Sunday, April 8, 2007

Why It Matters What Happened

Texts: 1 Corinthians 1-8, 12-20; Luke 19:28-44

IT NEVER FAILS. It just never fails. We just CAN’T get to Easter without some so-called expert coming up with some amazing new so-called evidence that Jesus really wasn’t who the Bible says He is and that He didn’t really rise from the dead.

This year it came early. This year, we got the TV program alleging that archaeologists had actually found the dusty bones of our Savior-- and the bones of His family as well. That’s the truth, according to film makers Simcha Jacobovici and James Cameron: Jesus’ bones are going down to dust in a rock-cut tomb outside Jerusalem, along with the bones of His wife (Mary Magdalene, of course!) and His mother and His brothers and His cousins and His aunts.

Yeah, right. And I’m the Easter Bunny.

True, legitimate scholars wasted no time proving Cameron and Jacobovici wrong. It’s true there’s a tomb they found back in 1980 with common names like "Yeshua" and "Mariam" and "Yose" on them. But the evidence doesn’t fit what archaeologists know about how burials were done with various classes of people back in Jesus’ day. And it contradicts what we know about Jesus and His earthly family from the Gospels. And the Gospels are the earliest eye-witness accounts. They’re what scholars call "primary sources," and if an historian or other scholar won’t pay attention to primary sources, he’s no historian or true scholar at all.

James Cameron and Simcha Jacobovici aren’t historians or scholars. They don’t even claim to be. They’re film makers. But they still wanted people around the world to believe their story about Jesus never being raised from the dead, about Jesus’ body still being in the tomb.
Does that shock you? It shouldn’t. It’s just unbelievers acting like unbelievers.

We could have a real good time this morning going over all the reasons why Cameron and Jacobovici are wrong. If you want to know about that, I can put you in touch with some resources that prove their conclusions are in error. But today, on this glorious Feast of the Resurrection, let’s look instead at why anyone would want to prove Jesus never rose from the dead, and then why it matters so much to us that He really did.

In our reading from 1 Corinthians 15, St. Paul tells us that Christ’s death and resurrection are of first importance to us and our Christian faith. If Jesus is not risen from the dead, we’re telling lies about God to say He was, and God’s wrath will be upon us. If Jesus is not risen, our faith is futile and we are still in our sins.

. . . . Oh, yes. There it is. That annoying four-letter word: "Sins." Jesus didn’t die and rise to prove He could, He died to pay the terrible price for our sins and He rose to give us changed, new, godly lives. His death was a thunderous judgement upon the selfishness, the greed, the lust, the unrighteous anger, the idolatry of every last one of us. And His resurrection life given to us is proof that we all need to change. The lives we got when our mothers birthed us aren’t good enough for God. We have to have the risen life of Jesus Christ in us, or be forever condemned.

But it’s not just obvious unbelievers like Cameron and Jacobovici. Before the Holy Spirit brings us to Christ, we all resent being told we’re sinners. We all reject the idea that we have to be given a new life, or else die. It’s of first importance to all the unbelieving world to reject the truth and power of the resurrection and try to prove the New Testament wrong. It would allow them to go on thinking they’re okay just the way they are. It allows them to hang onto their self-image as wonderful people.

But wishing won’t make it so. As St. Paul says, "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures." Our sins could only be covered by the blood of God’s own innocent Son. And, "He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures." Eternal life for us could only come from Him. The world may not choose to believe it, but, as the Holy Spirit says, "Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep."

In St. Luke’s account of that first Resurrection morning, we read that Peter and the rest of the disciples didn’t believe the Good News the women brought. Peter went to the tomb anyway, just in case. But when he saw it was empty, he still didn’t believe. He just went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

It hits me that if that’s all the Gospels had to record, it would make sense for us to try to find the tomb of Jesus Christ-- though if Christ is not risen, nobody today would even care or know about Him any more. Why believe the women? In Jesus’ day, their testimony women would have counted for nothing in a court of law. Maybe they were just deluded! And an empty tomb and folded graveclothes are not conclusive proof that a very dead Man has been raised bodily from the grave.

But we know the story does not end there. When we read this history in St. Luke, we have that delicious sensation of knowing more than the people in that long-ago garden did. We want to say, "Peter! Peter! We can tell you what happened! Jesus really is risen! Just wait! In a few minutes you’ll meet Him face to face, yourself! In a few hours, He’ll come and greet you and all the disciples in person! Rejoice in what has happened, Peter! Christ is risen indeed!"

