Palm Sunday Sermon

Whenever we read this incredible account of the Passion of Christ we must, I believe always bear in mind Jesus words in Matthew 16:24:

If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross & follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Is Jesus saying we must all be nailed to a cross and suffer incredible pain in order to be his disciples? No. But he is saying that we must be willing to do what Jesus did ON the cross – willingly give our life for the glory of God.

Following Jesus means sacrificing our own honor and pride for Christ’s sake.

This is Paul’s point in our Epistle reading – Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus – other translations render v5 as Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus.

So, here is a question for us to ponder this morning – can we say that having read the passion this morning that our attitude is like Christ’s. We would all probably say no. BUT – it should be – and at the every least each day we should be pursuing that goal – allowing a little bit us to die everyday in order to grow more Christ like – letting more of our self-centeredness wither away.

And probably the hardest thing for us as Christians to let go of and die within us is our pride.

Pride is one of the greatest threats to maturing our faith and having an attitude like Christ’s. Our culture values pride – it encourages us to have pride but pride is deadly in a Christian.

How do we know we are prideful? Do you find it difficult to apologize for something quickly and sincerely? Do you find it hard to admit that you were wrong? Do you find it hard to take responsibility for a mistake? Do you instinctively blame others when something goes wrong? These are symptoms of pride.

And the reason why pride is so dangerous is that it leads to a hardness of heart.

Look at what Jesus does in our epistle reading. He willingly left heaven and gave up his glory and honor in order to be humiliated and take the blame for the wrongs of others despite having never done anything wrong.

Jesus allows his reputation to be shredded and his motives questioned and his ministry dismissed in order to complete the work God the Father had for him.

Jesus endured the lies and the false accusations. And even more amazing he endured them while having the power to stop it and to prove them completely wrong.

There are times when we suffer unjustly – but there is a big difference between suffering unjustly when we have NO choice in the matter and suffering unjustly when we have the power and the ability to stop it happening! Jesus had the power and the authority to end the suffering right there and then. He could have revealed just a small amount of his majesty and glory and Pilate and the religious leaders would have fallen on their faces – just as when the guards came to Gethsemene to arrest Jesus and Jesus said “I am” and the soldiers fell to the ground.

But Jesus chooses not to – because he willingly walks the path the Father asks of him. He allows himself to be humiliated and mocked so we might be set free.

If we have Pride, and are unable to even admit we make mistakes, or find it hard to apologize, how on earth will we be able to face people mocking us as Christians or face humiliation in the name of Jesus? We won’t be able to because we will react and fight and not in a godly righteous way but in the way of the world – with bitterness and anger. And therefore we won’t be able to have the mind of Christ as Paul says we should.

Pride stops us from entering into the things God has for us.

I want to make a brief digression here. There is the famous account in the gospels of James and John’s mother going to Jesus and asking Jesus whether her sons would be able to sit at the right hand of Jesus when he came into his kingdom. The request was made in pride.

Well, look who is actually on Jesus left and right in our passage this morning. It’s not James and John. What happened? Well, James fled and John along with Peter followed Jesus to the High priests house. They were not willing to stand with him at this point. Instead Jesus dies between two strangers.

My point in mentioning this is that we cannot have the glory without the willingness to sacrifice everything and give it all to God and we cannot do that when we have pride.

We want to be disciples – we want to be followers of Christ – we want to receive all the blessing God has for us then we must be willing to die to self give everything to Christ.

Jesus is able to do what he did because he knew exactly who he was. He knew where he had come from and he knew where he was going. He knew who he was and he knew the Fathers love. He knew that while people thought they controlled His’ destiny Jesus knew exactly who was in control.

When Jesus tells us to lose our life – to take up our cross he does so in the context that we must know who is ultimately in control.

I believe every martyr who has faced the sword, or wild animals or the barrel of a gun has known that while their persecutor thinks they are in control, the martyr knows God is in control and that his destiny has already been secured.

If we hold onto our pride we will never know that security. If we hold onto our position and securities we will never be able to peacefully face persecution or even mocking for being Christ followers.

The religious leaders stood around Jesus’ cross and mocked him and challenged him.

So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him; for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”

There is sad irony in the mocking of the religious leaders – Jesus would not come down from the cross and save himself PRECISELY BECAUSE he was saving others.

The righteous sufferer is mocked for his trust in a God who, it seems, will not respond to his devotion with practical help.

Just think on that for a moment. From those standing around the Cross, God is not apparently helping Jesus at all. And so they mock Him. How would we respond to such mocking? How often have we heard “Where is your God?” Or “If your God exists he is obviously useless because he is not acting”.

There is a time coming when being believers in Jesus Christ and living out our lives as his followers will bring mocking and even persecution to us. How will we respond? How will we act? Will we fight back? How will we fight back? Will we fight back as with the mind of Christ as if we are taking up our cross and following him; as if we are losing our life for his sake and so find it?

Having the mind of Christ does not just involve the death of pride in us but it also involves how we respond.

You know what Jesus was doing to those Pharisees and Sadduccess and scribes as they mocked him – he was loving them. You know, Jesus lived out the words he spoke – love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, bless those who seek you harm.

Why is the church so weak in our culture – because quite simply we do not love those who hurt us – we do not bless those who persecute us and we do not pray for our enemies.

And yet the core of the passion is about a God who endured the cross out of his love for even those who mocked him and despised him.

This has got to stop being doctrine in our minds and it has to become action in our lives.

I urge us as we enter Holy Week to seek the Lord on this – that we may meditate on what it is to have same attitude as Christ – to take up our cross – to lose our life in order to find it. I pray that we will ask the Holy Spirit to root out the pride which makes us defensive and self-centered and self seeking and that we may this week seek to die to self so that Christ may live in us.

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