Wednesday, March 23, 2016

It's not fair!

Sermon preached for Palm/Passion Sunday, Lent 6C, by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich on Sunday, March 20, 2016.

Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last (Lk 23:46).

“It’s not fair!”.... Three words that every parent is familiar with. This sentence easily flows from the mouths of children who feel they’ve suffered injustice. They see their older brother staying up til 10, but they have to go to bed at 8. Their friends go to Florida for Spring Break, but they’re left at home. The child one check-out over enjoys a candy bar, but their hands are empty of sweets. “It’s not fair!” And how do parents respond to this plea for equality, by quipping, “Well life’s not fair!”

How true are these words? Life isn’t fair. It’s not fair that others have more than you. It’s not fair that others don’t struggle like you. IT’S NOT FAIR THAT JESUS DIED FOR YOU.

I.A. If anyone has the right to cry foul and unfairness, it’s Jesus. His life was filled with inequity, for He was God, and yet humbled Himself and became man. As St. Paul writes in his letter to the Philippians, “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, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:6-7). Christ Jesus is God. He’s the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity. He’s 100% divine, possessing all the attributes of God, omniscience and omnipotence. He’s all knowing and all powerful, and yet, He humbled Himself, taking on our human flesh. Even though He’s God and we should serve Him, He became man so that He might serve us.

Jesus was born with the lowliest birth possible: born in a stable, a rough, hard, wooden manger for a crib. Christ came into this world and the first thing He experienced was the home of filthy animals. It’s not fair that the King, the Savior of the world, should be born in such conditions.

The lowliness of Christ’s birth continued as He grew. He suffered everything that you and I do, all the hardships that our human condition brings. He felt fatigue. He hungered and thirst. He knew physical and emotional pain. He even had to endure the full weight of Satan’s temptation. It’s not fair that the Almighty Son of God should feel the limits and pain of our lowly life.

No where is the humiliation and inequity of Christ more clearly visible than in His passion. On Palm Sunday, He entered Jerusalem to shouts of “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (Jn 12:13). The people of Jerusalem rightly welcomed Christ as their King. This is how He should always be welcomed. He should be lifted up and praised, for He’s God incarnate, the Savior.

Unfairly, this praise ended just 5 short days later. Once again, Jesus would suffer humiliation. First, He was betrayed by Judas. For a measly 30 pieces of silver, one of the Twelve handed Him over to men who wanted to kill Him. Then, as Jesus stood before the religious leaders, another disciple betrayed Him. Peter denied Christ 3 times. The disciple who said he would go to prison and even die for Jesus (Lk 22:33) abandoned His Lord.

As Jesus stood before His accusers, he was mocked horrendously. The guards blindfolded Him and beat Him. They blasphemed and insulted His omniscience, prodding Him to prophesy and identify His abuser. When He was brought before Pilate, He was falsely accused. When he was sent to Herod, He was dressed in role robes and offered jeering and sarcastic worship. Once again sent back to Pilate, He endured more beatings. Even though Pilate could find no guilt in Christ, He was still sentenced to death. Jesus Christ, innocent, perfect, and righteous, was sent to die a criminal's death.

Led out of the city, He became a humiliating spectacle for the people to see. He was made to carry the instrument of His death. As He hung naked on that rough, hard, wooden cross, the soldiers gambled for His clothing. The rulers continued their scoffing; they jeered, “He saved others; let him save himself” (Lk 23:35). Even one of the criminals crucified next to Him took the opportunity to rail against Jesus. Within that short period of time, our Lord suffered more injustice, more humiliation, and more disgrace than we could suffer in a lifetime. Life’s not fair.

II.A. So why did Jesus endure this? Why did He take on our flesh? Why did He allow Himself to be mocked, beaten, and murdered on a cross? The answer...for you! Christ endured this unfair treatment for you, for the people sitting next to you, and for all the rest of the people in this world. Jesus suffered this unfair treatment because of your sin and mine. He willingly submitted Himself to this horrid death so that you wouldn’t have to suffer the same.

Because of His great love for you, God doesn’t want you to suffer the death that your sin deserves. So He sacrificed His only Son on the cross in your place, to pay that penalty. Jesus humbled Himself to the Father’s will. He was obedient to it, even though it meant the cross. He silently endure the unfair mockings, beatings, and painful death of His passion, so that He could save you from your sin.

Christ gave up His righteous life in exchange for your unrighteous one. And because of this, God exalted Him. “God has highly exalted [Christ] 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” (Phil 5:9-11). Jesus’ resurrection from the dead shows His righteousness. Death couldn’t overcome Him because He didn’t deserve it. Instead, His righteousness deserves life...He is life. God has exalted Christ, placing Him at His right hand and at His name, every knee falls. No longer is Christ humbled, mocked and ridiculed. No longer is He beaten and treated with contempt. Instead, His name is praised as the only name that gives life, an everlasting life that is unfairly given to you.

You don’t deserve life, but you’re given it in Christ Jesus. You don’t deserve to stand before God in righteousness, but you do. Washed in the waters of Baptism you’re clothed with Christ. His righteousness covers you. Through faith in Him, you’re credited with His innocence and perfection. You stand before God clean and pure, redeemed by Christ’s cross; and you’re mercifully given everlasting life. What is this but unfair. You deserve nothing good, and yet, because of Christ, you receive every good, the good of forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

When parents say, “Life’s not fair,” there are no truer words. Eternal life isn’t fair. It’s not fair that Jesus took on our human flesh and died in our stead for our sins. It’s not fair that He suffered and endured all our just punishments. And it’s not fair that we, in faith, are given His righteousness and everlasting life. But thanks be to God that we are. Thank God that He has sent His Son to save us. Thank God that He has exalted Christ, raising Him from the dead. Thank God for the gift of everlasting life in Christ. Thank God life’s not fair. In Jesus’ name...Amen.

No comments: