Sermon from Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Rocklin, California, published via the power of IFTTT.
Palmarum, (March 20, 2016)
TITLE: “Lifted Up”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. John chapter twelve.
It is a few short days until our Lord’s death on the cross for the salvation of the world. He has entered into Jerusalem, His holy city, God’s holy city. While He is there, some Greeks come looking for Him, and they find Philip and ask him, ““Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”” (John 12:21 ESV) We don’t really know any more about these Greeks, other than that they were in Jerusalem to worship at the Great Feast, the Passover, which was drawing near. But there question is a good one, and we may ask it ourselves.
What do you wish to see? What is in your heart and on your mind as we prepare for the remembrance of our Lord’s final week before His death on the cross? Are you lost, frantic, alone, waiting to be saved? Is church a distraction in the midst of all of the spring events? Or is there something deeper at work with you, some illness or hurt that only you may know?
Throughout each of our readings today, there is one thread which ties them together. That thread is how God serves you, His broken people, His sinners who are deeply in need of salvation. But before God can do His work, before that is possible, you have to recognize your own helplessness before Him. Do you remember the question God would put before the people in Deuteronomy?
“Then he will say, ‘Where are their gods, the rock in which they took refuge, who ate the fat of their sacrifices and drank the wine of their drink offering? Let them rise up and help you; let them be your protection!” (Deuteronomy 32:37–38 ESV)
Now I rather like that passage, because we see God being sarcastic. It doesn’t matter if your “god” is Baal or Vishnu or Buddha or basketball or soccer or money or Trump or Clinton or pleasure or your job or your family or anything else. Martin Luther put it this way:
A god means that from which we are to expect all good and in which we are to take refuge in all distress. So, to have a God is nothing other than trusting and believing Him with the heart. I have often said that the confidence and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol. 3 If your faith and trust is right, then your god is also true. On the other hand, if your trust is false and wrong, then you do not have the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God (Hebrews 11:6). Now, I say that whatever you set your heart on and put your trust in is truly your god.1
And the simple fact is, you by nature put your trust in the wrong place. You trust in yourself. You trust in the things of this world, doctors and lawyers and politicians and yes, even your family. But all these will fail, along with everything else in this world at some point. Don’t put your trust in these people or things. They will not last.
But I want you to notice what Jesus says is going to happen. Hear again his words from chapter twelve:
“Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”” (John 12:31–32 ESV)
Jesus’ purpose is to vindicate the world, to cast out Satan, and to draw all people to Himself. That is how He serves the world. And He serves by suffering, by dying, and by rising from the dead. That is His service, His liturgy to the world.
The simple, great reality of this day is that Jesus comes to you because you cannot go to Him. You are guilty, but He declares you innocent. Satan has you in His grip, but Jesus tosses Him out on the curb right where he belongs. You are lost and wandering, but Jesus is lifted up, and it is that Savior on a crass that now draws you to Him.
The cry of the day is Hosanna, save us now. You, too, are now free to make that cry, because God has shown His heart to you in His Son. And Jesus has emptied Himself of all show, all the trappings of His royalty and Godhead. He has come to you humble and lowly, and so He washes you and makes you clean in His own blood.
So come, and be served. Christ, our Lord, is lifted up on the cross so that you, too, may be lifted up to Him in His Holy Supper. So come, and be served by the Great Servant of humanity, Jesus Christ, our Lord.
In Jesus' name. Amen.
And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
- McCain, Paul Timothy, ed. Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005. Print. ↩︎