April 13, 2003 A+D
St. Matthew 21:1-9; 26:1-27:66
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our Lord entered into Jerusalem the Sunday before the betrayal, before the thorns and the nails, as a King. He did not come on a war horse in a great procession. He was not met by heads of state and dignitaries. He did not go to a palace or a throne. His Kingdom is not of those things. He came in humility. He wore a servant’s garb and was acclaimed by children. He rode that Holy Day to answer their prayer: Hosanna. He came not by Jewish treachery, not by Roman hatred, but of His love. He came to fulfill His Father’s will and save His people.
His suffering and death is called “the Passion” because it is His intense love that drove Him to the cross. The penalty for eating the forbidden fruit was death. Someone had to die. Thus the King submitted to His own Law. He breathed His last and died. He died for rebel men, for us, who mocked His royalty and His divinity, who thought they knew better than He what makes for happiness, who drank too much, who fornicated, who have lusted with their eyes and have told lies, who have gossiped and been lazy, who have been racist and desiring vengeance upon those who have hurt or insulted them, who have viewed pornography and stolen, who have neglected their children and pretended to be things that they are not. For us.
For us He is King. For us He came, He died, and He rose. We had no other help, no other hope. We were struck down in our guilt and dead in our trespasses. But His love for us, unlovable, is intense. It is intense for the extreme to which He goes to make us His: to a tortuous, agonizing death with the full guilt of sins He did not commit upon His soul; to the shameful execution reserved for rebels who try to force away the kingdom from the king. That was our crime. But He took it upon Himself and voluntarily paid the penalty. The charge over His head (INRI, the Latin abbreviation for Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews) was true on several levels, but never as the joke they meant by it. For us He is King. He came, He died, and He rose.
His Kingly love is so intense it forgives us all our sins. It removes every not-so-nice thought, every bad deed, and every shameful, despicable act we hope our mothers never know. The ransom has been gladly paid. His Kingly love has deemed you worthy of the price of His life. He gives as a gift to you what Adam sought to steal. He gives Divine knowledge of good and evil that flesh and blood has not revealed. He makes you like Himself, a son of His Father, who enjoys life everlasting and eventual reign in heaven.
His passion is about His love and the lengths to which He has gone to rescue you out of death. Nothing could be more perverted then, than to feel guilty about His death or to be sad as the story of His life, suffering, and death is read. For He did all of that to remove guilt, to heal wounds, to bind up hearts, and bestow joy. He laid down His life of His own accord, on purpose, to set you free. He knew the cost and did it anyway. He wanted to. The cross is His glory. For the cross is where His love is seen by men, where He draws men unto Himself. It is your glory, too. For you were born there out of His side. From your mother’s womb you came forth in water and in blood. From the side of Christ flows the birthing waters of Baptism in which you have been drowned and from which you have been raise. From the side of Christ flows the sustaining life poured forth and into the Chalice. From the cross you are a new creation, beloved of the Father, abode of the Holy Spirit, in the Grace of the Son. You have been joined to that holy death. So that His cross is your glory. And soon you shall also be joined to His resurrection.
We thus embark upon our holiest week, our most solemn celebration. We commemorate the institution of the New Testament in His Blood, the destruction of Hell and its power in His holy death, and the vindication of His Kingship one week from today. Let no one be sad or guilty. For behold, Daughter of Zion, your King comes to you in love.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.