Your King comes to save you.

The Text: John 12:12-16 (esp. v 15)

When our sports heroes come back home, say, after the Olympic Games, and they’re given a parade in one of the capital cities, there’s great excitement.  When a football team wins a grand final, its fans become delirious.  It must have been something like that when our Lord entered Jerusalem on the Sunday before the Passover (12:1,12).  The large crowd that welcomed Him was jubilant.  Of the four Gospels, only St John tells us that people carried palm branches.  For the Jews, palm branches were symbols of victory.  2 Maccabees, for example, tells us that after Judas Maccabeus won a victory over the Syrians in 164BC, he and those with him entered Jerusalem to cleanse the temple and rededicate the altar.  It says, “carrying green palm branches and sticks decorated with ivy, they paraded around, singing grateful praises to [God] who had brought about the purification of his own temple” (10:7).  On the occasion of our text, the crowd that had come to Jerusalem for Passover was stirred up because they’d heard how Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead (vv 9,18).  Who had ever done anything as great as that?

For all the freedoms we enjoy in this life, especially in a country like our own, we human beings remain in the grip of death.  We become alarmed when we hear of conflict between nations.  We panic in the face of a pandemic.  “In the midst of life we are in death.” Death in turn is the result of sin that characterises the fallen world in which we live.  Each one of us sinful by nature and is also guilty of actual sins of thought, word, and deed.  We haven’t loved God with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength, as He wants us to.  We’ve failed to love our neighbour as ourselves.  God has every right to consign us not only to death but also to eternal punishment.  Instead, He loves the people He has made.  He sent His own dear Son to save us from sin and death.

Jesus came to Jerusalem on that Palm Sunday so that He might be our Saviour.  The people who welcomed Him thought of Him as their King.  Their cry was a verse (26) from Ps 118 that was used to welcome pilgrims to the temple: “Hosanna! [Save now!] Blest is he who comes in the name of the Lord”.  We shouldn’t question that they added the words, “even the King of Israel!”  Many of the Passover pilgrims would have travelled from Galilee.  No doubt some had been present the year before at the feeding of over 5,000 people on the other side of the Sea of Galilee (6:1, 4).  On that occasion, people wanted to take Jesus by force to make Him their king, St John tells us (6:15).  When the Passover crowds heard that Jesus had raised Lazarus of Bethany to life (12:18), they would have been sure that He was their king.

Yet they had no idea what Jesus would do as King.  Jesus’ own disciples didn’t understand, either, that though almighty God, He’d come humbly to die as God’s ransom for human sin.  They knew the Old Testament verses that mention the coming of Israel’s glorious King.  But they had a blind spot when it came to those verses that tell about His suffering and death.

In Zechariah 9 the LORD tells the inhabitants of Jerusalem to rejoice greatly that her King would come to her victorious and bringing salvation.  He’d come humbly, riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey.  He’d rule over the earth in peace, but not peace brought about by war.  The LORD says, “As for you also [daughter of Zion], because of the blood of my covenant with you, /I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit” (v 11).  He wasn’t referring to the blood of the covenant that Moses splashed on the people of Israel at Mt Sinai (Ex 24:8).  He was referring to the blood of Zion’s King.  In those days kings were called shepherds of their people (e,g, Ezek 37:24).  In following chapters of Zechariah there’s a mysterious reference to the shepherd of the flock whose wages would be weighed out as 30 pieces of silver (11:4, 12).  The LORD says about Him, “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered” (13:7).  He, the Shepherd, says, “when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn … as one mourns for an only child” (12:10).  Then come these important words: “On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness” (13:1).  (This verse was the inspiration for the hymn [LHS 68] that begins, “There is a fountain filled with blood, /drawn from Immanuel’s veins”.) 

Jesus’ blood that would be poured out at Calvary is the blood of the new, eternal covenant.  The only other mentions in Scripture of ‘the blood of the covenant’ are found in the New Testament, always in connection with Jesus’ death.  For example, St Matthew tells us that at the last supper Jesus gave His disciples a cup of wine and said, “this [cup] is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt 26:28). Jesus is the King who would be sold for 30 pieces of silver and would be struck and pierced to save His people by the blood of His new covenant.

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion,” is how the passage in Zechariah begins.  But the passage that St John quotes doesn’t begin with a summons to rejoice.  It begins, “Fear not, daughter of Zion”.  These words are from another part of Scripture, from the prophet Zephaniah.  By using only a few words, Gospel writers usually (e.g. Mk 1:2f) draw in large amounts of the Old Testament Scriptures.  It says in Zephaniah 3 (:16f), “Fear not, O Zion; /let not your hands grow weak.  /The LORD your God is in your midst, /a mighty one who will save”.  Just two verses earlier, the prophet calls on the daughter of Zion to sing aloud, shout, rejoice and exult with all her heart because, he says, “The LORD has taken away the judgments against you … /The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst”.

As earlier chapters of Zephaniah show, by her worship of false gods the daughter of Jerusalem deserved every one of the judgments of the true God.  Who of us always puts God first in our lives?  But the prophet also tells about the LORD, the King of Israel, coming among His repentant people to save them from His judgments.  That’s what Jesus came to do.  He’s not to be taken lightly, as His cleansing of the temple and His cursing of the unfruitful fig tree show.  He’ll come as powerful Judge of all at the last day, to destroy His enemies.  All the more amazing, then, that He came humbly the first time to be lifted up from the earth (on a cross) in order to draw all people to Himself, as last Sunday’s Gospel tells us (12:32).  He’s not spiteful or vindictive.  He has righteous anger over sin.  Yet even righteous anger isn’t at the heart of His being.  It says that He punishes people only to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Him, whereas He shows steadfast love to thousands of generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments (Ex 20:5f).  His heart is full of grace and mercy (Ex 34:6).  By that mercy, all who turn from sin to Him are saved for all eternity.

We’re saved by our King who shed His blood for us on a cross.  The letter to the Hebrews (9:15) describes Jesus as the mediator of a new covenant/testament that gives an eternal inheritance.  It says that His blood purifies our conscience from dead works so that we can serve the living God (9:14).  It’s by His blood that we can come into the presence of God and live.  As the song, ‘Shine, Jesus, shine’ says, addressing Jesus, “By the blood”—by your blood, that is—“I may enter your brightness”.  In His Supper He comes to us in a hidden way to give us His blood to drink and His body to eat.  By His body and blood, He forgives our sins and strengthens us in faith towards Him and in love towards one another.  Therefore, we also rightly welcome Him among us with the words, “Hosanna!  Blest is He who comes in the name of the Lord.  Hosanna in the highest!”

