Tuesday, April 11, 2017

His Passion, Our Pleasure

Sermon for The Sunday of the Passion (Palm Sunday) preached by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich on Sunday, April 9, 2017.
    We just heard the full account of the days leading up to Jesus’ death.  Hearing about everything He went through, we ask ourselves “why.”  Why did He allow Judas to betray Him?  Why did He allow Himself to be falsely accused, beaten, mocked, and nailed to the cross?  Why didn’t He just save Himself?  It would’ve been so easy for Him to do….The answer to these “why” questions is the name for this Sunday:  Passion.  Christ endured and suffered all He did, He died on the cross because of His passion for you. 
    When we think about passion we think about love.  The things we’re passionate about are the things we love, and there are many things that we love.  Things like hobbies: cooking, art, hunting and fishing.  Many of us love our careers.  Some have a passion for volunteering and helping others.  We love our family and friends.  We’re passionate about our boyfriends and girlfriends, fiancées and spouses. 
    Often, this is what we think about when we think of passion.  We think of those good, warm, and even romantic feelings we have for another person.  These feelings can run hot and they’re what tell us we’re in love.  These feelings are what drive us to want to always be around that person.  These feelings convince us that this is the person we’re supposed to spend the rest of our lives with, and as long as we’re feeling those feelings, those sweet emotions, everything's okay.  Life couldn’t be any better. 
    But there’s a problem with this.  When we equate love and passion, when we base our love on emotions, on the good feelings we get, whether it’s when we’re around a certain person or doing that hobby, it won’t last.  It won’t last because passion, like all emotions, is fleeting.  When we base our love on a fleeting ever changing emotion, our love is fleeting and ever changing. 
    You see, when we don’t feel that passion anymore, when we don’t have fire in our heart, we decide that we no longer love.  When we don’t get joy out of hunting or art, we stop doing it.  When we no longer get that good feeling we once did volunteering, we stop helping.  When that burning feeling for our spouse dies down, we give up.  We get a divorce and we go looking for that feeling somewhere else, in someone else.
    When our love is based on emotion, it’s unstable and won’t last.  It changes.  But true love isn’t changing.  True love is more than an emotion, more than a feeling.  True love is a commitment, a commitment that is seen in action.  True love is Christ Jesus. 
    Christ’s passion for you isn’t a feeling, it’s an action.  His passion is the giving up of His life on the cross for your benefit, in your place.  Everything that Jesus endured and suffered is what we deserve because of our sin.  Because our love is self-serving and selfish, we deserve to be betrayed.  We deserve the accusation of being a sinner, because that’s what we are.  We should be mocked and spit upon because in our sin we’ve mocked God.  Our hands and our feet should be nailed to the tree because our sin justly deserves the death sentence.  But thanks be to God that’s not what you receive. 
    You receive Christ’s passion.  You receive God’s love, a love that’s unchanging, a love that’s strong and steadfast.  God’s love doesn’t come and go; it’s not fleeting.  It’s the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and nothing can change that.  God’s always loved you in this way, even though you’re a sinner and in that sin you’re an enemy of God.  God loves you.  This is what drove Him to send His Son to take on our flesh and blood and to die in your place.  God didn’t want you to suffer the punishing death of sin, so He graciously sent Jesus to suffer it in your place.  This is true love, a complete self-giving love, a love that serves others.  And because of this love and passion of Christ, you receive the joys of everlasting life!
    Christ’s passion is your pleasure.  With the God given gift of faith, you receive the forgiveness that Christ won on the cross.  This forgiveness is the assurance of God’s grace.  It’s the pardoning of your sin.  Because Christ died in your place, because He took your sin upon Himself, God frees you from the condemnation of sin.  He declares you innocent and He gives you the gift of everlasting life.  This life is yours now, a life full of God’s blessings, mercy, and love, a life of complete joy no matter what your emotions and feelings are. 
    Christ’s passion isn’t the same as ours.  Our passion runs hot and cold.  Sometimes we feel it, sometimes we don’t.  And as our passion goes, so does our love.  But not Christ’s.  Jesus’ passion and love aren’t emotions.  They’re not fleeting feelings.  Jesus’ passion and love are action, strong, steadfast, and never changing.  Christ’s love for you drove Him to the cross.  That’s why He suffered it all.  His passion saves you from sin and death.  Christ’s passion is your pleasure, giving you the joys of everlasting life.  In Jesus’ name...Amen. 


John Joseph Flanagan said...

Very insightful message and so true. How we often forget that the passion of Christ reflects His real love for fallen humanity, while our own love is capricious and runs hot and cold at times. We forget how much Jesus suffered for us, and we take His redemption and sacrifice for granted. This should not be. The message of Resurrection Sunday and the words of John 3:16 should awaken us to the reality that of ourselves we deserve nothing but condemnation, but Christ freely gave us new life. I think we need to reflect on this very seriously and be very thankful to Our Lord in our words and actions, especially at this time of year.

Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful, edifying sermon about the unfathomable love God has for His people. One of the most amazing quotations from Scripture, one which, because of my sinfulness, I simply cannot get my mind around is Hebrews 12:2, “…Who for the sake of the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, disregarding its shame…” Without being able to fully understand such love, I, nevertheless, understand that if joy played such an immense role in the willingness of our Lord to suffer, then joy must be the dominant emotion of our faith. Meaning that we must sing “Hallelujah” during Lent.
But one thing I cannot agree with, is a sentence I have heard dozens of times during my life, but for which there is no Scriptural foundation: “Everything that Jesus endured and suffered is what we deserve because of our sin.”
God deals quite thoroughly with the punishment for sin in the Old Testament. Is spitting on, flogging, a crown of thorns or crucifixion mentioned as a punishment for sinners? If it were not for our Lord’s merciful act of saving us, would we not still suffer eternal death after suffering all that?
The punishment for sin is eternal death (Ezekiel 18:20). Is there any indication in Scripture that God has ordered sinners to be tortured to death before condemning them to eternal death? One method of punishment that is mentioned in the Old Testament is captivity. Nevertheless, there is a limit to that punishment, as God Himself says through the prophet, Isaiah 40:1-2, “Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”
So, “No”, we do not deserve what our Lord suffered for us. If He had not rescued us from our sins, we would suffer a fate that is much worse: eternal death. God, who is merciful and loving, takes no pleasure in the pain of His people. Therefore He does not torture to death those who are destined for eternal death. What would be the point?
Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart