He Grabbed Not For Power, But For Sinners

Text: Philippians 2:5-11

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

Over the last 300 years, we have witnessed the tragedy of power – brute force imposed on people to secure power. 

In the eighteenth-century we saw how Europeans enslaved Africans, putting them into slavery by force.  In the nineteenth-century we witnessed the conflict with Native Americans, resulting in many Native Americans being uprooted by power.  And who can forget the twentieth-century?  In the twentieth-century, Nazis Germans declared the Jews as disloyal to the modern nation, superstitious, and irrational, leading to some 6 million Jews executed, while Hitler and his regime rose to power.  And there was Stalin and Mao, along with the millions of dead victims who stood in the path of their power.      

Now, this quest for power, dominance, and majesty was not just a phenomenon in the past centuries but continues even to this day.  For example, we see ISIS attacks, North Korean missile tests, international currency wars, and so forth.  All of this is the mad rush of mankind to be king of the hill, to have power, control, and majesty at all costs.    

There is no doubt about it; mankind has a large appetite for power and majesty.  Instead of fearing, loving, and trusting in God above all things, a person will attempt to get everybody and everything to fear, love, and trust themselves.

And so, we humans grab for power.  We have an appetite for majesty.  We look out for ourselves – we are number 1, and everybody else is number 2.

But this is not how it is with Jesus, though. Praise be to God that Jesus is not like mankind.  You see, according to our Epistle lesson from Philippians, Jesus took the form of a servant by ceasing to use His powers as God. 

We must pause a moment and be careful to note that Jesus never ceased to be the Son of God, not even on the Cross.  But He did abstain from using His full powers as God, while He was on earth.  For example, sometimes, Jesus did not know certain facts, even though at any time He could have used His unlimited knowledge as God.  And sometimes, Jesus was tired or hungry or thirsty, even though God by nature is never tired or hungry or thirsty.  And get this, God does not bleed.  God does not suffer.  God does not die.  But Jesus, who is true God ‘and’ true Man, bled and died for you because He took the form of a servant.

You see, unlike humanity, Jesus does not have some unhealthy appetite for majesty.  While walking this earth, Jesus did not grab at power, for He already had power  Indeed, instead of grabbing for power, what Jesus did was to abstain from using His power, as He came in humility to serve mankind.  He acted as if He were not God by laying His majesty down so that He could carry the heavy burdens that belonged to us.  Specifically, those burdens of sin, death, and damnation.  That is to say; Jesus did not need to suffer. These burdens were not His to carry.  However, He chose to carry these burdens; He chose to suffer.  Christ Jesus, the only Man who could choose not to die, chose the worst death possible, to save you and me.

What a contrast from sinful mankind! Instead of stomping upon sinful mankind in a selfish pursuit of power, Jesus claimed sinful mankind, even though mankind would stomp on Him.   Yes, even though He was holy and sinless, Jesus still claimed us.  Jesus willingly made Himself one of us.  In other words, Jesus lived among us for about thirty years.  He was one of us, even though His divinity was incredibly far above us.  And on the Cross, Jesus embraced all of mankind, so that all of our sins and the weight of our guilt fell upon Him. 

But what does all of this mean though, concerning Palm Sunday? 

Today we heard in our Gospel reading that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.  However, this was Jesus as a servant.  This was Jesus coming in humility, just like we heard in our Epistle lesson from Philippians.  Yes, when Jesus came into Jerusalem on a donkey, He was abstaining from His power and majesty, for He could have ridden upon the backs of mighty angels into Jerusalem. 

Furthermore, Jesus also rides into Jerusalem to present Himself to God the Father as the sacrifice to atone for the sins of the world.  He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  In other words, Jesus lowers Himself to the level of a dumb animal whose only purpose is to be slaughtered.  Jesus lowers Himself – humbles Himself to death – to be slaughtered for you and me.    

And there is more. At the same time that Jesus suffers at the hands of sinful men, Jesus is also preserving their lives and the lives of all living creatures. As the nails and thorns are driven into His holy flesh, the Son of God is keeping the universe from collapsing into chaos.

The lowly Son of Man who looks like nothing but a pathetic, dying carpenter's son, is the great God who protects and defends the world, even when that world turns upon Him and kills Him. 

Dear friends, Jesus did not grab for power because He was already all-powerful.  And yet, even though He was all-powerful and majestic, He laid it all down to serve you and me.  And because of this, God the Father exalted Jesus. 

Now resurrected from the dead, Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father.  Yes, Jesus remains a Man, and also remains the Son of God.  That is how He will be forever. 

And so today, we hear about our humble servant coming into Jerusalem to accomplish our salvation, while at the same time knowing that Jesus is no longer in the form of a servant.  That is right; Jesus is now highly exalted. 

As highly exalted, the saints and angels in heaven bow before the glorious Him, as Jesus shines before them in the unveiled form of God.  And we too, here on earth do the same.  We come before the Lord in His sanctuary, confess our sins, bow our heads, sing praises to Him, and receive Jesus’ presence in the Holy Supper because He is out mighty, majestic, and powerful Lord.    

Dear Baptized Saints, Jesus could have remained as He was before the Creation of the world: the glorious Son of God who had no flesh and no sufferings.  Even when He became Man, Jesus did not have to suffer or diminish His glory in any way.  He could have remained in majesty and power.  But He chose the form of a servant.  He chose weakness, pain, and death.  He chose all of this for you and for me.  He grabbed not for power, but He grabbed sinners.  He grabbed sinners like me and you to redeem and give us His majesty – the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. 

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

This sermon has been borrowed in part from Rev. Andrew Eckerts sermon, titled, “The Form of a Servant.”

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