For now, many of His followers are treated just as He was.  They’re killed in gruesome ways, as He was.  But since He now rules over all things, eternal victory is also theirs.  In the Revelation the apostle John was given (7:9-10), he was shown the huge number of people who can’t be numbered, standing before God’s throne and before the Lamb, Jesus, “clothed in white robes”, that is, cleansed from all their sins.  They’re described as coming out of the great tribulation.  But they’re victorious as He is.  They stand before God “with palm branches in their hands”.  They sing in a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”  That victory is also yours, who, to use words from the Revelation, “have washed [your] robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (7:14).  We aren’t privileged to have been among the Jerusalem crowds that waved palm branches and welcomed Jesus as their King.  Nor do we see the great multitude that stands before His throne in heaven.  Yet until we do, we are privileged to welcome Him among His Zion, His new Jerusalem, His church, whenever and wherever she is gathered together in His name.  We join all His people whether living or dead, in praising Him.  For Zion’s King comes humbly today also to you, daughter of Zion, so that you may belong to him in peace and joy for all eternity! Amen

Jesus’ triumphal entry

The Text: Matthew 21

When ‘Ivan the terrible’ came into town he needed no introduction. That’s because ‘Ivan the Terrible’ (who was the Tsar of Russia) was exactly what his nickname said he was – terrible! He was terrible and he was terrifying. He would torture animals just for fun. He beat up his pregnant daughter-in-law because he didn’t like what she was wearing, resulting in her having a miscarriage. When his son confronted him over it, Ivan fatally stabbed him with the sharpened end of his walking cane, which he always kept sharp so he could jab people with it. He mercilessly murdered people and tortured them. He was a maniac. He was a terrible king but at least people knew who he was.

History is littered with kings and great political leaders who are instantly recognisable, not so much for being famous but for being infamous. If I put a picture of Hitler on the screen you would know who he is, and the people of his time would have known him too. The great Caesars of Rome, the kings and queens of Europe, the pharaohs of Egypt – whether they were good or bad – all of them could be identified by their people. And still today, when dignitaries move through the streets, they do so with a great entourage, body guards, fanfare and impressive vehicles. Whether they are infamous or simply famous, kings and rulers are recognised by their people.

But when Jesus, the king of kings, arrives in Jerusalem, what do his people say? Oh great, here’s the king? Oh wonderful, our saviour has arrived? No, the people of Jerusalem see Jesus on a donkey, with the crowds cheering around him and his band of followers by his side and they ask: “Who is this?!!?”

Well, I guess that Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem sends out some confusing messages. On the one hand you have this big crowd shouting out ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ Now, ‘Son of David’ is code for ‘the king’. They think they’ve found the Messiah. And yet, the people of Jerusalem look at Jesus in disbelief, that this unimpressive man riding on a donkey could possibly be a king.

That’s because we all know that kings back then rode on horses, and today they drive in big fancy cars. They don’t get about on donkeys. You don’t win wars with donkeys, you win them with horses and chariots, with tanks and planes and ships.

And yet Jesus was going to war. Jesus had already made it clear to his disciples what type of war he was going to be fighting in Jerusalem. In the previous chapter, as they headed for the great city, Jesus said: “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”

Jesus rides into Jerusalem ready for a war of a different kind. It’s the war for your soul. Jesus came into Jerusalem on a donkey as the king prepared to die for his people, the very people who didn’t even recognize him and the very people who would put him to death. What a king! Jesus came to Jerusalem to tangle with Satan, to defeat him and sin and death in one very foul and bloody swoop.

And how was Jesus going to win this war? Through submission. Now that’s not what kings are meant to do – submit! We are meant to submit to them! But Jesus rides into Jerusalem with the specific aim of handing himself over to die, where he will become the atoning sacrifice for all human sinfulness. What a king!

It should be no surprise to us that no sooner had Jesus told his disciples about his purpose for coming to Jerusalem, that two of them ask if they can sit at his right and his left side in his glory. ‘Glory!’ they said. ‘Jesus give us some glory!’ That’s the sort of king they wanted.

But Jesus was not a king who came for glory—Jesus was a king who came to serve and through his service to you and me and to the world he would give his life. By his work and service and sacrifice we are reconciled with God. The war has been won.

That’s the king that Jesus still is for you. Jesus is our great defender and protector and he is continually working to keep us safe from evil, from the power of the devil and from falling into unbelief. Jesus continues to serve us by forgiving our sins, washing us clean, hearing our prayers, answering our prayers and giving us his blessing. Jesus is a king who serves and as people of his kingdom we are also called to live a life of service.

Why wouldn’t we serve a king like that? Many kings, like Ivan the Terrible, could scare us into serving them. But Jesus doesn’t do that. Our king comes to us gentle and riding on a donkey—an animal of peace. There is no frightening sound of galloping hooves, no cracking whips, no shouting. There are no tanks rolling or guns blazing. Jesus comes to us with gentleness to save and protect us. He is the King of Kings—and with him there is nothing to fear. Amen.

‘Jesus remember me as you come into your kingdom’.

Luke 23:42
Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’

            Today Jesus marches into Jerusalem, hailed as the coming King of Israel. Hosanna, which means, save us! Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Who comes with the authority and affirmation of God Almighty! The King comes to His kingdom and those Pharisees shout, “Jesus, rebuke your disciples!” But Jesus replies, “if they keep quiet, even the stones will cry out.” He comes to save not just the people, but all creation and even Creation knows it’s King (Revelation 4:11)! Yet we remember what is coming. Last week we heard what happened yesterday, Mary anointing Jesus for His burial (John 12:1, 7). And those Pharisees who rebuked Jesus, will go on to condemn Him for blasphemy. The Pharisees and Sadducees pressure Pilate to execute Jesus, and Pilate eventually sends Jesus to His death on the cross. To the burial for which Mary has anointed Him. Today we look out over this Holy Week, as though looking out from a mountain top over the valley of the shadow of death, towards a much higher and brighter peak on the other side. There is so many things that happen, so many parts to the week, sometimes it’s hard to remember them all.

            Yet traditionally that is what this Sunday is for, for you to remember this coming week before it happens, to recall all it’s events, to remember; and to follow Jesus into His kingdom. To re-member: to bring all these parts, all these members, of this week together into your life. We don’t often think this way about ‘remembering’ yet when we ‘remember’ we recall parts of our past life together into our present. When you remember an event in your childhood, about how you were walking near the footy field, smelt some horrid cigarette smoke and decided never to try them yourself; when you remember that memory, you unite it with yourself in the present, perhaps you smell the smoke again, or you see the footy field, or recommit to that old decision. However it is, you make that memory part of your body again, seeing again, smelling again, you make it a member of your body, your life, again; or, as we say, you remember it.

            And it doesn’t even have to be part of your life, you can remember events in the lives of others. You can remember the abuse of your ancestors by those in power, the highland clearances of Scotland, the convict settlements here in Australia. You can remember the Papua New Guineans who helped and saved many Australian solders in WW2. And you can of course remember our Christian forebears and Christ Himself, and this His last week of life.

