The Sunday Next Before Easter,

Commonly Called Palm Sunday

2019

 

The Epistle. Philippians 2:5-11

The Gospel.  St. Matthew 27:1-54

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

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In the Epistle today, St. Paul begins by saying, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…” (ESV)

 

He then goes on to show the depths of humility that Christ entered into to save us.

 

In the first 4 verses (since today’s lesson begins in verse 5),

Paul says, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, [2] complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. [3] Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. [4] Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (ESV)

 

Paul is writing to this Church as their founding pastor. He loves them and so he says, “complete my joy by being of the same mind.”

 

The pastoral love that Paul had for fellow Christians is admirable. Would that we had that much love for one another.

 

He wants them to get along so well that it will complete his joy.

 

He is not concerned so much with his own situation as much as he is with that of others. He is in prison. The possibility of death looms over him.

 

And yet his concern is how well the Church is doing. And the best indicator of how well the Church is doing is how well it is getting along internally.

 

These Churches are in particular, interesting because they are relatively new.

New to the faith.

New to gathering with one another.

New to being in mixed groups racially and geographically.

 

And of course it’s like any child with a parent or a spouse or some other close relationship….that while that person is away, we want our minds to be at ease, knowing that all is well back home or wherever they are and we are not.

 

Paul was in prison for the Gospel of Jesus. These people were Christians gathered for the same reason…to enjoy the Gospel message and to partake of the Lord’s Supper in godly harmony.

 

What hypocrites they would have been, had Paul received a bad report.  The least they could do is get along.

 

So, within the Christian faith there is to be a built-in desire and expectation to please one another…please those above us in authority…and ultimately please God.

Then comes the difficulty… and to some may say…. The impossible tasks that Paul lists. 

 

Have the same love for one another.

Be in full accord with one another.

Do nothing from selfish ambition.

Do nothing from conceit.

 

In other words, do nothing in order to appear to be getting ahead.

Do nothing because you believe you are superior or think others should admire you.

 

Do nothing to be seen by others.
Do nothing so you can tell others about it later.

 

He is talking about not exalting ourselves over others.

 

Chrysostom: Selfishness is the cause of all sorts of evils. One cannot be both a slave to popularity and a true servant of God. Homily on Philippians 6.2.1–4.[1]

 

Paul says, rather, do all things in a spirit of humility…. counting others more significant than ourselves.

 

He then says, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (ESV)

 

Marius Victorinus: “We are truly acting for ourselves if we also have a concern for others and strive to be of benefit to them. For since we are all one body, we look out for ourselves when we look out for others. Epistle to the Philippians 2.2–5.”[2]

Now that Paul has set the bar so high that perfection cannot be attained in this life, he then tells us about Jesus.

 

Here, Christ is set before our eyes as the perfect example of this.  And if we are careful to keep in mind that Jesus’ life was substitutionary…. as well as His death, we will do well here to understand just what He did in life as well as in death to live and show and demonstrate and even fulfill what it means to be pleasing to God.

 

All that Paul commands of us in the way of humility, sacrifice, patience,…having His mind set in full accord with God…doing nothing from selfish ambition or conceit….doing all things in humility…counting others….like us…to be more significant than Himself….All these things, Jesus did.

Jesus, of course, has a different role in many ways, because He died for us. He brought salvation to us. And even more, He was God.

 

Paul describes Christ and His work this way, “…though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, [7] but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. [8] And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (ESV)

 

Jesus, being God Himself… did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.

 

 

 

Jesus, being equal with God…equal to the Father, did not desire to remain where He was, but desired more to come to save His people.

 

He emptied Himself. He, as one commentator says, did not see being God “…a treasure to be clutched and retained at all costs.”[3]

 

He thought it better to sacrifice Himself and His position…to humble Himself as a servant…to leave the spiritual heavenly realm and to come to His creation in the physical world…and become obedient…even obedient enough to die.

 

If we think about that passage from Isaiah in the Old Testament in the 53rd chapter we read things like,

“Isaiah 53:10

 

            [10] Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;

                        he has put him to grief” (ESV)

 

The cross was not a surprise to Jesus. It was what He came for. He came to die. He came to be a sacrifice for others. …all voluntarily.

 

Before Christ came at the Incarnation, He possessed everything already. The world and all its fullness were His.

 

This is, as He says in John’s Gospel, the “Glory that He had with the Father before the world existed.”

 

Christ’s coming to us is compared to becoming a slave.

