Who Made the Right Choice?
Who Made the Right Choice?
We have journeyed through Lent and have arrived in Jerusalem with Jesus. Traditionally on Palm Sunday we read one of the passages that we refer to as the Triumphal Entry, where we find Jesus entering Jerusalem riding on a donkey.
The Children’s Story for today focuses on this passage.
However, during the sermon I wanted to focus not on Palm Sunday, but on Passion Sunday. As a result we will be reading Mark’s account of the cruicifixion. The service today begins on a triumphant note both in word and song. As the service develops, that note changes and reflects the reality of the events of the crucifixion.
Holy Week Interactive Activities
An activity for the first four days of Holy Week. Start by clock on the bible below for the daily devotionals and then move on to other activities.
Who Made the Right Choice?
We have travelled with Jesus through Lent. We have reflected on the story that draws Jesus to Jerusalem, the trial, and execution which await him. The resurrection which will follow. Lent is a dark time, it can often be depressing. The season of the year is cold and dark, it is only now as we enter Spring that we see signs of renewal in creation. However, we have journeyed through a longer, darker season.
Covid-19 is still a reality among us. We look behind us and we see a long season of suffering. Much has been demanded and taken from us by this virus. Each of us can reflect on lost opportunities due to Covid-19. The words of Psalm 19 are haunting as we consider the impact of the past year:
My eye wastes away from grief,
my soul and body also.
For my life is spent with sorrow,
and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my misery,
and my bones waste away. (Psalm 31:9-10)
We have endured much and there is still more. It is through this haunting image of our past year that we approach the event of Jesus’ death. On Palm Sunday the traditional reading is the triumphal entry that Jesus has into Jerusalem. However, there is also the opportunity to explore the Lesson of the Passion. As we are not holding a Good Friday service this year I wanted to focus on the Passion. I believe it is important for us to acknowledge that the past year has been difficult, that we have all experienced pain and loss. The Lesson of the Passion provides us with an outlet to share that grief with God and to know that God is with us throughout our sorrow.
Mark’s gospel account of the crucifixion is dark. Ira Driggers writes, “The Markan motif of mockery accentuates the ugly depths of human animosity toward Jesus and his mission. It adds to the degradation of Jesus, in keeping with how Rome used crucifixion as an instrument of extreme dehumanization, as a public spectacle to deter the slightest hint of subversion. (Ira Diggers)
This is not a pretty image. Mark provides a stark description of the crucifixion. His writing reminds us that within humanity there are those elements that are shocking and violent. That humanity has the capacity to come to Jesus with rejoicing and to approach Jesus with violence. Remember that I could just as easily be talking about how the crowd cheered Hosanna’s and welcomed Jesus as king. Only a few short days later and that same crowd shouts crucify!
We have all seen and perhaps experienced similar behaviour. Human memory is short, we sometimes forget the goodness that has been offered, choosing instead to react and travel along with the crowd.
Michael Chan reminds us that the situation of Jesus is not a unique one, “From one angle, Jesus’ suffering is unremarkable. He is but one among an innumerable host of bodies pulverized by the cruel machinery of human violence. The reasons for his suffering are all too recognizable, even two millennia later: betrayal, abandonment, arrest under false charges, unfair justice system, physical abuse, and mob “justice.” (Michael Chan)
We can relate to and understand the narrative that is playing out in the gospels, because it is not new and very little has changed. The gospel story reminds us that we are not alone, that Jesus walks with us. The arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus are a stark reminder that when we don’t stop to look around we are capable of making destructive decisions. Christ’s body on the cross is the ultimate reminder of the depths of our cruelty and the lengths that God will go to demonstrate a different way. By accepting violence upon God’s person, God rejects that violence for all others.
In overcoming that violence, through the resurrection, God says that life and love must be the final word. The crucifixion as Mark portrays it is a reminder of God’s divine faithfulness, which is a continuity with the ancient covenant with Israel. It tells us that God was, is and will be faithful to us, for all time.
When we examine this passage of scripture, our learning comes not from what was done, but from what was not. Pilate allowed the chief priests, elders and scribes to use their power to secure their power. The mob when it chanted crucify him did the same. Pilate could clearly see the threat the chief priests and others felt Jesus, but knew the charges were false. He supported them anyway as it helped keep the peace, maintained the status quo and generally made his life easier.
Formerly the crowd clamoured at Jesus to be healed by him and to hear him teach on love, mercy and peace. Now they reject those very teachings, in word and in practice, by demanding his death.
The lesson in Mark is in what was not done. All along the way there is opportunity for humanity to offer grace and love. Yet, at each opportunity the characters presented, Pilate, the chief priests, elders and scribes, and finally the crowd, selected the path of violence, ridicule and destruction because those choices were easy and those choices protected their own self interest.
The only one who makes the choice of love, mercy and grace is Jesus and those choices result in his death. Yet, those choices are the ones that we need to make. If we all make those choices, death isn’t the result, life is.
As we face the cross, with the knowledge of the empty tomb behind it, let us always make the choice of love, grace and mercy.
In doing so the light of God’s grace will shine upon us and save us with God’s steadfast love. Amen.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.
St. Andrew’s supports the gathering of community agencies, providing space for the Affordable Housing Committee. Rev. Ellis’ voice is key in advocating for improvements in awareness, empathy and action on key determinants such as housing, income and food security.
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