Palm Sunday – Your King Comes to Save You

Sunday, March 28, 2021

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Look Where Jesus Looks

What did Jesus see? In our gospel this morning Jesus enters Jerusalem. The people shout their ‘hosannas.’ The children praise him. And the reading ends in a very unique way—if not even a strange way. We, along with his disciples, are waiting for Jesus to go into Jerusalem and carry out some amazing task. Instead, Jesus gets to the temple, and it’s empty. Everyone is at home already. So what does Jesus do? He carefully scopes out the area, looking all around himself.1 What did Jesus see? The words we look at this morning help us answer the question. In Hebrews 12, we read: 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Heb. 12:1–3 NIV)

What did Jesus looking for? What did Jesus see as he was there in that empty temple courtyard? He saw what was there right in front of him: joy.2 Jesus was able to look all around him and see that, by the time Friday was done, he will have paid for the sins of the entire world. And joy, immense joy filled his heart because it that joy was so near to him.

But there was a problem. And the problem was that there was an obstacle in the way of that joy. The shame that came with the cross was in the way. Already, by the end of Palm Sunday he had a taste of that shame. The people and children bowed down before Jesus as the King of David and the Messiah. But the professors and pastors sitting by the roadside made fun of Jesus, heaping shame on him. But that shame was only an appetizer to the main dish that he would taste on Friday. On Friday he would endure the shame of dying for people who hated him. He would sacrifice himself for people whose only use for him was to be amused by him. Joy was right there, almost in his grasp. But shame was the obstacle in the way. And so, he endured the shame—more shame than we could ever imagine to win the joy of forgiveness for us.

Shame was the obstacle to joy for Jesus. But, in our lives the same is true. And so, we need to talk about shame for a while. First of all, we need to understand that there is a difference between guilt and shame. Guilt is a fact and a verdict. We sin and there is the fact that we have sinned. That is guilt. Shame is the reaction our conscience has to this guilt. Because we are guilty, we feel shame.

Now, before we move any further into our understanding, we need to recognize that, to start out with, there is nothing wrong with shame. Shame is a healthy part of being a Christian. When we are guilty, we should feel shame. But each of us has a sinful nature. And this sinful nature takes the shame and uses it for bad purposes. And that shows itself in various stages.

The first stage is that, like we talked about, in reaction to our guilt, we feel shame. In reaction to this, we get to the second stage. The writer to the Hebrews describes it in two ways. Shame is a burden. When I was young, our family used to go swimming. And I was the youngest. So I’d swim over to my oldest brother and climb onto his shoulders. It was ok for a little while. But then it became annoying. So what would he do? He would throw me off of his shoulders. So what would I do? I’d swim back to him when his back was turned and cling onto his back again. Shame works like that. We can throw it away by changing the subject in our minds. But it comes back like a clingy younger brother. The second way God’s word describes it here is as an entanglement. You are walking along in the field and your foot gets caught. And if you’re not careful, you go down to the ground. Shame is like that. You are going through your day and, out of nowhere, what you see or smell reminds you of your shame.

After that there is the third stage. We develop unhealthy ways of dealing with our shame. We engage in actions which make us forget our shame. We get engrossed in work. We binge watch shows on Netflix. We might even have too much alcohol to just make the shame go away. And all of these actions are fine on their own. But they fail us because they do not take the shame away.

What is the solution to our shame. Let us look where Jesus looks. Here we are on Palm Sunday. And Jesus looks ahead to Friday and sees joy. He sees joy in the forgiveness he wins for us. And he invites us then to make that joy our own. This happens in two ways: First, instead of throwing our shame on ourselves or even on others, we throw our shame on Jesus. He is the one who endured far much more shame than we could ever imagine to pay for our sinful shame. But second, we do this continually.3 Whenever we see our guilt and sense our shame, we repent, return to Jesus, and throw our shame on him. And he gives us joy. Now, our brains and our bodies may not fully get or grasp onto that joy. But we have this promise from our Savior, Jesus that this joy is ours. There is joy in forgiveness.

That’s what it looks like to look where Jesus looks. Jesus invites us to see the joy of forgiveness. But he also invites us to see the joy in having people with us. Think of what it’s like to get caught by a weed or vine in a field. When that happens, instead of speeding up, you have to slow down and even stop. You have to do this to disentangle yourself from what you are caught in. And for this God gives to us people. Specifically, he gives us fellow Christians who love God’s word and love us. I mention this because the people we know out there in the world may not be of much use to us. Today, so very often shame itself to the world is wicked. But there can be this good and godly use of shame that drives us to repent of real sins that we are guilty of. And only a Christian in our lives who loves God’s word can direct us to see healthy shame and direct that shame to Jesus who endured our shame in our place.

But there’s more. Our fellow Christians who both love God’s word and love us will help us disentangle ourselves. Those times that we beat ourselves up for events that were out of our control, they are here to remind us that we are not omniscient and omnipotent. For the times that we go back to unhealthy ways of dealing with shame, they are there to gently guide us back to the right path.

And that leads us to the very practical question: Who do you have in your life who will both love God’s word and also love you? I invite you to pray for people, Christian family and friends who can be there for you when others are not able to be there. Depend on them and thank God for them.

And in all of this we are able to then look where Jesus looks. On Palm Sunday he is able to look around at the empty temple. But he is also able to look at the joy that is won on the cross and proven in the empty tomb. See the continual and constant joy in forgiveness. See the joy in having people with us. Amen.

1 “ⲡⲉⲣⲓⲃⲗⲉⲯⲁⲙⲉⲛⲟⲥⲡⲁⲛⲧⲁ” (Mark 11:11 GNT-ALEX)
2 “ⲭⲁⲣⲁⲥ” (Heb. 12:2 GNT-ALEX)
3 “ⲁⲡⲟⲑⲉⲙⲉⲛⲟⲓ” (Heb. 12:1 GNT-ALEX)

Pastor at Immanuel, Steve Bauer

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