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Palm Sunday

“Christ—or Self—Righteous?”
Zech. 9:9
“Behold your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, humble
and mounted on a donkey.”
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Vantage Point. That’s the name of a recently released movie. I haven’t
seen it—but evidently the story line goes something like this: The
president is assassinated and the event is portrayed from the perspective
of eight different people.
It makes me wonder what our vantage point would be if we had
been standing alongside the road leading into Jerusalem on this Palm
Sunday. What would our perspective have been in regards to what was
happening—and even more importantly, concerning Jesus?
Would we see Him as:
A prophet?
A miracle worker?
Someone who reminded us of John the Baptist or Elijah?
A new king who would wield immense political power?
Or maybe a misguided man born in the backwater berg of
Bethlehem.
Few, if any, would have seen what is described in our text—The
righteous One of God—who has salvation.
Righteousness. It’s an uncommon word in modern-day English.
Think of the last time you heard someone say it outside of church—or
the last time you read it in a book other than the bible. About the only
time we’ve heard that word is when someone is using it to describe

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another person as being religiously proud or arrogant—which is to say,
self-righteous.
Each and every one of us is guilty to some extent of the sin of self
righteousness. In fact, we are so good at being self-righteous, that we
probably don’t even recognize it. We are quick to point the finger at the
sins of unrighteousness that are so evident in society. We hear, read, and
see sinful acts of others, and like the Pharisee we self-righteously think
or even say “I thank God that I am not like THEM!” When we do this
we become guilty of self-righteousness.
We are all born pre-disposed to self-righteousness. It is human
nature to want to tear others down in order to build ourselves up.
According to Dr. Lloyd Thomas, the sin of self-righteousness
begins in childhood. In order to feel secure or to live up to the
requirements of an over-demanding parent, people pursue perfection.
The closer we get to what we perceive as being “good behavior” the less
tolerant we become of others.
Not only do we become less tolerant of other “sinners”, we become
immune to our own sin. The Word of God has little or no worth in our
lives. We see God’s law as that which is spoken about and to other
people, not us. And so it fails to find a place in our hard hearts. Instead
of seeing our sin and then looking to the Lord Jesus for His salvation,
we instead look within and deceived into believing that we are good, and
getting better every day. We look outside of ourselves not to see
salvation, but only to compare our imagined righteousness with the
unrighteousness of others.
Though we may not care to admit it, we are much more like the
Pharisees than we realize. The Pharisees were proud—they wanted to

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be seen by others—as being BETTER than others. They sought the
praise of men, and in the process forsook the praise of the true God.
Listen to how Jesus addresses them, and see if these words apply to you:
The scribes and Pharisees do all their deeds to be seen by others.
They love the places of honor at feasts and the best seats in the
synagogues and greetings in the market places and being called rabbi by
others. And then Jesus follows it with seven woes.
You see where the sin of self-righteousness stems from, don’t you?
Pride. We may not think of ourselves as self-righteous like the Pharisees
because we don’t go to the synagogue or insist on being called rabbi—
but we ARE like them, for we take great pride in what WE’VE done for
God, and how WE live such good Christian lives, and the Godly
standards that we have met—or even exceeded.
But as we all know, pride goeth before the fall. And though pride
has EVERYTHING to do with Self-Righteousness, it has NOTHING to
do with Christ Righteousness.
Listen again to how our lesson describes Jesus: “Behold your king
comes to you, righteous and having salvation, HUMBLE AND
MOUNTED ON A DONKEY.
Though so many see Him on this Sunday, Jesus’ desire is not to be
seen by men, admired by men, or put on a pedestal by men. Rather, He
rides into Jerusalem because this is the end of His journey—a journey
in which he has and will be denied by men, rejected by men, and put on
the cross by men.
Jesus does not appear in a specially tailored tunic;
He’s not accompanied by brass bands;

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He doesn’t insist on having the red carpet rolled out
before Him;
He isn’t carried in like a king on the shoulders
of His servants.
Jesus is just a regular guy—who has come to save the irregular
sinner. He came to save not only the unrighteous, but the self-righteous.
The problem is that the self-righteous think they don’t need his
salvation—because they don’t see themselves as sinners. Jesus made
that clear when He said—“The healthy have no need of a doctor.” If we
think we’re OK—pretty good—not really bad sinners at all—then we
don’t need Jesus. We have another god—who we see every time we look
in the mirror.
Here’s something that might surprise you—Jesus never had a
problem with the UN-righteous—
He talked to tax collectors—even calling one as His disciple;
He looked at lepers—and even healed them;
He dealt with the dead;
He associated with adulterers.
Unlike the self-righteous, the un-righteous recognize their true sinful
condition—and their greater need for the savior. The unrighteous hear
the law of God and apply it to themselves. And then, rather than
looking within where they know nothing good lives, they look without,
where the only One who ever has been good lives.
Jesus NEVER had a problem with the Un-righteous--it was the
SELF righteous that gave him fits. In fact, it was the self-righteous who
were responsible for His crucifixion. Carefully consider this week, as
you again listen to the account of His crucifixion, who it is that wants

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Jesus dead—It’s the ones who don’t believe that they need Him in their
lives. That they are doing just fine on their own—thank you.

Jesus was righteous. His righteousness was NOT reflected in


pride—or in giving the appearance that He was BETTER than others.
Rather, it was seen in His humility—in lowering Himself—making
Himself a servant. A servant who has salvation. But who cannot give it
to those who think they have no need of it—or Him.
His salvation is the best—but it is of value only to those who
believe and confess that they are the worst—the chief of sinners.
It is only by being turned away from self—and self-righteousness;
and being turned toward Christ and His righteousness, that we can be
saved from our unrighteousness and self-righteousness, and truly be
made Christ righteous.
Today there are many vantage points when it comes to Christ.
People see him through many prisms, many through that of their own
wants, needs, and desires. But we see Christ through the prism of the
cross. It is a vantage point from which we are always looking out—and
up. It is a vantage point that Luther spoke of in his sermon on St. John:
May a merciful God preserve me from a Christian Church in which everyone
is a saint! I want to be and remain in the church and little flock of the
fainthearted, the feeble, and the ailing, who feel and recognize the
wretchedness of their sins, who sigh and cry to God incessantly for comfort
and help, who believe in the forgiveness of sins.

Amen