April 19, 2019

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Holy Week

Please Join us for Holy Week-Maundy Thursday Service- 7:30 pm April 18, Easter Egg Hunt-10:00 am April 21, Easter Worship with Communion-10:30 am April 21.

Last week's Sermon

April 14, 2019

 Luke 22:14 – 23:56


Palm Sunday 2010

“Passion Week revisited”

This is a character portrayal that I wrote several years ago and continue to use on Palm Sunday

For the past few years now I have come and shared with you my story and my experience of that fateful week almost two thousand years ago now.  And I think it is important that I share my story and that you hear my story, because you see, it is not just my story.  It is our story.  This story that happened almost two thousand years ago is so central to what we believe and who we are as followers of Jesus Christ.  All of Jesus’ teachings …all of Jesus’ preaching …all of Jesus’ miracles …all of Jesus’ mission and ministry …everything that Jesus did came together in this one week.  And it all began on what you have come to know as Palm Sunday. 

My name is James, son of Alphaeus.  I was one of the twelve of Jesus’ closest disciples.  And I would like to take you back with me to that fateful and historic week.  Come back with me to that wonderful day when Jesus rode into Jerusalem.  It was almost like a joyous parade.  It resembled that of a conquering king returning home from a successful battle.  Ironically, Jesus was seated on the colt of a humble donkey, instead of a fine stallion of a warhorse. 

See the throngs of people that lined the roadways and the streets as Jesus and his little band of faithful followers journeyed into the city.  Hear the people praising God and shouting loud hosannas.  Hear the little children laughing and singing.  Smell the sweet fragrance of spring in the air mixed with the pungent smell of animals, crowds of people, and dust from the road.  Feel the excitement.  It was a great and glorious day.  It was a day of hope and promise for those of us who believed that Jesus was the Messiah …the chosen one from God to restore us as a people.  It was a wonderful day. 

It didn’t take long for that joy and anticipation to turn to uncertainty and fear.  You could begin to feel the tension in the air.  It didn’t help any that Jesus continued to assert his religious authority.  The first thing Jesus did when he got into Jerusalem was go to the temple.  At the temple he saw people selling sacrificial animals and exchanging money for the treasury at a profit.  The religious leaders who had been entrusted to take caring of the temple and God’s people were instead exploiting the poor and the vulnerable.  In righteous anger Jesus cleared the temple, throwing out the money changers and driving out the animals. 

I don’t have to tell you that that got the attention of the religious leaders.  After that they really began to question and challenge Jesus’ authority.  Things kind of quieted down a little for a couple of days.  Jesus went about his usual teaching, but I assure you the rest of us were continually watching over our shoulders, waiting for things to really blow up …and blow up they did. 

It all began on Thursday evening as we shared the Passover Meal together.  It was at that meal that Jesus said and did some things that we would always remember.  In fact, it was the beginning of a tradition that we would carry with us and continue to practice after his death as we would remember his life and ministry with us. 

19 Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me."  20 And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

It was a somber meal as we remembered how God delivered our ancestors from slavery.  But even as we remembered the past, Jesus seemed to be hinting of something to come.  He told us that one of his own would betray him.  None of us knew who it would be, but Jesus seemed to know.  At some point in the evening Judas Iscariot left our little group without any of us really noticing.  We were soon to learn that it was he, Judas, who would betray our Lord. 

After supper we followed Jesus out to the garden to pray as was his custom.  We tried to wait and watch with him even though we were so very tired because of the excitement and the tension of the week.  We could hardly stay awake.  Through our groggy state we heard him praying in anguish something about God taking this cup away.  It made no sense to us. 

It was when we were getting ready to leave the garden that all chaos really began to break loose.  It was the beginning of the longest most confusing night of my life.  First Judas comes followed by armed soldiers.  Judas gives Jesus a kiss, not a kiss of greeting, but a of kiss betrayal.  A little skirmish broke out between us and the Roman soldiers when they tried to take Jesus.  Jesus quickly put an end to it.  Then in quiet obedience, Jesus allowed the soldiers to take him away. 

