Palm Sunday/ Annunciation/ Confirmation
Beloved. What a festive day today is! We have three events all converging on the same day. First, we have Palm Sunday, the day that marks Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem that leads to His betrayal, suffering and death. Next, today being exactly nine months before Christmas, we have the Annunciation, the day the angel Gabriel came to the virgin Mary announcing to her that she would be the mother of the long awaited Savior of the world, that she would be the Mother of God and those glorious words of simple Spirit worked faith that Mary spoke [Luke 1.38]: Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.
And, then finally, we have the great joy as a congregation to hear Emma confess her faith at her confirmation. This past Wednesday we heard Emma, having studied the doctrines of the holy Scriptures and proclaimed by the Church, publically gave answer to the 121 doctrinal questions asked of her. Today she will publically vow her lifelong fidelity to our Lord and vow to give up everything—even her very life —rather than to give up her faith in Him. With Emma publicly professing her faith and as it is agreement with the doctrines of the Lutheran Church, we then invite her to the holy altar to receive there with us Jesus’ body and blood in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.
These three joyous events that converge today all have a common thread—Jesus’ coming. With the Annunciation, we hear Jesus coming into this world; we hear that the true God, the Son, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity has come into this world and taken on human flesh and blood in the womb of the Blessed Virgin and has become man. From that moment on into all eternity, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity is both true God and true man. The holy God has become one of us and entered into this world. And He was born nine months later—and for what purpose? Now we come to Palm Sunday—Jesus coming to Jerusalem. And why? To suffer and die for the sins of the world, to reconcile the whole lost, condemned human race to the holy God. All during His life—beginning with the day of the Annunciation as Jesus from a single cell on grew and developed in the virgin’s womb, continuing through His birth on Christmas, and during His early years, and during the time of His earthly ministry, Jesus was as our Substitute living a holy sinless life, doing for us what we can’t do but what God demands of us—living a sinless life, in complete accord with God’s holy Law.
But there is still the problem of our sin, the sin that we commit, sin that God must punish. That’s why Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. He came that day—and in spite of the loud, adoring crowds—He knew that He had come to die on Good Friday; He came to suffer the punishment and wrath of God for our sin. God is not some tyrant, punishing the innocent Jesus for our sins. Instead, Jesus took our sins on Himself; He was made sin, the world’s sinner, all the sins of the world placed on Him. This He willingly came to do and did it! Now with His suffering and death on the cross that first Good Friday, all of God’s wrath over our sin was poured out Him instead of us; the wrath of God over our sin was appeased. We are in Jesus forgiven our sin and reconciled to God. That’s what Easter’s empty tomb shows and declares to us: “Forgiven!”
But Jesus’ coming into the world in the womb of St. Mary and His coming on Palm Sunday would do us no good unless He would also come to us and create in our hearts faith in Him as our Savior from sin, death, devil and hell; faith that would receive from Him the forgiveness of sin and eternal life. That’s what He did with you and me, dear Christian. That’s what He did with Emma as He came to her in the waters of holy Baptism shortly after her birth. Through the waters of holy Baptism, He gave her new, heavenly, spiritual life; He gave her the gift of faith. And in great grace, He placed her in a Christian home and church in which she was taught and raised in the holy Christian faith. Throughout those years, Jesus kept coming to her strengthening her faith, having her grow in the faith until today as in the rite of Confirmation she publically confesses her faith.
What makes Confirmation day today a blessing also for each person here is that not only do we see our Lord’s grace to Emma but we also are reminded of the Lord’s grace to us in bringing us to faith and keeping us in the faith. With that in mind it does all of us good today to reflect a few moments on the words of our Lord we heard a few weeks ago [St. Luke 11.28]: Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it.
Emma, you first heard the word of God at your baptism—just like many of us did. That was the greatest blessing you could ever have received. There He revealed Himself to you as the one true God, the Triune God: I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. There He washed away your sin and brought you into His holy family. There He covered you with Jesus’ perfect holiness and righteousness. There He opened heaven to you. All these gifts and blessings are yours because why? –at baptism He gave you the gift of faith that receives them.
