Sunday, March 28, 2021
Rev. Donald P. Beaumont
And Pilate asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” And He answered him, “You have said so.”
Our worship today started with the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem. There was a huge crowd there to receive Him. They shouted Hosanna, Hosanna, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. And yet thinking about that crowd, we know that something was wrong. Why? Because we know that Good Friday follows Palm Sunday. And there was a large crowd around Jesus on Good Friday too. Large crowds of people gathered around Jesus on both days.
We have a foot in both crowds - the one that praised Jesus on Palm Sunday and also the one that shouted, "Crucify Him." But Jesus willingly took on the Cross for our double-mindedness and hypocrisy. We are forgiven!!
And there’s a big difference between the Good Friday crowd and the Palm Sunday crowd. On Good Friday, the shouts of “Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna,” were replaced with shouts of, “Crucify Him, crucify Him, crucify Him.” I wonder if there were people who were part of both crowds.
It seems reasonable to think that at least some people were present to greet Jesus with shouts of hosanna and then were also present in the Good Friday crowd. Being sinful, hypocritical even, some would hail Jesus and greet Him with waving palm branches only to turn against Him a few days later. On this day, Palm Sunday, they cover His path with branches cut from palms and the clothing from their own backs. But only five days later they will demand that Jesus be stripped naked, beaten and crucified.
One reason why this happened to Jesus is simply because He was humble and lowly. He wasn’t the kind of king the crowds and their rulers had expected. They killed Jesus for coming as the Lamb of God, for not showing His divinity. Have any of you watched the hit television show, Weakest Link. People compete against one another to see who has the quickest and best mind. Throughout the show, the slow or the unintelligent are mocked and ridiculed. The centerpiece of the show is an insulting host, who sends the losing contestants off the stage by saying to them, You are the weakest link – goodbye.
You see, that’s how our Savior was regarded by the Good Friday crowd. They saw the Son of God as the weakest link. They thought His message was absurd and the kingdom He proclaimed, just ridiculous. The scriptures says the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. And we see it in the attitude of the crowd, the Chief Priest and Pontius Pilate.
The Chief Priest thought that Jesus was a Blasphemer. They saw weakness when they looked at Christ. You see, Jesus did not intend to establish the kind of kingdom that the religious leaders wanted. They wanted power, and what Jesus talks about won’t keep them in control. Throughout Mark’s Gospel, Jesus gets into trouble with the religious leaders by pointing out their evil intentions. Jesus consistently condemns them for wanting the positions of greatest honor. He tells them that they’re hypocrites; that they burden people with their traditionalism and legalism (Mark 7:1-23); that they don’t trust God but demand signs (Mark 8:11-13); that they have corrupted the temple (Mark 11:12-18); and Jesus tells them that they have mismanaged God’s vineyard, His church, and rejected God’s Son (Mark 12:1-12).
Jesus’ plan was to do something entirely opposite of the religious leaders. Our Lord came to establish a Kingdom of peace for all people and nations. It’s a Kingdom that comes by the grace of God. But there’s a problem. This isn’t the kind of kingdom that either the Palm Sunday or Good Friday crowds wanted. You see, God’s grace is the enemy of all “institutionalized religion.” Institutional religion wants to control people by misusing the Word of God. It looks for power. But God’s grace comes to set people free. And that was Jesus’ plan, to liberate; to set free; to offer grace and forgiveness and peace and to release condemned prisoners.
And so, the crowds and the religious leaders said that Jesus must die. Human pride allows no challengers, even God. Jesus is arrested by the religious leaders and turned over to the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate. After talking to Jesus, Pilate comes to the conclusion that Jesus is a fool. There it is again, the weakest link. But this time, the normally very astute Roman Governor is badly mistaken. To Pilate, it’s obvious that the peasant Jew before him is no king at all. Kings have bodyguards and armies and money and power. Jesus has none of this. Any reasonable person would defend himself against the aggression of his enemies and save his life.
But not Jesus, He refuses to be reasonable. He claims to be a king, but His refusal to even defend Himself, even against the false charges of His opponents, betrays Jesus. If He is a king, His kingdom must not be one of power and might. His definition of ‘Kingdom’ doesn’t pass the test. And so, Jesus must die. Pilate thinks He is a fool, too unreasonable to tone down His language or even to compromise in order to save His life. Pilate goes against his better judgment. He knows that Jesus is not guilty of anything even close to deserving the death penalty. But the crowds press in. They shout, “Crucify Him, crucify Him, crucify Him.” They press more and shout louder. And so, the sentence is pronounced, death by crucifixion.
The crowds and the chief priests and Pilate became the fools. They were used by God to establish the Kingdom. You see, Jesus did claim to be a King. He is the Son of God. Jesus is King of the Kingdom of grace and peace. And nothing could prevent this kingdom from being permanently established, not even the Cross.
Look at who the fools are now! They thought that Jesus’ reign would come to an end by hanging on the Cross, but instead, the Cross turns Jesus into the Savior. It’s strange that the Cross, the event intended to put an end to Jesus, becomes the way that the Kingdom of peace wins out. And so, through the mans of execution, the Cross, salvation comes for all who put their faith in Christ. And so, to the angry crowd; to the religious leaders; to Pontius Pilate, you are the weakest link – goodbye.
And now it comes to us, beloved. What crowd are you in? If we can learn anything from the Palm Sunday and Good Friday crowds it is that they shows us our own double-mindedness. We’ve shouted, “Hosanna,” along with the Palm Sunday crowd. But we’ve also shouted for Jesus’ crucifixion? We’re part of both crowds. Our sinfulness and hypocrisy makes us so. If we’ve ever denied Jesus or failed to make room in our lives for God, we’ve crucified Him. If we’ve hated or lusted or stolen or ignored the pain of others, we’ve crucified Him. Surely, we didn’t want to place Jesus on the Cross, but our sins did that. And in this way our shouts were joined with those of the Good Friday crowd that yelled, “Crucify Him, crucify Him, crucify Him.”
But the good news is that this is a Cross that Jesus wanted to bear. He carried it willingly. He died on it willingly. If Jesus is seen as a fool and as the weakest link – it is because Jesus took on this role by choice. St. Paul tells: “…[Jesus,] being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8) On that cruel Cross, Jesus won our forgiveness for being part of the Good Friday Crowd.
We’ve all heard, repent and be baptized for the remission of sins. But this has meaning for us, we are the people with a foot in both the Palm Sunday and Good Friday crowds, because Christ chose to die for us. We have forgiveness for our double-mindedness. We have forgiveness for our hypocrisy. We have forgiveness for joining our voices with those who shouted, “Crucify Him.” In our baptismal faith we are offered a new life and the strength to serve and live in a God-pleasing way.
God be praised. God be praised that Jesus rode into Jerusalem even though He knew of His destiny. God be praised for Jesus’ His death on the Cross. God be praised for His Resurrection. God be praised that Christ has given us hope and life eternal. Heaven is yours, beloved, because of Jesus’ willingness to become a servant.
[Sing:] “Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna to the King. Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna to the King. Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna to the King. Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna to the King.” Amen!