4/9/2017 Passion Sunday The text is Matthew 26:14-27:66 (Passion, according to St. Matthew)
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
It was one of those days. The accounting department of a large insurance company was working on year-end reports when the computer went down. An emergency call was put in to the systems analyst. Trouble-shooting company-wide, the man didn’t appear until three hours later. Yet even then several clerks cheered, “He’s here! Our savior!”
Without a word, the systems analyst turned to leave. Panicked, the accounting manager cried, “Where are you going?” “I’m leaving,” the analyst said. “I remember what they did to the last Savior.”
Today is a day to remember our Savior. It’s a day to remember what happened to the Savior of the world. It is a day to remember our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, to remember his final day of life on earth, to remember the Son of God who willingly went to his death in order to save us from eternal darkness. Today is a day to remember the crowds – one cheering Jesus as he entered Jerusalem; one crying out for his crucifixion. It is a day to remember the 12 disciples – one who betrayed, one who denied, those who fell asleep as Jesus prayed in the garden, and the many who ran and hid their faces in fear. It is a day to remember the women who followed at a distance. It is a day to remember the depth of God’s love which is shown most vividly as the spotless lamb of God shed his blood for you and me.
Today is a day for us to remember the events of the past and the sin which we carry that would have us crucifying our Lord in the present time. Today is a day of sorrow, but it is also a day of promise and hope – for God sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but to save it. We know the end of the story and we remember that the grave does not hold the crucified one. Jesus is the resurrection and the life and all who believe in him shall live even though they die in this world.
Today is a day to remember – to remember the tears of women, the questions asked of Peter, the crown of thorns placed on Jesus’ head. It is a day to remember Pilate and Herod, and the priests and Pharisees and scribes, and all those who wanted and still want to rid Jesus from their lives. It is a day to remember the washing of hands which could not remove the stain of guilt. But most of all, it is a day to remember the hands outstretched in suffering, embracing the world with forgiveness.
It is a day to remember the cross – the roughly hewn cross that was an execution method used by the Romans to humiliate the condemned and make them an example in order to terrorize the general population and to keep them from committing the same crimes. Because of the cruelty involved and the length of time required for suffocation, it was only used against non-Roman citizens who had committed despicable crimes or were political enemies.
BUT, Jesus was no criminal. Jesus was no political enemy. Jesus had not plotted to overthrow the Roman government. Jesus was innocent of wrong doing. His only crimes were telling the truth, healing the ill, challenging the comfortable, and offering God’s grace to a sinful world. Jesus did not deserve the cross. And yet, he was crucified. He was crucified because Jesus lived and died according to God’s plan. And God’s plan involved the crucifixion of our sins.
So today, we remember. We remember that Jesus died for you and for me. We remember the cross and what that cross means for our lives and our future. For as David Wade once wrote:
The cross, a symbol of faith
One to carry, to wear in my lapel
Made of gold, silver, brass, with jewels or colorful enamel
A decorative accessory!
But today we remember the cross
A symbol of shame!
A reminder of torture and death!
Rough, brutal, painful!
I carry my decorative cross
Proudly – but casually
With little thought of its meaning.
Can I carry my real one?
Can I face shame, humiliation, torture – and yes even death?
Can I follow my Lord to my own Calvary?
I hope so
But I don’t know.
Lord, forgive my fears of pain and death
The uncertainty of my commitment
My sanitization of your sacrifice,
And let me see the cross as it is
– stark and terrible –
And challenge to my faith.
In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Today, we have gathered to remember the cross in all its ugliness. We remember the sacrifice Christ made for us. We remember the depth of Jesus’ love for us which enabled him to endure all in accordance with God’s will for our salvation.
We remember…and as we remember, may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.