From ultimate and eternal freedom to the lowest place of earth …all so that we as slaves might then become sons of God.

 

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 8:9

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” (ESV)

 

This is not financial gain and loss. It is location and station, gain and loss. All that Christ has is laid aside as God…. and laid down as man…. so that we might become rich in blessings and gain eternal salvation.

 

Scott - “Having lived as man, He died as man, but not the common death of all men, but the shameful and cruel death of the Cross, reserved for slaves and malefactors.”[4]

There is the poverty He embraced in order to make us rich by not having to go to death ourselves or make payment ourselves…especially when all that we could ever do would not be sufficient.

 

We have two things here today, blended into one. “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

 

We are to have this mind of humility and self-abasement here, which, Paul says….is ours in Christ Jesus. …meaning outside of Christ you cannot have this mind.

 

This mind is ours IN Christ Jesus.

 

We are in Him as we are as regenerate and baptized people. It is a fruit of the Spirit of God to have this mind. It is a gift granted to us as members of Christ’s body, and it is to be used to not only look out for ourselves, but also for the interests of others.

 

The mind of Christ. We are to have the mind of Christ. Let this mind be in you. Renew your mind.

 

We have further evidence of this humbling of Himself in that we have two Gospel lessons today, not just one.

 

We heard from St. Matthew.

 

Matthew 21:1–9. The Disciples bring a donkey and a colt.

They put their garments on the animals so that Jesus has something to sit on.

Jesus rides into Jerusalem, humble and riding on a donkey, and a colt, the foal of a donkey.

 

This is the Lord God. He has entered the space of His creation. Taken up residence. Tabernacled among us. And now He is on a beast of burden, entering the gates of Jerusalem.

 

We see images of God in the Old Testament riding on the wings of the wind…

Psalm 18:10

 

            “He rode on a cherub and flew;

                        he came swiftly on the wings of the wind.” (ESV)

 

 

 

 

Isaiah 66:15

 

            [15] “For behold, the LORD will come in fire,

                        and his chariots like the whirlwind…” (ESV)

 

Yet, here is the Lord Jesus. His transportation is a donkey. Not even horse. Keener - “…this text is not a “triumphal entry” in the sense of Roman triumphal processions; it is Jerusalem’s reception of a meek and peaceful king.”[5]

 

Power being made perfect in weakness.

 

Yet the crowds were shouting Hosanna to the Son of David. They were shouting the proper things at Jesus.

He was the Son of David. He was in the line of David and was rightfully their king.

 

But we also think again here of this line…not looking only to our own interests but the interests of others.


Is this not also manifested in the work of Christ?  He did not consider being equal with God something to be held on to.


Rather, He desired more to look to the interests of His fallen creation. He desired to save us rather than remain in heaven.

 

We say “Thine O Lord is the power and the victory and the majesty and the glory…” and rightly so.

 

 

 

These are all rightly attributed to Jesus and yet, His desire was to have His people make this proclamation through seeing His humility.

 

The glory of Christ is seen in His incarnation. The lowly birth is heralded by the glory of heavenly angels proclaiming His birth.

 

The victory of Christ is seen in His victory over death, satan, sin and the world on the Cross…a humiliating way to die. 

 

His power is seen in His answers to Pilate…while bound and arrested and standing trial. Answering Pilate with words of truth that confound the Governor.

 

 

 

His majesty is seen in today’s Gospel, riding into Jerusalem, being greeted by crowds with palm branches and shouts of joy…yet riding humbly on the back of a work animal.

 

Always rightly receiving the titles and honor and praise He deserves and yet receiving it not in fame and fortune and looking out for His own interest, but of the interests of those He came to die for.

 

Let these palms you have received today be a daily reminder for the next year of this Triumphal entry. Palm branches being waved at Jesus.

 

Entering humbly and yet it is really veiled power. All that God is, is contained in Jesus.

 

 

Though being equal with God, He did not think it necessary to remain removed, but rather He laid aside the glory and the position to come as a servant….a servant to us.

 

“…the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (ESV)

 

And these palms today should remind us of that each time we look at them.

 

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In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.



[1] Edwards, M. J. (Ed.). (1999). Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians (p. 235). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[2] Edwards, M. J. (Ed.). (1999). Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians (p. 235). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[3] Lightfoot, J. B. (1994). Philippians (p. 124). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[4] Excerpt From: Melville Scott. “The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels.” Apple Books.

 

[5] Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Mt 21:4–7). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.