The Victory of the Passion
Rev. Kurt Lantz Sunday of the Passion B Zechariah 9:9-12
March 28, 2021 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON
Dear daughter of Zion,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is one of those days at church where we have a mixture of emotions. We have the rejoicing of the Palm Sunday Procession as the King Jesus comes to His joyous people. And we have the very solemn heart-piercing account of His crucifixion and death. Do we wave our palms like those lining the road from the Mount of Olives to the temple, or do we weep at the foot of the cross with the women who followed their Lord from Calvary to the tomb?
There is joy in the Passion of Jesus, but it is a solemn joy, the kind of joy that may be accompanied by singing, but perhaps not with dancing. It is a joy that may be celebrated with the raising of a glass for a toast, but perhaps not with an open bar of free flowing alcohol. It is like celebrating Christmas with one who has narrowly escaped death by someone’s heroic act, or perhaps sitting down to an Easter dinner, separated from most of the family.
Our palms are folded into the shape of a cross to remind us of what happened to King Jesus later in the week when shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David” gave way to cries of “Crucify Him, crucify Him”. But we should not dismiss altogether that these crosses we hold in our hands and will keep in our homes are made from palm branches. There is victory and triumph to be remembered and embraced and celebrated, even though it came through Jesus’ death on a cross.
We want to make sure that we end up looking at the events of this week from the right perspective. We are not going from victory to defeat. We are going from the prelude of victory to the cost of victory, but the victory remains ours throughout.
I’m not sure that I understand how all of that affects me emotionally or intellectually as we progress through this Holy Week. But neither do I always understand how life from week to week and day to day at any time of the year has its affect on me. The events of our own lives are a mix of emotions. Sometimes we would want it to be all rejoicing and deny that there is anything else to life. Sometimes we give over to wallow in tears and refuse to let any kind of joy in at all. We know that both of those paths are not the reality, but we get stuck in those ditches sometimes. Our lives are mixture of emotions as we make our way, sometimes from the Mount of Olives to the temple with palms and singing, and sometimes from cross to tomb with silent tears. Although we carry the cross with us each day of our lives, Palm Sunday reminds us that through the cross is our victory.
The prophet Zechariah saw through time to Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and he told the people to rejoice. “Rejoice for your King comes to you.” And yet, Zehariah’s description of the righteous and victorious king was unexpected. He came victorious but in humility, mounted on a donkey. He was not on some white charger or riding in a chariot pulled by black stallions. It was not the picture of victory that people would expect.
In fact, this victorious King was going to put an end to all such show of might and power among His people. He would cut off the chariots from the tribe of Ephraim, and the war horses from His capital Jerusalem. He would cut off their weapons in a mass disarmament. Instead of preparing His people for war against the nations, He would speak peace to their enemies.
It kind of sounds like the ideal of the end of the cold war era, when the Berlin wall came down and nuclear disarmament between the world powers was in the headlines. But our world leaders could not accomplish it. A wall might have come down, but only because nations no longer feel the need to hide their human rights violations. Nuclear weapons are still abundant along with the continued invention of many other ways for nations to subdue one another.
What goes on globally is just a panoramic view of what goes on in your own life. People take down their walls but the oppression continues. The hurt and pain and threat of life are still there because we all think that we need to fight to win. It is not in our nature to lay down the bow, unhitch the chariot, and send the war horse out into the pasture. We think we need to fight.
Well, here comes Your victorious King to save you. But He is not dressed for war. He is not armed to the teeth in order to annihilate your enemies... because He wants to save them too. He will speak peace to them so that He is not just your victorious King, but their victorious King as well. Jesus came not to free the Jews from any one or all nations. He came to save us all. He came to rule “from sea to sea and from the river to the ends of the earth.”
It wasn’t enough for the large crowd to call out “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (John 12:). Jesus also allowed Pontius Pilate to call Him King (Mark 15:2). He allowed the soldiers to clothe Him in a royal purple cloak, and put a crown of thorns on Him. And they saluted, “Hail, King of the Jews” (Mark 15:17-18). The royal decree was posted on the cross for all to see as they passed by and addressed Him as King of Israel (Mark 15:32).
Jesus could have come in dazzling armour riding on the newest piece of military machinery and secured for Himself one people. But instead, He came to save all people because all people need saving from their sins of oppression and despair. He came to save you because you need saving from a dry joy that denies your pain, and from a pit of despair that refuses to acknowledge the victory that has been given to you.
So He came in the way planned out before the creation of the world. He came as Zechariah prophesied. Your king came “righteous and having salvation, humble and mounted on a donkey”. He came amid the shouts of ‘Hosanna’ and He received them with joy. And He went to the cross to conquer the sins of the world, and He did so with joy. It gave Him joy because in this way He became your King. In this way He became the King of all who believe that He has won the victory for them.
In this way He has conquered your despair. He has given you hope. He has established you in the firm and solid ground of victory. It is yours in Him. It cannot be denied. He has done this for you. Your sins have been paid in full by the blood of the King. Your enemy, who would tempt you to despair, has been defeated. Your life of bearing the cross will give way to an eternal life in white robes with palm branches in your hand (Revelation 7:9). Your King, victorious by His cross, will restore to you double.
The palms of victory were shaped into a cross, for that is how your King won the victory for you. And they remain palms, symbols of victory not defeat; reminders of joy secured through sorrow. But the sorrow is what is passed through and the joy is what is secure.
Keep this joy in your heart throughout this holy week, even on Good Friday; reserved, sober, yet joyful nonetheless. Keep this joy in your heart through all of the dangers that you pass, whether they be to body or to soul. Keep this joy in your heart when you remember your sins, for by the heroic sacrifice of Jesus you have been redeemed in order to celebrate the paschal feast in sincerity and truth.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.