April 14, 2019 JESUS IS LORD
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As the people welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem as King, they scattered coats & palms before Him, a custom for an arriving dignitary. For the beginning of Holy Week, it is our custom that we also join-in paying tribute to Jesus, our King, and we come into His real presence with palm fronds & songs of joy, & ‘Hosanna’ == the Hebrew prayer: ‘Ho-she-a Na’ ‘save us, please.’ But our palm branches mean more than just praise.
Our prayer today is that our palms will symbolize that He truly IS, & will REMAIN our King; that we will never lose faith in Him, & fall away, as many people did after that first Palm Sunday. To guard against that, we come together to bend-the-knee in repentance, & willingly confess -as Paul said- “That Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
This particular phrase from Phil.2 has a long & rich history: “Jesus is Lord.” Will you say it with me? …(Jesus is Lord) Those 3 words were a great confession-of-faith in the early church. That simple phrase separated Christians from all other religious groups. And, at certain times & places, it cost Christians their very lives. *How could that be?
Well, in the early centuries after Jesus, all people in the Roman Empire were expected to burn incense to honor the Emperor = a religious action; and not just to acknowledge his kingship, but also his ‘deity.’ With the incense, the Romans would confess it with the phrase: “Caesar is Lord.” Meaning, he was a god. Both the incense & confession were a spiritual thing; a false religion & false god. So the Christians couldn’t bring themselves to confess that anyone else but Jesus alone was that kind of Lord & God.
During times of crackdown/persecution, Christians were forced to choose which phrase was their confession. Of course, those who acknowledged Jesus were considered disloyal to Rome, & traitors to the throne; that meant jail or death. (what wicked Islam does today) Many hundreds were cast to the lions to entertain the crowds at the Coliseum. Christians were also burned on high poles to give light during the nighttime activities.
The Christian certainly did give proper earthly honor & respect to their earthly king, but they could only confess one true God; to fear, love & trust in Him above all others = no matter what. Many suffered much in order to preserve these pure words of confession: “Jesus is Lord.” And, yes, God allowed them to suffer shame & torture & death; AND they considered it an honor to share in Jesus’ suffering for the sake of confessing His Name alone as Lord-of-all. Looking at such a history, I wonder if we would be so honored to suffer for His Name; or *would we deny Him as if it doesn’t matter that much? *
We don’t use the word ‘Lord’ today like some countries. Such as in England, they have titles for high-ranking officials: Like Baron, /Duke, /& Lord; it signifies nobility. In Jesus’ day, there was a common use of the term Lord, similar to that. It meant /patron / protector, /helper, /advocate. The term Lord was used in referring to one’s husband or father, or for one’s boss or governor == like we use the word ‘sir’. The ‘lords’ were the leaders of the community; in positions of civic responsibility. Lords that were ‘good’ kept people’s minds at peace, because they had power & influence to protect them, & look after their needs.
That’s a proper understanding for us too; except we tend to reserve that term for just one person. In all physical & spiritual senses: Jesus IS Lord; and He alone is the God in charge. That’s how we are at peace, & know things will be okay for us. Jesus is your /protector, /your helper, /& the one who ‘masters’ you. In Him, your whole life is held together; in Him you live & move & have being. He has assigned you your station today, and He will also lead you to where He wants you tomorrow. And because He is good, He works things together for your good, and for the good of His Kingdom. Jesus is Lord.
This great confession is sometimes twisted a little & taken wrongly to focus on us. It is not a confession of what we do. So it does not say: ‘WE need to make Jesus the Lord of our life’, as if He’s just waiting for us to ‘allow’ Him to be our Lord. And it’s not: “IF I let Jesus be ‘lord’ of my life, then my troubles will be gone.”
Instead, it says: “Jesus IS Lord”; not that He ‘should be’ or ‘can be’ = He IS!
The text states a truth/fact, which does not depend on what we think/do/say. And that makes it GOOD NEWS for ALL people. Jesus IS the Lord of ALL == all of ‘heaven, earth, & under the earth.’ He is Lord of every person, /whether you see it or not; /whether you acknowledge it or not; /whether or not your life honors Him = to obey & serve Him. The fact is still true. But it is the true Christian who believes it, confesses it, and lives in obedience to His teaching.
We are always challenged with the reality that the conditions of life in this world are not so different between a Christian & a non-christian. We are all subject to earthly hardship & suffering, disease & trouble. A Christian has just as many daily needs & hard decisions to make as others; with the all same possible sorrows & tragedies in the world.
