A sermon preached at Great Notley, Palm Sunday 9 April 2017
Every Sunday we come to remember Jesus. But this Sunday morning as we break bread and drink wine we come to remember Jesus, who loved us and gave himself for us.
Jesus, who in the words of one of the lectionary readings for the day:
… of his own free will gave up all he had, and took the nature of a servant… He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death – his death on a Cross. For this reason God raised him to the highest place above… and so in honour of the name of Jesus all beings…. Will fall on their knees and all will openly proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord.
This morning I want to make just three brief points:
1. JESUS GAVE UP HIS GLORY – FOR YOU AND ME
In the words of the GNB Jesus “gave up all he had” – “he emptied himself” (NRSV) – “he made himself nothing” (REB). What did he gave away? Of what did he empty himself? How did he make himself nothing?
He gave up the glory he had shared from eternity with God his Father.
He “set aside the privileges of deity” (Peterson) – he did without ‘the insignia of his majesty’ (Lightfoot)? In became one with us, and in so doing he limited himself. In particular
Jesus shared with us the discipline of space. From the manger to the tomb, Jesus accepted the physical restrictions of this life. We may talk of the ‘omnipresence’ of God, but not of the Jesus of history. Jesus could only be at one place at a time. Jesus accepted the physical restrictions of being an ordinary Palestinian Jew – apart from his evacuation as a baby to Egypt, there is no evidence that he ever left the Holy Land.
Jesus shared with us the discipline of time. For the Eternal God a 1000 years may be but as a day, but for the Jesus of history a day was made up of but 24 hours, with each hour composed of but 60 minutes. Jesus knew what it was like to work against the clock – indeed, his whole ministry had to be compressed within the space of 30 months or so
Jesus shared with us the discipline of ignorance. God the Father may be ‘omniscient’ and know all things, but not the Jesus of history. Jesus did not know everything. True, Jesus had special insights, both into the character of others as also into the character of God. Yet he remained limited – he did not know, for instance, the day or he hour when the world would end.
Jesus, for our salvation, “gave up all he had”. What an amazing act of service! It almost beggars belief that the Son of God could love us so.
2. JESUS WAS OBEDIENT TO DEATH – FOR YOU AND ME
“He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death – his death on a cross” (GNB v8). “He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross” (NRSV)
Jesus who “took the nature of a servant” (v7), lived a life of obedient service.
Jesus first accepted the discipline of obedient service when he was baptised by John the Baptist. His parents may have dedicated him to the Lord when they presented him in the temple to Simeon, but Jesus dedicated himself to God’s service only when he presented himself to John the Baptist in the River Jordan. John hesitated to baptise him, but Jesus replied: “Let it be so for now, for in this way we do all that God requires” (Matt 3.15). There at the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus took the first step of obedience that was to lead to the Cross. There at the Jordan Jesus emerged from anonymity to become the Servant of the Lord.
This discipline of obedient service characterised the whole of his ministry. Jesus could have listened to Peter, who when Jesus spoke of his impending death, cried out: “God forbid it Lord! That must never happen to you!” (Matt 16.22). Right up until the end Jesus could have saved his skin and backed out of confrontation with the religious leaders of his day. But as it was he consciously and deliberately set his face to go God’s way, whatever the cost might be.
This discipline of obedient service climaxed in his death on a cross. We have become so accustomed to the thought of Jesus dying on a cross, that we sometimes fail to realise the scandal & the humiliation of it. The cross was reserved for slaves and for so-called terrorists. No one in the 1st century wore a cross as a medallion around their neck. It was a symbol of torture and degradation.
Jesus was “obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross” (NRSV). In our country the highest honour a soldier can be awarded is the Victoria Cross – the VC is given where valour has been shown ‘beyond the normal call of duty’. Jesus, for your sake and mine, went beyond what might be reasonably have been demanded of him.
3. JESUS IS LORD OF ALL – HERE IS HOPE FOR YOU AND ME
But death was not the end
This morning we come not just to remember a crucified Saviour, but a risen Lord.
“God raised him up to the highest place above” (GNB)
“God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name” (NRSV)
Just as our present Queen was crowned on June 3 1953 – so Jesus was crowned Lord of all when God raised him from the dead and exalted him to his right hand.
Just as our Queen at her coronation was acclaimed by all – so too Jesus is acclaimed.
“And so in honour of the name of Jesus all beings in heaven, on earth, and in the world below will fall on their knees, and all will openly proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (v11)
What a wonderful vision of the whole universe acknowledging the lordship of Jesus. But it is more than a vision of the future
It is a description of a process that has already begun in the present.
Even at this very moment there are millions of people singing the praises of Jesus
What’s more one day every knee will have to bow, every tongue will have to confess that Jesus is Lord.
- One day right, and not might will triumph
- One day there will be an end to all the crying and all the pain which characterises so much of human life.
What a wonderful hope we have to enjoy – and what a great hope we have to share.
It is this Jesus who we come to remember
Jesus who makes all the difference to our living – and to our dying!