What’s going on here? The Pharisees trying to help? “Get out and depart from here, they say to Jesus. Herod wants to kill You they warn. The Pharisees also understood that Jesus posed a threat to their doctrine and authority. They’d plot to kill Him if they have to, but nobody wants to make Jesus a martyr. It would have been alot easier if Jesus had just knocked off the teachings and miracles, and just went away somewhere else.
But Jesus, will not be diverted from His plan, and so He says to the Pharisees: “Go, tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.’ Nevertheless I must journey today, tomorrow, and the day following; for it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem.”
His words must have sounded crazy! On the one hand, Jesus tells them He will cast out demons, cure illness, and then be perfected on the third day. But then He tells them that He will journey to Jerusalem today, tomorrow and the day after-in order to die. So, which will it be? Will Jesus cure or perish, will He win or will He lose? Will He be perfected or crucified? Will the crowds cry out, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,” or “Let His blood be upon us and our children”?
With hindsight, we know what is going to happen. He is going to journey to Jerusalem, casting out demons and curing illness along the way. That journey will go on today, tomorrow and a few days after that-but not many, for His time is drawing near. When He gets to Jerusalem, He’ll enter the city triumphantly on a donkey as the crowds wave palms and cry out, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” Yet, a few days later, crowds will cry out, “Let His blood be upon us and our children!” and demand His crucifixion. On that day all will seem lost as He dies on the cross-but then comes the third day, Easter Sunday!
Jesus is not suggesting possibilities. He revealing exactly what is going to happen when He goes to Jerusalem. He is going, and there will be no stopping Him. Brother’s and sister’s remember Luke 4 where a crowd in His hometown tried to throw Him off a cliff for teaching and preaching, but He walked right through their midst. Not one could lay a finger on Him against His will. So it is today in our Gospel; no one will be able keep Jesus away from Jerusalem-not Herod not the Pharisees not even the wicked history of Jerusalem that has killed the prophets whom God had sent will keep Jesus away. And in going to Jerusalem, Herod and the Pharisees will work out the details for His death.
Once again, Jerusalem would spill the blood of the Prophets, even the blood of the very One that God had sent for their salvation. But Herod, the Pharisees and the citizens of Jerusalem will not cause our Lord’s death. Jesus does not die on that cross because of Herod’s strength or the plots of the Pharisees. Nor is He scourged and crucified because of the power of the Romans. Christ goes to the cross willingly, precisely because this is His plan for your salvation and He will not be denied your redemption.
My friends it’s become quite popular to say “We sinners put Jesus on the cross,” but let us be careful. It is correct to say that all mankind is sinful and that Christ was crucified for the sins of the world. Be careful however, for this statement may also lead people to say, “We crucified Jesus.”
Brother’s and Sister’s, your sin did not compel Jesus to be conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the Virgin Mary. Your sin did not send Him to the Jordan to be baptized, nor did it drive Him into the wilderness to be tempted. Your sin certainly didn’t crucify Him; your sin didn’t force Him onto the cross. He took upon Himself and bore your sin willingly. Your Lord willingly submitted to the suffering and death that was for you, He died so you wouldn’t have to.
Think about it this way; If your sin put Him on the cross, then your salvation is partly depended on your works of sin! (Don’t scoff. There are folks out there who trumpet the importance of sin because, without it, we couldn’t have a Savior.) But more important than that is a more common misunderstanding of the cross. The Gospel is the truth that Jesus died on the cross to take away our sins; that’s the way we teach small children. The purpose of the Gospel is to comfort us with forgiveness. On the other hand, the purpose of the Law is to accuse us of our sin, to show us our guilt.
So it is that if we look to the cross and say; “His death shows me my sinfulness.” This means that the Lord’s death makes you feel guilty- and the Lord’s death will accuse you. There is tremendous danger in this; for if you look at Christ on the cross and see your own sinfulness you will fail to see Christ hanging in victory for you. We must be careful not to turn the Gospel into Law for if we do then all sorts of bad things can happen.
