Survivor or Savior?
The first lesson for this Palm Sunday is from St. Paulís letter to the Philippians. Verses 5-11 contain a beautiful confession of our Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, many believe that this summary of Christís purpose was sung as a hymn in some of the early Christian congregations that Paul planted. Itís a song of love and humility expressing the kind of attitude that we as Christians are to model.
That is why Paul says, "If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, in any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."
THE SERVANTíS ATTITUDE
This was the attitude of Christ. Instead of thinking of Himself, He first thought about the needs of others. There was nothing selfish about Him. He willingly carried other peopleís burdens, saying: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."
He was with His disciples in the upper room when He said this. Here, He demonstrated a servant attitude by taking up a basin and a towel to wash His brotherís feet. And He told them, "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you."
THE SURVIVORíS ATTITUDE
Jesus, of course, is the prime example for all of us. When we need an attitude check we turn to Jesus. But when all is said and done, how different His attitude is to the attitudes we see in our world! Humility is in short supply today. Egos loom large. Arrogance and self-centeredness are the norms.
A good illustration of this is seen on the very popular T.V. show called "Survivor." This program, well into its second season, captures what happens when 16 strangers are stranded in the Australian Outback with very limited resources. They are to work together to survive, building shelters, gathering and catching food and participating in contests for rewards. And every three days they must vote at Tribal Council who will be eliminated from their society. The one person who outwits, outlasts and outplays everyone else after two months takes home a million dollars as the grand prize.
Well, you can imagine, without even watching a single episode what kind of attitudes are displayed on this show. They are not "like-mindedness" attitudes. They are not "one in spirit and purpose" attitudes. They are not "considering the interests of others" attitudes. In fact, they are the complete opposite. Itís about betrayal, and selfish-ambition and greed. Together as a group they give the appearance that they are one in spirit and purpose. But you can tell that there is one thing that drives them. The grand prize! Inwardly, their hearts are not focused on one another, but upon the money. Itís a quest for survival.
You know, when you watch a show like this we marvel at how low these wretched people can go. "Look how they talk behind each otherís back! Look how sneaky and deceptive they are!" We find a lot of amusement out of it-- especially when a certain person we donít care for on the show gets booted off . We pump our fists and cheer. "Iím glad sheís gone! He was annoying!"
But it seems to me that our attitudes are no better than those on the show. We do the same sort of things in our daily lives.
Because of our fallen condition, we all are more inclined to ask: "Whatís in it for me?" instead of asking: "What can I do for you?" Because our sinfulness, we have all succumb to a "survival of the fittest" attitude. We have failed to live up to the servant attitude that our Lord Jesus embodies.
THE SAVIORíS ATTITUDE
We could certainly ask ourselves: What would Jesus do if He were a contestant on "Survivor?" He would probably be a great help in the camp. He would not lounge around like a bum. When interviewed with a video camera in His face, He would not gossip about anyone in His tribe.
Yet an even better thing to do is to search back in His Word, and see what Jesus has done already for us. "Though He was in the form of God, He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking on the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross."
When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, on that first Palm Sunday, I wonder what was going on inside the minds of those who praised Him with palm branches. They praised him singing, "Hosanna. Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!" I imagine many of them saw Jesus as the ultimate survivor- the Messiah King who came to establish His kingdom on earth and rule forever.
But that was not His mission. Jesus did not come in riding on a stallion or in a chariot. He rode in on a borrowed donkey. He rode in with humility. His purpose was in the cross. Christ came not to be a Survivor, but to be the Savior. "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
By coming down to earth from heaven, Jesus came to lay aside His glory and crown. He became like us in every way, yet without sin-- to suffer in our place. He was betrayed by a friend named Judas. He was denied by a friend named Peter. His very own formed an alliance against Him. While Barabbas was set free as the survivor, it was voted that Jesus be the one to be eliminated. He was rejected in the most painful of all "tribal councils" when He hung upon the cross, forsaken by God the Father. All this He faced, to save us from our sin.
Shortly after Joe Torre was named manager of New York Yankees, announcer Phil Rizzuto suggested that managing could be done much better from high above the baseball field- from the level of the broadcast booth where he could see everything. Torre replied, "But upstairs, you canít look in their eyes."
In Jesus Christ, God chose to come down to the playing field, not just to look into our eyes, but to open them up. He gives us new life and a new perspective. His attitude toward us changes our attitude toward Him. We see Him as Savior and Lord. "That at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Amen.
Pastor Peter Hoft
Palm Sunday, April 8, 2001
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Collinsville, Illinois
Peter Hoft; Copyright, 2001
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