TEXT: PHIL 2:5-11/MARK 15:1-47
IN LIFE AND IN DEATH - HOW COULD YOU STOOP SO LOW?
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:


Palm Sunday was and is about death and life!  For four days the corpse of Lazarus had lain, rotting in a tomb in Bethany.  Then Jesus shouted “Lazarus come out!” And He did!  From stinking corpse to saving sign, the man Lazarus was full of life again.  The people knew it!  The reason this crowd gathered to receive Jesus is because they knew it.  The Pharisees knew it too and feared everyone would follow Jesus because of it!  They were seeking all the more to kill Him.

TEXT: PHIL 2:5-11/MARK 15:1-47
IN LIFE AND IN DEATH - HOW COULD YOU STOOP SO LOW?
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:


Palm Sunday was and is about death and life!  For four days the corpse of Lazarus had lain, rotting in a tomb in Bethany.  Then Jesus shouted “Lazarus come out!” And He did!  From stinking corpse to saving sign, the man Lazarus was full of life again.  The people knew it!  The reason this crowd gathered to receive Jesus is because they knew it.  The Pharisees knew it too and feared everyone would follow Jesus because of it!  They were seeking all the more to kill Him.  Nonetheless Jesus rode into the Holy City where their power was greatest.  They took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”

As Jesus entered Jerusalem and the week we now call Holy Week unfolded, we might ask of its participants, “HOW COULD YOU STOOP SO LOW?”  This is a question sometimes asked of those from whom good conduct is expected but whose real actions are harmful and shameful.  It is a question appropriate for the likes of Bernie Madoff who dishonestly enriched himself for decades at the expense of others – HOW COULD YOU STOOP SO LOW?  It is a question appropriate for politicians who aspire to set laws and taxes for working people and are found to have dishonestly shaved their own taxes for years.  HOW COULD YOU STOOP SO LOW?


Apply that question to Holy Week!  Judas would have been in that Palm Sunday throng.  Judas you drew so close as to kiss your teacher in hypocritical public betrayal.  HOW COULD YOU STOOP SO LOW?  Peter later in the week proudly professing your loyalty to Jesus even unto death and within hours cowardly cursing in repeated denial that you even knew Him.  HOW COULD YOU STOOP SO LOW?  Caiaphas and the priests, serving in an office dedicated to proclaiming the truth and yet actively seeking false testimony against Jesus to rid yourself of this man whom you knew raised Lazarus from death.  HOW COULD YOU STOOP SO LOW?


But Lent and Holy Week invite you not to look so much at others as at yourself.  We are usually quite quick to see what is low down in someone else and not so quick to see the log in our own eye.


HOW COULD YOU STOOP SO LOW as to use the blessings of creation with some complaint rather than constant overwhelming contentment for the daily bread God provides?  HOW COULD YOU STOOP SO LOW as to justify all your actions - lowering and debasing the actions of others in your mind if not verbally - family members - congregational members in comparison to you?  HOW COULD YOU STOOP SO LOW as to use your tongue except to confess the full truth of God’s Word in this decaying culture and never to mislead and always to explain everything in the kindest way?  HOW COULD YOU STOOP SO LOW as to be lazy in prayer or to omit even for one day using the prayer Jesus gave to you?  HOW COULD YOU STOOP SO LOW as to selfishly view your treasure as if it is not God’s treasure on loan to you?  HOW COULD YOU STOOP SO LOW as to think your good intentions and deeds somehow measure up to God’s holiness?  We too easily trade the Creator for His creation.  We too easily justify ourselves not seeing the depth of our sin, thereby betraying God and denying God and accusing God - like Judas and Peter and Caiphas.


Thank God for the week we now call holy.  Fear not, Daughter of Zion!  Your King comes to give you life!  From the time of the prophet Zechariah after the exile, these words had given Israel hope, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion, shout aloud O daughter of Jerusalem, your king comes to you righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey.”


That brings us to Palm Sunday and the shouts of the people and His willingness to be hailed as King.  He had refused those accolades after the feeding of the 5000 when they tried to make Him King by force.  But on this day, they are not following Him because their stomachs are full!  On this day they are following Him because of the sign of Lazarus – death gives way to life at the word of this King. “Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel. Jesus rides into Jerusalem to provide the Bread of Life for this dying world.


Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God (meaning though He was true God) did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped (a thing to selfishly hang on to by force) but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. HOW COULD HE STOOP SO LOW?  How could He through whom all things are made make Himself nothing?  How could our Creator be born as man as one of us?  Like you – like me!


And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death. HOW COULD HE STOOP SO LOW?  Palm Sunday is about the life of God joined to the death of man!  It is truly worth the parade and the palms and the praises!  How could God who is life itself, who gives life in the womb and preserves life and as in the case of Lazarus raises to life, how can He die?  HOW COULD HE STOOP SO LOW?


Becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. HOW COULD HE STOOP SO LOW as to this death?  When man makes up a spiritual story it doesn’t come to these depths.  All heathen religions make man their center in terms of their efforts, their works, their struggles, their goodness, their merits, their prayers.  Christianity makes man the center in terms of His desperate need, under the curse of death and hell for sin.  HOW COULD GOD IN HUMAN FLESH STOOP SO LOW as to cursed, ugly, shameful, death – even death on a
cross?


Dear Christian you know, for you have the mind of Christ!  Oh, God’s Word must continually re-orient your thinking because your Old Adam continually tries to take the mind of Christ from you.  But the truth is that you know HOW JESUS COULD STOOP SO LOW.  Having the mind of Christ, you know that His descent went even lower than the visible suffering and violent death on Calvary.  Having the mind of Christ, you know that Jesus stooped so low as to suffer even the punishment of the damned in hell that we deserved!  No wonder there is a parade!  No wonder there are Palm branches to hail the King!  No wonder there are praises!


The shouts of “Hosanna” “Hosanna” will soon be replaced with shouts of “Crucify,” “Crucify Him.”  But that’s okay.  The happy title “the King of Israel!” will soon be replaced with the condemning charge affixed to the cross - the King of the Jews”.  But that’s all right!  The one who raised Lazarus from death will Himself soon lie in death in a borrowed tomb, but that’s just fine!  It’s okay because this is the means by which you can have heaven!  It’s all right because Jesus was handed over by the definite plan and foreknowledge of God (Acts 2:23).  It’s just fine because it is impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.  He suffers it to break its grip on you!


Therefore God has highly exalted him 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, to the glory of God the Father.  HOW COULD HE STOOP SO LOW?  To raise you up so high!  HOW COULD HE STOOP SO LOW as to be in your midst right now?  To join His Word to simple means in order to refresh you, and to love you and to forgive you and to give you rest from the whole mess that clings to you!  To give you the mind of Christ and a clean conscience!


Christ entered once for all into the holy places by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. This Holy Week His stooping down to serve you and to lift you up graciously continues.  Rejoice greatly O daughter of Zion!  Shout aloud O daughter of Jerusalem!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.  Hosanna in the highest! Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
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Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a