First, if the cross accuses you, then it’s quite likely that you won’t want to hear about the cross; and if you don’t want to hear about the cross then you won’t want to hear the Gospel. And if you no longer hear comfort from the cross and the Gospel, there is no more comfort to be found for as Paul says “We preach Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins.”
So, it’s not quite right to say, “Jesus had to die because of my sin,” because your sin didn’t force His death. Rather, it’s far better to say, “Because of my sin, Jesus had to die in order that I have eternal life.” Your sin did not keep Jesus on the path to the cross, His desire for your salvation did.
Neither is it wise to look at Christ’s lifeless body on the cross and say, “This is all because of me.” Instead it is far better to look upon the cross and say, “All this He did for me.” Jesus didn’t die because He was forced to. He died willingly for you.
Dear friends, do not believe that your sin has such power that it forced the Lord onto the cross. If you do, then the cross will accuse you rather than proclaiming forgiveness. Use the Law of God, found in the 10 commandments to examine yourself; there you will see your sin and how much you deserve its wages. But when you look at your Lord’s death, do not let yourself be accused with the notion that, “Your sins put Him there.” Instead, be comforted with the Good News: “My sins didn’t put Him there. He went willingly for me-for my salvation. The blood that Jesus shed was an atoning sacrifice to our Father in heaven, and it was this perfect blood that was the perfect Sacrifice for our sins. And that is why my salvation is sure.”
The Good News is that the cross was Jesus’ will, because it was His Father’s will; and so the Lamb of God went uncomplaining forth to bear the sin of all sinners. He went willingly and died your death so that He could give you His life, His righteousness and His salvation. The cross is Good News, it is the Gospel: Jesus died willingly for you.
As has already stated, Herod, the Pharisees, the people of Jerusalem and the Romans could not keep Jesus from going to Jerusalem; and likewise, it was not Herod, the Pharisees, the people of Jerusalem or the Romans who put Him on the cross and kept Him there. Though it wasn’t them, it sure looked like it was. For all appearances, on Good Friday, the One who looked the least in control was Jesus Christ. This appearance continued for the long silence of Saturday. It was only on the third day that Christ’s victory became apparent, the very third day our Lord speaks to us today in our Gospel. And as we wait for the Day of His return we are sustained by the events of that blessed Third Day. Christ has died. Christ is risen. And Christ is coming again.
You and I currently live between Easter and the Eschaton. And in the mean time, the world is full of false teachers who seek to persuade you that Christ is not risen, that victory over sin had not been accomplished and that we have no hope that He will come again. With popularity and followings, these false teachers seem to be in control. Dear brother’s and sister’s Christ has died, He is risen and He is coming again… for you! And in these last days we will endure affliction in sickness, grief, heartache and loss-all of which seem to indicate that God in Christ is not in control.
Pay no mind to the perceived power of Herod, pay no mind to the cunning of the Pharisees, the wickedness of Jerusalem, pay no attention nor trust the powers and principalities of this present world which seek to take your focus from the cross of Christ. Dear friends, no matter the suffering and bloodshed and death of those fateful days in Jerusalem, no matter the suffering and bloodshed of our present day, Christ has risen just as He said, He is providing for us still in His word and Sacraments, just as He said and He is coming again just as He promised. The Lord has kept His Word and so it shall be until the end of days.
Plenty of people will preach and storm that Christ will never return. Who are they to stop Him? No one. He will return, this is His promise. Afflictions, disease, sickness, divorce (you name it) will seek to convince you that the Lord will not deliver you. But what power do these things have over the Son of God? None at all. Dear children of God, be comforted. We do not know the day or the hour of the Lord’s return and He is coming to take us to be with Him. He will return, this is what He has promised. His return is good news for you, because His death on the cross is Good News for you. For risen again, He does not cease willingly to declare that you are forgiven for all of your sins. Amen.
Special thanks to Reverend Tim Pauls at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Boise Idaho for the excellent template for this sermon.