            But then, what does it mean to remember this last week of Christ’s life? To remember His life, instead of our own? To unite His experience together with your own life today? What does this mean, but to live the life of Christ. To make this Holy Week part of your life, of your body, a member of your body, to remember it. To remember yesterday Christ anointed by Mary for His burial (John 12:1-11). To remember today His Triumphant entrance; Hosanna in the Highest! (John 12:12-16) To remember tomorrow Jesus cleansing the temple, removing all distractions from the worship of God (Luke 19:45-46). To remember the next day, Jesus teaching and His foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem (Luke 20-21). To remember Judas’ betrayal traditionally being paid by the priests on Wednesday (Luke 22:1-6). To remember Thursday, the preparation for the feast (Luke 22:7-13). Then beginning on Thursday night, which is the beginning of Friday according to God’s counting; The Passover, Pascha, the institution of the Lord’s Supper; Jesus teaching and preparing the disciples as they walk to the mount of Olives; His prayer for all His people and all the world; His arrest, Peter’s betrayal, His trail in the dawn; the release of Barabbas and Christ’s crucifixion in the late morning; the darkness at noon; His words to the robber beside Him; His death in the afternoon; those strange words of victory, “It is finished”; His burial; then, to remember, in the night after the Sabbath’s dusk, the glorious peak of the first day of the New Creation finally revealed. (Luke 22-23; John 13-20). The glorious light of Christ, hidden in the dark night of this world. As we heard last week, hidden like that sown seed.

            What does it mean to remember all this? To make this part and parcel of your life? It means to be united with Jesus Christ, to be forgiven and have eternal life. But how can we remember all this? In the past Christians have made their life revolve around this Holy Week. Of course, we still remember the praise of the people on Sunday and make it part of our lives as we sing together with them, Hosanna in the highest, as Christ comes to us. And traditionally Christians have fasted from rich food on Wednesday and Friday, the days when Judas was paid for His betrayal and of course, when Jesus died. It’s not just that fish and Friday start with the same letters. And of course we also have weekends because of observing the Sabbath, the seventh day of Creation, and celebrating the eight day or the first day of the New Creation on Sunday, the Lord’s day.
Yet not content to have their week revolve around Christ, traditionally especially pastors, monks and nuns have prayed at 9:00, noon and 3:00, continuing the practise of God’s ancient people (Psalm 55:17; Daniel 6:10; from the offerings Exodus 29:39) and remembering Christ’s crucifixion, the darkness and then His death. Now to have your week revolve around Christ’s life, and even the hours of your day; these are helpful ways for us to remember Jesus in our lives. As Paul writes, ‘we are to have the mind of Christ’ and what better way to learn it than have our lives revolve around His (Philippians 2:5).

            Good and true as that is, the repentant robber doesn’t say, I will remember you; no, He asks, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ It is important for you to remember Jesus, but you can only do that if Jesus remembers you. And that is what the robber asks for, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus enters Jerusalem in triumph, He is crowned and exalted, with thorns on the cross, He rises and 40 days later ascends His throne as He who has been given all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18-20). Dealing with sin, defeating the devil and plundering the place of death, remembering the devil’s captives, He brings them into His everlasting kingdom, His never-ending reign. He does not forget Abraham, with whom He made the everlasting covenant, nor Noah, Seth or Josiah; even if we might have forgotten. Jesus remembers all the righteous dead when He comes into His kingdom, He recalls them and unites them to Himself; making them a part of His life everlasting; making them members of His body.

And when Jesus remembers you, He re-members you, Paul using that picture of grafting onto a tree (Romans 11:17-24). Jesus makes you members of His body, this is one part of the mystery that we are one body in Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). Jesus recalls, He calls you into His life everlasting, He remembers you and doesn’t forget you. Now, there is much more to this mystery, yet how/when/where does He remember you? Where and when does Christ reign? He remembers where He has promised to unite you to Himself, to bring you into His everlasting, sinless, undefeatable life, into His kingdom; When He forgives you, gives you life everlasting, and casts away your demons; chiefly and most assuredly according to His Word, in Holy Baptism, the Absolution, and Holy Communion. It is in these three that He has promised to unite you into His death, His eternal life, His righteousness, and His great love. He brings you into His body, He remembers you as He comes into His kingdom. So as we remember this Holy Week, as we make it a part of our lives today; remember that Jesus remembers you and the robber and all His people, bringing us into His life everlasting.

Today the King comes. Today Jesus remembers you. Today His kingdom breaks forth into this world, with forgiveness, salvation and life eternal! Today we are united into Christ’s life!

            And so as you live out this Holy Week, Jesus remember you by granting the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guarding your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, from now and to life everlasting. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.

Holy rhythm of our life in Christ.


Psalm 31:9
Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress

            There is a rhythm to life, every life. At it’s most basic we sleep, we wake, we sleep; and each of your own lives have rhythm even if you don’t always see it, even if you try to get rid of it. Every morning I get up, I go to the toilet, drink some water, pray, then when Nathaniel is up; eat, work, lunch, work, kids, eat, kids to bed then us shortly after. Sleep and do it all again. The rhythm of the day.

            Then there’s the rhythm of the week, then there’s the rhythm of the month, then there’s the rhythm of the year, and then beyond us the rhythms of lives, birth, kids, death; the rise and fall of nations; the dance of the tectonic plates, of the stars, the galaxies, the rhythms of the universe; then the edge of what we can grasp, there is the beginning, down through time to us, then over to the end of this creation. And today we stand as on a new beginning, first day of the week, as on the top of a hill looking over this Holy Week ahead. We see with Jesus what is to come, and so we pray with Him; Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress.

            Our Psalmic prayer today begins with a plea for mercy, down into our distress; ‘my strength fails because of what afflicts me, my enemies break me and seek to take my life’; yet up again in calling to God; ‘But I trust in you Lord, my times are in your hands, deliver me, your servant. Let your face shine on me, save me in your unfailing love’. (Psalm 31:9-16). From God to suffering to God again, and His shining face, His unfailing love. This is the rhythm of our life in Christ. Crying out to God, truly suffering, yet crying out and knowing that He will deliver us, He will destroy our enemies. And this is the rhythm of this Holy Week.

            Today we began with the proclamation, Jesus is King of kings! Hosanna, save us God on High! Just as we cry before He comes to us in the bread and wine. He came into Jerusalem, glorified by the people. And yet we hear again the rhythm of our lives; from these heights, He goes down. Throwing out the moneychangers, cleaning and putting right God’s house of prayer. Now the Jewish leaders’ hatred is brought to a head, as we prayed, ‘they plot to take His life’. On Wednesday Judas one of the twelve takes the money from the Pharisees, just as the Psalmist prays, ‘because of all my enemies I am dreadful to my closest friends’. Praying alone in the garden, abandoned by His sleeping disciples; Jesus was betrayed by Judas and the rest, they scatter; ‘dreadful to my closest friends, those who see me flee’. False accusations, lies, taunts, insults, shame and spit, all this thrown at Him; ‘terror on every side’. Stripped, rejected, flogged, shamed; Jesus the Christ crucified, and as we prayed, ‘I am forgotten as though I were dead, I have become like broken pottery’. Yet we continue to pray, “But I trust in you, Lord; I say, You are my God. My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies. Let your face shine on your servant, save me in your love never failing.’ The rhythm of our life, a reflection of the life of our Lord that we live out time and again. Yes, times change, times look different, at times worse, and yet all our times are in His hands. Those healing hands pierced on that cross.

