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Sermon for Palm/Passion Sunday 9 April 2017


12The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 14And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, 15“Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” 16His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. 17The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”


FIRST READING Isaiah 50:4-9a

4The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. 5The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward. 6I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting. 7But the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame. 8He who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who is my adversary? Let him come near to me. 9aBehold, the Lord God helps me; who will declare me guilty?


PSALM Psalm 31:9-16

9Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble; my eye is consumed with sorrow, and also my throat and my belly. 10For my life is wasted with grief, and my years with sighing; my strength fails me because of affliction, and my bones are consumed. 11I have become a reproach to all my enemies and even to my neighbors, a dismay to those of my acquaintance; when they see me in the street they avoid me. 12I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind; I am as useless as a broken pot.
13For I have heard the whispering of the crowd; fear is all around; they put their heads together against me; they plot to take my life. 14But as for me, I have trusted in you, O Lord. I have said, “You are my God. 15My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies, and from those who persecute me. 16Make your face to shine upon your servant, and in your lovingkindness save me.”


SECOND READING Philippians 2:5-11

5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.


GOSPEL Matthew 26:1–27:66

1When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples, 2“You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.” 3Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, 4and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. 5But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.” 6Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, 7a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. 8And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? 9For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” 10But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. 11For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. 13Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” 14Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him. 17Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 18He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” 19And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover. 20When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. 21And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” 23He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. 24The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” 25Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.” 26Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” 30And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 31Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 32But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 33Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” 34Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” 35Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same. 36Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 39And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. 45Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” 47While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” 49And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. 50Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. 51And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 52Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” 55At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. 56But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled. 57Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. 58And Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end. 59Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, 60but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward 61and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’” 62And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” 63But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. 66What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” 67Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, 68saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?” 69Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” 71And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” 73After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” 74Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. 75And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. 27 1When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. 2And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor. 3Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, 4saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” 5And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. 6But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money.” 7So they took counsel and bought with them the potter’s field as a burial place for strangers. 8Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 9Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, 10and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.” 11Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” 12But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. 13Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” 14But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed. 15Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. 16And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. 19Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” 20Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. 21The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” 23And he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!” 24So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” 25And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” 26Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified. 27Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. 28And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him. 32As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross. 33And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. 35And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. 36Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. 37And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” 38Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. 39And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads 40and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42“He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way. 45Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 46And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” 48And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. 49But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. 51And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” 55There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, 56among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. 57When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. 58He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud 60and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. 61Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb. 62The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” 65Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” 66So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.