At your baptism you heard the word of God. And what does Jesus say? Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God. He calls us/ declares us blessed. We are blessed to have heard the word of God. To be blessed is a state/ condition that we as Christians enjoy; God has declared us blessed—He has accepted us and we have received His divine approval. So many in the world and throughout history have not been blessed to have heard the word of God. But you have. And because of that you have been truly blessed by God to have heard the mysteries of the faith and to have been taught them. This is a far different thing than what the world around us considers to be blessed to have. The world wants us to think if we have money, popularity, health, power, good looks, etc., then we have it all; then we are blessed. No! According to Jesus here, we are blessed when we hear His word. Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God. And notice: He doesn’t say who heard the word of God, but those who are hearing—present tense. The point is this: it does us no good to hear the word of God at baptism and then no longer to hear it or only infrequently at best. Instead we need to keep on hearing it. Emma, that’s why your parents teach you the faith at home, bring you to church and Sunday School and confirmation class the past few years—so you keep hearing the word of God. Don’t stop! Many drop out of church after confirmation. They think they know it all, heard it all before, or think that other things are more important. Don’t let that be you! Continue faithfully to hear God’s word in church; daily read your bible, continue reviewing and going through your catechism. Let them be your constant companions throughout life. Let nothing get in the way of faithfully and regularly hearing the word of God.
The word of God is unique. Nothing elsewhere will give you what the word of God does. The sum and substance of the word of God is Jesus. Just like the angel Gabriel announced to Mary—his whole message was about Jesus: And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” That’s why you will want to be faithfully in church and in Scripture and in solid devotional books. Nowhere else will you hear about Jesus and His work and blessings. And, in fact, as you keep hearing the word of God, our good and gracious Lord will strengthen you against the attacks of the devil. With your baptism and now at confirmation, you, Emma, are declaring the devil as your enemy. At Baptism when your sponsors answered for you, and now today as you answer for yourself, you are renouncing the devil and all his works and all his ways. As your sworn enemy, the devil will be raging against you to try to destroy your faith. Foil him in his attempts by continuing to hear the word of God. Blessed are those who hear the word of God.
As you keep hearing the word of God you are continuing to receive the blessings of Jesus because the word of God gives the blessings Jesus won for you as He came into the world, as He entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to die. God’s word isn’t just nice sounding things about God; instead, it gives what it promises—it actually gives the forgiveness of sin, peace with God, stronger faith, eternal life. So as you keep hearing the word of God, you keep receiving its blessings.
But notice as well our verse doesn’t stop with: Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God; but it continues on and keep it. We see a glorious example of what this keeping/ guarding the word of God really is with St. Mary. With the annunciation and then with all the events surrounding Jesus’ birth that the shepherds told her about, St. Luke [2.19] records: But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. She thought about and treasured the Lord’s great grace He had shown her in allowing her to be the mother of the Savior of the world, in fact of the eternal God Himself. Mary was blessed because she believed the angel’s word as St. Elisabeth her relative tells her [Lk. 1.45]: Blessed is she who believed, for there will be fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord. The take away for us? Believe what the Lord tells you in His word and treasure and ponder it, keep going over it in your heart and mind. Think of His greatest blessing in saving you. Let it always be fresh in your mind. Ponder our Lord’s saving work for you. Ponder His holy Passion. Ponder His work at your baptism. In grace upon grace, Jesus makes His work real and present to us today—that is, He doesn’t let His word be a distant memory but instead, in the Blessed Sacrament He comes to us and gives us Himself—His very body and blood, that same body and blood He offered on the cross for us. We can ponder His saving work for us as He literally, bodily comes to us giving us the gifts He won for us by it. Keep, guard and treasure and make faithful and diligent use of this most Blessed Sacrament.
Marvel each day at what He reveals to you in His word. Regard the Lord’s holy word as your most precious treasure—because it is! Remember it is the word of God. That means it has the most solid and sure foundation. Not only can God not lie, everything that He promises and gives to you in the word—like the forgiveness of sins and eternal life, peace and joy—is all grounded upon Jesus and His saving work. That means it is certain and sure. That’s why you want to keep/ guard that word—it’s a treasure and it is certain. Don’t let the devil take away from you this greatest of treasures by your not guarding/ keeping it.
As long as by God’s grace you are hearing the word of God and guarding it, not letting anything or anyone get in the way to contradict or change, you are receiving its gifts and blessings in faith. By the guarding and keeping, the Lord is keeping you close to Him and in spite of and through so many trials and attacks on your faith throughout your life, the Lord will bring you safely through this life to Himself in heaven. Emma, you have a long road ahead but in grace the Lord will reward your faithfulness to Him. Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it. INJ Amen