Holy Week Sermons by Pastor Rank

Palm Sunday – April 4, 2004

In Nomine Iesu

Pastor Thomas L. Rank


April 4, 2004

Text: John 12:20-33

Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast. 21 Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus. 23 But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. 24 “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. 25 “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor. 27 ” Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. 28 “Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.” 29 Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to Him.” 30 Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come because of Me, but for your sake. 31 “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. 32 “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” 33 This He said, signifying by what death He would die.


Dear fellow redeemed in Christ,

Shortly after Palm Sunday, some of the disciples of Jesus are approached by some Greeks who, we are told, “want to see Jesus.” Perhaps these Greeks had witnessed Jesus coming into Jerusalem, lowly and riding on a donkey. Perhaps they had been impressed by the loud shouts and praises of the crowds that greeted Jesus as the one “who comes in the Name of the Lord.” It appears, by the way Jesus answers, that these men were intrigued by the enthusiasm of the crowd on Palm Sunday. For Jesus goes on to speak about “glory” in ways that show His glory as being quite different from the glory of the world.

Glory is usually associated with great achievements. We may think of glory in regards to sports: a pitcher who pitches a perfect game, a quarterback who leads his team to victory in the last minute, the basketball player who sinks a three point shot at the buzzer to win the game by one. Glory is also associated with politics: winning an election brings glory to the winner. Glory may also be won on the battlefield by those who are victorious. Glory and winning go hand in hand.

When Jesus receives the glory and honor from the crowd on Palm Sunday, He does so as someone who looks like the winner. Even though He rides in on a lowly donkey, still the great numbers of people who greet Him are impressive. But is this what is attractive about Jesus? Is it the glory and praise and honor of Palm Sunday that stand as one of the great highlights of Jesus’ work here on earth? Humanly speaking, this day does appear as the high point. After all, at no other time after this would Jesus receive the great public show of glory and honor. So why is this not the high point? Because Jesus did not come to receive the praise and honor of men, but He came to be glorified by His Father, and that would happen only through being “lifted up from the earth.” As John tells us, “This He said, signifying by what death He would die.” Jesus repeats here what He told Nicodemus early in His public ministry. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.”

Jesus will be lifted up when He is nailed to the cross and the cross is raised. It is at the cross that the glory of Christ will be revealed. The glory of Jesus at the very highpoint of His ministry for us is going to be hidden. Oh, lots of people saw Jesus lifted up on the cross, so it was not hidden in that way. But the glory was not apparent to them. The glory was hidden by the way God chose to show it. The cross, with the blood, the pain and suffering, the death, does not bring to mind the victory that we associate with glory. Jesus Himself knows what lies ahead of Him. He shows us His thoughts when He said, “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.” His road has only one direction to go. Jesus is on a one way street to the cross.

To all the eyes that watched Him the day He died Jesus looked like the loser. The winners seem to be the enemies of Jesus. They are the ones who can go and celebrate. The followers of Jesus are in mourning, grieving over the death of their beloved friend and leader. This is not glory.

But remember what Jesus said, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” With this picture of planting, decay, and new life, Jesus teaches us about the way He achieves glory. Just like a seed seems to be dry, dead, and without life, so the body of Jesus on Good Friday shows nothing hopeful. But seeds put in the ground are invigorated by the warmth and moisture; new life grows from what was dry and dead. So with Jesus. He is planted in the tomb, and He will rise again, showing His victory over sin, death, and devil.

In the same way Jesus tells us about ourselves as those who follow and believe in Him: “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” The glory of this world will tempt us to love our lives here and now, to put this world and its glory ahead of the way of the cross, ahead of the way of following Jesus no matter what. But Jesus does not direct us to seek the glory of this world. In fact, that is the way ultimately to lose our lives.

This world seeks glory in what gives the appearance of immediate victory. For example, Muslim extremists who kill our brothers and sister in Christ in Rwanda and the Sudan believe they have achieved victory. The glory is theirs, they believe, when they can see the bodies of dead Christians. The same is true in communist China and other totalitarian states. The persecution of our fellow believers looks like the defeat of the Christian Church and glory and victory for the forces that hate the Church. The same was true in the early days of the Church. Think of the death of St. Stephen. He was stoned to death by a mob that wanted nothing to do with Jesus Christ, even though Stephen showed them from Holy Scripture how Jesus was the Messiah. Other countless believers have followed Stephen in the twenty centuries since he died. Time and time again the followers of Christ have been put to the test: will you follow Christ, or will you follow the world. “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

The Greeks who wanted to see Jesus probably heard more than they bargained for. They liked the Jesus of Palm Sunday, the One who received all the glory, the praises and honor of the large crowd. Were they still following Jesus on Good Friday when the glory was gone? We do not know.

