Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston & Mount Ayr;
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so 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.” (Philippians 2:5–11, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
How could you do it Jesus? How could you stoop so low? It starts out so well with your entry into Jerusalem. You riding on the donkey, the people waving their tree branches in the air and laying their cloths on the ground to keep the donkey's feet clean. Shouts of "hosanna" which is to say, "the King is here!" It's hard to imagine how a few short days later you stoop to hanging on the cross, rejected, despised, beaten, and bloody. How could you do it Jesus?
But then, that very question could be asked of other people, also. How could you disciples of Jesus and religious leaders of the day stoop so low? Judas was a thief. He pretended that he was concerned about poor people, but he was helping himself to the disciples treasury. And for a fistful of dollars betrayed Jesus and brought his enemies to him. Jesus lowers himself to be counted among the trespassers.
Peter too, adds to Jesus' humiliation. His denial is born out of pride in contending that he would never forsake Jesus. But when push comes to shove, standing in the presence of those accusing him of being Jesus friend, he flat-out denies it. Jesus himself hangs abandoned on the cross for the sake of sinners who deny him.
The religious leaders, who should've been on Jesus side, instead were his enemies. They use false witnesses to condemn innocent Jesus as a liar and blasphemer. Jesus accepts their condemnation in silence. Innocent Jesus takes the accusation of being a sinner.
Ah, but we don't have to stop there, maybe as we wrap up Lent and prepare for holy week it's a good question for us to ask ourselves. How could you stoop so low? I'm speaking to you sitting here today. How could you stoop so low as to cause Jesus humiliation? It's easy for us to look at other people, those in the Bible who betray, deny, and hate Jesus, and those around us who we think are low down and no good. It's easy to condemn them and say they had their part. It's easy to blame our neighbors who hurt us, in our family we can't get along with, for their sin. But Lent is a time when we look at ourselves in our true light. We look at ourselves to see our own sin. It's the beginning of repentance and faith.
Jesus says, "Why do you see the spec that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:3) We constantly do the opposite of what Jesus says. Others are to blame. Others hurt us. And we fail to see that we are the other who hurts our neighbor. We are the other who is to blame. And we justify our selfishness by holding our needs over the needs of our neighbors. And we cling to our things. We make what we have more important than the people God has put into our lives. Our pride and selfishness are the cause of Jesus being made low. He lowers himself, and suffers the just punishment for our selfishness. Jesus puts himself on the cross, counting you and I more important than himself.
How could you, Jesus, stoop so low? How could you allow your humiliation? Because you are the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The one who was slain from the foundation of the world, for the sake of sinful human beings. Because in the beginning God created the world through you, the word. So you are the Creator and Redeemer of the world.
How could you, Jesus, stoop so low? Because God is love. You are God. Love of your creation and your created human beings drives you to the cross. Love is that which would set us free from our slavery to sin. Love does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
How could you, Jesus, stoop so low? Because only you can save us. Only you, God who became man. Your death on the cross is enough to forgive our sins because you are God. Your death is our death because you are a man. You who knew no sin became my sin for us. You took my sin into death on the cross. You suffered our, oh so well deserved, punishment. You were forsaken by your friends, by us, and even by God himself. That is the punishment that our sin deserves, to be ignored and rejected by God. And yet you stoop so low as to do it for us. And you do it because we would not, and cannot. And if it were not for you we would be lost forever. You are the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of us. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.