            Live Christ’s life, every week, from the heights of God’s serving you forgiveness and life on Sunday, through the troubles, stress and work to the end of Friday, the rest of Saturday, to the Resurrection, New Life, again early Sunday morn. And especially this week, take time, time from the hand of God Almighty, to hear and meditate on the accounts of Christ’s Passion. Know that your suffering is now a reflection of His, that as you speak with those around you, as you eat, sleep, pray, serve, work, and suffer; we, in this baptismal life, are joined with Christ’s last week. As we are hurt and broken, as we break ourselves by our own sins and failures, die to this world at the Glorious cross, and come to Our Lord for merciful healing; to be delivered from all enemies, life over death, to have God Almighty look on you His child and save you in His unfailing love.

            You know the truth, that Christ is victorious over sin, death and the devil; that this is for you, given you by His Word and Sacrament. So walk in rhythm with Him as we live again the suffering and our salvation.

            The peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now and through the suffering. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.

Palm Sunday

We are united in Christ, now in His suffering and humiliation, then finally in His resurrection and exaltation; let His life be yours.

Let this insight be in you, which was in Christ Jesus.

Palm Sunday, that beautiful remembrance of Christ’s procession as the coming king into the city of God and to the altar of His temple. The beginning of the last week of His life, as He fulfilled the promises to the people of old; the king come to be crowned, yet with thorns on the throne of the cross (Isaiah 23:5); the priest to offer the final sacrifice on the altar, the sacrifice of the true Pascal lamb by which those trusting would be saved (Psalm 110:4; Isaiah 53:7); the servant who would bring salvation to all the nations, by His suffering, death and His resurrection and exaltation to God’s right hand, to His almighty power (Isaiah 49:7). And you are with Him in this. You know you are joined with Christ through baptism by the Holy Spirit, that we together are members of His body, that we share in His life, and so as the apostle says ‘let this insight be in you, which was in Christ Jesus’ let His life be yours.

And what is this insight? The Spirit teaches us with this ‘Christ hymn’ that the Second Person of the Trinity, the pre-incarnate Son, didn’t consider the almighty power and authority He possessed as God as something to be clung to, as we might clutch at good health, wealth or safety. His status as equal with the Father was not something He prioritised, like we might prioritise our position at work, or our status as citizens. Rather He gave of Himself taking the form of a servant to serve others though He is truly Lord of all and rightfully all should be serving Him, yet He came as a servant. He was incarnate, He took on our humanity in its fullness. He humbled Himself, from Lord of all to be a servant for all, from creator of all to be not just a human, but a human embryo, taking on our humanity from its beginning. And having become obedient, or in the Greek more ‘truly listening’ or ‘under to what is heard’, listening to His Father even to death, His excruciating passion flogged, shamed, and crucified.

Now we’ll take a break before going on. That insight of Christ is to not cling to the things this fallen world values, to power or authority, rather to fully listen to our Heavenly Father and live that out. Today I’m not going to highlight the truth of our sinfulness, and our helplessness. Instead I pray that the Holy Spirit has already done His Work, through the liturgy and the Word, that you who have been arrogant in your sin have been crushed, that God’s law has shown you that you fail to live with Christ’s humility and obedience. But now broken sinners do not despair, hear again God’s promise to you that, ‘you were united with Christ Jesus by baptism into a death like His, and shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.’ (Romans 6:4-5). But what was His resurrection like? We’ll go back to the text.

Jesus humbled Himself, incarnated and died in obedience with God’s Word, fulfilling His promises. Therefore God highly exalted Him, He put everything under Christ’s feet, His power. He graced Jesus with the name or reputation above all others, that when all things, from the highest archangel to the lowest worm, when all hear Him we will glorify and praise Him, truly and rightly honouring Him and confessing together that Jesus Christ is Lord, master and king of all; to the glory of God the Father. This is an incredibly dense text, and where is the good news for us here?

The first half tells us what Jesus did, humbled, took on our humanity, died in accord with the promises. Then the second half tells what our Father in Heaven did in response, exalted Him above all things that all recognise Jesus as Lord. But why is this Good News for us? We’re told to let this way of life to be our way of life, to always live as Christ lives; how can we hope to measure up to what Jesus did, how much He loved all people, even those hating Him? Well it’s like St Paul, who was a murderer of Christians, writes elsewhere and honestly throughout his letter here, it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2:20). We have been joined with Christ, He came to God’s city as King, came to the temple the earthly altar and sacrificed Himself destroying our sin and reconciling us to our Father. And we participate in this, are joined with Him, as we eat and drink His body and blood (1 Corinthians 10:16). Holy Communion is a foretaste of the wedding feast of the slain Lamb at the end of time (Revelation 19:6-9); when Christ marries us His church, a full and completely, perfect union of us lowly humans with God Almighty, our evil already dealt with, and then only the pure and beautiful love of God between us all.

Our common union together with Christ is what Holy Communion is, that’s where we’ve got the words. That we will be exalted and unified with Christ, reigning together with the power of God, Paul tells us later in this letter, ‘God will transform our bodies to be like Christ’s most glorious body’ (3:21). That humanity can attain such heights is proclaimed again in this hymn. The pre-incarnate Son emptied Himself, or came down to become a lowly human, to take on our humanity, eat, sleep, poop, and to die for us. Our Father exalted Him according to His humanity, giving Lordship over all creation to Jesus according to His humanity, because according to His divinity He already had it. Now you and I, joined into the God-man Jesus Christ can be assured that we too will rise with Him, exalted by our Father in our bodies to His glory. This is who you are in Jesus Christ. God has spoken, His word is sure. So now hear again, and truly listen to the Word of God, ‘let the life of Christ be your life.’

And until our full communion comes, the peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.

Palm Sunday

Philippians 2:5

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus

This little text from verse 6-11 tells us everything that has happened and everything that will, in light, from the point of view of Jesus. It speaks of Jesus’ priorities in obeying and glorifying God. It’s one of those texts like John 3:16, God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes will have eternal life, and also the first confession, Jesus Christ is Lord from Romans (10:9). There is so much in these texts, but they need to be unpacked, explored even lived out; though to fully unpack and understand it would probably take a lifetime. So I’ll do my best in the next couple minutes.

Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus. This mind, this way of thinking, of understanding and of action and life, have this in you that we hear and was obviously in Christ Jesus. It’s more than just thought, it’s also action; Jesus didn’t just think about being humble and obedient, He acted on it and died on that cross for you, me and all people. God, through Paul, is telling you and me to let this insight and action be your insight and action; your new life. We’ve heard about the new thing that God is doing, that you and I are now, through baptism together with Jesus, dead to our old life of sin and risen to new life in Jesus (Isaiah 43:19; Romans 6:6-11). That God’s ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8). God is the one who brings us to Christ by the Holy Spirit and gives us this new way of trusting Him, these new thoughts, God’s way of thinking, the mind of Christ Jesus (John 6:44; ). To receive these gifts well and to hold on to this, not rejecting the Spirit is now that task of us who are saved.