An empty tomb that morning can be argued against. But Jesus appeared alive among them, time after time. He appeared to Peter, then to the Twelve, then later at one time to over five hundred reliable witnesses, most of whom were still alive when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians in AD 55. You can believe them and the accounts they left behind. If you don’t believe them, you may as well not believe anything that history tells us.

I know there are people cannot yet believe that Jesus has been raised. They don’t want to be cheated or fall for something that might not be true. They want reliable proof, and they’re willing to be shown it.

But if you positively will not believe the word of Scripture, very likely it matters to you that what happened that day was not the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Your self-esteem; your whole sense of self depend on it not being true.

But even more it matters to us Christians that He rose that day.

If Christ were not raised, what are we doing here? You want to do nice things for your fellow humans? Go join the Kiwanas Club! You want to embark on a campaign of personal moral improvement or strengthen your marriage? Read any book by Dr. Laura Schlesinger! The Church-- all of us gathered here today and all of us gathered in the Spirit throughout the world-- the Church isn’t about making us nice, helpful, prosperous, fulfilled people! It’s about proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ risen from the dead. It’s about bringing new birth to others and together living lives that will prepare us to live with Him forever in Eternity. If the Christ you worship is not risen, He can’t help you after you die. For as Paul says, "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied beyond all men." If Jesus is not risen, give it up! Quit the church! Why knock yourself out to be helpful and good? You’ll just moulder in the grave anyway!

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. Jesus’ physical resurrection gives us a free sample of what we’re going to get when we rise from the dead and get our new bodies, too. More than that, Christ’s physical resurrection is the first portion of a glorious offering He’s going to make to His God and our God, His Father and our Father. He offered those firstfruits going on two thousand years ago. The rest of the offering will be lifted up to God when we-- all we who believe in His name-- are raised up bodily at the Last Day, when we will be just like Him and God will accept us as worthy in His sight.

Our hope is not just for this world, it is also for the world to come. It matters deeply that we can trust with our minds as well as with our hearts that Jesus Christ is risen, indeed.

And if it matters to us, it matters more to Almighty God. For that is really why it matters what happened that April morning around 30 AD. The resurrection of Christ glorifies His Father in heaven. Our resurrection with Christ displays God’s love, honor, and grace. It brings Him eternal praise. It vindicates His righteousness and utterly defeats Death and the Devil, our enemy and His.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is for us. But ultimately, it’s about God. And so we give our Father glory, honor, and praise for what He has done for us in our Savior Jesus Christ. We renounce all sinful ways that contradict the new life He has given us through His Son. We pray diligently for lost souls like James Cameron and Simcha Jacobovici, and especially for unbelievers who may be our co-workers, our neighbors, or members of our own families, that Christ’s resurrection light will dawn upon them, and they, too, will be saved. And we look forward to the great Day when our own bodies will be transformed to be like the resurrection body of Jesus Christ; to whom with the Holy Spirit and God the Father be all power, riches, wisdom, and strength, glory, honor, and blessing. Alleluia, amen!

[Preached at the main service, the Feast of the Resurrection, A.D. 2007]

"Remember What He Told You"

Text: Luke 19:28-44

AT MY WEEKDAY JOB AT THE architecture firm, there’s a guy named Steve who’s the computer drawing expert. He’s considered to be the best CAD (that stands for "computer aided drafting) operator in the firm, and he holds classes from time to time for the rest of us.

Last fall, it was my turn, along with a couple of guys who like me only draw by hand. We had maybe three sessions, then I went back to doing my usual hand drafting the next few months.

Until late February, that is. That’s when I got pulled onto a job that was all being done on the computer. I got thrown into computer drafting headfirst, and didn’t do too badly for what I had to get done. But I kept running up against difficulties where I couldn’t make the program do what I needed it to. And I’d go round to Steve’s desk and say, "Steve, how do I get all my lines to show up when I print?" Or, "Steve, how do I make my drawing the right scale?"

And more often than not, Steve the CAD expert would say, "Don’t you remember what I told you? It’s in your notes!"

When he says that, there’s no point arguing that he’s lived with computer drafting programs every day for the past ten-fifteen years, but this is the first time I’ve had to use one. No, I didn’t remember what he told me! How was I supposed to remember? Last October it didn’t mean anything to me!

That’s how our hearts and minds work. If you enjoy a certain body of knowledge or skill, it’s constantly real to you and you keep it in mind. But if an idea confronts you that’s disconnected to your everyday reality, you won’t remember it or grasp it, no matter how many times it’s repeated to you.

