He Emptied Himself
The Liturgy of the Palms
The Liturgy of the Passion
It was the best of times. Jesus entered triumphantly into Jerusalem:
A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven! (Matthew 21:8-9)
It was the worst of times. How could the Jewish people, in less than a week, go from “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” to “Crucify Him?” Crucifixion was reserved for the worst criminals of the state. Jesus, the triumphant leader, became Jesus, the crucified. Of course, the chief priests and religious leaders of the day had much to do with inciting the crowd. Truth is the first casualty when it comes to tyranny. Little has changed over the years.
Nevertheless, such a quick desertion of Jesus was remarkable. Even Jesus’s most loyal disciples would leave him as Jesus foretold:
Then Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters because of me this night; for it is written,
‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’
But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” Peter said to him, “Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you.” Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” (Matthew 26:31- 34)
In the face of such betrayal, Jesus seemed remarkably calm. The wonder of it all is that Jesus so willingly gave up himself. He endured such horrendous suffering. We read in Isaiah:
I gave my back to those who struck me,
and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I did not hide my face
from insult and spitting. (Isaiah 50:6)
Let us place ourselves in the story. Have we ever gone from glorifying Jesus to denying Jesus in a short span of time? We celebrate him in church. What about him outside of Jesus? That is becoming increasing more difficult to do in our pluralistic society. Or should we say “atheistic society?” If we are still concerned about what others may say about us, then it is time for us to die to ourselves. The Apostle Paul wrote:
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death–
even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)
There is a price to pay for following Jesus. The chief priests were unwilling to surrender their gatekeeper positions. Pilate was unwilling to go against the crowd. It was too big a risk for him. At times have we forsaken Jesus and been unfaithful to him?
Jesus has promised us that he will never leave us or forsake us. He forgave Peter and restored his ministry. Do we need his restoration today? He surrounded his all for us. He was obedient even to the point of death on a cross. For this reason he is able to pour out his Spirit upon us all. Where we are weak he is strong. Walking together with Jesus in his Spirit. we will be able to stand for the truth of the Gospel no matter what the challenging might be. Amen.