We do know about ourselves. What do we find attractive about Jesus? Do we prefer for Jesus to receive the accolades and honor of this world? Do we feel better when the news media or other sources of glory in this world praise our Savior? Do we need that? Or are we content to remain with the Jesus hidden in shame, suffering, and death of the cross?

As we travel the way of Holy Week this year, God help us to trust in the Jesus of the cross, the Jesus who died for us, the Jesus who did not shy away from the path to His glory, the way of crucifixion. This Jesus does not promise us riches and glory now, but He does promise us eternal life with His Father in heaven. “If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.” Let us see Jesus in the glory of the cross, as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” In the hands of this Jesus we may safely place our lives for now and for eternity. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Holy Week Sermons by Pastor Rank

Maundy Thursday – March 24, 2005

In Nomine Iesu

Pastor Thomas L. Rank

Maundy Thursday

March 24, 2005

Text: Psalm 111:1

Praise the LORD! I will praise the LORD with my whole heart, In the assembly of the upright and in the congregation. 2 The works of the LORD are great, Studied by all who have pleasure in them. 3 His work is honorable and glorious, And His righteousness endures forever. 4 He has made His wonderful works to be remembered; The LORD is gracious and full of compassion. 5 He has given food to those who fear Him; He will ever be mindful of His covenant. 6 He has declared to His people the power of His works, In giving them the heritage of the nations. 7 The works of His hands are verity and justice; All His precepts are sure. 8 They stand fast forever and ever, And are done in truth and uprightness. 9 He has sent redemption to His people; He has commanded His covenant forever: Holy and awesome is His name. 10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.


Dear fellow redeemed in our crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ,

This evening we commemorate the events of the night Jesus was betrayed. Especially we focus on that great institution, the Supper of our Lord, the Sacrament of the Altar.

It was the time of the Passover, when the Old Testament people of God remembered the great deliverance from slavery God provided. God brought about the deliverance through His power that brought death to His enemies, and yet provided safety to those who believed in Him. The safety was found in blood, the blood of a pure, male lamb. Wherever that blood was painted on the door, there death would not go. Wherever that Passover meal was eaten, there was life and salvation.

Psalm 111 recalls the great meal of the Lord at the Passover, calling it “the food given to those who fear Him.” This food was a wonderful memorial meal done each year. But on the night He was betrayed Jesus began a new meal. This meal surpasses the old meal as much as the sun outshines a 15 watt light bulb. For in this meal we do not have the blood of a male lamb, but we have the Son of God, who gives us His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. And if the Lord’s name was holy and awesome because of that deliverance from slavery in Egypt for the people of Israel, how much more awesome is His name because of the greater work of Jesus, who goes not against a Pharoah and Egyptian army, but against the hosts of hell, against sin, against death itself. The Old Testament Passover, as wonderful as it was, could only be a mere shadow of the great work of Jesus, and the wonderful Supper that commemorates that death of Jesus.

The psalm teaches us that God “has made His wonderful works to be remembered.” And what does Jesus tell us about His Supper? “Do this in remembrance of me.” Through St. Paul we are taught “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” The death of Jesus is the wonderful work of God that is to be remembered, proclaimed, treasured, as long the earth remains. For there will be no greater event in the history of the world than that precious death of Jesus until He returns again on the Last Day.

Why? Why all the fuss about this Supper of the Lord, or about His crucifixion and death? What makes this so special? Why should it be something that 2000 years later we are still talking about? The reason is that this is the work of God, and it is a work we desperately need.

Israel in the Old Testament was in slavery for centuries. They had left the promised land of Canaan about 1800 BC. Four hundred years later, almost twice as long as the history of the United States, Israel remains slaves to Pharoah. Pharoah had been killing the baby boys of Egypt, a sure way to attack God himself and the promises given to Abraham. How so? Because through Abraham there would be a special baby boy born one day that would bring blessing to all the nations of the earth. If all the male descendants of Abraham are slaughtered in Egypt, the attack of Satan against God’s promises would have succeeded. Therefore God does not allow such satanic work to go unchecked. He promises and provides deliverance for these people through His servant Moses. The slaves are freed, and the line of descendants that will one day lead to Mary giving birth to Jesus in Bethlehem goes on.

This history of Israel, and the life of Jesus which goes to the cross, and which includes the blessed Supper of the Lord, communion, none of this will be of much value to us unless we have come to realize more and more the situation we are in without it. Earlier we answered the last question from the catechism. “But what shall a person do if he is not aware of such trouble and feels no hunger and thirst for the Sacrament?” In other words, what if you don’t think you are sinful, or do not need the death of Jesus and His body and blood for the remission of sins? What then? We then said:

To such a person no better advice can be given than that, in the first place, he put his hand into his bosom, and feel whether he still have flesh and blood, and that he by all means believe what the Scriptures say of it….

