True glory in the cross

Blessed is he who comes in the Lord, Hosanna in the highest!  With great excitement people welcomes Jesus into Jerusalem.  It was already an exciting week no matter what, the week of the Passover, with hundreds of thousands of people flocking into Jerusalem from throughout the countryside for the highest holiday of the year.  The Passover was the remembrance of how God delivered Israel from death through the blood of the Passover lamb.

This year excitement was at a fever pitch as word spread of how Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead just a few miles from Jerusalem.  Jesus had already provided a taste of the deliverance from death He had come to bring to Israel.  People wondered if he would now institute God’s kingdom among them. As Jesus entered Jerusalem on that lowly donkey, it was a glorious time in the sight of the people.

But the true glory of Jesus entering Jerusalem was not what people anticipated. The glory of Jesus was not the acclamation of the people, not the cheers in Jerusalem with palm branches waving and colorful cloaks spread along his path that brought glory to Jesus, but instead the true glory of his entrance into Jerusalem was his fixed determination to continue on the path toward the cross.

The glory of Jesus is that he willingly undertook this journey: We hear in Isaiah chapter 50 “I gave my back to those who strike and gave my cheeks to those who pull out the beard.”  He did not let the suffering along the way deter him, but instead continued on His path out of faith in the Father’s purpose or him. Again we hear from Isaiah chapter 50: “But the Lord God helps me, therefore I have not been disgraced. Therefore I have set my face like a flint and I know I shall not be put to shame.”

Jesus’ sacrificial entrance into Jerusalem changes our perspective of what is glory. So often we become wrapped up in human standards of greatness.  We entertain thoughts about how good we look to others.  It seems to be human nature to either elevate ourselves to a kingly status or to venerate others, world leaders, movie stars, sports stars or our favorite sports teams who we hope for championship victories.

In Fall of 1898 another person made a famous entrance into Jerusalem.  Kaiser Wilhelm, the last emperor of Germany and King of Prussia made a plan to visit the holy city.  He visited the city under the pretense of dedicating a Lutheran Church on the reformation observance of that year.  He hoped the visit would forge ties with the Ottoman Empire against England, France and Russia.

In preparation for the visit the Sultan had buildings demolished near the Jaffa gate and parts of the gate itself taken down just to allow for the one time passage of the expected large entourage of Calvary traveling with the king.  In the days immediately preceding the visit barking dogs in the city and beggars were relocated to nearby villages for the duration of the visit.

As for Wilhelm himself:  A large, luxurious tent encampment was built for him and his large delegation just outside the city walls. It had 75 residential tents, six lavishly furnished hospitality tents provided by the sultan, and six fully equipped kitchen tents.
All tents were comfortably appointed with furniture and carpets borrowed from wealthy Jerusalem families.

At last Kaiser and his wife entered Jerusalem amid countless photographers and journalist from around the world, cheering crowds and a 21 gun salute.  His entrance was so different than that of Jesus, so worldly in its purpose that it is laughable and shameful to our ears.

Instead of seeking glory for ourselves or delighting in the glory of those we elevate in our culture, Jesus calls us to change our mindset toward the mindset of a servant- seeking to serve others with no attention to human accolades.

“Have this mind among yourself which is yours in Christ 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…”

It is a sad irony that he professed reason for such an extravagant visit by Wilhelm was to attend a church opening dedication.  We ourselves need Jesus to enable us to live humbly. By our nature it is hard to humble ourselves, to willingly acknowledge that we are not always right, we do not always have the best approach to a decision in our family, our workplace, or even in the church.  It is hard to accept what we want may not be what others want.

However, when we find ourselves right in the midst of the worship themes of Holy Week, when we meditate on and listen to the events of our Lord’s Passion we can’t help but see ourselves differently.  As we see the selfless sacrifice Jesus made for us, wanting to have things our way in life all the time, no matter what, feels like foolishness.

Humility comes in our awareness that we are forgiven not for what we have done ourselves, but because of Christ’s perfect love for us.

We want to be able to witness our faith from a mindset of humility.  Our pride about ourselves is not going to communicate the love of Christ to people.  What is the most common perception unbelievers have about Christians?

People who ‘think of themselves as better because they dress up and go to church every week.’

If the only message I give to an unbeliever is that my faith and attending church is important to me, then I may come off as boastful about my devotion and discipline to live out my faith.  Instead from the position of true humility we may tell people, I am a Christian only by the grace of God, only because of what Jesus has done for me.

And we may demonstrate the sincerity of our faith, not by describing how often we go to church or how much of our time we spend at church in board meetings- but through serving and helping others.  Through putting God’s love into action.

Before God, the time we spend in church is important and valuable- even if it is not something we want to boast to unbelievers about.   This week we will have the opportunity to glorify God with our voice and hear his love for us in the context of his passion.

In addition to this morning, we have the opportunity to gather in worship on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.  And next Sunday we will join with the church around the world in celebrating our Lord’s resurrection from the dead.   The highest festival of the church year, and nothing that we boast about ourselves.

Have you ever heard the phrase “We must be out of our minds!”  I’ve heard it a lot in advertising, as in, this sale is so great that we are practically giving away our new 2017 model cars.  We must be out of our minds, take advantage while you can!

In a way we as Christians should strive toward this position, to be out of our minds.  I don’t mean that we should be pushing an advertising slogan, or that we should be reckless with our decisions.  Instead we should think with a different mind than what we once had.  We should think with the mind of Christ.

We have begun holy week.  We are going to listen to the account of our Lord’s suffering for our sake.  Let the hearing of God’s Word change your hearts, and prepare your minds for the good news of Christ crucified for us and risen for us. Amen.


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