That’s what it was like for the two Marys, Joanna, and the other holy women and for Peter and the other disciples that first Resurrection Sunday morning. During His ministry Jesus had kept on telling His disciples that after He was put to death, He would assuredly rise again. But that statement meant nothing to the disciples. It didn’t compute. Jesus might as well have been banging a pot, for all the sense His words had made to them.

So it’s daybreak, and the women approach the tomb. They fully expect Jesus’ dead body to be there. And when it isn’t, it makes no sense! Then two young men in dazzling white appear-- One more thing they couldn’t take in!

But as the women hide their faces in terror, the angel voices penetrate their confusion. The angels say, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, he is risen! Remember how He told you, while He was still with you in Galilee: The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and on the third day be raised again."

St. Luke records that now, the women did remember. By the power of the Holy Spirit the truth of the resurrection broke into their reality and made itself at home. Now they remembered what Jesus had said about rising again! Now Jesus’ words about rising again were rich and full of meaning. They were exactly what those grief-stricken, downcast women could use.

Thank God, the angels at the empty tomb were not like my colleague Steve. When Steve says, "Don’t you remember how I told you?" he’s exasperated, because I’m wasting his time. But the angels say, "Remember how He told you?" and the phrase holds out comfort, compassion, and new hope.

Of course the women hurry and tell the rest of the disciples. Jesus has risen again, just like He said He would! But the good news of Christ’s resurrection is still gibberish to the others. Luke says, "They did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense."

We’d be the same in their place. Think how shocked and frightened they were. What a pall of despair must’ve oppressed them in that room! Think-- no, feel the misery those men and women had! Their Lord had been crucified. Their hope and the hope of Israel and all the world had been lacerated and hung on a Tree! If you’d felt like that, the Good News that first Resurrection Day wouldn’t have been good news, it would’ve been meaningless noise.

And I’d say Peter felt most desperate and miserable of them all. Not only was Jesus dead, but the last time Peter saw Him, he’d sworn up and down that Jesus wasn’t even somebody he knew!

Peter’s very desperation drives him to the tomb to see for himself. But he comes, he looks, and he goes away. All Peter can do is wonder to himself what has happened.

And there our reading ends.

But we know what had happened! Jesus was raised from the dead, and we give testimony to that this Easter Sunday and every Sunday of the week! The very fact that we are gathered here to worship Him is proof of the fact that the tomb of Jesus was empty and stays that way to all eternity.

But you and I, like the women, like the other disciples, like Peter, we all go through times when the resurrection of Christ seems to have no meaning for us. Times of trouble and grief, when our feelings overwhelm us and the words of preachers like me seem like empty sounds.

That’s why it’s dangerous to try to prove Christ is risen by what we feel in our hearts. Our hearts are fickle and tell us all sorts of lies. No, believe His word, for it is constant and true.

Believe His Holy Spirit, who helps you understand what the Bible says. Read it, hear it, and, remember how He said-- He would be raised again. We know Jesus lives because the Holy Spirit speaking through the Scriptures tell us so, and from start to finish the Scriptures give glory to Him.

Jesus is risen, whether we feel He is or not. Jesus is risen, despite the claims of false religion and false science. Jesus’ word is faithful and true, He is alive even now, and we never need to give in to confusion and despair again.

So rejoice on this morning and every morning! Remember always what Jesus your Lord told you: He died for you, He is risen for you, and that is the plain, meaningful, and wonderful truth.
All praise to you, Lord Christ! Alleluia, amen!

[Preached at the sunrise service, the Feast of the Resurrection, A. D. 2007]

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Everything to Do with Me

Texts: Isaiah 53; Luke 22-23

"DO YOU HAVE A MINUTE? I need to tell you what happened to me, only a few months ago.

"Oh! My name is Rivkah bas Yaakov, and I live with my husband and three children in Sepphoris, about five miles north of Nazareth.

"This is the first year I’ve been able to come up to Jerusalem for the Passover. My two eldest are finally big enough to make the journey, and my youngest, I left with her grandmother. And so, I came.

"It was very exciting travelling with the crowd of pilgrims along the road. We were all looking forward to going up to the Temple and eating the Passover lamb.

"We reached the outskirts of Jerusalem late on the first day of the week. Ahead of us was another crowd of pilgrims, singing and shouting even louder than we were. Something about 'Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!' I thought they were just being really enthusiastic with one of the going-up-to-Jerusalem psalms. But word drifted back that it was the rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth, who was causing all the commotion. Seemed He was riding into Jerusalem, and people wanted to crown Him king.

