Palm Sunday                                  
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Philippians 2:1-11 Sermon                                                 
April 17, 2011

Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal):
160 "All Glory, Laud, and Honor"
162 "Ride On, Ride On In Majesty"
161 "Hosanna, Loud Hosanna"


 TEXT (vs. 5-8):  5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, 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.

             Most people living in Nebraska have, at some point in their lives, made the trip across our southwestern border into Colorado to have some time vacationing in the Rocky Mountains.  Speaking for myself, I've done it quite a number of times in my life.  I was there in my growing up years, and I've been back numerous times as an adult.

`           I enjoy the mountains and the scenery, and there are so many different places to experience.  I think the Rockies are beautiful, and I believe that we are privileged to have them so close at hand.

            About ten years ago, I took a little trip out there.  At that time, I had a Mustang, and I was pulling my camper.  During the trip, I was going from Denver south to Colorado Springs.  So I got out my map and looked for a more scenic route to take, rather than take the freeway.  I spotted this back way through the mountains, which was noted as "The Rampart Range Road."  It started a ways south of Denver at Sedalia, and ran all the way south to Colorado Springs.  So that's the route that I decided to take.

            When I got there, I discovered that the road was not paved.  That didn't dissuade me however; the road looked nice enough and wide enough, so I headed my Mustang and camper down the road.

            Now let me give you some of the details of the road, details of which I was unaware at the outset.  The road is just a touch over 65 miles long, and not an inch of it is paved.  It has its good areas, but there are a whole lot of areas that aren't quite so nice.  There are areas where it is just a single lane over some mountain passes, with a sheer drop of hundreds of feet beside you.  If you met another car, someone would have to back up.  And here I am, trying to maneuver this in a Mustang towing a camper!

            Official estimates say that this is a four-hour trip; however I don't think any sane person would want to be going that fast.  If you ever want to travel that route, you'd better set aside the better part of a day. 

            The worst part of it is, once you're on the road, you really can't get off of it.  You either have to follow it to the end, or turn around and go back the way that you came.  You can't just shoot back to the main highway.  As beautiful as the scenery is, there comes a point where you say to yourself, "okay, I've had enough of this, I want to get out of here."  And you just have to keep going.  About a half hour after that, you see a sign that tells you that you're at the halfway point.  From then on, it has pretty much ceased to be a pleasure trip, and has become more of a quest.

            I've used this little adventure of mine to illustrate another road as it applies to our text for today.  This is the road that Jesus, our Saviour took.  With today being Palm Sunday, we automatically think of the road into Jerusalem, where Jesus was riding on the donkey.  It was a procession of grand proportions; however this was only a small fraction of the road Jesus took on our behalf as our Saviour.  The road, upon which Jesus traveled, is the road of humiliation.

            Our Epistle lesson for today defines what we know theologically as Christ's state of humiliation.  If you're wondering what that is, this is the time where Jesus, of his own doing, voluntarily set aside his divine majesty and glory, came down to this earth, and became a fully human man.

            This is something we talk about virtually every Sunday.  When we say the Apostles' Creed, his state of humiliation is described in this manner:  "He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried."   That in a nutshell describes Christ's entire state of humiliation.  In our confirmation classes, we learn about this when we study the second article of the creed.

            If somebody is humiliated, it means that they are brought down to a lowered position.  We can feel humiliated when somebody exposes something we've done that is wrong.  People feel humiliation when, for example, their boss chews them out in front of other employees.  Children can feel humiliation when they get punished in front of their friends.  It's not a very good feeling.

            We have to remember that nobody humiliated Jesus.  The Pharisees didn't do it.  Caiaphas, the high priest didn't do it.  Pontius Pilate didn't do it.  Oh they might have tried, but it was something they could not do.  It is something that Jesus did to himself.

            If you can imagine those times in your life when you felt humiliated, you know it isn't something pleasant.  You want to escape it.  You don't want to be embarrassed in front of other people.  Now could you imagine intentionally doing it to yourself?  That's what Jesus did!  Something like that just goes against every fiber of our being.

            To take this even further, we look at Hebrews chapter 12 verse 2, which describes Jesus as "...the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."      

            Not only did Jesus willingly humiliate himself, but he found joy in doing so!  What in the world could be going on in all this humiliation that could be conceived as being a joy?

            That's a fair question; and I'd like for you to keep it in mind as we head back now to the road to Jerusalem, and the account of Palm Sunday.

            We're told that there was a crowd there that welcomed him.  Many people in that crowd were those who had either witnessed or heard about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  John's gospel explains that many people came to faith in Jesus because of this miracle.  They knew whom he was and that he was the promised Saviour.

            Of course this infuriated the Jewish leaders.  They not only plotted to kill Jesus, but to kill Lazarus also.  They felt that they would be financially ruined because of this; so the only way they could see to get things back to normal was to eliminate the troublemakers.  Jesus and Lazarus would have to go.  This was the threat that loomed in the air amidst all of the Palm Sunday pomp and celebration.

