Archive for the ‘John 12:12-19’ Category

But For the Grace of God…

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

Palm Sunday B, April 1, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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If you were in Jerusalem on the day Jesus made His triumphant entry, would you have been part of the crowd that gathered to greet  Him with loud Hosannas?  Probably so; you see it was the simple everyday people like you and me that were attracted to Him.  They  liked the idea of Jesus being the Messiah, the son of David, because He was a simple man; one of them.  He was the underdog, and you  know how we all like to support our underdogs!  But they also were attracted to the mysterious side of this son of David; they were  attracted to the miracles He performed, and the fact that the Sanhedrin, the ruling religious party couldn’t explain or refute the  miracles.  Yes, I think we would have been there that day.  I believe that God’s Spirit would have drawn each of us out to shout loud  hosannas!

But there was another group that went out to see Jesus.  They weren’t there to cheer for Him and admire Him; no they were there to  plan His death.  You see, they had a man on the inside so to speak; Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve that made up Jesus inner-circle.  He  would be the tool they would use to trap Jesus and arrest Him in the dead of night, when all of these crowds weren’t around.

So that we can understand all that was getting ready to happen in that first holy week, we have to go back a few days in time; back before Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

Lazarus has already been raised from the dead in the little town of Bethany, just outside of Jerusalem.  The entire town is alive with the exciting news that Jesus raised one of their favorite son’s from the grave.  So they wanted to have some kind of recognition for this great day; there must be a formal celebration.  A man named Simon, who Jesus cured of leprosy offered his spacious home as party central.  There must have been a lot of people at this party, and while we don’t know everyone who was there, we do know through all of the gospel accounts, especially John chapter 12, who some of them were.  There gathered around the dinner table with Jesus, was of course the host Simon the Leper, Lazarus who was raised from the dead, Martha and Mary his sisters, and of course the twelve apostles, including Judas Iscariot, the mole, the Sanhedrin spy!  I think that we can easily identify with each of these people.  Let’s see if I’m right.

You are like Simon because as He was healed of his physical leprosy, you too have been healed of your spiritual leprosy, your sins.  You are no longer an outcast, separated from God’s love for His people; you are one of His people, one of His children who are invited to the Lord’s Table..  Because of all of this, you gladly open your heart and home to Jesus!

You are like Lazarus, because you too were once dead in your sins; lost forever to the living, but by the grace of God you are now alive and no longer lost but found, and because of that you are eternally grateful!

You are like Martha and Mary too, because you can celebrate new life for someone you love.  We all have someone we love who has been saved in baptism!  Because God is faithful in providing, you too have resolved to be faithful in your service towards Him with your time, talent, and treasure!

And you are also like the apostles.  Sometimes you feel so blessed to be a part of Jesus inner circle.  You see God working so mightily among us and within you that you just want shout glory!  You want to praise Him and get lost in worship.  But other times, in the dark times you can get confused and discouraged.  Like the apostles, when Jesus talks about suffering and death, carrying the cross and humbling yourself as a servant of all, you can begin to feel lost and frustrated; maybe even terrified. And when these moments come, all we can do is gather around God’s gifts, His Word and Sacraments and let go of everything else, all of the distractions, fears, and worries, and just worship Jesus.

Mary, the sister of Lazarus knew how to worship Jesus.  She opened a very expensive bottle of ointment and poured it over Jesus body.  This anointing she performed wasn’t some empty ritual performed to impress  others.  No, it was an act of the heart; an act of worship and adoration.  But Jesus tells us that it was also much more than this; He tells us that it was also an act of prophecy, because Mary was anointing His body for burial.  Mary alone recalled the many times Jesus said He was going to Jerusalem to die; that He was going to be lifted up high on the cross so that by His stripes, by His death we may all be healed.

What a beautiful act of worship; it was an act that was not understood by the others at that party.  And if it were not for the grace of God, Mary would not have understood either, but God made sure that she did; He made sure of this understanding because Jesus proclaimed that from that point on her story would be told wherever the gospel is proclaimed, and so now you too understand the significance of her act of worship!

