Sermon based on Mark 14:1-15:47 for Palm Sunday/Sunday of the Passion
Dear crowd crying Hosanna: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
What a stark contrast between Jesus’ triumphal entry on Palm Sunday and His death on Good Friday. The shouts of “Hosanna!” are replaced with shouts of “Crucify Him!” Praise is replaced with mockery. The shouts of blessing to the King of Israel are replaced with a mocking inscription on the cross, “The King of the Jews”, indicating the charge against Him.
But don’t get this wrong – Jesus chose the mocking over the praise. He chose the shouts of “Crucify!” over the shouts of “Hosanna!” He chose death over life. Jesus chose to be forsaken by the crowds, His disciples, and even God the Father. He did this for us.
Because if we examine our lives, we will find and recognize that they are entirely vain and profane. Vain and useless are our many actions. Even more vain are our words. Still even more vain than these are our thoughts.
Our lives are not only vain, but also profane and immoral. We can find nothing good in them. Even if something in our lives appears good, it is certainly not good and perfect, because our lives are corrupted by the infection of original sin and the sinful nature. The prophet Isaiah writes, “All our righteous deeds are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). If our righteous deeds are such, of what kind, may I ask, are our unrighteous deeds?
The Saviour says, “If you have done everything that has been commanded you, you are to say, ‘We are unworthy servants’” (Luke 17:10). If we are worthless when we obey, we will certainly be abominable when we disobey. If we owe a debt to the holy Lord God when we do something that is not a sin, what will we be able to offer Him as payment when we do sin?
Even more, we pray with the Psalmist, “What man can even recognize all of his offenses? Cleanse me from my secret sins, Lord” (Psalm 19:13). We do not dare to lift up our eyes to heaven because we have offended Him who lives there (Luke 18:13). Nor can we find refuge on earth. How indeed have we dared to hope for favour from creation when we have offended the Lord of creation?
And our adversary, the devil, accuses us (Revelation 12:10). “Most fair judge,” he says to God, “declare these despicable ones to be mine on account of their sin and guilt—these ones who have been unwilling to be yours through grace. They belong to me because of their sins. They are disobedient to You; to me they are obedient. They don’t follow Your ways; they follow my ways. Declare these deplorable sinners to be mine and damn them along with me.”
So our consciences accuse us. The devil accuses us. But that’s not all. The very voice of God Himself, namely, the divine Law, accuses us. Either the divine Law must be fulfilled or we are going to perish. However, since it is impossible for us to fulfil this, we deserve to perish in an unbearable eternity. God, whom we are unable to deceive, the most severe judge and the most powerful executioner of his own eternal Law, accuses us. He is wisdom itself. From Him we are unable to flee. He certainly powerfully reigns everywhere. To where then can we flee (Psalm 139:7)?
To Christ, our sole Redeemer and Saviour, we can flee. Great are our debts, but greater is His payment. Great is our unrighteousness, but greater is His righteousness. In us there is nothing except damnable sin. In Jesus there is nothing except saving merit. We have committed many things on account of which we are most rightly deserving of damnation. Jesus, however, has not left anything undone by which He may mercifully save us.
Our sins cry to heaven, but Jesus’ blood shed for our sins cries louder (Hebrews 12:24). Our sins are persuasive so that our hearts ought to be accused by God, but Jesus’ passion in our stead is more persuasive, so that we will be defended. Our unrighteous life is powerful enough that we ought to be damned, but Jesus’ righteous life is more powerful, so that we will be saved. We appeal to the throne of mercy, in order that we may not come into the condemnation that we justly deserve. This is on account of Jesus’ most holy merit, which has been placed between us and condemnation.
Jesus covers our sin. He forgives our sin. Jesus is the payment for our sin. That’s why He chose mockery over praise and the shouts of “Crucify!” over the shouts of “Hosanna!” He chose His own death over our death. He was forsaken by God the Father so that we will never be. Jesus chose the agony of Good Friday so that we will have a triumphal entry into eternity when we die from this life.
All glory, laud, and honour to our Saviour who died so that we might live. Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
Portions of this sermon are modified from Johann Gerhard’s Sacred Meditations, I. Concerning true knowledge of sin translated by Wade Johnston.