"Well, that was interesting, but nothing I needed to get involved in. I had enough to do keeping my boys from getting lost somewhere. Whatever Jesus was up to, it had nothing to do with me!

"(You may not believe this, but up in Galilee I never got around to hearing Jesus preach. I was too busy with the house and the children and all. I was glad to hear that this Teacher could do miraculous cures. But I didn’t need healing. His miracles were nothing to do with me.)

"Anyway, that day coming into Jerusalem, the commotion over Jesus of Nazareth died down by the time we reached the City gate. The next few days went by quickly. There were old friends to visit and provisions to buy for our Passover meal-- I hardly had a minute to sit down.

"Which was why I was so annoyed, five nights later, to be awakened by the roar of a mob, a few streets over. My husband opened the lattice and saw a fellow running by outside. 'What’s all the noise about?' my Reuben asked. The fellow replies, 'Oh, they’ve arrested Jesus of Nazareth for sedition! They’re taking him to the high priest’s residence, to be tried!'

"Oh! That was really too bad. I’d always heard Jesus was a good man. But I supposed it was only to be expected, the way He kept running up against the authorities. I was sorry He’d been arrested, and I hoped they’d decide to let Him go. But I figured Jesus would have to take care of Himself. I wanted my sleep--- and anyway, it had nothing to do with me!

"The next morning, I needed to go to the market to buy the bitter herbs for the Passover meal. I was told I could find good produce at a stall near the palace of the Roman governor. But as I came nearer, I could hear shouting, angry voices from the palace courtyard. I was beginning to think that Jerusalem was nothing but mobs! I asked a passerby what was going on, and she replied, 'Oh, it’s terrible! They’ve taken Jesus of Nazareth before Pilate, and they want permission to have him crucified!'

"And as she spoke, the uproar rolled towards me like a wave and out of the confusion I could hear voice after voice screaming, 'Crucify him! Crucify him!'

"Oh, no. I’d seen a crucifixion once, and never wanted to look on one again. What a hideous, unjust fate to fall upon someone like Jesus! I felt totally sick about it, and hurried straight back to our lodgings. After all, what could I do about it? Nothing! Besides, if Jesus went to the cross, what did it have to do with me?

"But I still needed my bitter herbs. So later that morning, I set out again. I was heading along Market Street, thinking hard about everything I’d seen and heard in Jerusalem, when I came to the intersection with the street that leads to the western gate.

"A crowd lined the way. This crowd was not raging, or roaring. They were just standing in stunned silence, or weeping. I looked down the street and saw a Man, or what was left of a Man, lashed, torn, bleeding, struggling under the weight of a massive cross. I could hear the whispers: 'It’s Jesus, the prophet from Galilee. They’re taking Him to be crucified.' 'It’s Jesus-- He told the high priest He was the Son of Man spoken of by the prophet Daniel.' 'I hear He told Pilate He was our true king, the king of the Jews.'

"I looked, and there on His brow was a crown woven of thorns. Placed there as a joke, no doubt. But as I looked, I could see majesty and patience reflected on His face, struggling through the blood and the pain. And it went through me like a knife: What if it’s true? What if this Jesus really is the Messiah and our promised King? We have assassinated our prophets and kings before! What if we were about to crucify God’s Chosen One? What would become of Israel then?

Just then, He fell under the weight of the cross. The Roman guards yanked a sturdy-looking man from the crowd and put Jesus’ cross on him and made him carry it behind that bleeding, broken Figure. I found that I was standing with a group of other women, most of them from Jerusalem itself. They were mourning and wailing for Him. Me, I was too stunned to do anything but stare. Because it was as if Jesus had been reading my thoughts. He turned His blood-streaked face to us and said, 'Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, "Blessed are the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!"'

"There was no vindictiveness in His countenance, no spite; only love and grief for us, for what would someday happen to us. And the thought came into my head, 'Rivkah, you must get your Passover lamb.' Oh! How could I think of shopping at a time like this!? But then, another Voice was in me, saying, 'Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!'

"Yes, that’s what they said John the Baptizer had said about this Jesus. 'Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!'

"And I watched Jesus of Nazareth stumble towards the western gate, with the poor wondering countryman carrying the cross behind Him. Going to be crucified. No-- Going to be sacrificed. Like a Passover lamb-- For the sins of my people. For my sins. For me.