The others at the party must have been confused  by what Mary did, but because Jesus allowed this act of adoration to proceed they were silent, everyone that is but Judas!

And now I must point out that we are all a little like Judas as well.  I know you would rather see yourself in Mary’s place, because she is the picture of pure worship.  But the truth is we can be a lot more like Judas.

When Leonardo da Vinci was painting his masterpiece The Last Supper, he looked long and hard for someone to model for his Christ. At last he located a man from one of the local churches in Rome who was very handsome, a young man named Pietro Bandinelli.  Well years passed, and the painting sat unfinished. All the disciples had been painted except one—Judas Iscariot. Da Vinci looked many years for a man whose face was hardened and distorted by sin—and at last he found a beggar on the streets of Rome with a face so villainous, da Vinci himself shuddered when he looked at him. He hired the man to sit for him as he painted the face of Judas on his canvas. When he was about to dismiss the man, he said, “Can you tell me your name.” “I am Pietro Bandinelli,” he replied, “I also sat for you as your model of Christ.”

Yes each of us still carries around with us our sinful nature just as Judas did.  We love it when the crowds run to our church on Easter Sunday and pack the pews.  We love to see the potential of a large and successful congregation.  We love to see money coming in during the offerings, because not only will we be able to pay the bills but we can do oh so much for God with it.  We can help Jesus build His church!  But when the crowd is small, or the offerings on Sunday seem insufficient, we can become discouraged.  When the worship time doesn’t meet our expectations, when the experience doesn’t meet our needs we will either run away or manipulate events so that we can make Jesus church serve our needs and desires.  And when we go down this road of self-service, we are doing the very thing Judas did.  We are ignoring the example of our Savior Jesus Christ who being God took on the form of a servant, and humbled Himself by putting others first, even sinners.  And He was obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Mary I think had a glimpse of this, but Judas could not understand because he would not!

Instead, Judas saw this simple act of worship from Mary as a lavish waste; he saw it as an unnecessary ritual.  As the sweet smell of the perfumed ointment filled the room, there was another odor that overwhelmed it; it was the vile odor of Judas’ poison.  “Why was the ointment wasted like that?  For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denari and given to the poor.”  And as Judas’ poison filled the room, the sweet aroma of worship for the great “I AM” was replaced by the stench of “I want!”  One by one, the other apostles began to be overcome by this poison as they agreed with Judas.  The hour of worship was over for them; it was disrupted by the demon of greed!

Then Judas Iscariot got up and went and found the chief priests in order to betray Jesus.  Judas would latter, because of his betrayal take his own life.  He would die in his sins and pay the eternal penalty for them.

Now, if you are feeling guilty at the truthfulness of these words, please take time to thank God right now.  You see, your guilt is the very proof that you are not like Judas at all; you are not a child of sin but a child of grace, forgiven and loved by God because of your faith in Jesus.  Guilt is the one thing that Judas did not feel, because He would not allow God’s Word and the Holy Spirit to bring him new life.  He had no remorse because he had no faith, and because he had no faith, he would never know the forgiving love of God!  And because Judas could not experience God’s forgiving love through Jesus Christ, he would never understand why Mary worshiped Jesus the way she did!

But you know God’s love because like Mary, you can see the need for Jesus to go to the cross for you.  You know that while Jesus was riding into Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt, in His heart He was already experiencing the agony of the cross, and you know that He does it all for you!  You know and have tasted His forgiving grace.  And because of this grace, you know what Good Friday and Easter mean.  They mean that on God Friday when Jesus died, He died for you and your sins.  And on Easter morning, when He rose from the dead, He rose for you… He rose so that you would know that one day you too will rise from the dead.  He rose so that you would know and trust in Him alone.  And that is why you will never be a Judas!

A man once asked a pastor, “Why did Jesus choose Judas Iscariot to be his disciple if He knew he would betray Him?” Rather than explaining all of the theological significance of the act, the pastor simply replied, “I do not know, but I have an even harder question: Why did Jesus choose you and me?”  But for the amazing grace of God, when we see Judas we can say that could have been me!  I could have been the one to betray my savior.  Forbid it Lord and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil… in Jesus name… AMEN!