Without overstating the obvious, Palm/Passion Sunday has the longest set of readings of any Sunday of the year. One reason for this, is the fact that we, and many other churches, combine the gospel passages for Good Friday with the traditional readings for Palm Sunday. We read the entire passion story, beginning with Jesus’ triumphant entry and we end with His burial in the tomb, so that everyone has an opportunity to hear the entire story. The church and I realized that this may be the only time, some people will hear it.
Another reason for combining these readings, is that fewer and fewer people are taking the time to attend the Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Sunrise services. For some I know this is difficult, but we need to remember that Holy week worship, or what the church has traditionally called the “Great Three Days,” is just one big service spread out as many days. That’s the reason that some of the readings are duplicated. Now I realize that the reason some of you have difficulty attending are legitimate. Some families have small children and while others have difficulty driving at night. But, because of the decline in attendance, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services have faded away in most of our Protestant churches. It’s for all these reasons that I combine the two readings; both are important for us to consider and the Passion readings set the tone for the final week in Lent.
The triumphal entry reminds us that Jesus is the coming King. The one whose return we long for. The Passion reading reminds us of the descent into a nighttime arrest to avoid the crowds that had surrounded Jesus, and of His illegal trial in front of the Sanhedrin. They enable us to stop and contemplate, how He was turned over to Pilate’s soldiers for torture and humiliation. We pause and listen as Jesus faced Pilate, how the religious leaders stirred up the crowd to call for His crucifixion, of Peter’s denial and how Jesus was finally condemned to die the cruelest of deaths. All this has been part of the last week of Lent for centuries; spread out over many days of worship during this week. The events of the Passion readings are crucial to who we are and to what we proclaim. This is why we take the time to hear it again on this last Sunday of Lent.
We’re all familiar with the general outline of events of the last days of Jesus’ life. But there are some particulars in Matthew’s account, that we need to look at. First is the appearance of Jesus before Pilate. Matthew makes it seem that Pilate really wanted to free Jesus, which was highly unlikely. From history, we know that Pilate was a mediocre politician at best, known for his laziness and animosity toward the Jews.
From Pilate’s point of view, the Jews were unshaven, unwashed people of a fundamentalist bent. Compared to the Romans, who bathed frequently, even daily, the Jews were viewed as filthy, backward people. While the Romans wore linen, which is easily washed, the Jews wore mostly wool, a heavier fabric less easily laundered. The Roman men shaved daily unless they were in battle, while the Jewish men tended to wear long beards, following the command of God to leave the edges of their beards untrimmed (Leviticus 21:5). Additionally, the place that the Jews considered the most holy place in all the world, smelled constantly of the blood and entrails of the animals being prepared for sacrifice, and although the cooking of the meat would certainly make the mouth water, it was usually not able to drown out the smells of the slaughtering floor.
Therefore, it’s highly unlikely that Pilate wanted to spend any time with Jesus, who appeared before him bloodied, but unbowed. Additionally, Jesus wasn’t known as a reserved man, but during His interview with Pilate, He refuses to converse with His adversary. Another point to ponder, is Jesus’ response to Pilate’s question, “Are you the king of the Jews?” It makes you wonder if Pilate was laughing as he asked the question? Or was Pilate simply being confrontational? It doesn’t matter. Jesus’ answer is cryptic, “You’re the one saying it.” In other words, one could say that Jesus neither affirms nor denies His status which puzzles the governor. But Pilate wasn’t the only one bothered by Jesus’ demeanor and responses.
The chief priests and elders were outraged at Jesus’ conduct and press Pilate to pronounce the penalty. It was a rush to judgment indeed, which probably indicates that they knew their case against Jesus wouldn’t stand up to examination. Even if it would, they knew the “trial” they had held in the dark of night, a reminder of how and when evil operates, was illegal in both the Roman and Jewish systems of law. It’s typical of Pilate that this problem never gets mentioned.
Matthew also says that “the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner…” The problem is, that other than this account, there’s no historical evidence for this claim. Common sense says this practice would have weakened the grip of the Romans on the Jews. Let’s face it, the Roman government had enough problems ruling the Jews as it was. Yet this is still an important event that did occur. In verse 16, Matthew says the Romans had “a notorious prisoner, called [Jesus] Barabbas.” Not all ancient manuscripts give Barabbas a personal name. Either way, the name Jesus was a common name among the Jews, which is the Greek form of the Aramaic/Hebrew name Yashua or Joshua, the man who led the people across the Jordan into Canaan when Moses died.
However, it’s the last name of the “notorious prisoner” that’s most puzzling: Barabbas. If we write it properly in Hebrew, Bar Abbas, it means “the son of the father.” Since Jesus of Nazareth often called God “My Father,” this juxtaposition of the two Jesuses, has given rise to all kinds of questions in our time about what Matthew was trying to say. But most scholars do agree; this juxtaposition is a message that Jesus took on the sins, all the sins of humankind, from the little white fib to the heinous ones like assault and murder. Furthermore, Matthew claims that Pilate’s wife sent him word, while he was presiding over this case, that she had a dream about “that innocent man” and was distraught over it. Again, another nuance in the story that shouldn’t be overlooked.
The Bible is full of stories of people being warned about what’s to come or of being enlightened, in a dream. This is especially true of believers, who are warned in time to escape death or danger. However, some dreams are given to non-believers, giving the faithful servant the opportunity to interpret the dream and so win the dreamer to the Lord. Matthew may have been trying to say that Pilate had an opportunity to be saved, but rejected it. Instead, he gives into the mob’s pressure and condemns Jesus without evidence (v. 23) simply to quiet the crowd. But you and I know all this was done to accomplish God’s plan and will.
