TEXT – Luke 23:1-56/John 12:12-16
LIFE DOESN’T ALWAYS TURN OUT THE WAY YOU EXPECT!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

This Sunday – Passion Sunday/Palm Sunday is one of competing emotions.  We sing “All glory laud and honor” but also “A Lamb goes uncomplaining forth”.  The Gospel holds before us the Second Adam – dying naked – as the first Adam lived in Paradise – naked.  In the shameful degradation of His public crucifixion, the crowd rages against Him.  While they rage against Him He prays for them.  

They impale Him between two deserving of death – just like us!  One of the thieves confesses this suffering, praying One whom His disciples denied.  The penitent thief saw dignity in His shame, hope in His humiliation, God in the beaten, bleeding flesh of this dying man.  He believed his fellow-sufferer was a King who had a kingdom.  He believed his fellow-sufferer was willing and able to give it to others even as He hung near death.  Life doesn’t always turn out the way you expect.  This man’s life would have been considered wasted by most – beyond hope.  Yet he cries out, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”    

TEXT – Luke 23:1-56/John 12:12-16
LIFE DOESN’T ALWAYS TURN OUT THE WAY YOU EXPECT!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

This Sunday – Passion Sunday/Palm Sunday is one of competing emotions.  We sing “All glory laud and honor” but also “A Lamb goes uncomplaining forth”.  The Gospel holds before us the Second Adam – dying naked – as the first Adam lived in Paradise – naked.  In the shameful degradation of His public crucifixion, the crowd rages against Him.  While they rage against Him He prays for them.  

They impale Him between two deserving of death – just like us!  One of the thieves confesses this suffering, praying One whom His disciples denied.  The penitent thief saw dignity in His shame, hope in His humiliation, God in the beaten, bleeding flesh of this dying man.  He believed his fellow-sufferer was a King who had a kingdom.  He believed his fellow-sufferer was willing and able to give it to others even as He hung near death.  Life doesn’t always turn out the way you expect.  This man’s life would have been considered wasted by most – beyond hope.  Yet he cries out, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 

As he cries, creation mourns for its Lord!  The temple is torn for its Lord!  There is darkness over the land like the spiritual darkness in the minds of those who crucified Him!  Just as He died a death not His own, so He is laid in a tomb not His own!  At death His body is placed in a virgin tomb just as at birth it was born from the virgin’s womb.  

Consider this scene through her eyes.  Parents who ache over lingering fever or a broken limb or bleeding gash in the body of your child, can you imagine the grief in the heart of Mary.  Standing near – she saw all that is here recorded!  As his body was lowered to be wrapped in the white cloth for burial – the gashes where the nails had ripped open the flesh just above the wrists would have marred His once healing, helping hands.  Mary would have been certain that those spikes had ruined her life.  Life doesn’t always turn out the way you expect!

Just days before it had all been different!  The excitement and energy, the passion for her Son was like nothing she had ever seen before.  Jesus’ resurrection of Lazarus was an astounding sign.  Like a match igniting a fire, the crowds responded!  The wondrous events of His birth that Mary had pondered in her heart – the other stunning miracles he had performed – the wondrous truths He had taught – surely now they were being recognized and He was being recognized!

“Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”  How joyous that day, how uplifting that scene, how filled with hope this week of Passover in the Holy City would be.  With quiet hands He rode in among the throng.  The donkey colt does its work and the hands of those waving palm branches do their work while the hands of Jesus rest!  The King, the Messiah is recognized and honored – or so it would seem.  Now things will surely turn out right!  But life doesn’t always turn out the way you expect!

Suddenly, everything changed!  He was stalked and baited and accused and betrayed and arrested and denied and put on trial and pronounced innocent three times and yet condemned to death!  The high hopes of Palm Sunday were left lying in the dust of the low dealings and death of Good Friday.  There were only those haunting gashes, those deep dark red wounds in His now contorted, lifeless hands.  Life doesn’t always turn out the way you expect!

Isn’t that true for you as well - and for those you love!  Childhood excitement and energy have a way of fading over time.  There can be unfulfilled hopes, a calendar that refuses to slow down, responsibilities that multiply, unrewarding routine, economic reversal, deep disappointments, youthful bodies that grow old.  And then tragedy can strike, the burdens of life become even heavier, the brokenness of the world seem more profound.  Why God does life have trouble that is sufficient for each day?  Why is it that through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom of God?  We long to have more control – to be able to hold back the bad and advance the good (as we perceive good).  But life doesn’t always turn out the way you expect!

Dear Christians, these ultimate questions can be understood only in light of the cross of Jesus Christ.  The answers to the ultimate questions are not academic nor are they political nor are they found in the human spirit.  The answers are there, however, in the brutality and the blackness and the blood of Jesus’ dying day!  For like the bright road into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the bright road to the garden of delights is open again.  “Today you will be with me in paradise”.  The criminal, deserving of capital punishment, is the first of us sinners to enter with Christ!  He had been baptized in blood, into the bloody death of Christ!  Who can explain the mystery of such a gift?  The devil’s mastery has been mauled to death by the Lion of Judah!  There is no God beside this Man – who is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit!  Death has been defeated by His death –even death on a cross!

So Come!  Come this Thursday – Maundy Thursday and hear of His last will and testament – what He most wanted His Church to have and to hold for the life of the world.  Come this Friday – Good Friday and hear of His victory!  No one who stood before the cross that day could have guessed they were witnessing the greatest moment in the history of this fallen world.  But you know it and draw your life from it!  Come next Sunday and every Sunday for He who rode into Jerusalem to die could not possibly be held by death.  He lives to serve His people who are joined to Him and who also cannot be held by death.   

Those scarred, wounded hands were soon seen again - strong and full of life.  Eight days after Jesus’ hands rested on His ride into Jerusalem His arms were raised again with scarred hands clearly visible.  Yet, now they looked – somehow – beautiful – now their presence conveyed peace with God.  Mary would have seen them too realizing that the nail wounds hadn’t ruined her life after all – but rather saved her life.

On the day that you stand before the Lord in glory, gazing upon his nail-scarred hands, you too will realize that everything you thought you ruined in your whole life was actually used by God to save it.  Every single thing that caused you sorrow will not simply be forgotten - rather your cries of pain will be transformed into endless songs of praise.

This Holy Week the Holy Spirit would use His Word to help us see.  At times our sufferings may seem to be the undoing of everything we hope for.  But since Christ bears those scars for us, our present struggles will one day be transformed into everlasting joy.  Life you see doesn’t always turn out the way you expect!  

The securing of that unexpected, undeserved, eternal ending for your life is why the King of Israel rode into Jerusalem.  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.  Hosanna in the highest!  In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a