Secondly, that he look around to see whether he is still in the world, and keep in mind that there will be no lack of sin and trouble….

Thirdly, he will certainly have the devil also about him, who with his lying and murdering, day and night, will let him have no peace within or without….

Our bodies are troubled by the sin that clings to us as long as we remain in this world. The world itself is a burden to us in that many temptations and trials arise from it that leave us exhausted and worn out, frustrated and discouraged, as we battle them day in and day out. And finally the devil who so desired the death of Jesus, now desires your death in such a way that you do not receive the gift of eternal life in heaven.

These are why the death of Jesus on the cross is proclaimed. This is why this wonderful meal from Jesus to you continues to be offered regularly at this congregation. The Psalm says, “The LORD is gracious and full of compassion.” No where is this more apparent than in this Sacrament of the Altar. Martin Luther noted:

if you are afraid to go to the Sacrament, and your conscience frightens you, as if you were unworthy, put this verse into your heart and on your lips. Then you must hear and feel how sincerely He calls and invites you. He is here and is waiting for you with hands and heart wide open, for you to take and receive grace and mercy. He does not want you to flee and shy away from Him but to flee to Him and with full confidence go to Him. Here is called nothing but this: the gracious and merciful Lord….What is the suffering of Christ but pure grace and mercy, offered, given, and imparted to us through the Sacrament? It is grace that He shows us all the benefits and by his blood brings us from sin to righteousness, from death to life, and from the devil to God. It is mercy that He unceasingly forgives our sin and spares and endures our ingratitude and all wickedness in which we are still bound as long as we live in the flesh. All this He earned for us, once and for all, by His suffering, and daily offers and gives us by His remembrance and Sacrament, actually driving us to it with sweet and gentle words (LW 13, 374-5).

“The Lord is gracious and full of compassion.” As we hear and mediate on the great events of Holy Week, let this phrase from Psalm 111 be our constant guide to the meaning of it all. It is about the grace of God and His compassion for you, that you be saved, that you receive life eternal, that you be forgiven all sin, and be confident of that through faith in the gracious word of your Savior, Jesus Christ. “The Lord is gracious and full of compassion” – for you. Amen.

Holy Week Sermons by Pastor Rank

Good Friday – March 25, 2005

In Nomine Iesu

Pastor Thomas L. Rank

Good Friday

March 25, 2005

Dear fellow redeemed by the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ,

This evening of Good Friday we mediate on the words of Psalm 22, an astounding prophecy of the work of Jesus, written 900 years before He was even born. The psalm begins with the words we would hear from the very lips of Jesus as He hung on the cross:

My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, And from the words of My groaning? 2 O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear; And in the night season, and am not silent.

Jesus is forsaken, abandoned, left, by His Father. God, in His holy and perfect justice, does not allow evil to remain in His presence. Jesus carries all sin and evil upon Him. Therefore with these words our Lord is proclaiming the judgment of God upon sin, and we see Jesus suffering the punishment of hell. That is what our sins deserve, and that is what Jesus takes upon Himself. For you and me.

3 But You are holy, Enthroned in the praises of Israel. 4 Our fathers trusted in You; They trusted, and You delivered them. 5 They cried to You, and were delivered; They trusted in You, and were not ashamed.

God acted to save Israel time and time again. He brought them out of the slavery in Egypt by defeating their enemies. He protected them and gave them victory on the way to the promised land. Their trust was in God was not disappointed. But the Savior of mankind will not be delivered in that way. Rather, He came to make the deliverance by staying on the cross to the very end, to death.

6 But I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised by the people. 7 All those who see Me ridicule Me; They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, 8 “He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him; Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!”

As Jesus hangs on the cross His enemies mock Him and laugh at Him for what they thought was misplaced trust. There He is, the one who spoke so strongly about being from the Father, yet where is the Father now? They fail to see the reason for the crucifixion of Jesus. They think it is a judgment on Jesus, rather than their own judgment put on Him in their place. So they despise Jesus and consider Him no better than a worm.

9 But You are He who took Me out of the womb; You made Me trust while on My mother’s breasts. 10 I was cast upon You from birth. From My mother’s womb You have been My God. 11 Be not far from Me, For trouble is near; For there is none to help. 12 Many bulls have surrounded Me; Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled Me. 13 They gape at Me with their mouths, Like a raging and roaring lion.