As Jesus is hanging on the cross, Matthew says some people derided Jesus by saying, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself!” This was, of course, one of the charges hurled at Him in the trial before the Sanhedrin by two “false witnesses” (Matthew 26:61). And while Matthew never has Jesus say any such thing; John does (John 2:19). It’s just another oddity that’s quite intriguing; apparently, this saying was well known among the post-resurrection Christians.
Another theologically important event, recorded in all three of the synoptic gospels is that of the “curtain of the temple,” the entrance to the holiest part of the temple, which could only be entered once a year, by the High Priest alone was torn in two, “from the top to the bottom.” This too is important; the heavy curtain being split beginning at the top — if a human were to tear the curtain, they would have had to start at the bottom, because the curtain was 12 to 15 feet tall. This is critical because God divided it, allowing anyone, anytime to enter the space. And then there’s the earthquake that accompanied the moment of Jesus’ death. It was a sign that God was grief stricken and enraged.
The breaking open of the tombs and the resurrection of “many of… the saints who had died” is unique to Matthew. Such an event would be expected at the final day by those Jews who believed in a life after death, but not at the death of the Messiah. So, Matthew says they were raised on this day, but entered the holy city after Jesus’ resurrection. We see this as the bridge between the pre-Christian times and of Jesus ushering in the kingdom of God. The truth is, not all Christians agree on what each of the various events mean, but we do agree that everything is important.
However, one thing all Christians agree upon is that the work of salvation is embodied in the crucifixion and death of Jesus. Because He suffered and died, we have forgiveness. But how exactly does that work? Jesus was obedient to God, accepting the pain of torture and a horrible death while stripped naked and in public view. And if that weren’t enough, unless someone would come forward and claim Jesus’ body, after the crucifixion was over, it would be disposed of like garbage, literally: it would have been thrown in the garbage pit outside of Jerusalem and covered with lime to hold down the smell of the decaying flesh and hurry the process of tissue breakdown.
When you think about it, it was an ugly end to a tumultuous life for Jesus and His followers, which finally includes His mother and siblings. After His betrayal, His terrified disciples hide, fully aware that they’re being sought by both the Romans and the temple officials, because of the claims made by and about Jesus, which constituted a huge danger to the status quo. Even if Jesus isn’t the promised Messiah (the Christ), His followers were seen as a danger to the occupying forces.
And as we heard in our gospel reading last week, (John 11:47-53) we can add to this, the fact that the temple cadre was afraid that Rome could very well come and shut them down. Unlike the average person in the street, the priests and lawyers were educated, had regular contact with the Roman governor, and therefore knew what the Romans thought of them, and the likely possibility of Rome destroying Jerusalem: A fact that was born out in 70 AD when Rome destroyed the Temple after the Jewish uprising. The religious authorities therefore, want the followers of Jesus gone, hoping to remove the danger of this destruction. In their minds, the only way to assure this is to cooperate with the Roman governor to arrest and kill Jesus. But what does all this have to do with us as post-resurrection Christians?
What are we to believe about this end to the life of Jesus of Nazareth? If we listen to some preachers, we’d hear that Jesus had all the sins of the world loaded onto Him while He was nailed to the cross, and that His death frees us from our sins. All of this is indeed true. However, the problem is, knowing all this somehow doesn’t stop us from sinning again and again. This is why we need to hear the story over and over.
According to another source I read, once God had piled all the sins of the world on Jesus He had to turn away, because God cannot look at sin. This leaves Jesus, the author said, truly abandoned by God, who wasn’t able look at this Man who was doing His will. I even read that some preachers will tell you that while Jesus was on the cross, He saw each of us and our sins, and forgave us. Jesus has that right, as Mark 2:8-10 tells us. So, if Jesus has the right to forgive sins, he must be God, because only God has that right, right? But again, what does all this have to do with God the Father’s part in all this?
The doctrine of the Trinity says that God inhabited the soul and body of Jesus during His ministry. If Jesus got hungry, tired, sad or angry, so did God. When the time came to die, God felt the same fear anyone might feel. Because Jesus and God are one, (John 10:30), then when Jesus prayed in the Garden, God felt it all, and wanted to run away too. We can’t of course know, but maybe God experienced the beating, the stripping of Jesus’ body, the nails and the thorns. In the end, our heavenly Father left Jesus to cry out “Where are you? I’m so alone!” Up to that very moment, Jesus had never been alone, not in His whole life. Alone when He needed His Father the most. To say the least, it’s all so complicated. And at times, we get so tied up in our theology.
But in all this, there is the assurance that God learned firsthand how to be human. Jesus experienced humanity’s inhumanity. He felt what it’s like to be limited. Felt what it’s like to be tired, powerless, afraid, of losing our loved ones, of dying. Jesus set aside His divinity so that He could fully experience what it is to be human, to walk a mile in our shoes. And having learned life from our side, Jesus stands beside us in both the good times and the bad.
This is what He meant when He promised that, “It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” This is why these readings are so important. These events, big and small, are integral to who we are, to what we believe and to what we proclaim. So I encourage you, take the time this week, even if you can’t attend all the services, to contemplate the last week of Jesus’ life and to appreciate, once again, all that Jesus endured for our sake. “For God so loved the world that He gave,” and because He gave, we have forgiveness, hope and eternal life.

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