"All these years, I had thought Jesus and His doings had nothing to do with me. Nothing to do with me? Oh, Lord God, forgive! Jesus and His doings had everything to do with me! It was my sins who put Him on this road! It was my sins that cut open those wounds on His chest and back! It was my sins that laid that cross upon Him, that cross He was now too lacerated and broken to bear!

"He was my Passover Lamb, whose blood could ward off the condemnation rightly coming on me. Destruction would come, Jesus had just said. But Scripture said the blood of the Lamb would keep the angel of death away.

"But how? How could the blood of this crushed and dying Jesus save me?

"I didn’t know how, that day in Jerusalem. I know now that the cross was not the end for Him. It’s a story you need to hear. But right now, I want you to accept in your heart the same truth the living God burned into my soul there in the street to the western gate: That Jesus is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. He is our Passover sacrifice, whose death will keep eternal damnation from us and those we love.

"And now I plead with you, feed on Him in your heart and be saved from the judgement your sins deserve. For His innocent death has everything to do with me. And it has everything to do with you."

Lord, have mercy upon us. Amen.

[Preached at the Tenebrae service, Maundy Thursday, A.D. 2007]

Sunday, April 1, 2007

The Stone the Builders Rejected

Texts: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; Luke 19:28-44

ABOUT A THOUSAND YEARS BEFORE CHRIST, King Solomon built the Temple in Jerusalem. All the stones for the Temple were precut at the quarry and delivered to the site. We can read about that in the Old Testament book of First Kings.

But elsewhere it’s recorded, that one day a shipment arrived that included a large stone with a very odd shape. The foreman, the construction administrator, the architect, the priest in charge of the work-- they all said, "What are we supposed to do with a botched-up stone like that? They must’ve made a mistake at the quarry!" So the builders had the unusual stone dragged over to the side of the jobsite, to be hauled away with the rest of the rubbish once the Temple was completed.

They went on with the work, until it was time to finish up the great lintel over the Holy Place. The work was all being supported by scaffolding up to then, but once that lintel was done, the scaffolding could be removed and the building would stand up by itself. The workmen looked and looked for the capstone, and they couldn’t find it anywhere. Till finally someone said, "What about that odd-shaped stone out in the rubbish pit? Would that fit there?"

So they went and looked at the rejected stone. They brought it back and lifted it up and sure enough, it was an exact fit! The stone the builders rejected turned out to be the capstone of the whole Temple!

And all the people, from King Solomon to the lowliest slave, marvelled at this. They recognised that the Lord had done this, to remind them that His foolishness was wiser than their wisdom, and His weakness better than their strength.

The builders had meant well. They wanted the Temple to be built. But they’d let their own ideas about how it should happen blind them to the way the Lord wanted things to be. They had to humble themselves and repent. And from what we read of the joy at the Temple’s dedication, I’d say they were happy to do so.

And a song was made, this Psalm 118 that we used part of for our Call to Worship, commemorating what the Lord had done. God’s people sang it every time they came up to the Temple in Jerusalem for the great feasts, especially when they came to celebrate the Feast of the Passover. "O Lord, save us!" the people sang; that is, "Hosanna!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"

Year after year they sang the song about the stone the builders rejected. Decade after decade, whenever God’s people Israel went up to celebrate the Passover, they sang of Him who would come in the name of the Lord. Century after century they sang, until one year, just before Passover time, a group of pilgrims came up to Jerusalem from Galilee. Their leader, a Rabbi known as Jesus of Nazareth, directed some of His disciples to bring Him a donkey colt from a nearby village, a colt no one had ever ridden, that He might ride it into Jerusalem.

The followers of this Jesus knew what that meant. He was fulfilling the prophecies of ancient Scripture and declaring Himself to be Israel’s King. So they spread their cloaks on the road before Him, to do Him homage and honor.

St. Luke records that Jesus approached the place where the Jerusalem Road goes down the Mount of Olives. As He did, the whole crowd of disciples began to shout and sing Psalm 118 as they never had before: "Hosanna! Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!" Because now they knew, by the Holy Spirit they were convinced that this Jesus was at last the King and Messiah who was to come! His miracles proved it! King Jesus was about to enter the Gate of the Lord, through which the righteous may enter the City and the Temple courts! God’s King was coming! God’s King was here!

