Sermon audio here.
Enthusiasm for Jesus couldn’t have been any higher as He entered into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday. Granted, the religious leaders were plotting to kill Him, but the crowds, for their part, couldn’t have been any more jubilant.
They had just seen Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead. For many of them, this would be the most remarkable thing they’d ever see in their entire lives. After all, it’s not every day you witness a dead person come back to life. So our Lord rides in to Jerusalem, lavished in praise: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!”
But there is no praise on the lips of our Lord when He enters into Jerusalem. He turns His attention to those who were plotting against Him and compares them to wicked tenants who killed the son of a vineyard owner. He warns them about the terror they will face on the Last Day if they do not repent, but they wouldn’t hear it. The only reason they didn’t grab Jesus right then and there was because they feared the crowds. As much as they hated Jesus, they loved their popularity even more. For now, at least, the crowds were enamored with Jesus.
There’s a lot of enthusiasm for Jesus at this time of year just as there was on that first Palm Sunday. Granted, not everybody wants to hear about Jesus—God forbid you say, “Merry Christmas” these days—but among Christians, at least, this is without a doubt the most religious time of year. Lent and Easter may be close, but Lent isn’t exactly fun, and the Easter Bunny never seems to be as generous as Santa.
Churches are packed—relatively speaking—around Christmastime. December is always the best month for offerings. Maybe a lot of it’s sentimental, but Christians tend to feel, and maybe even act, a little holier at this time of year.
But the enthusiasm never lasts. It didn’t in Jerusalem. By the time we get to Good Friday, there are no more shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David.” Now the crowds are rabid, and they are crying out things like “crucify Him”, and “His blood be on us and our children!”
Devotion to our Lord also tapers off in His Church. Attendance isn’t nearly as good the rest of the year as it is around Christmas. The holiday offerings are more of a necessity than a luxury due to the annual summer famine of attendance and giving.
As hard as it is to remain faithful within the church, it’s that much harder to remain faithful outside these walls. This is true year round, whether it’s Advent or the 4th of July. Christians tend to be very careful about what they say, especially in places where our Lord’s Name might cause offense. You’re more likely to be Peter in the courtyard—”I don’t know the Man”—than Peter in Caesarea Philippi:”You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
It’s easy enough to jump on and off the bandwagon. Christians can be like all those Southsiders who miraculously became Cubs fans this past fall only to go back to hating them the rest of the time. Jesus is fine in Church, and maybe you’ll even go so far as put out a manger at this time of year, but what about the other 11 months? You’ve been reluctant to shine His light in public.
It’s one thing for the world to insist you keep your faith to yourself. What else would you expect? The world hates Jesus. But for a Christian to regard faith as a private matter is blasphemy. Failing to speak Christ’s Name is just as bad as cursing it. To keep faith private is like lighting a lamp and putting it under a basket (St. Matthew 5:15). Christ is the Light of the world. Why would you keep silent what Christ wants proclaimed from the rooftops (St. Matthew 10:26)?
The Gospel calls you to bring Christ’s light to the world and to lift high the cross. But instead, you’ve listened to the voice of Satan, who wants to keep faith as private as possible, who loves nothing more than indifferent, “live and let live” Christians.
The problem is, there’s a Day of Judgment against those who live however they please. On the Last Day, everyone will appear before God’s throne—no exceptions. To remain silent about Christ and sit back and watch as others perish in their sin is to make you even guiltier than the unbeliever. It’s always worse for Christians to sin than unbelievers. After all, we know better. We have God’s Word.
God expects more of His people. Amos warns the people of Judah that God will punish them because they have rejected His law (2:4). To Israel, He says, “Hear this word that the LORD has spoken against you, O people of Israel, against the whole family that I brought up out of the land of Egypt:”You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities,”” (Amos 3:1-2). To whom much is given, much is required (St. Luke 12:48).
Inexplicably, Christ remains steadfastly devoted to all the Peters and lukewarm Christians of the world. God requires much, but Christ gives even more. He doesn’t wait for you to come to Him. As Zechariah foretold long ago: “Behold, your King is coming to you.” Usually, the subjects come before the king, but not with Jesus.
But what’s even more remarkable than the King coming to His subjects is the sort of subjects this King willingly comes to. It’s not like all we ever have for Him is gold, frankincense, and myrrh. As the line in, “O Holy Night” says, “Long lay the world in sin and error pining.”
That’s the sort of world Christ willingly entered into, one that craves sin and error. The King came to His own, but His own received Him not. That’s the world for which He assumed human flesh. He comes not to condemn, or, like other kings, to impose taxes on his people. This King brings the entire treasure of heaven with Him to give to you.
He publically declares His love for you before His Father’s Throne with no less than His Body and Blood. He takes up His life again that you and all His saints–your loved ones who have fallen asleep in Jesus–might live with Him. Christ gives you comfort and peace in His Spirit-filled gifts, His Word and Sacraments. You may have been reluctant to confess His Name, but He has written your name in His Book of Life.
There are those who would silence the Gospel, but it can’t be done. Christ is the Light of the world, and you can’t capture light. The best you can do is to try and conceal it. Those who try to muzzle the Gospel are like people who think they can keep the light of the sun contained. They may be able to keep the sun’s light out of their own house, but they can’t stop it from going everywhere else. The Kingdom of God comes in spite of their efforts to the contrary and even without our prayer. May it come to us also!
Soli Deo Gloria