Sermon for The Sunday of the Passion (Palm Sunday), preached on Sunday, March 25, 2018, by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich.
We’re not humble people. We like to convince ourselves that we are, but it’s a lie. The truth is every single one of us is arrogant. We’re self-serving and always want to put ourselves first. This is because we’re sinners and sin is never humble. Sin makes us turn inward; it makes us the be all and end all. In our sin we replace God with ourselves. We decide what’s right and wrong based on whatever puts us first.
We have no answer for this arrogance. We can’t humble ourselves by trying really hard. Our sinful arrogance can only be answered by the true humility of Christ.
We see sinful arrogance in Jesus’ enemies. Seeing how the crowds welcomed Jesus, the Pharisees feared His growing popularity. The chief priests and scribes sought a way to kill Jesus because the people were believing in Him. They feared losing their elevated status. In their arrogance, they refused to receive Him as the promised Messiah. He wasn’t who they wanted for a Savior. They wanted a savior who would pat them on the back for their holiness. Instead He spoke against them and their hypocrisy and unbelief. He went against tradition. He even ate with sinners.
This sinful arrogance is easy to see and we love to look down upon Jesus’ opponents for it, but they weren’t alone in this. Jesus’ disciples were just as arrogant. Peter arrogantly proclaimed he’d never fall away, even if everyone else did. He emphatically professed his faithfulness, asserting he’d die before he turned from Christ. But this bravado was shallow because Peter did fall away. Three times he denied Christ because he feared for his life. Standing outside Jesus’ trial he was afraid of what they might do to him. If they arrested and beat Christ, surely they do the same to him. Peter put himself and self-preservation ahead of remaining faithful to his Lord.
Again, we see this arrogance and we look down on Peter. We think, “How could he do that,” but we’re no different. Like Peter we convince ourselves that we’ll never fall away. Arrogantly we believe we can remain faithful on our own, but this is a lie. We do the very same thing Peter did. When times get tough, we shrink away from our Lord. Out of fear of judgement from others, or out of fear of sounding like we’re judging others, we keep quiet about our faith. The Lord said those who follow Him will suffer hate, but we do whatever we can to avoid it. If we can spare just a little bit of persecution by being quiet, then we’ll keep our mouths shout.
We’re like Jesus’ enemies, arrogantly refusing to receive Jesus as the Messiah He is. We don’t like to hear His harsh words against our sin, against our hypocrisy and unbelief; so, we put it off on others. “Jesus is talking about them, not me.” We want our Savior to pat us on the back, to rescue us from life's troubles, without ever confessing that we’re the cause of life’s troubles. We’re the cause of sin and death, and all the suffering and brokenness that comes with it.
A perfect example of this refusal to receive Christ as the Messiah He truly is is our dislike and even down right disdain for the crucifix. We don’t like to look at Jesus on the cross. We convince ourselves that it’s morbid. We explain the crucifix away saying that Jesus is risen and no longer on the cross. While this is true, Christ is raised from the dead, we still need Him on the cross, that is, we need what He won for us on the cross.
What is it that Paul writes in 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. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:5-8). Christ Jesus, the only begotten Son of God humbled Himself in service to You; and this service lead Him to the cross. This humbleness was seen as He rode into Jerusalem. “Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey” (Zech 9:9).
We expect, we want our savior to come majestically riding on a war horse. We expect Him to save us in a glorious way, but this isn’t the Savior Jesus is. He’s the humble Savior King who comes as your servant. He puts you first. He knew the pain and suffering that awaited Him, and yet He didn’t shrink away from it. He endured all the persecution and torture, all the shame and humiliation of the cross, so that your sinful arrogance could be forgiven. Christ gave up His life so that you could have everlasting life, and because of this self-sacrificial humility, God has highly exalted Him. And with faith, so do we.
We bow before Christ our humble Savior King and we confess Him to be our Lord. We repent of our arrogant sin and humbly come before Him, trusting in His grace and mercy. We confess our selfish ways, our refusal to receive Him as our servant Savior. We confess our empty bravado and rely on the Spirit given gift of faith, and we ask for His forgiveness. And He gives it to you. God forgives your arrogance for Christ’s sake, and with this forgiveness, we strive to emulate Christ’s true humility, by putting Christ and others first.
This is how Paul began his words in the epistle--”Let each of you look not only to his interest, but also to the interest of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…” (Phil 2:4-5). Having received forgiveness and life through Christ’ humble service on the cross, we put others first. We live to serve Christ and others. We’re free from our arrogant sin. We don’t have to look out for number one, because Christ has saved us. Being free from arrogance we can follow in our Saviors humility.
The only answer to our sinful arrogance, is the humility of Christ. He gave Himself up for us so that we might be forgiven. Because of this, God has highly exalted Him. We receive Jesus as the Messiah He is, our humble Savior King who gave up His life on the cross for us. And with faith, we follow His example, praising Him above all and serving others in His name. In Jesus’ name...Amen.