The Sunday Next Before Easter,

Commonly Called Palm Sunday

2017

 

The Epistle. Philippians 2:5-11

The Gospel.  St. Matthew 27:1-54

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

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For those searching for something practical in today’s lessons…something they can do, then we have two lessons today which give us many things we can learn and take with us and even implement.

 

There are always some who desire to be told what they need to do.  The message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is news.

 

We might think about our own newspaper or television or Internet news.  It delivers to us what is happening.  It purportedly reports to us what is going on in the world.

 

We never talk back to the paper or the TV and demand something to do.  We absorb the information. We think about what is going on. But we cannot do much about news that is given to us because it is already in the past.

 

What is reported to us is what has happened.

 

The Gospel is similar.  It has a much more meaningful message and a pure and true message.  We cannot say the same about the news we are given each day very often if at all.

 

In the Collect for the day…the prayer for the day, we do petition God for a few things. 

1.              That all mankind should follow the example of Jesus’ humility.  So there you have something to do.  Follow the example of His humility.

2.              We also prayed that we would follow the example of Jesus’ patience as well.  So we have that to do.

3.              And finally we prayed that we also would be made partakers of His resurrection.  This one is not something we can work toward. 

 

Partaking of Christ’s resurrection is purely a gift of God.  No one can earn it.  No one can wrest it from God’s hand.  It is a gift of God’s grace alone.

 

 

So this is why we study the Scriptures or why we at the very least hear them read to us in short bites on Sunday mornings. 

 

We do so, in order that we can learn what they say and then learn in what way we should react to what they say.

 

But again, the message of the Gospel is News about what Jesus has done.  And what He has done in the past.  We should not be looking for ways to take anything away from what Christ has done so that we might be able to at a later point boast about doing something.

 

Paul’s short comment in Ephesians 2 addresses this.

 

[8] “For by grace you have been saved through faith.

And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, [9] not a result of works, so that no one may boast. [10] For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10, ESV)

 

Jesus accomplished something in the past and it is now applied to us.  We take hold of it purely by faith and it is gifted to us out of the love God has for us.

 

So since this is such a great gift. One that we do not deserve and one that we cannot win, here is what the lessons tell us today in regard to this news of what has happened…what Christ has done…

 

 

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, [6] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, [7] but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. [8] And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. [9] Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, [10] so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, [11] and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (ESV)

 

Humility is first and foremost the pattern we see there.  Christ’s humility.  So as the prayer said, again, we need to follow the example of His humility.

Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow me.”  He said that to the Disciples, but its for us as well.  So the cross we bear…or one of the crosses we bear is humility.

 

Before Christ came to earth.  Before the Incarnation, He was with the Father.  He was in the form of God as we just heard Paul state.

 

He was in the form of God and yet “He did not did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, [7] but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”

 

He had possession of the very state of Godhead.  This is the glory that He had with the Father even before the world was created.  Christ was in the beginning.  He was in Heavenly glory

And yet He was ready and willing to sacrifice that position and that glory at the higher call of Love. 

 

He loved us so much that He found the task or the mission or the sacrifice to come to earth and save us to be of more importance than even dwelling in heavenly glory with the Father.

 

Paul says today, that Christ did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. We might think of this more as saying something like…though He was with God and equal to God, He didn't consider this something that He should hold on to or remain in.  He thought it better to leave that position and come to save His people instead.

 

Christ is called the Lamb of God that was slain from the foundation of the world. (Rev. 13:8)  So this choice to come and die for His creation was not something decided at His birth, but from all eternity.

 

He set aside His right to be at the right hand of the Father.  And really didn't stop being God, but rather veiled it for a time. 

 

A few times He revealed His glory to the Disciples, so it remained His to hide and reveal.  He did it on the Mount of Transfiguration.  He did it in working miracles. 

 

In His last hours with His Disciples He prays to the Father, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you…” (John 17:1, ESV)

 

Christ was also demonstrating His humility in His incarnation.  The text from today goes on to say, He “…emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

 

Christ’s humility extends beyond Heaven to earth.  Laying aside His glory, He took on human flesh in the womb of the Virgin.

 

In order to redeem man, Christ had to become man. In order for it to have the power necessary, Christ had to be God.

 

Hence we call Him the “God Man.”

 

So never ceasing to be God, He still laid aside aspects of His glory and took on the lowly human flesh that He created.

 

To show His goodness to man, He became a man.  In fact the humility runs deeper.  It says that He took the form of a servant…thus fulfilling His own words which He uttered to the Disciples… “...whoever would be great among you must be your servant, [27] and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, [28] even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28, ESV)

 

So humility in service to others is even more the mind we are to have according to Paul.

 

Then Paul says, “…He became obedient to death, even death on a cross.”  Here is the ultimate humility.  Dying for another.

 

He voluntarily went to the cross for His creation.  A creation that rejected Him in the beginning and rejected Him a second time by nailing Him to a cross. 

 

He lived as a man.  He died as a man.  And yet the death was no ordinary death.

 

It was shameful.

It was cruel.

It was painful.

Yet it was for a greater good.  It was for the sins of the whole world.

 

And finally He is found favorably with the Father in this obedience unto death.  There is also here, the exaltation of Humility.

 

 

 

Paul says today, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, [10] so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, [11] and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11, ESV)

 

Christ’s humility has its reward in final exaltation. 

 

He was exalted on the basis of His humiliation and obedience.  Because He was  obedient and humble and sacrificial, He won His exaltation.

 

Melville Scott says, “His mediatorial crown was the reward of His Cross. This fact is forever enshrined in the name of Jesus or Saviour.

This name, His human name, the token of His Humility and of His Passion, is to be His name forever. God has granted Him to bear (“given Him”) this name at His right hand.”[1]

 

So in seeing what Christ has done, it is clear that we have nothing to add to this.  If we are looking for work to be done in this area, it wont be found.  Christ has done it all.

 

But what of Paul’s call for us to have this mind in us? 

What of our Collect’s petitions to God that we follow His examples of patience and humility?

 

Calvin: “There are, however, two departments, in the first…he invites us to imitate Christ, because this is the rule of life: in the second, he allures us to it, because this is the road by which we attain true glory. Hence he exhorts every one to have the same disposition that was in Christ. He afterwards shews what a pattern of humility has been presented before us in Christ.”[2]

 

So the call is to imitation of Christ as much as we can because that is our rule of life.  In all ways we look to how Christ served others and do the same.

 

Pride is its opposite.  Pride tries to lift us above others.  Humility sets us back to where we need to be.

 

In fact the Epistle today begins at verse 5.  Here is what Paul says in 1-4. 

 

 

[1] “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, [2] complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. [3] Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. [4] Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:1-4

, ESV)

 

Christ’s humility went from the highest pinnacle of glory to the lowest point of shame.

 

Our humility “…consists in refraining from exalting ourselves by a false estimation.”[3]

What good News it is indeed then….that we who fail to rise to the level of righteousness necessary or the true depth of humility necessary are still allowed, in Christ, to participate in such a great reward.  The resurrection to eternal life.

 

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In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.



[1] Excerpt From: Melville Scott. “The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/YQ09A.l

 

[2] Calvin, J., & Pringle, J. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (p. 54). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[3] Calvin, J., & Pringle, J. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (pp. 54–55). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.