God's Speaking Is Always an Announcement of Jesus
Sunday of the Passion
The Annunciation of Our Lord
March 25, 2018
Next Sunday all of this will look different. The purple will be replaced with white. Lilies will adorn the chancel. We will celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. But today we focus on what comes before that. This Sunday begins Holy Week. You don’t get to Easter without going through the suffering and death of Jesus. The Church has designated the Sunday before Easter as Palm Sunday, recognizing the entry of Christ into Jerusalem.
There are certain days of the Church Year that don’t always occur on a Sunday but fall on an actual date. Today’s date, March 25, in the Church Year is the Annunciation of Our Lord. The word annunciation means announcement. It is the day which recognizes the announcement of the angel Gabriel to Mary that she would give birth to the Savior. Imagine her surprise at such an announcement! When she had woken up that day that was the last thing she expected to hear.
Did you know that the first announcement of the Savior was spoken by God and the one He was speaking to was Satan? When Adam and Eve fell into sin God judged each of them in turn, first the serpent, then the woman, then the man. God’s judgment on the devil included a promise: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” The woman’s offspring is Jesus Christ, the one Gabriel announced to Mary she would give birth to.
And so God spoke and He spoke of His Son. God’s speaking on that day when the world plunged into sin was an announcement of the Savior for sin. In fact, when God speaks, He speaks to point us to Christ. That’s what an announcement does. It alerts you to something important. You don’t make an announcement for ordinary happenings. You announce things that are important or different.
Already Adam and Eve knew that they were separated from God forever. So Jesus immediately announced the way they would be saved. His Son. The offspring of the woman. The one who would be born of Mary, who was a virgin and conceived the Lord by the Holy Spirit.
The Old Testament reading is an announcement of the Savior. Rejoice, your King is coming to you! Righteous and having salvation! The Old Testament is full of announcements and promises of the coming Savior. The New Testament shows how they are all fulfilled in the man who rode into Jerusalem on a donkey for the purpose of giving His life over on the cross. Today’s Gospel reading makes that connection, showing how Jesus entering into Jerusalem was the fulfillment of the announcement made in Zechariah 9, our Old Testament reading.
And as Jesus entered into Jerusalem it was announced that He was the Son of David, the one who was coming in the name of the Lord. When Gabriel spoke to His mother thirty-three or so years before, he said that the Lord God would give to the son born to her the throne of His father David. Yet again God was speaking and announcing His Son to be the Savior.
The people who spoke this of Jesus, though, didn’t realize what that meant; that He was the king; that He was the one coming in the name of the Lord. Perhaps He would establish and earthly kingdom. Perhaps He would bring about release from Roman rule. But no, He knew why He was riding into Jerusalem. It was humbly and on a donkey. It was in righteousness and having salvation.
What God speaks by inspiration through the apostle Paul captures in a few verses the true Lordship and Kingship of Jesus. That His reign as King is His work as Savior. In the Epistle reading we are shown the stark contrast of what has been called the humiliation and exaltation of Christ. Jesus is God and eternal. Jesus, as Paul says, does not need to grasp divinity, He already is divine. He is God.
And yet He humbled Himself. He became a human being. He emptied Himself and took the form of a servant. This is what is known as the humiliation of Christ. He is God and yet willingly laid aside the full use of His glory and power and divinity. He never ceased to be God. But He did subject Himself to having to grow up, and to need sleep and food. Ultimately, as we hear from Paul, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.
Crucifixion was shameful. It was used for the lowest of criminals. It was an opportunity to torture the criminals beforehand with whipping and spitting and mocking. In the case of Jesus this included jamming a crown of thorns on His head. When the person was placed up on the cross it was for all to see, a public spectacle. It was an opportunity for people to revile and humiliate these lowlifes.
This is what Jesus willingly endured. His becoming a baby and growing and living and finally suffering, dying, and being buried is not humiliation in the sense that it was humiliating. It is in the sense that He humbled Himself. He chose to not make full use of His divine nature.
But what no person on Palm Sunday could ever have imagined was that His beeline into Jerusalem that day was a beeline to the cross. Not because at some point He would be found to be a criminal. But because He was taking the place of every individual there. And every soldier that took part in putting Him to death. And every religious leader that trumped up charges against Him. And Pontius Pilate who condemned Him. And His disciples who deserted Him. And all the people calling down curses on Him and mocking Him. And you. And me. And Adam and Eve. And His mother. And every person born from Adam and Eve on. Every person alive today and who will be born in the future.
Jesus died on the cross for every single person. It is why when God is speaking it is always an announcement of Jesus. He wants everyone to be saved. He wants everyone to know that salvation is given only Him, the one who rode into Jerusalem and hung on a cross for the sin of the world.
We celebrate the resurrection of our Lord next Sunday. Forty days after that we celebrate the ascension of our Lord. He no longer will enter into Jerusalem or this church or any other place on this earth. Not as He did when He was living on this earth. But He continues to enter our lives. He continues to humble Himself as He comes to us. He secured salvation on the cross. He delivers it in the proclamation of that Gospel. He delivers it when He enters your life in Baptism. He delivers it when He comes right into your mouth in His Holy Supper, giving you His body and blood in the bread and wine of His meal.
Yes, the other half of what Paul spoke of in the Epistle reading is the exaltation of Christ. He is God and has always been God. Even so, the Father has highly exalted Him and given Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father. That is the way to make an announcement! Amen.