Jesus’ Sacrificial Love, Sermon, Palm Sunday, 04/14/2019

Ps. 118:1-2, 19-29 Phil. 2:5-11

According to the letter of Philippians, chapter 2, Jesus “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant”. Jesus “gave himself for us”. “He humbled himself”. He became “obedient to the point of death”. He died for us on a cross. Therefore, God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend… and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” This is the message of the Christian faith. This is the message of sacrificial love.

On Palm Sunday, our Lord entered the Holy City on a donkey as the Prince of Peace, the King of kings, Good Shepherd who came to lay down his life for his sheep. Then on the following Thursday night, Jesus broke the bread and offered the cup and said to the disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me.”

Jesus came as the Lamb of God to sacrifice himself to forgive sin once and for all. He was the final sacrifice for sins and his blood sealed the new agreement between God and us.

According to the gospel of Mark 15:15-23, Jesus was flogged, then taken away by the Roman guards, who led him into the governor’s headquarters, where they mocked and humiliated Jesus before taking him to be crucified. At first Pilate hesitated to give the religious leaders permission to crucify Jesus. He thought they were simply jealous of a teacher who was more popular with the people than they were. But when the Jews threatened him, he became afraid. Although Jesus was innocent according to Roman law, Pilate caved in under political pressure. He abandoned what he knew was right. He tried to second-guess the Jewish leaders and give a decision that would please everyone while keeping himself safe.

The scripture said, “Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him and knelt down in homage to him. After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him” (Mk. 15:16-20).

Jesus was slapped, struck with fists and mocked. A crown of thorns was placed on his head and he was beaten with a stick and stripped before being hung on the cross.

Roman scourging was a terrible torture. The victim was stripped; his hands were tied behind him, and he was tied to a post with his back bent double and conveniently exposed to the lash. The lash itself was a long leather thong, studded at intervals with sharpened pieces of bone and pellets of lead. Such scourging always preceded crucifixion. The criminal was fastened to his cross, already a bleeding mass from the scourging. There he hung to die of hunger and thirst and exposure, unable even to defend himself from the torture of the gnats and flies which settled on his naked body and on his bleeding wounds. It is not a pretty picture but that is what Jesus Christ suffered willingly for us.

Jesus could have saved himself, but he endured this suffering because of his love for us. He could have chosen not to take the pain and humiliation; he could have killed those who mocked him, but he suffered through it all because he loved even his enemies.

Dear friends!

Love is more powerful than physical force. Jesus was the victim of all kinds of hurts-insults, lies, gossip, prejudice, slander. He was beaten and stripped and spat upon. He was nailed to a cross and yet he never retaliated. He never resented. He just turned the other cheek and kept on loving. And then when he died, the Roman centurion who had watched him through it all and felt his love and said, “Truly, this was the Son of God.”

Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

When we are wronged, often our first reaction is to get even. Instead Jesus said, we should do good to those who wrong us. By loving and praying for our enemies, we can overcome evil with good. If we love our enemies and treat them well, we will truly show that Jesus is Lord of our lives.

Our desire should not be to keep score but to love and forgive. This is not natural. It is supernatural. Only God can give us the strength to love as he does. We must trust the Holy Spirit to help us show love to those for whom we may not feel love. Love is the most powerful thing in the world.

In the gospel of Matthew 5: 38-39, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.”

Dear friends!

We are to love others based on Jesus’ sacrificial love. Jesus was laying down his farewell commandment to his disciples. The time was short; if they were ever to hear his voice the must hear it now. He was going on a journey on which none might accompany him; he was taking a road that he had to walk alone; and before he went, he gave them the commandment that they must love one another as he had love them.

Jesus said, “l give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other” (John 13: 34-35).

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