Palm Sunday April 10, 2022
“It Just Has To Be” Luke 22:1-23:26
Rev. John R. Larson Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
A few years ago, one of our worshippers gave me a compliment on my sermon. This person was unknown to me. I had never seen them before, and I don’t think I’ve seen them since. They looked at me and said, “I liked your speech.” Speech? We don’t call a sermon a speech, do we? A speech sounds so academic, so political, we call it a sermon. But they sound alike, don’t they?
Sermons, except for a few kids getting a few words in here or there, are one-sided. I speak. You sleep. The better way of learning is in a Bible Class, or by a conversation. Discussion. Questions and answers. Recently one of my most dear ladies couldn’t quite understand why God the Father sent His Son, Jesus, to earth to be mistreated, crucified, and made dead. Why didn’t God the Father just handle the work of redemption all by Himself? Good question. What would you say?
Today is Palm Sunday. But it is also known as Passion Sunday. Today is the beginning of Holy Week. We have many significant, meaningful days in front of us, all in a span of eight days. Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. My text is from Luke chapters 22 and 23. 2,500 words make up that section in the Bible. I’m not going to read the text because it is about 900 words longer than my average sermon – but I’m going to summarize those chapters.
Do you know what “Divine Necessity” is? It is the “have-to”, the “got-to”, the work that God must do to take care of our souls and lives. It is found in the Greek word “dei”. This Divine Necessity is our salvation, our forgiveness, our cleansing and our peace. If God didn’t do it, if Jesus hadn’t done it, we would be in an eternal mess. What you see this entire week is the work that had to be done and it was done – for us by our great God. Divine Necessity.
Listen to the words of Jesus to His followers as the plan for our redemption was laid out. That word of Divine Necessity – dei – is found in the words, “have to”, or “must”.
- “Jesus said, The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” (Luke 9:22)
- Jesus said, “It is written: And he was numbered with the transgressors’, and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me.” (Luke 22:37)
- After the resurrection the two angels addressed the women who had come to the tomb, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again. Then they remembered his words.” (Luke 24:7-8)
- One more. On the road to Emmaus Jesus is speaking to two of His disciples who didn’t know what had happened that Easter morning. “Jesus said to them, How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (Luke 24:25-26)
Everything that you’ll hear concerning what Jesus did this week had to be. Palm Sunday, the foot-washing on Thursday, the denial of Peter, the betrayal of Judas, the Holy Meal, the crucifixion, the darkness for three hours on Friday afternoon, and of course, the resurrection, had to be. None of these things were optional. There was a Divine Necessity to everything. It was God’s plan. Why? It all happened because of us. All for us. All of this was done to give us His deep and abiding love. You know John 3:16, right? “For 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.” He gave His Son, Jesus, when Jesus died for this world, including you and me. Jesus, also freely gave Himself for us. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2) I find comfort that God put together a plan and brought it to a wonderful fulfillment in His time and by His ways.
But Divine Necessity isn’t complete without our involvement. The work of His Divine Necessity becomes our human necessity. There is a story about this little kid who went to Sunday School and he looked at a tapestry that hung the full length of the window in his room. From the top edge, which touched the ceiling, to its bottom edge, which almost touched the floor, it was an utter mess. Random strands of thread stuck out all over the place. Knots were grouped together in chaotic bunches. If there was a design at all, it couldn’t be detected. The artist who wove this mess together was clearly unskilled.
One Sunday morning, however, as the boy walked into the church with his parents, he saw that same tapestry from outside the window. Now he was seeing the front side of the tapestry. What he saw was absolutely beautiful. The needlework was precise, the fabric dense with vibrant colors and images. That boy and his folks had never seen such an intricate design. The artist who wove this image together was obviously a master at their craft.
Our life is often like that tapestry. From our inside perspective, it looks like a mess, but from God’s outside perspective, it is a beautiful, intricate design. God is at work when He can work with our mess.
We call this Passion Week because of the passion of Jesus. He is passionate about people. People, like Peter, who mess up. People, like Mary Magdalene, who had great grief at His death and didn’t know that He was alive. People, like me, who need God’s love and purpose more than ever. People, like you, who want to see the beauty of life.
Peter, the one who knew that he would stand with Jesus even if everyone else failed Him, was a terrible mess. It started with all of his pride and his boasting. It lead to his denial of Jesus three times within a short amount of time. After these blatant denials Peter’s heart was crushed by his weakness. He needed a Divine intervention. He had to deal with his failure, his sin, his falling and failing. To all of this he went out and wept bitterly. He needed a word of grace. And he got one. “Peter, tend My sheep – take care of My people.”
There are some words in Scripture that tell us what we are to do concerning the needs of our soul. This week is filled with God’s yearning that we would turn to Him, live in repentance of our sin and then cling to Jesus. We are directed to fully receive Jesus and all that He has to give us. We are able to live a life that becomes this beautiful tapestry because God is working in our life.
Our human necessity is:
- Change. Turning. Being Different. “After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15)
- New birth. Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’” (John 3:5-7)
- Living a life of difference. Jesus said, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)
Jesus had spent a good number of words telling everyone what He had to do. He had to be a Savior. He had to be greater than death, and hell, and the evil of the devil. There was Divine Necessity.
This is Holy Week. Listen all week long to the work that Jesus HAD to do. Marvel that He wanted to do what He had to do. Then in our human necessity turn to Him with repentance. See His new birth given to you and live in a fruitful way. This week is the best week. Human necessity is met by the Divine plan and work of Jesus. That’s His passion. We are His passion. Amen!!