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“Jesus Is Dead”

3/29/2015 Sunday of the Passion/Palm Sunday  The text is Mark 14-15 (The Passion of our Lord)

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Jesus is dead.  Christ is dead.  God is dead.

Those words make me shudder and I can’t believe I am saying them.  Living in the post-resurrection era, I know that those words are not true.  But the people who lived in the first century were living them.  They had watched at a distance as Jesus breathed his last.  They felt the earth shudder at his death.  And, they were facing a world without God – a world without hope – a world in chaos.  It wasn’t supposed to happen that way.  God is everlasting and Jesus, as the only begotten Son of God, should not have died.  He should not have suffered.  His place was not in the grave.  And yet, he was crucified, died and was buried because an up-front, in-your-face God was not wanted.  God was too close for comfort in Jesus and with this closeness, there was no way to hide.

Jesus is dead.  Christ is dead.  God is dead.

On the surface, it appears that everything went wrong all at once.  Jesus entered Jerusalem triumphantly.  Much in the same way people around here gather for a duck boat parade after a Super Bowl or World Series win, crowds gathered to get a glimpse of Jesus on the road. They shouted with glee at his appearance.  But, events turned quickly.  Within one week, Jesus was betrayed and denied by his disciples and later arrested and sentenced to death.  The disciples were in a state of shock – too much happened too fast.  Who would have thought that everything would fall apart in just a couple of days?  The Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, presented the people with a choice.  A crowd, similar to the one that greeted Jesus triumphantly, could have saved Jesus’ life with a word.  But adding insult to injury, the people chose to save the notorious criminal, Barabbas, over Jesus. The people set a murderer free, and with their loud cries they sentenced Jesus to death.  They wanted him out of their lives.  For, the only god that seemed safe was the distant God of their ancestors.  They preferred a god who was as comfortable as an old shoe, one that they believed they knew and felt they could satisfy and control, over this Immanuel, “God with us.”  So, the shouted, “Crucify him!”  They wanted him out of their lives forever.  They wanted this God who stood before them to die.  And so, they made a bad choice and they cast judgment upon our Lord.

And yet, all of this was in God’s plan.  For, God sent his son into the world to save it – and the way to save it was to shed his own blood for it.  The way to bring life to a world dead through sin was to bury that sin in the grave, leaving it there forever, and rising to new life.  We, who live in the post-resurrection era, understand this.  But, that does not mean that we feel any more comfortable with an up-front, in-your-face type of God, than the people who gathered around the chief priests and scribes on the day that Jesus was sentenced to death.  We would prefer to hide our bad choices from God.

If we are honest, we have to admit that there have been times when we have let Jesus down.  By what we have done or failed to do we have betrayed Jesus.  We have not spoken up when we should have and in so doing, we have denied Jesus.  We have been afraid to acknowledge Jesus and a relationship to him to others and in so doing we have run away and have done nothing.  We have watched from the sidelines, at best.  As the disciples of old, we have failed to serve Jesus as we have failed to serve others in their hour of greatest need.  And, like those in the first century, we have chosen the Barabbases in our lives over Jesus.  We have chosen a god who seems safe and comfortable rather than the one who is up close and personal, Jesus Christ.  And yet, there is no safe distance from ourselves and our actions, and there is no safe distance from our Lord.  Our safety is found in the God whom we deny and abandon, yet, who in spite of our disloyalty, willingly dies for us.  Our safety is found in the Christ who willingly struggled with the finality of death which would take our God from us, but who proved to be victor over death in the days ahead. So, Jesus opened his arms and embraced the cross.  He died the death we deserve.

Jesus is dead.  Christ is dead.  God is dead.

Those who lived in the first century saw and believed.  And their hearts sank into the pit of despair.  God did the unthinkable in Jesus Christ as he willingly endured the rejection of the people, the scorn of the soldiers and finally crucifixion. The body of the slain Lord was placed in a borrowed grave by the people and for the people.  And the earth shuddered and the people huddled in fear.

As we leave our sanctuary today, we leave with the image of the world without God. Jesus is in the grave.  And yet we know that this is not the end of the story. For Jesus truly is the Son of God, and God is everlasting.  The grave will not hold him.  And because the grave did not hold him, we can trust that it will not hold us who place our trust in him.

So may we look to the cross with all its ugliness and acknowledge again our need for this up front, in your face God who willingly took our sins to the grave.  May we rejoice that God so loves us that he willingly died for us.  And, as we live in the shadow of the cross of our salvation, may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.



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