March 23, 2013

Palm Sunday Sermon

The Humiliation of Christ
Psalm 22:1-17, Isaiah 53, Mark 15:25-37
Palm Sunday
March 23, 2013

It is difficult for us to imagine how humiliating it was for Christ to become a human being. He who was God "became flesh and dwelt among us," says John 1:1, and Isaiah 53:3 says He was a "man of sorrows."  It is important to know Jesus was not only a man outwardly, He was also a man inwardly. "He took not on Him the nature of angels; but He took on Him the seed of Abraham," says Hebrews 2:16.  So, when Christ came to earth He became a real man.  He never stopped being God, but He participated fully in the human condition as a human being, with no special exemptions or privileges.  In fact, He was a "man of sorrows and acquainted with grief."  He bled when He scraped His knee as a child.  He cried when He hurt.  He got hungry and tired and sick, and lonely.  He knew what it was to live by faith. He knew what it was to be betrayed by a "friend." He was tempted, just like the rest of us, and He died, just like the rest of us.  Wherefore the Scriptures say, "in all things it behooved Him to be made like His brethren" (Hebrews 2:17).  He was a man.

Part of the humiliation of Christ was that, even though He became a true man, He didn't "fit in" with the rest of us.  He was always different.  He was a man out of place.  Isaiah calls Him "a root out of dry ground," a beautiful, lush, green tree growing in a waterless, barren desert, and we are the desert.  There was no one here like Him.  He was truly alone, even among the crowds.  The was no one who understood Him, no one to be His confidant or help.  Even Mary and Joseph were always His inferiors, nor were they able to instruct or comfort Him.  He was perfect goodness.  He did not fit the pattern of fallen humanity, did not join others in their sin.  He always stood apart from them, different, odd.  And no one could help Him or share His burden.  Even those closest to Him slept while He prayed in Gethsemane, and deserted Him when He was arrested and murdered.  "He was despised and rejected of men... he was despised and we esteemed him not: (Is. 53:3).

Yes, He was murdered.  It was the civil authorities who executed Him, and the ecclesiastical authorities who incited them to do it.  But though it was an act of Church and state, it was murder.  Isaiah says He was "brought as a lamb to the slaughter" (53:7), and "cut off" from the land of the living (53:8).  This, His crucifixion and death, was part of His humiliation.  There He hung on the cross, beaten and nailed to it, to be mocked while His life slowly drained away.  He was killed by His enemies, and they were gloating.  Save yourself.  Prove that you are the Messiah.  Let God save Him, they taunted as He writhed in unbearable pain.  Imagine yourself in His place, then you may be able to imagine His humiliation.

The really surprising thing about all of this was that it was God's will for Him to suffer.  It was God's will for Him to die.  In fact, it was so deeply and fully ordained by God it can truly be said, God did it.  Look at Isaiah 53:10; "it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; he hath put him to grief."  Look again at Isaiah 53:4, "we did esteem him smitten of God, and afflicted."  It wasn't the nails or the spear that killed Jesus.  It was God.  God smote Him on the cross.  God bruised Him and put Him to grief, because He bore the wrath of God in His flesh on the cross. And this was humiliating for Christ.  He who was of purer eyes than to behold sin was forced to bear the sins of the world.  He who was absolute goodness was forced to become as one who was absolute evil.  He was even forsaken by the Father.

Then, He died.  "It is finished." He cried.  "Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit."  Jesus, Son of God, Emmanuel, God in the flesh, the One in whom is life, died.  His body went into the tomb.  His spirit went into the place of the dead.  He died.  This is the penalty for sin.  "Thou shalt surely die."  "The wages of sin is death."  Jesus suffered the wage, the death of sin. He made His grave with the wicked, despised and rejected by men and forsaken by God.  There is no greater humiliation.

But He didn't have to do it.  That's the amazing thing.  He did it by His own choice, and He did it for us.  He was wounded for our transgressions.  He "hath borne  our griefs and carried our sorrows."  He suffered the penalty of our sins.  He died in our places.  He suffered all that humiliation and pain for you, because He loved you. Do you love Him?