There was a lot of confusion, and fear as you might guess from those of us who followed Jesus so closely.  And poor Peter.  Those of us in that little group always kind of looked up to Peter.  He almost seemed to be Jesus’ right hand man.  Yet, that night, three times someone asked him if he was one of Jesus’ followers and three times Peter denied even knowing Jesus.  When the cock crowed early that morning Peter remembered that Jesus had predicted this would happen even when Peter emphatically assured Jesus it wouldn’t.  It broke poor Peter’s heart to think he had failed to follow as he had promised. 

Peter wasn’t the only one who failed our Lord.  All of us who called ourselves Jesus’ closest disciples deserted him.  All of ran off like frightened bunnies searching for cover.  All of us watched from a distance as they took Jesus from one place to another.  First they took him before the Council.  There they tried to get him to incriminate himself, but he would never fall into their trap. 

The Council doesn’t have the authority to pass judgment so they took him to Pilate who was the Roman Governor of that area at that time.  Pilate really didn’t want anything to do with the conflict between Jesus and the Jewish Council so he tried to get them to settle the problem on their own.  By now the Council had the crowds of people incited and it was turning into a mob scene.  Pilate could see that things were getting out of hand so he sent the problem on to Herod.  Herod didn’t want to deal with the problem so he sent Jesus and the Council back to Pilate. 

All of this time, they were mocking Jesus, beating him and whipping him.  They made a crown of thorns and placed on his head.  They put a purple robe on him.  They called him a king and yet they dealt with him like a criminal and treated him worse than a wild animal.  It was all quite painful to watch.  Many times I had to look away …sometimes because it was painful to watch …sometimes because of my own shame. 

Finally after a long and torturous night and morning, Pilate brought Jesus out before the crowds.  I think he was hoping that the torture and the mockery would satisfy the people’s hunger for revenge.  He had a proposition for the Jewish Council and the mob of onlookers.  It was custom that the Roman Governor could pardon one prisoner during this Holy time.  Finding nothing against Jesus, Pilate suggested to the people that he be allowed to release Jesus. 

But the Council would have nothing of it.  They got the mob into a frenzy.  They shouted, “Crucify him.  Release Barabbas instead.”  Barabbas was a known scoundrel and a murderer.  Jesus was innocent.  Three times Pilate asked and three times they shouted, “Crucify him.  Crucify him.  Crucify him.”  Pilate finally gave into public pressure and sentenced our Lord to be crucified that day along with two other criminals. 

Later on that morning, beaten and exhausted, Jesus was given his cross to carry and he headed out of Jerusalem, up the hill to the place they called The Skull.  It was a much different procession that took Jesus out of Jerusalem than when he came in less than a week earlier.  The day was dark and gloomy.  There were no more shouts of praise, only somber silence and mutters of scorn as Jesus trudged by.  With every ounce of strength gone Jesus could no longer carry his cross.  The guards grabbed a man by the name of Simon of Cyrene who was watching the procession to carry the cross for him. 

At that place …on that hill just outside of Jerusalem where only the worst of criminals should have to die, they drove the nails into the hands and feet of our Lord and they hung him on the cross and waited for him to die a slow and painful death.  Down below the cross they gambled to see who would take what few possessions he had.  Up on the cross, Jesus looked down with pity and prayed, “Father forgive them.”  It doesn’t get much more compassionate than that. 

It was a dark day, figuratively and literally.  From noon until three that afternoon the sun refused to shine and a deep darkness came over the land.  The curtain in the temple tore from top to bottom.  The clouds rolled and the earth shook.  Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit." Having said this, he breathed his last.  It was over.  Jesus had died. 

A Centurion, a Roman officer who was watching all of this, recognized that Jesus was innocent and declared, “Surely this is the Son of God.”  Isn’t it ironic how a foreigner saw what many of Jesus’ fellow religious leaders failed to recognize. 

After Jesus’ death, a man named Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Jewish Council who did not agree with what they had done to Jesus came to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body.  He then took Jesus’ body and placed it in a tomb which had never been used.  Then the guards rolled a big stone in front of the entry way for safe keeping. 

It was over.  The long tragic night …it was over.  Jesus’ ministry …it was over.  Jesus’ passion had been live out to its fullest extent and it cost him his life.  God’s love had died on the cross and now lay sealed away in a tomb.  Sin and death seemed to have the upper hand over God’s grace and love …or did it?  It was over.  Or was it?  Amen. 

Written by Keith C Kraft