Sermon for Palm/Passion Sunday 2018 - Mark 14-15
Passion. An ardent affection. A strong liking or desire for, or devotion to some activity, object or concept. Physical desire. Intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction. Strong and barely controllable emotion.
Passion used to actually mean suffering. The notion that emotion, connection, destination can bring despair, pain, hardship. We see it now as being passionate about something. Energetic or overcome by it. A really big fan.
You just heard what is called the Passion Narrative. The story of Jesus’ passion. The struggle for me is I can sit here and read to you the story. Some of you may even know it by heart. You had flannel board Jesus, or pop-up Jesus, or comic book Jesus in Sunday School. You maybe have a cross necklace. You might have a picture of Jesus in the garden, or the Last Supper lunchbox. Something somewhere can remind you of this act of Christ for sinners, but do you know, KNOW, the story?
I say Jesus and you will say love. Or nice guy. Or maybe if I pressed you, you might say Son of God. But this story of Jesus. Can you wrap your mind around the fact that everything that has anything to do with love in Jesus is death? All of it. That the Almighty God deigns to come down to earth, filled with this love for you, this passion for you, that he is willing to take on flesh, not because he wants in on the party but because he is actually going to die. Suffering his passion for you. He is born to die.
Picture this. Jesus is dining out in a dudes home, and a woman comes to anoint his feet and all of us ELCA Lutherans, right? We look at her and say – What are you doing? You could have sold that for the poor. Do you know how many people we could have fed with that? But what does Jesus say? I know, I can’t believe you did this now I small like a whore house in Texas. No. Leave her alone she’s preparing me for my burial. A woman anoints him, not because he was a junior high boy with BO, but because she needed to prepare him for what? His burial. When you die, after a few hours you stink. God sends a woman to this house to showcase for us the complete focus of Christ here. Death, in order to put your sin to death, put your death to death, and in order for there to be a resurrection.
He prepares this whole meal and offers portions of it, the bread that would have been a special bread of this Passover meal, commemorating God’s passing over of the Israelites when he sent the Angel of death into Egypt, and he says, BTW – this is my body given broken for you. Oh, and this cup of blessing? The one in which we are supposed to say, “Next year in Jerusalem?” Yeah. That’s my blood shed for you for the forgiveness of your sin.
Every friend leaves him. Abandons him. One of them betrays him. He is beaten. Whipped to within an inch of his life. Nailed to a cross and killed for public display. All of it because of sin. All of it because in God’s plan, God’s kindness that leads us to repentance, God puts on display himself to say – This is who I am. A God of mercy, that I will be killed at your hands in order to kill your sin and draw you back to me.
Look around this room. We did this with the kids a few weeks ago when I taught them how to do the sign of the cross. How many crosses do you see? We have them decorating our church. We have them on walls in our houses and offices. We wear them as jewelry. It’s the symbol of our faith and it’s one of the worst forms of execution ever created by the mind of man. Cruel and unusual punishment. Yet God, in his providence, makes this point for you. Your entire faith is in a death. A death died by God that you might have life. Life not of your own, but hidden in him. Coming from him. Because Jesus had to die for sin, to reconcile you to God and give you an identity outside of you, the freedom that brings is to trust in this type of God. A God whose love is more than skin deep.
We will come to this table to sup with our God, but do we hear the words as meaning us? Having the emotional connection to the work on our behalf. Take and eat this is my body given for who? For you. This is my blood of the new covenant poured out for you. For the forgiveness of your sin. Christ thinking of you as he is about to die.
Teaching First Communion yesterday, I try to connect with both the kids and the parents or guardians that this isn’t a concession stand. It isn’t some vending machine. This is Good Friday every Sunday. This is the cross played out for you. Body broken and blood shed. A dead Jesus, yet risen because he could not be present for you here if he wasn’t.
This is a confessional where you actually come forward to partake in believing that when I tell you those words, for you…for the forgiveness of your sin - you are actually a sinner in need of that forgiveness which comes from no where other than Jesus.
That is the story of this passion. The story of this grace-filled Jesus. Our greatest sin is to think so little of our God that a death for us means nothing, yet that is why he died, for the shrugging of our shoulders and the yawning of our hearts. JESUS DIED FOR YOU! Meh. What else you got?
Through this whole work, his passion, his suffering and also his love are connected to you because for every moment he was thinking of you, and not the best you either. The worst you, to save you from it. To save you from yourself. From making yourself into God instead of allowing Christ to be God for you.
The smell of the perfume, the breaking of bread, the denial and betrayal, every lash of the whip, the pounding of the hammer, the splinters of the tree, the cold darkness of the tomb. Every moment has your name engraved on his mind. All of it was being done for you. This week ahead is for you. Not because you are the life of the party, or because you are the most important thing in the world, but because this week is for you by necessity. The blood is already spilt. The death has already been died. We see in this week the remembrance of it. Touched by it again. Is it real for you?
This is the beginning of Holy Week. One week in your life to have everything focused on this faith in the Christ of the cross being necessary for you. Today we have his entry into Jerusalem. On Maundy Thursday we have the Lord give us a new commandment that we love one another as he has loved us. How did he love us? Come to Good Friday and hear the story again. Hear how the Gospel is relevant to life for you. Then, Easter. And eggs, ham, pastels, bunny rabbits. Whatever. Hopefully a resurrected Jesus is in there somewhere.
Make this week about you, but not in a good way. In a bad way. Allow your God to grab you by the hand and walk you continually to the hill of Calvary where the cross stood, that you might see your Savior there, soaking up your sin, because if he didn’t bring you this redemption, you wouldn’t have a chance in hell. Thanks be to God. Amen.