But what does all that mean? It’s all very well to say, ‘be humble’ or ‘be obedient’ even to say, ‘hold to God’s thoughts’. In the day to day how should I do this, how can I be like Jesus? That old question, ‘what would Jesus do?’ Well, verse six, The Son of the Father, second person of the trinity, God from God, light from light, equal to the Father, a position of authority and power beyond what we can imagine, He does not see this as something to be grasped, to be prioritised. Rather the Son empties Himself and takes on being a servant, takes on flesh, becomes a man, and we all know how insignificant we feel when thinking on the problems of this world, when seeing the stars of a pitch-black night and when contemplating God’s love for you. Jesus did not care about the power of His position, but took the actions needed to help those around Him, and fortunately for us that’s everyone. So what about the different positions of power you hold, your relationships, in the family, at church, in the workforce, and also even if you just know about something more than others. All these different positions where you have some power, even if it isn’t absolute. Do you take pride in yourself, in the gifts God has given and try to keep the glory and praise to yourself? Do you take pride in being a good father, a good wife, a good participant at a BBQ, a smart cookie, even in your own humble attitude; or do you listen to God, using what He has given you for the benefit of those around you and to His Glory? Do you prioritise your pride and power instead of the benefit of others and the glory of God?

What is your priority, your focus in life? When we live in this world, going about our lives, we are surrounded even submerged in a way of life contrary to Jesus’ way. We are constantly taught that we need to prioritise and rely on ourselves, to be independent, to be confident and have high self-esteem, to take pride in ourselves and to compete with each other. We know about the ‘corporate ladder’ the desire to climb to the top, but in every other relationship and role we still need to struggle against our sinful, selfish inclinations to make it about us, prioritising ourselves. Instead we need to deny ourselves take up our cross, suffering, and follow Jesus as He did the same, even to humble ourselves becoming obedient to the point of death, to die to ourselves to our sinful desires and pride and live for others, for Christ and the glory of God (Matthew 16:24-26; Romans 6:6-11; Galatians 2:20).

This is a tall order, a high mark to aim for and I find that I myself often forget to even aim, and I miss the mark, we sin and we fail. To live and think as Christ lived and thought every day of our lives in the face of all these distractions, is a hard thing. But fortunately Christ Jesus did live that life for me, for you and me (Hebrews 2:14-18); Today is Palm Sunday when we remember His glorious entrance into Jerusalem as King, and we look forward, down to His humiliation, suffering and death on the cross and burial in the tomb. And past that to a glimpse of His exaltation in the resurrection and on to the ascension and the coming hope of His coming again to destroy sin, guilt, the devil and death and to renew all creation, you, me and all those other saints who have gone before risen from death, free from all our sin and evil, renewed and perfected in Jesus who has gone before, the author and perfector of our faith and our life. And so what is our priority, what do we look to first? To our own positions of power here on earth, or to thank and praise Jesus for all He has done for you, me and all people, to give glory and praise to the only one truly deserving, God Almighty. For He has saved you through Jesus, and will renew you and exalt you as Jesus has been resurrected and exalted. This Holy Week where we remember the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus is where we see clearly God’s true work of salvation, and in baptism you are joined up with Jesus by His promise and word, humbled and emptied and dead with sin, then God’s sure promise that you will rise anew free from sin and death together with Jesus, exalted by God’s power to what is good and right, the glory of God.

And may the peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus until we stand with Him in glory, to the glory and prais of God our Father. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham

Palm Sunday


Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Philippians 2:5-11

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient unto death—even death on a cross!

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.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your eyes, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

We are coming to the end of this Lenten season, this season of repentance and dedication to God, preparing for the great celebration of Christ’s glorious death and resurrection, our salvation.

Today, just a week before the Great Thanksgiving, it is Palm Sunday. When we remember the triumphant entry. Jesus riding into Jerusalem as its true King and Messiah. Now I’m not sure how many of you have seen Disney’s Aladdin, but Jesus’s procession was not something so grand. He came not on an elephant, not even on a strong, regal horse, but a colt, the foal of a donkey. He came to bring peace, not violence; He came humbly into Jerusalem.

He knew what was coming, He knew what these people would do, these who were rejoicing and proclaiming Him the prophesied Son of David, saviour of Israel. Hosanna, in the Highest! God save us! Later that week they would call for Barabbas to be saved instead and demand with the Pharisees Christ’s crucifixion. It appears they would’ve preferred a warrior king, rather than the servant king God gave them. Jesus did not become this warrior to overthrow the Romans for the Jews, instead He humbly accepted the work God had prepared for Him, even to His death on the cross.

It’s clear to everyone who hears the story, Jesus was a humble man. He even says He doesn’t want to die, then ‘not my will but yours be done’ (Luke 22:42). And last week we heard Jesus say, ‘Father glorify your name!’ (John 12:28). We see that He gives all glory to God the Father, not taking any for Himself. Jesus was humble, disciplined and obedient, even going into death by crucifixion willingly. Can you imagine doing that?

Can you imagine, giving up your desires and pursuing a far greater goal, which will bring you only suffering in this life? Can you imagine obeying so much that you do not run when faced with death? There are many places in this world, where people are faced regularly with death. Do they give up their home and leave? Do they reject their responsibility to their family to save themself? Do they renounce their faith and obedience to God to save their life here on this earth?

Paul here is calling the Philippians to repentance, to turn toward God alone, to have the same mindset as Christ, who humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. God is calling you to this life of humility, to follow Jesus as our great example in this life. He lived in our world, He was tempted just as we are, yet did not sin. That is obedience, and humility to the end.

And this in particular to your interactions with each other, ‘In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.’ (verse 5). Now from what I have seen humility may be one of the strengths of this congregation, to be able to listen well to each other, to include each other, to treat each other as more important than ourselves; to not be too proud to speak, and to not be scared of correcting for the benefit of the other. We can read and think on all Christ’s interactions with people, He sought to heal, to comfort, to correct and to train all for the benefit of those He met, and also for us. Christ’s humility is not timid or quiet, it is not fear or cowardice, but rather it serves those around Him. He obeyed God for your benefit. He humbled Himself by obeying His Father’s commands, His Word, and not obeying Jesus’ own desires. Again, He didn’t seek after fleeting pleasures, but rather sought after the lasting pleasure of everlasting life for all. He was humble because He did His Father’s will, not His own, though He was tempted.

We fail in living this humble life time and again, we fail to obey Our Heavenly Father’s will and instead follow our own evil desires. That is our sin, that is what kills us, what brings us death. However, Jesus lived a life without sin, He completely obeyed God the Father and always did what is right. He tells us through Paul that ‘Christ did not please Himself’ but pleased others for their good, to build them up (Romans 15:2-3). That it was for our sake that He became poor, that by His poverty we might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). That just as through one man’s sin condemnation was brought to all in Adam, through one man’s obedience many will be made righteous (Romans 5:18-19).

Jesus lived the perfect life of humility and obedience, that every one of you is called to. He lived not for Himself, but for you and to bring salvation to all. Not only did He live, but also died as The unblemished lamb for you and as we are joined with His life, death and resurrection by the Holy Spirit through baptism and Holy Communion, all our wickedness is given to Jesus and His righteousness is graciously given to us. Jesus Christ, our humble and obedient King has saved us. Hosanna in the Highest!

