Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Sermon for Palm Sunday on Luke 23:23-25, "Voices, Demand, Will"

            In the Name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. A spiritual storm was launched on Jesus at the cross. All the anger, confusion, discord, and hatred boiling on the surface, was stirred up from Satan and all his demons below. A fury of false accusations, vehement cries, urgent shouts—a rising crescendo; away with this man! This Jesus! How did His own people treat the Son of God? Not with the worship due God’s Son, nor with the honor due the King who rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, nor with the attention due to the pure Teacher of God’s Truth. Instead, like a thorn in their side, a criminal to be crucified, a false prophet and a blasphemer to denounce. They saw Jesus as their enemy, not their Deliverer. See how resolute He is in the midst of the spiritual tornado of lies, death and dishonor; how strong, calm, and even merciful and forgiving. Your rock and refuge in the storms of life. When you are struck down, cling to Him.
            Zoom into verses 23-25. The mob circles Pilate, crying out against Jesus. And “their voices prevailed.” Pilate grants “their demand”, and finally, He delivers Jesus over to “their will.” Their voices, their demand, and their will. He gave them what they wanted, and they got it; or so they thought. We all know it can be dangerous to get what we want. But compare their voices, their demand, and their will, to the voice, the demand, and the will of God. Whose voice and demands are we listening to? Whose will do we choose to obey—our own, or God’s?
            They spoke and did evil against Jesus, but what was His response? Let’s start with His voice. God the Father speaks aloud only a few times where His words are recorded for us. At Jesus’ baptism, the Father spoke from heaven: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17) and again at His Transfiguration in almost the same words: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him” (Matt. 17:5). The Father’s ultimate love, satisfaction, and joy are found in Jeus. So can you imagine how horrible in the Father’s ears, it was to hear His beloved Son slandered, mocked and accused? What if it were your child? What depth of God’s love!
            And in the midst of that hell storm of evil, how did Jesus voice His Father’s heart and words? At first it was all silence. Absorbing every venomous word. But then, when women wept over His suffering, He warned them to weep for themselves and their children. Destruction was headed for Jerusalem. He was worried for them, not Himself. And His word turned from compassion and concern to forgiveness for His enemies. What selfless love and compassion! The One who suffers gives comfort, and the One who is wronged forgives.
            How will we use our voices? Scripture says they were made for prayer, praising, and blessing—not for cursing, lying, or evil. Not only is Jesus a marvelous example, but His Words  and Spirit give us life and produce in us this forgiving spirit and enlarge our heart to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. By baptism you are joined to Christ Jesus and His life is now hidden in you, transforming your life after Him. May God employ our tongues and voices for good and for blessing! May we speak concern, compassion and forgiveness into the lives of those around us—even those who harm us.
            As sinful humans, we seek our best interest—and it typically steers toward selfishness, pride, power, or fleshly security. But contrast God’s demands and will. At the Transfiguration God says: “Listen to Him.” He wants our ears tuned carefully into His beloved Son. Don’t miss the words from His mouth. Central to Jesus’s words are how He summed up God’s two greatest demands: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37, 39). God’s ten holy demands are summed up in the single word love—but they spread out in three dimensions in the fullest and highest love toward God and love toward neighbor. If our sinful nature bends inward to selfishness and smallness, then God’s holy commands steer us outward into the awesomeness, the greatness, and magnificence of who God is. And outward to loving care and generosity for our neighbor—concern for others, not only ourselves.
            Your bulletin has a long list of Bible verses that speak about God’s will. We can’t cover them all here, but a few examples contrast God’s good will and that of sinful men. Amazingly, 7 centuries before Jesus’ birth, God spoke through the prophet Isaiah what would happen on the cross. Isaiah 53:10–11 reads: (ESV)
10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. 11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.

It’s painfully stark, but this says it was the Father’s will for the Son to crush Him, put Him to grief, and become an offering for guilt. But it also speaks of the hope of Jesus’ resurrection, how  He will live to see His offspring, and it speaks of how Jesus, even in his anguish of soul, would be satisfied, as He made many righteous. To get to the blessings and goodness of what He had to do, He first had to undergo evil and suffering at the hands of wicked men, so that we could be counted righteous, and He could bear our sins. He did this all willingly—no one took His life from Him, which means that despite the appearances, it was not truly their voices that prevailed, and their will—but God’s will prevailed. God had the final word when Jesus said “It is finished!” God’s will can never be overwhelmed by our evil sinful will—He will accomplish His good purposes no matter what. Often He does allow us to suffer and struggle, but He puts even these experiences into service of His greater plan and will.
            The New Testament tells more about God’s will. Jesus says that only those who do the will of the Father will enter heaven. He says that it’s not His will for little ones to perish. Jesus said it was His delight to do the Father’s will. In another key passage Jesus explains precisely what the Father’s will is: John 6:38–40 (ESV),
38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

God’s will is not to lose anyone, but that we would believe in Jesus and so have eternal life! If our ways lead to Jesus’ death, what does the voice, the demand, and will of God lead to? It leads to life! God wills that we believe in Jesus and have eternal life!
            Jesus’ death show us that when these two wills collide, that God’s voice, demands and will prevails. It shows that God gives life, even in the midst of darkness and death. God speaks life into the most confused, bitter, and angry lives, and gives forgiveness, life, and peace, to all who will receive it. Even those most hatefully bent against Him at the cross, He pleaded for their forgiveness. None of us could have carried out God’s good and perfect demands on our own—not even the simple demand—to Love God with all our heart, soul and mind, and to  love our neighbor as ourselves. Even these simple commands escape our best efforts—when our minds are not fully devoted to God; when our hearts are not fully in our worship; when jealousy or greed or anger or lust keep us from loving and respecting our neighbor as we ought. But Jesus fully pursued all God’s demands and will. He never turned astray from the path, and obeyed God’s entire good and gracious will. When we are buried and raised with Jesus in baptism, His life washes over and fills ours, so that we can begin to pursue God’s good and gracious will. We begin to learn life lived God’s way, attentive to His voice, His demands, and will. He has given us life in Him!
            He rode into Jerusalem in full knowledge of the storm that faced Him. But Jesus’ voice carries above the storm. His voice calls for life, long after the storm has passed and wreaked its destruction. Jesus’ voice was silenced for three days, but called out in familiar tones again after His resurrection. Would we have joy in this life? Would we have eternal life and peace? Then look to God’s beloved Son and listen to Him. Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
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  1. Read Isaiah 53:10-11; Matthew 7:21; 12:50; 18:14; John 1:13; 4:34; 5:30; 6:38-40; Romans 8:27; 12:2; Galatians 1:4; Ephesians 6:6; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; 5:18; 1 Peter 2:15; 4:2; 1 John 2:17. What do these passages tell us about God’s will? How does God the Father speak in Matthew 3:17; 17:5? How does Jesus sum up God’s good demands? Matthew 22:36-40.