It is no wonder that Jesus sweat drops of blood as He anticipated His time in the hands of the enemies of God. It is no wonder that He said, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” The wonder is that He went ahead to Golgotha, knowing exactly what lay before Him. The gaping mouths of those who curse Him and ridicule Him are before His eyes as He dies. He does not see gratitude for His sacrifice of love. He sees only hate. But even that ingratitude does not deter Him.

14 I am poured out like water, And all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It has melted within Me. 15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death.

In the death of Jesus we see the true nature of death. Death is not a time of bliss, or release, as some would have us think. Death is the opposite of everything that is truly good and right for us. And so those who speak or write of death as some friendly act that you can do to help someone are really spreading only a demonic lie. Death is not good. And yet, as we hear what Jesus went through we learn that despite the evil death is, even it must bow to Jesus. So when Jesus is brought to the dust of death, for to dust we all return, He is changing death. In Christ we view death differently – because of His victory. But without Christ death remains the enemy.

16 For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; 17 I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. 18 They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.

The nails go through the hands and feet of Jesus, in order that He and the cross are connected. The soldiers at the foot of the cross roll dice to find out who gets His clothes. The psalmist, with insight given by the Holy Spirit, pictures for us the events of the cross with an uncanny accuracy. The bulls gape at Jesus. The dogs surround Him like a pack of hyenas that surround the wounded gazelle, waiting for the moment to move in for the kill. There is our Jesus in the middle of it all.

19 But You, O LORD, do not be far from Me; O My Strength, hasten to help Me! 20 Deliver Me from the sword, My precious life from the power of the dog. 21 Save Me from the lion’s mouth And from the horns of the wild oxen!

What will be the end of Jesus? Will He remain in death? Will the cross be the sign of the victory of Satan, Sin, and Death over the beloved Son of God? Will the power of the dog be greater than the power of God? Will the jaws of the lion crush the Messiah? Will the horns of the wild oxen pierce the Son of Mary and nail Him forever to the grave? The words of Jesus at the end of His time on the cross are: “Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit.” Even now there is no doubt in Jesus. He does not pray in despair and uncertainty, but with confidence. He is in His Father’s hands. All is well.

You have answered Me. 22 I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will praise You. 23 You who fear the LORD, praise Him! All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him, And fear Him, all you offspring of Israel! 24 For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from Him; But when He cried to Him, He heard.

This day of Good Friday does not end with doubt, nor with hopelessness, nor with desperation. God is not lying in defeat at the foot of His enemies. Lion, ox, bull, and dog; Satan, sin, death, and demons; none of these can finish their victory dance. For the Father answers His Son. He heard. That means the price of sin is paid, the agony is over, the blessed work of atonement is at an end. Finished. The name of Jesus, the praise for the God of all love and compassion, will go forth, and at the name of Jesus every knee will bow. The victory is His, which means the victory is yours, as you believe, as you trust this great action accomplished for you, o Sinner!

25 My praise shall be of You in the great assembly; I will pay My vows before those who fear Him. 26 The poor shall eat and be satisfied; Those who seek Him will praise the LORD. Let your heart live forever! 27 All the ends of the world Shall remember and turn to the LORD, And all the families of the nations Shall worship before You. 28 For the kingdom is the LORD’s, And He rules over the nations.

This psalm that began with forsakenness, with darkness, with death, ends with a glorious reunion, with light, and with life. Let your heart live forever! For with Jesus, the One who died, there is true life for you, for all who believe. There is a feast that fully satisfies, the feast of this one whose death we proclaim. For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death. This the Son of God, the Lamb, around whom we gather to worship and praise, along with all of God’s people around the world.

29 All the prosperous of the earth Shall eat and worship; All those who go down to the dust Shall bow before Him, Even he who cannot keep himself alive. 30 A posterity shall serve Him. It will be recounted of the Lord to the next generation, 31 They will come and declare His righteousness to a people who will be born, That He has done this.

He has done this, and it is finished. On Good Friday you see the way of God, the work of God, that achieves your salvation. You see the awful condemnation your sin and my sin deserves, the Son of God who is poured out for us at the cross. But you also hear the results: going down to dust, the return to what we were taken from, is not our end. For Jesus did not come to end up in a cold grave. He came to defeat death, and show this great victory on the first Easter Sunday. He has done this. And to you and to all the generations since that great day the righteousness of Jesus Christ has been preached and declared. His righteousness is yours by faith, His death is yours, and this means forgiveness of all your sin, salvation, and eternal life. Thanks be to God for this day, for the Good Friday that brought victory for us all, through the death of God’s Son. That is His love for you. Believe it in Jesus’ name. Amen.