The grace of God which passes all our human understanding guard your hearts in Christ Jesus, the founder and perfector of our faith. Amen.
Joseph Graham


True beauty

Text: Mark 11:1-11
Jesus sent two of his disciples on ahead with these instructions: “Go to the village there ahead of you. As soon as you get there, you will find a colt tied up that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here (verses 1,2).

A well-known beauty product company asked the people in a large city to send pictures along with brief letters about the most beautiful women they knew. Within a few weeks thousands of letters were delivered to the company.

One letter in particular caught the attention of the company president. The letter was written by a young boy who was obviously from a broken home, living in a run-down neighbourhood. With spelling corrections, an excerpt from his letter read: “A beautiful woman lives down the street from me. I visit her every day. She makes me feel like the most important kid in the world. We play checkers and she listens to my problems. She understands me, and when I leave she yells out the door that she’s proud of me.”

The boy ended his letter saying, “This picture shows you that she is the most beautiful woman. I hope I have a wife as pretty as her.”

Intrigued by the letter, the company president took out of the envelope a picture of the woman the boy had described – a smiling, toothless woman, well-advanced in years, sitting in a wheelchair. Sparse gray hair was pulled back in a bun, and wrinkles that formed deep furrows on her face.

This wasn’t the kind of woman the president of the beauty product company was looking for. The boy could see in this aging woman a beauty that others couldn’t see. The boy could look passed what could be seen on the outside and see what this person was really like on the inside. It took the disciples a long time to see beyond the man Jesus and see his real beauty and what his life was all about.

I wonder if Jesus ever got frustrated with his disciples as a bunch of dunderheads because they just didn’t catch on to what was the meaning and purpose of Jesus’ life. They saw him healing the sick, curing lepers, raising the dead. They heard him talk about the Kingdom of God, God’s love, discipleship and that he would suffer, die and three days rise again. But they just didn’t get it. They saw and heard only what they wanted to see and hear, and couldn’t see who he really was.

They saw his miracles and heard him talk about God’s kingdom and were expecting him to enter Jerusalem and establish his rule and take the city back for God. In fact, just before the events of Palm Sunday James and John came to Jesus and asked him for the top jobs when Jesus established his rule. They wanted positions of honour, to be royal advisers to King Jesus, to exercise power and authority in this new kingdom. Jesus calls the disciples together and says, “If one of you wants to be great, you must be the servant of the rest; and if one of you wants to be first, you must be the slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served; he came to serve and to give his life to redeem many people” (Mark 10:43-45).

It’s interesting to note that the first half of what the Gospel writer, Mark, has to say about Palm Sunday focuses on getting ready for Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Jesus sends off two disciples to find transportation for this significant event. Jesus tells them where to find a donkey, what they should do and what they should say if anyone objects to them borrowing the animal for a while.

I don’t know which of the disciples were given this task but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was James and John – the ones who had just asked Jesus for the most important positions when he becomes king. Looking for a donkey would be a kind of practical demonstration of what he had just said about greatness and servanthood. “If one of you wants to be great, you must be the servant of the rest”.

Can you imagine them wandering the suburbs of Jerusalem looking for a stupid donkey they could rent – how mundane, non-spectacular, even trivial? Just when Jesus is about to go head to head with the principalities and powers, striding into the capital city, the moment when they are about to share in Jesus’ glory, they are sent to wheel and deal with some donkey trader in some horrible stable and then trudge the streets with a donkey in tow.

And you know how donkeys can be. How embarrassing and humiliating if the donkey refuses to co-operate and they are forced to push and pull to everyone’s amusement.

When the Gospel of John tells this story, John tells it differently. Jesus comes into town on foot. There is no mention of the advance work of the disciples. Rather we hear that when the crowds started hailing Jesus as king, waving palm branches, and shouting political slogans about a new ruler for Israel, Jesus grabbed a donkey that happened to be there as a kind of visual message that he is not the kind of king they are expecting. A king doesn’t bounce into town on the back of a donkey.

But in Mark’s Gospel, finding a donkey and arranging transportation is something delegated to the disciples. For the gospel writer this is an important part of the Palm Sunday story. Without their obedience and their servant-like attitude; without their going off and roaming the streets to make this last minute arrangement, there would have been no triumphal entry into Jerusalem as we have come to know it.

I wonder if Mark is trying to tell us something here. As I said earlier, Mark often paints a very unflattering picture of the disciples – a bunch of dunderheads always misunderstanding and confused about Jesus and who he really was. In the end, when the going gets tough, and it’s time to show what they are made of, they run away and hide. They are nowhere to be seen at the crucifixion. Even at the resurrection they are portrayed as full of fear and apprehension.

Mark’s readers would have known all this so why does Mark give so much detail about the lead up to the Palm Sunday procession.

  • Is Mark reminding us that Jesus had called a group of ordinary folk to follow him, to work with him and for him? Humanly speaking they might not have been the sharpest pencils in the box, they had a lot to learn, could it be that Mark is telling us that in spite of their ordinariness and slowness to grasp what was happening, he could see beyond all that and recognise the potential in them as future servants of God’s Kingdom?
  • Is Mark reminding us that even though they didn’t comprehend who Jesus really was or understand what was about to happen, they were still prepared to respond with obedience to Jesus’ command to find a donkey; that a person can be obedient even if they don’t understand every detail?
  • Is the gospel writer trying to tell us that somehow discipleship and servanthood are interwoven; that discipleship isn’t about popularity and power but about doing the seemingly trivial and mundane?
  • Is Jesus telling us through this event something about himself – that he could have grabbed honour and glory but instead chose the road of becoming a servant for all people and allowing himself to be tortured and killed and then rise again for the sake of others?
  • Is Mark trying to tell us that in spite of the failings of the disciples Jesus was still prepared to trust them, empower them and place great responsibility on them for the coming of God’s reign in the hearts and lives of all people?
  • Is the gospel writer telling us that sometimes discipleship involves preaching, teaching, witnessing, healing and casting out demons from troubled people but discipleship also involves the mundane and ordinary – taking a pie to someone who is having a rough trot, being the one who says, “I’m praying for you”, offering words of assurance and deeds of help to those who need it – even those people we don’t particularly like or aren’t close to?

We can say a firm ‘yes’ to each of these questions. The lead up to the Palm Sunday procession tells us a lot about what being a disciple is all about. Jesus is highlighting that discipleship and service go hand in hand.

Jesus is a true servant and is obedient to the Father. For Jesus, the way is low – there is humiliation. He gave up his glory – he came from the highest place and went to the lowest place. He came from heaven and in the course of his work endured what no person ought to endure all for the sake of what others have done wrong. “He came to serve and to give his life to redeem many people” (Mark 10:45).

Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week. The events of Palm Sunday make a nice story about Jesus being hailed as a king and palm branches being waved as the people shouted ‘Hosanna’. But Palm Sunday loses all of its meaning if it is disconnected from what happens on Good Friday and Easter morning.

If the gospel writers had stopped their record of Jesus’ life with Palm Sunday then we would have a completely different idea of who Jesus is and what he achieved. Palm Sunday is not only about giving glory and honour to Jesus as king; it is about a servant travelling down the road of humiliation and undeserved suffering, the road of torture, pain and dying.

