luke 9 tells us: “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51 NIV84). Yes, Jerusalem, the center of opposition against him. Today we witnessed him riding into Jerusalem, pressing on resolute in his mission.

What was that mission? Jesus had explained a few days earlier before Palm Sunday as he passed through Jericho. The journey from Jericho to Jerusalem was about sixteen miles uphill, a good day’s walk. Before entering Jerusalem, though, he would spend the Sabbath at the town of Bethany. Now as he passed through Jericho this last time, a little guy named Zacchaeus wanted to see him. He climbed a tree to get a better view. Jesus stopped at that tree and said, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5 NIV84). When the people muttered about Jesus going to the house of a sinner like Zacchaeus who collected taxes for the hated Romans and probably overcharged people to pad his own pockets, Jesus explained his mission. “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10 NIV84). He pressed on seeking and saving. That’s why on Palm Sunday he accepted the crowd’s shouts of “Hosanna,” which means, “Lord, save!” That’s what he had come to do. He pressed on resolute in his mission to save the lost.

Have you counted yourself among the lost whom Jesus came to save? “Of course, I have!” is our conditioned response. But were you really that bad as Zacchaeus was? He sounded like a bit of a scoundrel, didn’t he? Decent people didn’t like him. “Oh, I do try hard. Maybe I wasn’t that bad.” Doesn’t a part of us want to say that? But that’s our sinful flesh speaking. Our natural self clings to the lie that even without Jesus we have some good in us, maybe even enough to attract Jesus to us in the first place. And this shows itself in our lives when we look down on others and feel a little bit superior, thinking that we must not have been quite that bad or thinking that at least by now I’ve cleaned myself up a bit unlike them

Dear friends, if we could have done anything by our own power to clean ourselves up in God’s sight, then we would not have been truly lost and wouldn’t have needed Jesus all that much. If there had been anything good in us, even just a small spark, we might still have needed Jesus to help us along, but not outrightly save us. That thinking actually rejects Jesus as Savior (although it might still use that word) and turns him into our Sherpa, someone to carry our baggage and guide us as we climb the mountain ourselves. All this leads to death.

You and I were lost, as lost as Zacchaeus, as lost as that person in your life that turns you stomach, as lost as the scum of the earth, totally lost. That’s what we were. Nothing in us attracted Jesus. Nothing in us inspired him to press on resolute in his mission. Everything about us was repulsive to the holy God. How lost we were! But the Lord’s boundless love determined to save you and me, despite what we were. That was his own good will and gracious pleasure, to save undeserving, unworthy, totally lost sinners like us. So the Father sent his eternal Son, commissioning him. Jesus came and pressed on resolute in his mission. From womb to tomb, from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, he pressed on resolute to save you.

B. Resolute in his suffering

He was so resolute in his mission that he did not delay or stray from the way. And when he paused to drink, what was it that he drank?

Listen as he prays in Gethsemane: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39 NIV84), and again, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done” (Matthew 26:42 NIV84).

He paused to drink that cup of unimaginable suffering. Even his perfect, flawless, human will cringed at the thought of drinking it. He turned to his heavenly Father for strength and remained resolute. He pressed on resolute even in his suffering. He drank that full cup down to the last drop, even the bitter dregs.

In that cup was every the wrong that you and I have every done or will do, our guilt, your shame. In that cup was all the punishment that you and I have rightly earned and justly deserved now and in eternity. Jesus drank it for you, in your place. Instead of you drinking it, he did. And he did it not only for you and me but for all sinners, for the entire world. And maybe that’s why the Psalm speaks not of a cup but of brook, actually a gully gushing full after a downpour. For Jesus did not drink just an individual serving; he drank the guilt and suffering of each and every sinner of all times.

That cup was frothing and foaming with God’s holy wrath and righteous anger against all sinners. Jesus drank it. That cup was filled with all the guilt and sin of the entire world. Jesus drank it. That cup brought the bitter dregs of divine justice, the death sentence, the punishment of separation from God’s love, mercy, kindness, blessing, and fellowship -- the very essence of hell. Jesus drank it. He drank it all.

He pressed on resolute in his suffering. He did not slip away when Judas came to betray him. He did not call down legions of angels when arrested. He did not defend himself against the false testimony. He did not appeal to Pilate for release. He did not stop the nails from piercing his hands and feet. He did not come down from the cross when taunted. Rather, he freely submitted to his Father’s will. He willingly obeyed in order to save you and me. He willingly gave up his life, the Lamb of God led to the slaughter. Our Savior pressed on resolute in his suffering.

All this he did for you, dear sinner -- all for you. That’s why he road into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. To suffer for you. That’s why we sang to him: “Ride on, ride on in majesty! In lowly pomp ride on to die” (Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal 133:5 “Ride on, Ride On in Majesty”). He did it for you. Believe it.

C. Resolute in his glory

Yes, dear friends, believe it -- believe it because of what happened next. The Psalm concludes, “Therefore he will lift up his head” (Psalm 110:7 NIV84). Jesus lifted up his head in glory. The victory had been won. That’s what we sang to Jesus in the previous hymn, “Bow your meek head to mortal pain, Then take, O Christ, your power and reign” (Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal 133:5 “Ride on, Ride On in Majesty”). That’s what you heard in the lesson from Philippians 2: “He humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:8, 9 NIV84). He pressed on resolute in his glory. And that’s what we celebrate next Sunday.

Because he suffered in your place and truly paid the full debt for your sins, he lifted up his head rising from dead. Believe it! Because his blood shed on the cross has redeemed you, he lifted up his head rising in triumph. Believe it! He has suffered for you, therefore he has risen in glory. He pressed on until the victory was won, resolute in his glory. Come this week to remember his suffering. Come next Sunday to celebrate his glory.

What a Savior we have, greater than any warrior of old! He rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday resolutely pressing on to accomplish all for you. Your Savior pressed on resolute in his mission, resolute in his suffering, resolute in his glory. Amen.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313