B Cycle – Palm Sunday 21
Phil. 2: 6-11
“Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Paul the apostle who knew and understood forgiveness wrote those words. We know he did not always believe that about Jesus, for Saul the Pharisee believed that Jesus of Nazareth was an imposter. Paul’s transformation was not of his own making, but it happened because Jesus, went to him and asked him “why” with all his intellectual knowledge he did not believe.
I often wonder how many times Jesus came to each of us, revealing himself to us and we failed to recognize him. The scriptures from this week, Palm Sunday and during Passion Week to Easter Sunday, should remind us of how easy it is for us to see but not see, to hear but not hear, to be touched and fail to respond. Jesus, shared intimacy with God and the Holy Spirit when God created us out of nothing. God desired to share His glory and that of the Trinity with us by bestowing on us a position higher than the angels. We know well the story of the fall of Adam, and we know the story of salvation. But we somehow fail to appropriate the grace offered us by the death of Jesus.
Our restoration as sons and daughters of God, begins with Jesus coming to earth. Jesus set aside his glory to become part of the flawed human race with all its division and in fighting for power. His beginnings were humble, the child of a woman who became pregnant before she was married. Born in a smelly stable, hunted by Herod and grew up in a back water town in Galilee. Nazareth was in Roman occupied Palestine inhabited by uneducated laborers whose accent identified them as Galileans. It was that accent that allowed the slave woman to recognized Peter as a disciple of Jesus (Mt. 26:73).
Today with the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem marks the coming to the end of his earthly mission and is in direct contrast to that of a person of importance. Jesus’ entry has him riding a beast of burden, while the Romans ruler would enter in a magnificent chariot pulled by a magnificent a stallion. Instead of being led by legions of colorfully dressed soldiers carrying banners and brandishing swords and shields, Jesus is led by dusty band of disciples carrying palms. Humility has been the hallmark of his time on earth and that humility was on full display in all Jesus did. Especially at the Passover meal when Jesus washes the feet of his disciples and the following day with his death on the cross.
We must at some time respond to the same question Jesus asks the disciples “who do you say I am” (Mk.8:29). Our response like Peter’s must come from revelation not from lessons learned about Jesus. Revelation comes from our inner core because we have been touched by the grace of salvation. Jesus is about to undergo a humiliating flogging and by a death reserved for slaves and insurrectionists. He was not given a Roman citizen’s right to die quickly when he was condemned.
Insurrectionists and slaves were to experience the maximum of pain and humiliation through flogging and crucifixion. Humiliation was in the manner of the death and through the stripping away the outer clothes of the person exposing them to the crowds which mocked them. But the focus of the scriptures is not on that aspect of his death because God’s plan was about love, reconciliation and teaching us how humility is critical to discipleship.
That is why we begin this Passion Week with the words of Paul the Apostle reminding us our sinfulness is not a barrier to God’s desire for intimacy with us. Christ came to undo the damaged relationship caused by Adam’s sin. Adam’s sin was his desire to be like God rather than to share God’s glory as a son or daughter of God. Jesus shows us the way to overcome the sin of Adam is to humbly embrace the gift of salvation and submit to the transforming power of the Spirit.
His actions on this day show us how humility is the path to appropriate for ourselves the righteous gained by his death and resurrection. His entry into Jerusalem begins in humility, riding a donkey and it continued that day with the washing of the feet of his disciples. His disciples abandon him and denounce him. He knew all of that was coming and yet he still washed their feet. A task so lowly that even the slaves of the Israelites were exempt from it. He began his human life in the humble setting of a cave and ends in humility on the cross and burial in a cave.
What is our response to God’s desire for us to open ourselves to receive the love he wants us to feel? The only reason Jesus endured it all was to remove the barrier of sin between us and God.
Can we stand before God like the woman caught in adultery and allow God to embrace us because like her we have been declared forgiven and guiltless?
All those acts of humility by Jesus from his setting aside his glory to his death on the cross were done by him so we do not have to endure the pain of suffering for our sins.
Jesus willingly humbled himself for our sake because we cannot attain the life God offers us by anything we do. We needed a savior, and he is waiting for us to embrace everything he endured for it was all done for our salvation.