Jesus on the cross is not a pretty sight – the wounds, the bleeding, the crown of thorns, the nails, the extreme agony. We turn our eyes away from the suffering and the shame because it is a terrible sight. We turn our eyes away because it is our sin that put him there.

And yet in spite of the horror, what greater gift could he give to all humanity?
What better example could he give to the disciples who would follow?
Serving others will often involve humility and service to even those whom we think deserve it the least – exactly what Jesus has done for us.

The little boy in my opening story could see the true beauty of the old woman. He didn’t see her missing teeth or her wrinkles; he only saw her love for him and everything that she so gladly did for him. As we travel with Jesus to the cross again this week and then rejoice together in his resurrection from dead, may we again see the true beauty of Jesus – his love, his obedience and commitment, his willingness to die even for sinners, his victory over sin, death and Satan.

So join the Palm Sunday procession – come and walk with Jesus this Holy Week, through the tears and suffering, to the light of resurrection morning!

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy

Jesus our King

Text: Matthew 21:8, 9
A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest!”

As you look through history books you soon realise that when it came to kings and queens that some are remembered for the way they abused their power and used the people of their kingdoms.

One notorious ruler in England was King John who was born on Christmas Eve 1167, the youngest son of Henry II. When his brother, King Richard, was killed in France and Richard’s son was murdered, John became king. (Many believe that he was responsible for his nephew’s death).

John faced one disaster after another.
His army was defeated in France and had to retreat.
To rebuild his army he imposed incredibly high taxes.
The country broke into civil war when his nobles rebelled.
John even managed to get the church offside and was excommunicated by the pope and no baptism or marriage performed in England would be legitimate until the pope said so. And without church approved baptisms or marriages the people were afraid that they would all end up in hell. They blamed John.
John’s life was at risk when the pope declared that if anyone overthrew King John they would be legally entitled to do so.
After John was again defeated in France his barons were fed up. John was forced to sign the Magna Carta at Runnymede in 1215. This guaranteed the people of England rights that the king could not go back on.
When John tried to ignore the Magna Carta the barons rebelled against him again and soon after John died.

Today we hear about another king. This king is nothing like bad King John. He was quite the opposite. There was nothing arrogant or evil about this king. He demonstrated nothing but humility and kindness. He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, a work animal used to carrying loads for farmers and traders. The disciples and those who lined the roads hailed him as the king – ‘the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’

Even before Jesus was born the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that her son would be a king, a descendant of King David.
When the wisemen were looking for the Christ-child they asked King Herod, ‘Where is the baby born to be king of the Jews?’ When they found the child-king they knelt down and worshipped him, presenting him with royal gifts – gold, frankincense and myrrh.

King of the Jews! That title followed him into the trials before the Sanhedrin, King and Herod Pontius Pilate. The Sanhedrin, the Jewish Council, had found Jesus guilty of blasphemy on the basis that he claimed to be the Messiah. But they knew that the Roman Governor wouldn’t be interested in any of their religious reasons for getting rid of Jesus, so they brought a charge against Jesus they knew would interest Pilate. They accused Jesus of treason. He claimed to be a king and was a traitor to the Roman Empire.

Pontius Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus looked nothing like a king. In chains, beaten – having been slapped in the face, and with spit in his hair and beard.

Jesus’ answer is unexpected. He soon sets Pilate right about who he is and affirms clearly that he is a king. But not a king as Pilate might expect. John’s Gospel reports Jesus saying, “My kingdom does not belong to this world; if my kingdom belonged to this world, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish authorities. No, my kingdom does not belong here!”

Such an idea doesn’t make sense to Pilate. With puzzlement written all over his face, he asked a second time and Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. I was born and came into the world for this one purpose, to speak about the truth. Whoever belongs to the truth listens to me” (John 18:36-38).

So you see, Jesus admits to being a king but a king with a kingdom and a kingship quite different to anything that we have seen in history. Jesus wasn’t interested in power or politics, pomp and pageantry. His kingdom was not an earthly kingdom but one that existed in the hearts of people.

Pilate was puzzled.  The people outside were quite clear about what they wanted done with Jesus. They called for the death of this meek and gentle king and the release of the brutal and murderous Barabbas.

Something is wrong here. Jesus hasn’t been brutal and oppressive. The crowd had hailed him as king when he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and now they were asking for this king’s blood. Here is king who is on the side of the people, the friend of the poor, the sick, the guilty, the sad but the people turn against him. A murderer goes free, while a king like no other king, loving and kind, is heading for execution.

Pilate mockingly placed a sign at the top of the cross, “This is the King of the Jews.” This was truer than he imagined. This bleeding broken man on the cross really is a king. The criminal crucified beside him recognises Jesus as a king and says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. And Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

When we were baptised, through the simple water and the Word of God we were made members of God’s kingdom. Jesus became our king. Not a ruthless and pompous king like bad King John, but a king who was so generous that he gave his life for us.
A king whose throne was the cross,
whose crown was made of thorns,
who was dressed in a royal robe as a king and mocked by Herod and his soldiers,
whose blood was called for by the crowds when they said, “Take him away! Crucify him! We have no king but Caesar. …!
Jesus is our king who loved us so much that “he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8).

What does it mean to have Jesus as our Lord and King?

  • With Jesus as our king we enjoy a royal pardon for all our sin. This pardon means that there is nothing that stains our lives. We have been made clean with the righteousness of Jesus. When God looks at us he doesn’t see sin and weakness; he only sees the purity and newness that have received through the blood of Jesus shed on the cross of Calvary. When Jesus declared from the cross “Father, forgive them” he was also saying that to us.
  • With Jesus as our king, he says to us as he did the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise”. He promises that we too will share in his eternal kingdom where there will be no more pain, or crying or dying.
  • With Jesus as our king – our ever present and living king – he promises all those who belong to his kingdom that he will always be there for us in times of joy, in times of sadness, and in times of suffering. When we are discouraged and weak, ‘the King of kings and Lord of lords’ (1 Tim 6:15, 16) assures that there is nothing that can stand between God and us; nothing that can stop him loving and forgiving us; nothing that can harm us. Even when we face death we can confidently say, “I have a king and a friend who will never give upon me and when the time comes for my departure, I am confident of his love for me.”
  • With Jesus as our king he lovingly rules and directs our lives as citizens of his kingdom. He has bought us with his blood, made us his chosen people and urges us to lives of repentance, faith and love. In the Small Catechism Luther says after describing how Jesus rescued us from sin and death through the events of Good Friday and Easter, “Jesus did this so that I can belong to him, and he can rule over me as my king. I can live under him and serve him, innocent and happy forever” (1996 Openbook).
  • With Jesus as our king we are joined together in his family, his kingdom, his church. He has placed us in a baptismal relationship with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
    We have been called to care for one another and to show compassion and understanding wherever it is required.
    We have been called to work together sharing the Good News about Jesus with those who need to know of his love for them.
    Through us, he calls them out of the darkness of sin into his marvellous light.
  • With Jesus as our king we have an advocate before the throne of God. He hears our prayers and answers them. He sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty and has the authority and the power to answer all of our petitions.
  • One day the king will return. He will come on the Last Day and will reward those who have trusted his love and been faithful to their calling as disciples. He will say, “Well done good and faithful servant. … Come and share your master’s happiness” (Matt 25:23).