            However, the crowds welcomed him.  And more than that, they shouted "Hosanna!  Hosanna to the Son of David!"  "Hosanna" means "Lord, save us!"  Those in the crowd knew that Jesus had come to save them. 

            That's where we see the joy in all of this.  When we confess the Nicene Creed together, it states the reason why Jesus humiliated himself.  It says, "Who for us men, and our salvation, he came down from heaven..." That's the whole purpose!  That's why Jesus came to Jerusalem! 

            If you want to see the joy in Christ's humiliation, just look in the mirror!  He came down from heaven, for me!  He was conceived by the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary for me!  He became a fully human man for me!  He was crucified under Pontius Pilate for me!  He suffered death and was buried for me!  He rose again according to the Scriptures for me!  He ascended into heaven for me!

            It's for the salvation of sinners the likes of you and me that gave Jesus the joy in all of this.  It's his love and the fulfillment of that love that gave Jesus the joy along that road of humiliation.

            Think of it this way.  A small boy is lying in the hospital.  If he doesn't receive a kidney transplant, he will die.  So his father donates one of his kidneys in order that his son might live.  There is the possibility that the father might not survive the procedure.  The operation is painful, and the recovery time is long.  But the father gladly and willingly does this so his son has a chance at life.  The joy of his son's survival is worth everything the father has to endure to make that happen.

            That's the joy our Saviour has when he looks ahead at what he has to endure to give life to us.  His whole trip down the road of humiliation was to live the life we couldn't live, and to die the death we because of our sins deserve.  The road to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday was a prelude to the ultimate humiliation anybody could experience, and that was to be put to death as a common criminal on a cross.

            Our Saviour traveled down the road of humiliation, so that we could travel down the road of faith.  The road of faith tells us that our sins have been forgiven, and that Jesus has done everything so that we might be saved.  The road of faith is one that clings only to Jesus for the hope of eternal life and salvation.  When we're on that road of faith, we know that it is God who is taking us down that road.  We do not have to do anything; rather all we do is just believe that through faith in Christ our road of faith will eventually lead us to our eternal heavenly home. 

            Therefore we have a joy that is all our own.  We rejoice and are thankful for what Jesus has done for us.  A little boy who is receiving a kidney transplant from his father can do nothing to help with his father's gift that will give him life.  All he can do is lie there on the operating table and receive the gift his father is giving him. 

            That's what happens to us.  God gives us the gift of faith that will give us life.  That gift of faith is what joins us to Jesus our Saviour.  Jesus willingly traveled down the road of humiliation so we might be eternally exalted.

            However, that road of humiliation wasn't easy at all.  Certainly there were times of rejoicing along that road, but there were also times that were difficult and tragic beyond what we could even comprehend.  Things got so difficult that Mark 14:36 records how Jesus even prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane these words: "Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will." 

            Even though Jesus willingly and gladly carried out his mission, the road of humiliation was very tough.  But there was no other way.  There was no turning back.  Things had to go the way they were going.  And Jesus knew what was ahead for him.

            I began by telling you the story about driving down the Rampart Range Road in Colorado, and what a difficult trip that was.  But there's a little bit of the story I didn't tell you.

            After I had been on the road for a couple hours, something I saw triggered a bit of "deja vu" in my mind.  I felt that I had been down this road before.  And then I remembered.  About 25 years earlier, I was traveling with some family friends of mine in Colorado.  Only that time, I was driving a big Lincoln Continental, also pulling a camper.  Then scenes of that rather treacherous and scary trip began to go through my mind.  The beautiful scenery had become almost a nightmare.  I wish that I had remembered earlier, but I hadn't.  And by the time I remembered, it was too late to turn back.  There was nowhere else to go.  There were no other alternate routes to take.  I had to see the journey all the way through to the end.

            On that first Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, which was representative of the road of humiliation upon which he was traveling.  Men, women, and children laid palm branches and even their garments on the road ahead of him as a sign of honor and respect.  They shouted "Hosanna!" as they praised him and looked to him as their Saviour.

            But soon, those shouts of praise would be gone.  Another crowd would gather later that week and shout, "crucify him."  And as he hung on the cross, there would be nobody who wanted anything to do with him except his mother, his good friend John, and one of the two thieves that hung next to him.  The road of humiliation had come to a bitter end.

            That Palm Sunday, Jesus knew full well what was ahead of him, and it wasn't a pretty sight.  But he also knew that there was a sinful world of God's children that needed to be saved.  They needed the life he came to give them.  And even though it wasn't a pleasant journey, there was joy in giving life to the humanity God loved.

            Today, as we sing "Hosanna, Lord save us," we know that he has done just that for us.  It's ours through faith alone in Jesus our Saviour.  And thanks to him, he walked the road of humiliation on this earth, so that our walk down the road of faith will lead us to our eternal heavenly home.