Passion

Today is Palm Sunday an under normal circumstances I would probably go with Luke’s account of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. That is likely what most pastors are going to be doing today.  As you have no doubt figured out by now, I don’t think like most other pastors. You may have noticed that I have made a slight change in today’s order in that I had George read Isaiah instead of the gospel. The reason for this is that the gospel is my sermon today. I mean I generally follow the lectionary so every one of my sermons is the from the gospel or the Bible in some way. I preach exegesis and not my own opinion. I could take the feel-good gospel and follow the traditional steps, but Luke is such a direct and to the point writer, that I felt the need to go straight to the heart. But first I want you to think. I want you to ask yourself questions. I want you to ask questions of me because I’m not perfect and I can get this wrong. This is my own opinion. Jesus rode into Jerusalem was hailed king of the Jews by the masses and the disciples were on top of the world and very likely thinking, “now this is what I’m talking about” everyone was feeling 10 foot tall and bulletproof. Do you think that Jesus did not know what he was riding into? Three times in his ministry he tried to explain to the disciples that he was going to have to be tortured and murdered before he could ascend to his rightful Kingdom and that it was not of this earth. But I cannot fault them as I am fond of saying the disciples were men and women just like us. They had their faults, they had their idols, they had their wants, they were not perfect. They were not Saints they were still sinners; everyone was. Everyone would remain so until Jesus was accepted as the lamb. Yes, He will be the lion of Judah when He comes again. But for now, He is god’s sacrifice for us, for now He is the Lamb. So often, I wonder how He could just keep going knowing full well what it was that He was riding into. Riding into Jerusalem, laughing, loving, praying, forgiving and ultimately dying for us. We forget the passion defined His gift to us, the pain that paid for the entire world’s sins. Why do we call it the passion anyways should it not be more like the torture? In fact, that’s exactly what the passion means in Latin it come from the word passionem, and I am positive that I am not pronouncing that right but still, its meaning is suffering or enduring. So, when we say Christ’s passion what we mean is Christ suffering. We mean that which He endured for us. I had George begin with Isaiah because I want you to realize that Jesus was not an accident. The Passion is the fulfillment of millennia of prophesy and the final gift of Gods mercy on us. I want you to not just believe but to know in your marrow that God planned this long before He created us. 1 Peter 1:19-20 – “He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose Him for this purpose long before the world began, but now in these final days, He was sent to the earth for all to see. And He did this for you.” Hear me, when I say this because in the Old Testament alone there are over 300 prophesies that Jesus fulfilled. Just so you know how impossible that is, I looked it up online and found this at CBN. Just one person fulfilling eight prophecies is 1 in 10^16 power or a 1 followed by 17 zeros. I don’t even know how much that is. The odds on one person fulfilling 48 prophecies is 10 to the 157th power or a 1 followed by 158 zeros. The number is meaningless. Can you guess what the chances are of someone fulfilling over 300? Exactly. Jesus. This is the man that the Sanhedrin brought before Pilate in order that He be disgraced and murdered. Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate. They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.” Then Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He answered, “You say so.” Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no basis for an accusation against this man.” But they were insistent and said, “He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.” Pilate does not want to do this and Jesus says only three words and refutes all of the Sanhedrin’s accusations simply reversing the question back at pilot “you say so” in other words only Pilate is making the claim that Jesus is the king of Jews, not Jesus, there is no crime. Still the Sanhedrin tried to tie Jesus to the rebels in Galilee and that got Pilates attention. When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign. He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him and sent him back to Pilate. That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies. Pilate sent Jesus to Herod both as a means to avoid making an obviously ridiculous decision or what he would consider a ridiculous decision, because none of the things that the Sanhedrin considered dangerous were even understood by Rome except the sedition, which he found absurd. They had no similar cultural context to base it on. So, also as a way to flatter Herod he gave him the honor of dispensing justice in his house so to speak. Also, if you notice Herod was only interested in Jesus for the miracles he could perform. He no doubt thought of Jesus as a performer or healer and was very disappointed when Jesus refused to even speak to him. As such Herod dismissed Him as a fake and harmless.

He could find nothing wrong with him either and mocked him and sent him back to Pilate who was not displeased. This is why they became friends. Politics make for strange bedfellows they say. Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death. I will therefore have him flogged and release him.” The way that pilot does this is meant to appease the priests and to show Rome’s mercy and still give they accused something to think about so that they wouldn’t find themselves back in front of the court. Pilot thought this was more than adequate as people had died from flogging, although it doesn’t seem that pilot actually meant it to go that far in this case. Pilate was walking a fine line between appeasing the priests and keeping his own sense of right and wrong. However, the people were not happy. Then they all shouted out together, “Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!” (This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.) Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.” But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. So, Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished. While Pilate did his best to let Jesus go, as both he and Herod found him innocent. Still the people asked for crucifixion now they were no longer content with blood they wanted death. Remember not too long ago he had ridden into the city being hailed king of the Jews. Don’t get me wrong there are still many people in the city who love and revere Jesus, you are talking about at least 1,000,000 people packed into Jerusalem during Passover. And where this trial is taking place there’s maybe 2 or 300 people that can get into this courtyard and of course the 2 or 300 people that are there are friends of Barabbas and the priests and others who were accused very few would have been admitted or even known that Jesus was on trial. As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus. A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” In other words, if they would do this to Him who is innocent what more will they do to you. Better that you were never born than that you suffer what is to come. Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” And so, he rides into Jerusalem hailed as a King one day then then they hang Him on a cross and mock him as the king of the Jews the next. Still Jesus did not condemn us instead He forgave us. One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” I like to think of this guy as the last disciple of the Old Testament. Jesus’ final conversion under the old covenant. He is also proof the even on our death beds we can be saved by Christ and only by Christ that not even those few last seconds are a barrier to the love of Christ. It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.” And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things. Tell me, where do you stand? At a distance. How far are you from Christ?

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