But not everyone was happy about it. There were Pharisees in the crowd as well, religious leaders of the people. To be fair, they were looking forward to the coming of King Messiah, too. They really wanted God’s kingdom to be restored to Israel. But it couldn’t come like this! Not now! Why, Israel wasn’t ready! Common sinners were breaking God’s Law every day! Corrupt Temple priests and Sadducees were perverting the Law to profit themselves! And how could it be a King like Jesus? How could He stand against the cruel Romans and their almighty Caesar? "Jesus, Teacher," they plead, "tell your disciples to pipe down! Are You an idiot letting them proclaim You as King? Do you want the Romans to come and arrest and crucify every last one of us?"

But Jesus says, "I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out!"

We can rightly take that to mean that if human voices will not acknowledge Jesus to be King, then mute creation will take up the cry!

But over and over in the Old Testament, we read of stones being called as silent witnesses against perjury and faithlessness. "O Pharisees," Jesus declares, "My disciples must bear witness to Me as King. And if you yourselves do not proclaim that to be true, you lie, and the stones of this Temple will cry out what liars you are!"

And there on the road to the Beautiful Gate, the righteous King Jesus began to cry out Himself, to weep violently, in fact. The people are singing the song about "This is the stone the builders rejected; it is the Lord’s doing and it is marvellous in our eyes!" Meanwhile, Jesus weeps over the City and its Temple. For He knows that He Himself is the rejected Stone. The builders were the leaders of the Jews, and oh, yes, they really and truly wanted King Messiah to come. But they wanted a king of their own imagining. A king of their own choosing. They probably could not have agreed among themselves what sort of king that should be-- but they definitely agreed that this Jesus could not be that king!

But Jesus is the King. And His sorrow is deep over Jerusalem and its people, for He knows what the consequences of rejecting Him will be. They could have had the peace of God; instead, they will suffer hideous war. They and their children could have been lifted up to the heavens; instead they will be literally cast down into a living hell. All because they refused to accept Him as God Himself come to be their Lord.

In 1st Corinthians, St. Paul writes, "Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles." For the Jews, Jesus’ miracles meant nothing once He was crucified. And for the scientific Greeks, nothing could be more absurd than this story of a common Carpenter dying on a cross and being brought back to life again. They both rejected the Christ God had sent.

But now, woe to us if we think Jesus’ tears are only for the Jews of His day. Woe to us if we think Paul is talking only about Greeks and Jews of ancient times. No, we all fall into one of those categories. All of us are naturally prone to expect and worship a saviour of our own imagining.

What kind of false Christs do we Americans look for these days?

Oh, there’s the Christ of Social Activism. And the Christ of Family Values. The Christ of Pacifism and the Christ of Peace Through Strength. There’s the Christ of Enthusiastic Worship and the Christ of Curb-Your-Enthusiasm. The Christ of Capitalism and the Christ of Socialism. The list can go on and on, and yes, a lot of those things are good and important in their proper place.

But Jesus our King won’t let us limit and define Him! It’s not like we’re ordering a saviour over the Internet, and can send Him back when we get a King who doesn’t fit into our plans! The fact is, there is no saviour besides the God-Man who died on the cross. You must accept Jesus as your Lord as God presents Him to you-- or be guilty of worshipping a false Christ who is nothing but an idol. You must put yourself under the protection of King Jesus, or suffer the judgement your sins deserve.

But how can we see who He is? How can we accept Him?

Friends, our eyes are opened by the call and mercy of God. St. Paul says, "But to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." The crucified Carpenter is the King of the Universe! The stone the builders rejected holds the entire Universe together! "For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength."

It may sound foolish, but God gives you His Spirit-inspired Word, that you might read and hear what He has given you in Christ. It may sound weak, but He sends His Holy Spirit to your mind and heart, so you can shout "Hosanna!" to King Jesus and really mean it. By the power of His Spirit God builds Jesus into your life and makes you realize that without Him, you are nothing. By the wisdom of His Word, Christ builds you up with all other believers to become a holy Temple to your Lord and God.

But maybe you have never claimed Christ as your Lord. Friend, King Jesus comes to you in triumph today. Don’t put your fingers in your ears and tell His ministers to be silent! Let go of your private ideas of what Jesus should do and be for you! Why remain under God’s wrath? Accept your God and King just as He comes to you: humble, sorrowing over your sins, and crucified and risen again for your sake. Accept Him, and enter into the joy of His kingdom. Welcome Him, and be saved.

Brothers and sisters: Jesus is the stone the builders rejected, and He has become the capstone. He is the Lord’s doing, and He is marvellous in our eyes! Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna, amen!

[Preached Palm Sunday, A.D. 2007. Image "Christ of the Boulders" by Paul Judson, reproduced from]