Baptism is what connects you to Good Friday and to Easter. If you have been baptized, Christ’s death is your death, and Christ’s resurrection is your resurrection. So says the Bible in words that I don’t understand how non-believers in baptism can get around:
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. (Romans 6:3-5)
What a sermon we had on Palm Sunday to introduce Holy Week! Pastor Douthwaite preached on Philippians 2:5-8: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
He made Himself nothing.
The word used there is the word ekenosen, which means He emptied Himself. Some Bibles translate it that way, and so its important to know what that means, and what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean that the Son of God left His godness behind in heaven when He became a man. It doesn’t mean He left His power and glory in heaven when He became a man. It doesn’t mean that when He was arrested and manhandled by the Roman soldiers, when He stood before Pilate, and when He hung on the cross, He was helpless and couldn’t do anything about it. He could have. Easily. The same Son of God who healed folks of every disease and sickness, who knew the thoughts and hearts of men, who could command all creation by His Word, whose glory shone in His transfiguration, and who had power over death – that is the Jesus of the Passion. The Son of God who willingly didn’t use all that power when it came time to save Himself. He made Himself nothing.
Yet perhaps we could go even farther than that, if that’s possible – He made Himself less than nothing. Taking upon Himself the sin of the world, He was the greatest sinner ever. Whoever you usually think has that title, the most evilest person you can think of, you’re wrong – it’s Jesus. He is the worst idolater, the worst unbeliever, the worst hater, the worst scoundrel, the worst murderer, the worst adulterer, the worst thief, the worst liar, the worst cheat, the worst everything . . . because He’s got all your sins and all my sins and all the sin of all the people out there, on Him.
Unfair? No. He took them. He wanted them. So that they would be on Him and not on you. So that they would be held against Him and not against you. So that He would be forsaken for them and die for them and not you.
He made Himself nothing.
The king becomes a servant. God becomes man. The One subject to none makes Himself subject to all. The author of life dies. The glory of God is hung on a cross.
Why? For you.
That’s what this day, and all this week, is all about. With all that you hear today, all that you hear this week, the thought to put in your mind is this: He did all this for me. For me. Not just for the world. For me. He made Himself nothing, to make you something. To make you a child of God. And that was worth it. For the Father, that was worth sending His Son. For Jesus, that was worth all the pain and agony and death. You were worth it. You may not be anything in anybody’s eyes; maybe not even in your own eyes. But you are in God’s eyes.
Maybe you think you’re nothing and that’s why you spend so much time trying to make yourself something. But there is simply nothing greater you can do or make yourself than what Jesus has made you: a child of God. That gives you more value than anything else in this world. And God has done that. He said it to you when you were baptized: You are now My beloved Son.
What April Fool’s jokes did you find on the internet? Here is one: Richard Branson headed to ‘center of Earth’ – Yahoo! News Canada.
The talk radio show Issues, Etc., has a great line-up for Holy Week. This would be a good time to check it out and to see what the big deal is about that program. It airs live from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Central Time and can be heard on the web, as well as a number of radio stations across the country. (Go to the website for a list of stations that carry it.) The daily programs are archived on the website, so you can listen to them at your leisure. (And check out the iPhone and Android apps, the latter of which is a creation of Michael O’Connor, who goes to our church.)
Here are the topics and guests for each day of Holy Week:
Monday, April 2–The Events of Holy Week. Dr. Paul Maier of Western Michigan University
Tuesday, April 3–The Last Supper According to Luke’s Gospel. Dr. Arthur Just of Concordia Theological Seminary
Wednesday, April 4–The Last Words of Jesus from the Cross. Pr. Bill Cwirla of Holy Trinity Lutheran-Hacienda Heights, CA
Thursday, April 5–The Passion of Christ. Dr. Norman Nagel of Concordia Seminary
Friday, April 6–The Hymn, “O Sacred Head Now Wounded.” Pr. Will Weedon of St. Paul Lutheran-Hamel, IL
Saturday, April 7–Luther on the Passion of Christ. Pr. Paul McCain of Concordia Publishing House
For those of you who are fans, what would you say is so special about Issues, Etc.? What would you say to convince someone–say, who is not a Lutheran–to tune in?