The real difference our Lord makes for His people is not on the outside; but on the inside.
The difference for a believer is to have our Lord’s own perspective on this life; our response & reaction to events become very different = often opposite of those who do not believe.
With this faith that ‘Jesus is Lord’, we don’t blame Him for when things go wrong; instead, we seek His help. Even when life hurts, we can thank him for His care in the things that don’t hurt. We trust that we do not rely on /chance, /coincidence, /or our ‘lucky stars’ for the things that happen to us. Instead, we acknowledge difficult events with a confession & prayer to the Lord-of-Life. Something like: “Forgive me, Lord, for my part in my trouble. Thank you, Lord, for your care. Thank you for not leaving me alone. Show me, Lord, how things will be okay.”
Because Christ Jesus is Lord, we are new creatures in an old world; we have a Master who is all-mighty, all-aware, & for whom nothing is impossible. And that’s a tremendous comfort to realize that our life has a heavenly protector, / a helper, / a true ‘Lord.’ That makes you different. He’s the one who knit you together in your mother’s womb; He knows the number of hairs on your head; by His baptism, He has written your name in His Book of Life.
And best of all, as the Spirit writes thru Paul, Jesus is Lord, not just because He is God over all, but also because He is God-in-our-flesh. He is the Lord of heavenly power, but =more importantly for us= He came to be our humble servant with His life, being obedient to the Heavenly Father to the point of death, even death on a cross. The whole universe was made thru Him = that’s impressive. But even better for us, He invites us to Himself because He is gracious & forgiving.
When this One True Lord returns, there will not be one UN-bended knee, either in heaven, or on earth, or even under the earth = that’s hell. Every knee will bow to Him, because He alone IS Lord. And because this Lord has called you to be his own = you already
‘bend the knee’; your life is very different than those who do not believe. Your life now revolves around confessing & worshiping Him as Lord; you now listen to his teaching, & obey his morals, & serve your Lord & his kingdom, that is: His Church.
What a dangerous thing it is to play religious games with such a Lord. There are those who just say with words that ‘Jesus is Lord’, but refuse to have their life changed by it. *Jesus pointed out his truth in Lk.6: “Why do you call Me ‘lord, lord’ but do not do what I say?” Many claim this confession, ‘Jesus is Lord’; ….but they don’t honor his church; /they don’t bother to worship in His presence & receive His gifts; /they don’t return to Him an offering of thanks, or a prayer of gratitude; /they don’t use their abilities to serve in His kingdom among His people; /they’re ashamed to live by His holy ways; /they’re embarrassed to speak of him to others. Their own behaviors judge whether Jesus is their Lord or not.
As Jesus made His triumphal entry that day, there were perhaps 200,000 people in Jerusalem for the Passover. So many people were waving palm branches in tribute to the Lord that the pharisees became quite nervous. But, at the end of the week, too many were either too scared to confess Him, or turned on him& crie out for His crucifixion. So, *was their Palm Sunday shout a true confession or just words? *What about our Palm Sunday confession?
Unlike any & every ‘ceasar’, Jesus was the only Lord who arrived voluntarily for a cross of crucifixion. He came to protect us from our mortal spiritual enemies, and from an eternal hell. Our redemption required a perfect & complete sacrifice, which only God Himself could do…..so He did it.
The wages of our sin is death; but the free gift of God to us is eternal life thru Jesus Christ our Lord. This is our confession. And with this confession, you also acknowledge that now your life does not beling to you –you died in Him; ‘you are not your own, you were bought at a price”. The life you now live, is a life He’s won for you, and given to you, so that you would live & show your thankfulness to Him in what you say & do, showing yourselves to be His disciples, even especially at times when speaking or living that confession makes you unpopular, or worse.
The life He’s given you was designed specifically for you in this time & place, with your gifts, /your strengths, /& your circumstances, so that your faith would serve Him, and shine as a testimony to others to come to & trust this same Lord, who is Lord of all.
So, on this Palm Sunday, we acknowledge that Jesus IS the Lord over all things; all things are under His control. And He is also Lord over your life, /your home, /your words/behaviors/ decisions, /possessions, /& all your days. 2,000 years later, we have kept the tradition of Jesus’ triumphal entry, & symbolism of the Palm Branch, and we make our ancient & solemn confession =& I invite you to say it with me= ‘Jesus IS Lord!’