Monday, March 26, 2007

Jesus' Passion for Our Sake Luke 22:14-23:56

Reading the Passion on Palm Sunday

Preachers are called to be witnesses in season and out of season to the power of God to transform. That's what good preaching is supposed to do. Sometimes our words don't compare to the words in scripture and Palm Sunday, commonly renamed Passion Sunday, is just one such day. So instead of preaching after the readings a sermon may be best as a preface to our reading of the passion.

As a kid growing up in a post Vatican II Catholic Church in Minnesota I heard the passion read several times. Every year I listened to the story of the passion on Palm Sunday and Good Friday. Every year, “Crucify him, crucify him” came from my lips and the lips of everyone around me.

It'd be nice to find somebody else to blame for the cross. A scapegoat perhaps who we could all blame and drive away. But we can't find any one person or group of people to blame. 480 years ago Luther wrestled with his own realization that he had something to do with Christ's death. Unfortunately for many readers in our politically correct age Luther's words are mixed with his own brand of ugly Antisemitism; but the harder truth that all humans are to blame for the cross still eeks through his crass and erroneous charge against Jesus' own people alone.

Luther wrote hauntingly,

The real and true work of Christ’s passion is to make man conformable to Christ, so that man’s conscience is tormented by his sins in like measure as Christ was pitiably tormented in body and soul by our sins. This does not call for many words but for profound reflection and a great awe of sins. Luther's Works, Vol. 42 : Devotional Writings I. Page 10 Edited by Pelikan, Oswald and Lehmann. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999, c1969.

The shame of Christians through the centuries is our misguided search for another individual or group to blame for Christ's death. Look no further than yourself and you can see one who Christ died to save. Look at your own sins.

Our age is ripe with images of the Passion. Mel Gibson's film, the art of the last 2000 years, and our own reading of scripture guide us into the bloody and unpleasent details. The key is not to blame another but to here your voice in the crowd shouting for Jesus' blood. The reformer wrote,

You must get this thought through your head and not doubt that you are the one who is torturing Christ thus, for your sins have surely wrought this. (Ibid p. 9)

There we sit in our listening. Realizing the depth of God's love and the reality of Jesus' suffering for us.

But we must not leave ourselves forever at the foot of the cross because Jesus did not remain on the cross. The cross was not Jesus' finale. Christians who were dead because of sin now rise to new life just as Jesus rose. Today we see our Lord on the cross; but in watching both the horror of the cross and the wonder of his rising we see the true heart of God. Luther said that this is God's “friendly heart” which reaches out for sinners.

As you read the passion listen to the words that spill from your lips and know that you are the one he died to save. Know that his resurrection happened and that you will rise with him. AMEN.


Pastor Eric said...

Thank you for you thoughts on the Palm (Passion) Sunday text. I too wrote something similar on my blog. When Jesus was riding into town on a donkey, people were shouting "Hosanna!" and then a few days later they were shouting "Crucify Him!". One moment I am praising God for all he has done for me and the next I am turning my back on him. "Hosanna" to "Crucify Him!" isn't a far leap. But thankfully Jesus still died and rose for me. Praise God!

Thank you and God bless.

David said...

Amen! Great message....great post!