By Paul Koch –
Palm Sunday marks the beginning of the most profound week in the life of the church. It is a week of unmatched movement and devotion as we rapidly change from the shouts of “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” to the cries of, “Crucify him, crucify him!” This week we will journey through the incredible gift of our Lord’s own body and blood as he declares, “Take, eat this is my body,” and, “Take drink this is my blood, given for you.” Then we will come to the place of the skull and try to avert our eyes as our Lord is crucified there, as all the punishment you deserved is pressed down upon his flesh. But it won’t end there. We will move from the darkness of that night to the glories of the new day and the promise of life beyond the grave.
It is fitting, then, for us to hear a reading from Philippians 2 on a day like this, a day surrounded and saturated in the great movements of God for your salvation. As we gather together today, poised to enter into this week, this text offers us a sort of roadmap to the events that are about to occur. Like a guide book when you go to a museum, St. Paul’s words give us a clear picture of what is about to happen, what we are about to experience and what it all means. For the events of Holy Week are not just things we watch go by from a distance. We are not just killing time until we move on to other things. These events make up the fabric of your faith. They impact your life and are the source of our assurance. But along the way we can get lost, we can wander, we can get confused about just what it means and why it matters.
You see, Holy Week is a long way away from the celebrations of Christmas and the Advent of our Lord. We are used to hearing about the incredible things that our Lord did; everything from turning water into wine, to walking on water and healing the blind. This one who came into the world announced by angels to shepherds tending their flocks by night has been a powerful display of the strength and mercy of God. But what will unfold this week is anything but strong and glorious. It will look like suffering and sorrow, like the enemy will win the day, like darkness will envelop everything, even the Son of Light himself. So Paul’s words offer us some clarity and some explanation of what is actually happening throughout this great week.
He says, “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.” (Phil. 2:6-7) This Jesus who did all those miracles, who was transfigured before Peter, James and John knew that his equality with God could not be comprehended by mankind. In fact, in order to accomplish the great work that he was sent to do he needed to embrace another form, the form of a servant, the form of a creature. He became man. True God and true man, that is our Lord Jesus Christ. So, what Paul is alerting us to is that what we see in the journey to Calvary is not weakness, it is not foolishness, it is the dynamic working of a God who would go to insane lengths to redeem you.
Your redemption comes at a price. Justice had to be administered, payment for transgressions must be rendered, and the only one who could do that was God himself. So, he empties himself and takes up our flesh, humbles himself and becomes obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. In the unfolding story ahead of us we are going to bear witness to the incredible working of our God who comes under the form of opposites to deliver each and every one of you from sin, death and the power of the devil.
The great confession of the church, the great confession that flows from the actions that we recall this week is that Jesus Christ is Lord. Those words are heavy and meaningful words carrying with them the meaning of what it is to be a Christian. “Jesus” is the name directed by the angel to be given to the child of Mary. Jesus is the child who walked among us as our brother, who grew and experiences this life with its limitations and sorrows and frustrations. This is Jesus of Nazareth, a particular person who lived at a particular time was flesh and blood just like us. But this Jesus is the Christ. He is the anointed one, the long-awaited Messiah. He was the fulfillment of the hopes of God’s people, he was the revelation of the promises of God.
And what we confess is that this Jesus of Nazareth is not only the Messiah he is our Lord. He is God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made. He is the face of God’s love for you.
See, what Paul gives us in this text as we set out on the journey through this week is the reminder of just what were about to experience. For we all know that this story goes beyond Calvary and its horrors, beyond even the open grave of Easter morning. This story is the ongoing story of your faith. A story in which our Jesus has been exalted by God and given a name that is above every name. A story in which you live in the promise that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth. A name of victory and life, a name that has been given to each and every one of you.
As you go forward then, as you celebrate and reflect upon the incredible suffering, death and resurrection of your Lord, you are reminded that this is done for you. It is done so that you might hear the good news, that you might know in Jesus Christ your Lord you are given life everlasting. For in Christ you are forgiven and you are loved, now and forever.