Palm Sunday April 1-2, 2023
“Everyone! Everything!!” Philippians 2:5-11
Rev. John R. Larson Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
Some of you older farts (folks) might remember the singer Mac Davis and the beautiful curls he had on his head. He is best known for his song “It’s Hard to Be Humble” from 1980.
“Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble
When you’re perfect in every way
I can’t wait to look in the mirror
‘Cause I get better lookin’ each day
To know me is to love me
I must be a hell of a man
Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble
But I’m doin’ the best that I can!
I thought about Mike playing that for the sermon hymn, but he had different ideas today. Finding our place in life can be difficult, especially if we begin with such an attitude. Evidently when Paul wrote to the Christians in Philippi some of them thought of themselves in such a proud and inflated way. He directed them, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look out not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)
Vain conceit is the demise of too many of us. We think there is one way for doing something and that way just happens to be our way. We may think that it is our brains, our wit, our personality, our talents and our looks that brought us our success. We think everything is a competition and of course, we always win.
If that is your place in life, then you and Mac Davis can sing together (though he has a better voice than you!!). And if that is what you think of yourself and how you consider others, you are not much of a Christian. Let me tell you about Jesus who approached life much differently. We just heard, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death – even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8)
Today is Palm Sunday, a day for praise and adoration to Jesus. “Hosanna!!” After all that hoopla, what does Jesus do? He goes outside of Jerusalem, looks down at the city, and weeps. As significant as the adoration was, He didn’t come for praise, He came in humility to serve the world.
Our reading from Philippians says that Jesus, who is in the very nature of God, having equality with God, made himself nothing. He became a servant, even going to a cross to be executed. As He Himself said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
If we insist on holding our position, making sure that no one forgets us, always pats us on our back, and gives us our due, then we have something wrong about our character. That is not the way of Jesus, nor one of His followers.
First, Jesus found His place as the humble king. Then, Jesus takes His place as the Lord over all things. After talking about the humiliation of Jesus, Paul goes on to talk about the exaltation of Jesus. “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 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.” (Philippians 2:9-11)
In another book St. Paul speaks of Jesus with the greatest praise, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:15-17)
When Paul says that the name of Jesus is above every name he is not exaggerating. When he says that every knee is going to bow he is making quite a statement. Every knee. Some willingly and joyfully. Can you imagine the joy all believers will have to humbly bow the knee to the One who gave His life so that we are made whole? Every knee. Even the unbeliever, the uninterested, the opposer of Jesus, will eventually bow their knee to Him. In the wording of “every knee shall bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth”, the picture is clear that in heaven and in hell and upon this earth, Jesus Christ is praised for who He is and what He has done.
Do you remember when Jesus was arrested? Judas was leading a mob who had swords and clubs, but John 18 tells us something very odd which happened at the time of the arrest. “Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, ‘Who is it you want?’ ‘Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied. ‘I am he,’ Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, ‘I am he,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.” (verses 4-6) Every knee!!
In the Creed we confess that Jesus descended into hell. I have been taught that He did not go there to suffer. He had already finished that on the cross. He didn’t go there to convert those already in their place of misery. He went to show Himself alive on that Easter Sunday morning. Is that part of that every knee bowing in heaven, on earth and under the earth?
On this Palm Sunday, on this first day of Holy Week, in your trip to the Table on Holy Thursday, on reflecting on His death on Good Friday, and as your joy is coupled with tears on Easter when we sing, “Jesus Christ is Risen Today”, I want you to know that Jesus is Lord over everyone and everything.
What things get in the way of a life filled with Christ’s presence in your life? Anxiety? Fear? Are you stuck not knowing if you’ll ever be able to get moving again? The Scriptures give us this word, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares about you.” (I Peter 5:7) The strong embrace of Jesus on your life is guaranteed by Him, “No one can snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:28) Maybe the enormity of your sin seems to be too much. Have you gone too far from the straight and narrow? How about this word from God? “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” (Isaiah 43:25) Romans 8:1 reads, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Maybe you are a little anxious about whether your eternity will be in heaven or hell? Have you ever heard John 3:16? Is it true? Is it that simple? “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17)
Everyone and everything is under the humble, lowly, self-abasing service of Jesus. Everyone and everything, including us and every challenge that we have, in under the Lordship and majesty of Jesus. Everyone and everything.
When I began this message I probably lost a few of you – you’ve been humming (quietly) that 1980 song, “Lord, It’s Hard To Be Humble” during this sermon. Hopefully you saw there was a better way to be. Your life is not about you – it is about Him. It is about Jesus. It is about Him who “made himself nothing, taking the nature of a servant.” It is about Him who has the name above all names.
I’m going to end the sermon with another song – one more fitting. In 2009 the band Mercy Me recorded the song, “I Can Only Imagine”. It speaks about the very moment we enter into the majesty of God in heaven. The verse says:
Surrounded by your glory what will my heart feel?
Will I dance for You, Jesus or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah? Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine. I can only imagine.
Jesus, thank you for allowing us to imagine such glory with a humble heart. Amen!!