Saturday, April 4, 2020

The Mind of Christ

The Mind of Christ

Matthew 21:1–9, Holy Gospel for Palm Sunday
Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’ ” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

"Behold your King is coming to you, humble..." What a strange King! Usually kings exalt themselves. But humility is part and parcel of the mind of Christ, and this is what St. Paul says that we have in the verses leading up to the Palm Sunday Epistle: "So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus..." (Phil 2:1-5).

The teachings of Christ and Paul contrast sharply with the predominant values of secularist Western culture. Christian virtues promote peace and harmony among people through each Christian’s patient submission to the needs of others and the mutual forgiveness of sins. True virtue is selflessness and love toward others. In contrast, our culture promotes self-centeredness and self-esteem (a synonym for pride). Humility is in short supply in this fallen world, but when the peace of Christ comes to rule hearts, the Lord draws us out of ourselves to look to the interests of others first.

Paul introduces Philippians 2:5-11 by inviting Christians to recognize that humility is a gift to them in Christ Jesus. Through Baptism we are in fact made humble and when we act otherwise we live a conflicted life, running against our very nature as children of God. We are no longer held in bondage to the conceited sinful nature but have received the Holy Spirit, who gives us “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:12, 16). This does not mean that we cease to be sinners, since we remain so until we die. However, we are no longer ruled by the sinful nature, but rather by the Spirit. When we come to Christ Jesus, revealed in the Scriptures, the preached Word, and the Sacraments, we learn from Him and receive rest for our souls, which breeds gentleness and lowliness (Matthew 11:29).

Any human who boasts of anything in himself in this life acts as if God is not the Creator or the Redeemer. The fact that the Son of God humbled Himself to take on our flesh, suffer for our sins, and die shamefully on the cross should tear down all of our pretensions of greatness, or rights, and of privileges. The cross should—no, the cross does—humble us prideful sinners.

In Luke 9:23-24, Jesus says that His followers are to “take up their crosses.” We know that the cross is an instrument of pain and death, so these verses are a reminder that, as Paul and Barnabas taught in Acts 14:22, “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” This does not mean that bearing the cross is a work that merits salvation. Rather, the Christian receives hardship, frustration, pain, and persecution in his life—all things which challenge his faith—and bearing the cross means that in the midst of these sufferings, the Christian continues to believe in Christ’s forgiveness and mercy and does not conclude that God has forsaken him. Just as Christ’s life involved suffering before glory, so will ours be shaped by that pattern. In the Kingdom of Jesus, suffering comes before glory, humility before exaltation.

Prayer: O King who comes in the name of the Lord, through Your birth and death, earth and heaven were joined together in peace. May Your coming as King into Jerusalem in humility on the donkey help us to see that You continue to come to us as our King hidden in humble water, humble words, humble food; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Prayer requests: Lynn Cottle, as she recovers in rehabilitation, and her husband Joe, as he patiently awaits her return home; Bessie Mahaffey and Alma Gause, under hospice care.

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