Monday, April 19, 2010

Theme: “How Quickly Things Change!” (Luke 23:13-16).

-1179 Palm Sunday/3C 3/28/2010 Hymns: (O) #160; (S) #162; L.S. #456; 547; 535; (C) #161

Texts: Psalm 118:19-24, 28-29; Deuteronomy 32:36-39; Philippians 2:5-11; Luke 23:1-56

Theme: “How Quickly Things Change!” (Luke 23:13-16).

Question: “How do you cope with change?”


In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. The text for our Palm Sunday is from the Gospel Lesson: “But they all cried out together, ‘Away with this Man, and release to us Barabbas’— a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city and for murder. Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus, but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify Him!” A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has He done? I have found in Him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release Him.” But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that He should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will” (Luke 23:18-25).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved, it was 1970 I was still living in Israel, my oldest brother Moussa (Moses) and one of his friends went to a soccer game in the town of Aco (Acre) against their arch rival a team from Nazareth. The game was a delight to watch. People were jumping up and down cheering their players to do the best until the referee gave the opposing team a red card (a player is ejected out of the game and the team must continue to play with only 10 against 11). And all of a sudden things changed rapidly. The joy of the game turned into the biggest brawl. My brother was grabbed by an angry mob by his necktie. They began to swirl him round and round, his eyes bulged out, he was beginning to lose consciences, and his life was in jeopardy, until his friend miraculously got him loose and they fled.

On Thursday night I was watching a program called “Caught on Tape” on the animal planet (one of my favorite shows). The incident that was caught on tape was in the Philippines. A zoo keeper whose main responsibility is to take care of the tigers was in the courtyard with them. In one corner he was tending to the care of one tiger and all of a sudden another tiger came from behind and attacked his leg and got him to the ground. The tiger in the corner pounced on the other leg. Before long a third tiger and then a 4th were on the man mauling and shredding him to pieces. People were horrified as they watched him being bitten and bleeding. They could hear the bones crushing with each bite. Finally, another zoo keeper stepped into the courtyard with a sledge hammer and began to hit the tigers and took his co-worker to the hospital. Amazingly he survived. What is more amazing how quickly things changed for this zoo keeper? PAUSE.

Who would have thought it? No one in all of Jerusalem, not the disciples and not even Mary His mother suspected things could change so quickly against Him. Earlier in the week, the people shouted and laid their garments and palm branches before Him and cried out, “Hosanna to the Son of David, Hosanna to the King of Israel” But that was then. Today, we hear two things: first Pilate declares he finds no crimes that Jesus has committed, and second the crowds cry for His blood—they want to see the Man from Nazareth dead so they make sure Pilate hears them well. The refrain is this: “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”

The irony of all of this is that the people ask for a criminal to be released and for an innocent man to be condemned. How quickly things changed! On Palm Sunday there was a crowd (it is possible these are not the same people) crying out “Hosanna” or “Save us now!” Yet less than a week later a crowd with even more gusto raised their fists and voices for this same Savior to be crucified!

It is interesting to note the names of these two people—the Criminal and the Innocent that take center stage on that Friday. Barabbas’ name means “Son of the Father.” Jesus’ name means “Savior”. How ironic it is in what they are asking for even without knowing it. They are asking for Barabbas—the “Son of the Father” to be released. At the same time, they want the TRUE “Son of the Father”—Jesus to be condemned. Without knowing it, they were still shouting their Hosanna’s. For after all this is why the Son of the Father came to earth, to go to the cross, be crucified to give them hope and heaven. PAUSE.

Oh, how quickly things change. We don’t like to change. As Lutherans, we have a hard time with change. The oft made comments around Lutherans are: “We have never done it this way before!” When change is brought about, people begin to scream some under their breath and others vocally. We don’t want to change, we like things the way they are and if there is a change that needs to be done, it better be a change to our liking.

But isn’t this the reason the Savior came? Did He not come to change our status with our heavenly Father from sinners to saints, from hell-bound to heaven-bound, from enemies of God to friends of God, from strangers to families of God? INDEED IT IS! The whole ministry of Jesus is about change—changing our lives for the better.

Yes, Jesus came to change us and change He did by His crucifixion on Calvary’s tree. We see these changes in many of the saints before us: Saul the persecutor by his encounter with the Savior on the Damascus road was changed to be the great preacher of the Gospel. Peter the denier of Jesus, with one glance of His Savior in the High Priest’s court yard was changed to be a bold confessor of His Lord and Savior that he actually would die for his belief. How quickly things changed.

Golgotha was the center stage on that Friday afternoon. Jesus, the Rabbi from Nazareth and two other criminals were hanging on crosses condemned to die. One of them was changed quickly as He observed and heard Jesus speak to those who wished to see His blood spilled and Him dead. For three to four hours more the thief would draw his ragged breath but that very day his cross would be exchanged for a crown and his soul would be lifted up to heaven’s glory. That morning saw the thief being led out of his prison cell to pay his debt to society. That afternoon saw his life fading away on a cross and his soul facing hell’s gaping doors. But that evening saw him walking hand in hand with His Savior in heaven. What change took place that night in the life of that thief!

That same change takes place in us as well. By the loving act of the Father, the TRUE Son of the Father laid down His life for our redemption to bring about the change that is needed in us. By His mercy we receive the same promise and blessed forgiveness. We are changed as those pierced hands touch us and cleanse us in the waters of Baptism. By those same tender, wounded and outstretched arms we are fed the Meal of heaven. Not only that, but we also receive the great gift of forgiveness from Christ’s own lips. These heavenly gifts are the reasons we have been changed.

Changed for the better; changed by the One who never changes—Jesus Christ. Whose love remains constant; whose compassion never fails; whose mercy is new every morning.

My beloved and His beloved, you and I are changed people. We don’t remain like we were yesterday, but live in the present and presence of Christ. We have received the greatest change from the inside out. This change is not brought about because we went to the greatest fashion designer, makeup artist, or hair stylist; but because the Creator of the Universe has touched us and changed our filthy hearts to His dwelling place.

No wonder the Apostle Paul could and would boast of His Savior. With boldness, he would continue to hold out to others the gift of heaven, won for all earth’s inhabitants. That good news alone can change an uncertain future. As sin’s captives hear about Jesus and “the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control,” fear of the future is replaced with a joyful longing for Jesus’ return. PAUSE.

Some years ago there was a television show in which the hero received a newspaper at his apartment door every morning. Ordinarily, such a thing would not be considered unusual, but this was. Each day’s delivery was tomorrow’s newspaper. It came to him a day before the events reported on its pages took place. He took upon himself the responsibility of trying to head off the tragedy with the fore-knowledge he now possessed. By the end of each episode, he would again be holding the paper and the success of his efforts to change the outcome would appear on its pages.

We don’t know if our bold confidence in Jesus will avert the tragedy of a life being lived without Him, but we do know that the Gospel is the only Means by which Jesus may enter such a life and change the outcome. We are proof of it!

How quickly the crowds turned against the Savior and asked for His death by crucifixion. They asked for Barabbas to be released. And the TRUE Son of the Father was nailed to the tree. And because of that sacrificial act, we have been changed forever. And what a change! Amen.

Now the peace of God…


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