5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7 but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
It’s Palm Sunday. Welcome to Holy Week, the final battle. This is the day that starts the end, and these are pretty familiar events. We see Jesus asking for the donkey to fulfill that prophecy from Zechariah 9. The people welcome him as the Son of David, as their king, with palm branches paving his way. And so we get the name, and why we had kids waving palm branches at the beginning of the service, because that’s how people greeted Jesus on this day almost 2000 years ago. In fact, 1600 years ago believers in the Jerusalem area would retrace the steps of that day with palm branches in their hands. It’s been a special church festival day ever since.
These things that happened are pretty well known. But it’s not just the things that happened that are important, we also need to remember why they happened. This is the part that is a little tougher to admit. Jesus rode into Jerusalem because of me. He wasn’t enjoying a nice Sunday stroll with his followers. He wasn’t begging for attention. He wasn’t going to Jerusalem to take over the throne he deserved as the King of the Jews. He rode into Jerusalem because there was a final battle, my battle that he had to fight.
That’s because I’m the one who has sin on my record, not Jesus. I’m the one who has found myself trapped on the devil’s side of the battle lines far too often. I’m the one who has broken every kind of commandment there is. If you think of God’s law as a mirror, then what does just one brick do to a mirror? It smashes it into a bunch of pieces. Just one sin is a brick to God’s law, smashing it to a bunch of pieces. I can’t put those pieces perfectly back together again. And even if I could, there’s another problem. I don’t have just one sin on my account. There are tons, every day. It’s been this way sin before I was born because I have two sinful parents who made a…? sinful child. That’s me and that’s you. Sinful people like us caused this Palm Sunday event to take place.
Yes, it’s exciting to see Jesus enter Jerusalem with a grand welcome. Yes, it’s nice to see Jesus fulfilling more prophecy as my Lord. But he’s going to Jerusalem for a battle. It’s should never have happened. The Son of God should not have to fight my battles. The King of kings, the ruler of all things should not come to serve anyone. He should be served by every man, woman and child under the sun. This is the one who can make anything happen with a split second thought, a snap of his almighty fingers. Blizzard in North Dakota in April, no problem. 120 degrees in North Dakota on the very next day, he yawns with the kind of ease it takes to do something like that. Keeping the sun, planets, stars, and that outer space stuff in its place doesn’t cost him any energy.
On top of that, the Son of God had already dealt with the devil in a quick and easy way. Casting the devil out of heaven after he rebelled against God’s perfect authority, wasn’t a fight like trying to quiet a temper-tantrum throwing toddler. He just said, “Be gone!” God already won the battle against Satan. But the devil left heaven and made this place his playground. If he couldn’t beat God up there, he would go after God’s creatures down here. Now, because humanity foolishly left God’s side of this battle, and made an unholy agreement with the devil when we gave in to his temptations, we have this battle raging every day. It’s mine and yours. Jesus shouldn’t have to fight our battle, especially not with all of the things that will unfold this week.
But he did! Because of me and because of you. We are the ones who could never do enough to find ourselves on the other side of this battle, the good side, Jesus’ side. We could never trick the devil and we could never trick God about who we are or what we’ve done so that we end up on the safe side.
Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday because of me and because of you. He saw it from his home in heaven. He saw it with two human eyes as he walked this earth. He knew he was going to have to go to Jerusalem to fight my battle against sin because we couldn’t do it. He knew it was going to be agonizing and excruciating. He knew it all along, that this road pave in palms and cloaks led to his death.
So what was Jesus thinking? If someone asked, really told, you to do something like fight the kind of battle that really wouldn’t benefit you so much, but would help others out a whole lot, would you do it? We really aren’t wired that way. We think, “What’s good for me? What do I like? What do I want?” We don’t spend our time or energy fighting a life threatening battle for someone who doesn’t deserve it. We don’t volunteer for that. That’s not the way we think.
So, what was Jesus thinking? We don’t really get that information from the Gospel for the day, but I think these verses from this old hymn or poem that Paul quotes in Philippians two give us some helpful insight. We know that Jesus followed through with it. He came to Jerusalem. He got on the donkey to fulfill the prophecy. He entered the city to shouts of Hosanna only to hear so many of those voices cry out “crucify, crucify him,” less than a week later.
But what he thought about all this is even more amazing. Paul describes his attitude like this: “being in very nature God, [Jesus] did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” The Son of God decided to be called the Son of Man. He didn’t come to earth kicking and screaming. He didn’t need the power and glory. He wanted to be here to fight our battle, even when he knew it would take humility, the greatest display of humility ever witnessed in this world. He wanted to fight for us, even when he knew it would be painful, messy, miserable, and lonely, because he never wanted us to suffer that way.
From his very first moments in this world, it was all about the servant-like service rather than that godly glory. He took up residence in the womb of a rather simple virgin, whose husband was a lowly carpenter and not a king. He was born in backwater Bethlehem and placed in a feed box for his first night. Shepherds were his first worshipers. The Son of God, who was there to create the human body, had to grow up in the human body. People spoke to him as they would anyone else, most treated him even worse than that. Even on a day like Palm Sunday, we see God living as a humble man riding on a beast of burden. Jesus certainly knew humility and what it was like to be a servant.
But that wasn’t all. “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!” In humility, Jesus willingly put himself under the curse of sin. He let the opponents plot. He let jealous, angry Jewish leaders and a Roman governor brutalize him. The Son of God let men decide his fate.
This was our battle, not his. It was painful and messy. We would never be perfect enough to do it. We would never be humble enough to do it. But Jesus was. He was all of those things and more. And so on Palm Sunday he willingly went to this final battle, not just because of us and our sin, but for us. Jesus knew that this battle would be exactly like the time the devil rebelled. There was no hope for him. The devil is evil and all he wants his evil. Jesus would fight evil with his humble love. He would take the punishment sin deserves. He would ride on to die as payment for our victory. It took his lowly death, but Jesus loves you that much.
The Son of Man didn’t act like a son of man after that, however. On the cross, yes. He was forsaken by his holy Father as he suffered the torment of hell for the sins of the world. But his humble death was not the end. The Son of Man is also the Son of God. His death led to the most glorious event in all of history. Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
When we are talking about this final battle against sin, death, and the devil, they lose. And everyone who is on that side of this battle, everyone who doesn’t see Jesus as the humble servant who has saved us from sin and won a glorious victory, every one of them loses, too. They will have to acknowledge that fact. There is no option. Every knee will bow whether it’s in faith or in utter shock or angry disbelief.
I’d rather join the faithful procession of those who hail him as the king. I’d rather you do that, too. Because that procession is the one who has a Savior from sin. The people in that procession enjoy total victory over death forever with Jesus in heaven.
And do you know what else I like about being on his side? On this side, on the side that worships Jesus for his humble service, we don’t clamor for the glory. We don’t push and shove to get to the front of the line. We don’t treat each other like garbage. We don’t look down on others, because there is no better or worse. There’s Jesus exalted on the throne over all for the battle he willingly fought and won for us, and then there’s all of us. There are no levels. There is no favoritism. There’s just Jesus and then believers. There’s Jesus and then all of us who follow his humble, loving, and willing example. He has made us his people, how else should we act?
Today, we join the procession for Jesus, who willingly came because of us and for us. We praise the Son of God and Son of Man for his humble love and sacrifice. We look forward to the events of this week because we know his final battle means we win the eternal victory. We are amazed that he was thinking it was all worth it…for you!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest. Amen.