Today we celebrate Palm Sunday also called Passion Sunday. Last week we touched upon the subject of sacrifice. Today we hear in the Gospel how Jesus offered Himself for our salvation in the sacrifice of the Cross.
When we think about the ones we love, we often say we will do anything for them. We put the needs of the ones we love above our own. When we love someone we sacrifice and give up things related to ourselves in order to give things to others. It may be as simple as giving the last cookie to your child instead of saving it for yourself. It may be sacrificing sleep to take care of a sick child. It may be not going on a much needed vacation in order to provide school supplies or clothing for the family. It may mean working extra hours in order to bring in the necessary income. All these things are examples of what we do for the ones we love.
We are the ones that our God loves. And our God gave up all that He could out of love for us. His great love, His great passion for us – is the reason we call this day Passion Sunday. We are the great love, the great passion of our God. And our God gave up for us the ultimate gift – which is to give His life.
It should not be lost on us why this was necessary. When we damage a relationship, we have a sense that we have to “make it up” to the other person. We often say this, “Let me make it up to you.”
The ancient people had perhaps a greater sense of obligation to God than the modern mind. Do we have a sense that we owe God anything? The ancient people had a tremendous sense that they were in debt to God, due to their many sins, their many transgressions. However, they had a primitive understanding that animal sacrifices somehow paid the debt of their sins to God.
Yet, we hear God say in Scripture that “your animal sacrifices and burnt offerings mean nothing. They are empty. It is a devout and contrite heart that I desire” says the Lord
To be contrite means to be truly sorry and to desire a change of heart, a desire to amend our ways. To no longer repeat the damaging behavior. So it is nothing to offer an animal sacrifice. It is everything to offer God our loving hearts. It is a relationship of love that our God desires to have with us. This is the covenant, the loving relationship with our God. It is akin to a parent and child. God knows better than we do what is good for us. God has revealed truths that can give direction and guidance to our path towards salvation – which many people call heaven.
Since no animal sacrifice could pay the debt for our transgressions, for our sins of all humanity for all time, God offered Himself for us on our behalf. The sacrifice of the Cross is God the Son offering Himself in sacrifice to God the Father.
We cannot make the mistake of thinking that God the Father is some vindictive debt collector. He does not relish the payment. However we must have a mature understanding of what sin does. It damages relationship. That is reality. It cannot be ignored or thought not to exist. When a relationship suffers damage, repairs must be made. How could one repair UNLOVING acts towards God? The answer is – with the greatest loving act possible! To give one’s life. That is the greatest loving act. And that is exactly what Jesus did for us on the Cross. In effect, God said to us through this act, “Here I am. I am now the Lamb of God. I am now the sacrifice offered for freedom.” No longer freedom from slavery in Egypt. This is the new Passover. This is freedom from slavery to sin. It is freedom with deliverance not to the earthly promised land of Israel but freedom with deliverance to the eternal kingdom of God.
We all have an obligation to God to make up for any damage we have done to our relationship with Him. Out of love for God we should have a holy desire to make amends. In the sacrifice of the Cross – God says to us, “I will do it for you.”
How great is our God‘s love for us! How true it is to call today Passion Sunday! Look at the passionate love our God has for us! Today on Palm Sunday let us celebrate our King. Let us celebrate Jesus, the Lord of lords the King of the universe – His great love for us and His humility in offering Himself as a Lamb of God. Let us with overwhelming gratitude praise and thank the Lord.
Go forth this day full of the knowledge that your God loves you, Your God died for you The price has been paid. Atonement has been made. Live and love in the healed relationship with your God. Be overwhelmed by God’s passion and love for you. Have a blessed Passion Sunday.