As we enter this Holy Week it’s a good thing to ask ourselves where we stand in our relationship with our Lord.
Does he rule our lives?
Is he truly the Lord of our lives, Lord in the sense that he directs our actions, our words, and our thoughts?
Does the Lord of lords rule every corner of our lives; not just a small part but every part – our family life, our work life, our church life, our leisure life.
Because Jesus is our Lord and King no doubt there are some things that we need to change, some things we would stop doing, and there are other things that we could take up, all because Jesus rules our lives completely.

This is serious stuff that we don’t take seriously enough. We are good at giving all kinds of excuses. But Jesus is our Lord and King now. As Saviour he has committed himself to us, and as Lord he wants us to be committed to him.

But if we are honest, often we are like the people of Jerusalem – sometimes we are all excited about Jesus being our saviour and king but there are other times when our faith has grown cold (at best lukewarm) and we find ourselves distant from Jesus. Instead of Jesus ruling our words and actions we find ourselves so self-focussed that sin rules our lives as our words and actions hurt others.

When this happens this is a time for repentance – turning back to Jesus, his love and forgiveness, and his rule in our lives. It is a time for renewed faith and trust in him as the one who loves us, died on the cross for us, and calls us to be his people in the world around us.

We have a king who has done so much for us. Today let’s welcome Jesus with shouts of “Hosanna!” He is our Saviour from sin.
Let us also shout “Hosanna!” and welcome him as the Lord and King of our lives.
Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna!

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy


Easy to welcome Jesus but hard to follow

Luke 19:28-40/Philippians 2:5-11


Could it be true that Palm Sunday prods us to ponder that it is easy to welcome Jesus but hard to follow him?

StMarksAs we hear of this new king being welcomed to great applause, we know from our own experience that it is easy to welcome a winner. We have probably applauded the winner many times. Like when our child’s team or our own team won the grand final or or when Australia won the Americas Cup so long ago. It is a good thing to experience welcoming and applauding winners now and again!

If it is easy to welcome a winner, like they did on Palm Sunday, then it is probably quite easy to follow a winner too. If the winner is loved and has good skills and a good plan and the right intentions, then following can be done with relative ease. We are happy to jump on a winning band wagon and see where it leads.

It may be easy to welcome a winner, and even follow a winner, but it is a lot harder to welcome and follow a loser. You may have done that too; like when you are on the boundary line of junior sport or in the crowd of a production and mistakes are made and things do not go well. You have to welcome those who have not done their best and that may not always be so easy.

If welcoming a loser is hard, then following one is harder still. Remember that teacher you once had who you just could not follow but had to in order to get through? Remember that boss you worked under who didn’t always know what was going on or understand the issues, but you worked away anyway.

What about that colleague whom you just find it hard to trust and work with, but you have to anyway; that kid at school who was cruelly named the class “loser” whom you found it hard to stick up for?

It is hard to follow a person or a faith that you or others sometimes judge to be a “loser”.

What would inspire you to do this difficult thing of following a so called “loser”?

You might follow if you knew that the person was not actually a loser. That would take some attention and working through. It would take a seeking heart to find this out. It would take some application, patience, personal time and reflection to discover that your and others’ judgements about the person and their views were actually inaccurate.

You would follow a loser if you trusted that it was all for a great and noble purpose – a purpose of hope, of life, or renewal, of learning, of growing, of truly living and understanding.

You could follow if you trusted that his loss was others gain: a gift given so that good things come to us, and to a world in need.

If the loser was actually a winner who operates on a completely different scale of who is a winner and who is a loser, and if you could understand his way of winning and what it meant for the good of you and the world, then we might follow him.

What of this Jesus on the donkey? How do people in our time judge such a man on a cross and in a tomb. In our time and place, many people would regard him and those who follow him as “losers”.

Even those who profess to follow Jesus – may wonder if they have actually backed a winner when they are not held in great esteem, just as he is no longer held in high esteem by many in our community.

We may even get to the point of only following parts of Jesus – the parts that are easy and don’t confront us too much or make us uncomfortable.

An example:  we hear a lot about God’s grace. “It’s all about grace” we say. Our life is based on simply receiving the free gift of God’s grace and learning to be gracious, and so it goes. This is true, but it is also incomplete.

Jesus doesn’t really allow anyone to leave it there. Yes, he is magnificent in his lavish grace as he takes a beating from evil itself in our place on that cross. Yes he is grace personified as he is lifted up in pain and blood to lose it all so that we can gain all.

Yes, we are connected with the maker of all things in a relationship of compassion and love by the compassion and passion and love of this divine man, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God.

But then he lays a call on us. He called  those 12 people entering the city with him that first Palm Sunday, to “follow”. In his grace – which is grace enough to overlook our ignorance and offensive ideals and actions – he calls us to “follow”. His call to us is a call of underserved love and confidence in us, and yet it is still a call to follow him somewhere or into something.

“Follow what or whom?” we might ask. Follow a lifestyle goal? Follow a code of ethics? Follow a set of values. Follow the great thinkers and theologians? Follow the church and all its teaching religiously? Follow the family tradition of Christianity?

No, not in the most basic and first instance anyway. “Follow ME”, the donkey riding, Servant King calls. “Follow me into the city; into an unknown future”.

So, we are called by this grace-filled God to follow him somewhere in the journey of life he has given us. Today he calls us to follow him into the city and the suffering and the crucifixion and death and then that life at the end of the tunnel.

So, how about it? As we welcome the winner, Jesus, will we also follow him into an unknown future? Will we welcome this divine crucified man who will win the greatest victory of all – the ability and the power and authority to overcome death, forgive human sin and heal human blindness?

Will we welcome him as he reveals the wise and divine to the foolish and impatient this Holy Week? Will we follow him into Easter and see where he leads us? Will we follow him all the way to the cross?

The opposite response to this call would be to settle for a theoretical brand of Christianity. Peter, with all his promises to practice his faith and stay with Jesus even to death, found that the practice of faith and following is more confronting and scary that the theory of it. Actually following in faith is confronting.

But imagine his life after it was all over and he was restored by Jesus to full belonging and love. The practice of following the resurrected Jesus was a joy and a light burden and a great love and fulfilment to his being!

So, will we go for more than only the theory and let Jesus lead us into the practice of being Christian, and in so doing, find that world-shaping and fulfilling life which the Saviour promises?

The time for just entertaining Christianity is over! The call of Jesus to this generation is upon us. He still calls to all of us – “Follow Him”.

Follow him to the cross and stay there with him in your spirit these holy days. Stay in the tomb with Him and wait for the stone to be removed and stand with the Son in all his glory on Easter Day.

He is calling all of us to let him love us, let him surround us with his underserved kindness. He is gifting us with a call right here – to follow him in this place with our skills, our relationships, our hopes, our plans, our whole selves.

So, we welcome the king. We ask with all our soul for this winner to lead us into his suffering and into his glorious power and light for our calling here – in this place, at this time.

Welcome the winner, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and follow him, even if for now-it may mean losing something. Amen.