Palm Sunday
The Rev. George Pejakovich
John 18:1-19:42

(Audio not available)
WHEN THE MOVIE “THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST” BY MEL GIBSON HIT THE THEATERS, MANY CHRISTIANS FLOCKED TO SEE IT. I WAS NOT ONE OF THEM, NOR DO I EVEN INTEND TO SEE IT. THE SUFFERING OF JESUS WAS DEPICTED IN BRUTAL DETAIL, WHICH WAS PROBABLY PHYSICALLY CORRECT IF ALMOST SADISTIC, BUT WHAT TROUBLED ME WAS THE INFERENCE THAT JESUS WAS A HELPLESS VICTIM. IF THIS IS HOW WE UNDERSTAND THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, THEN THIS DAY CAN IN NO WAY BE CONSIDERED AS GOOD; BUT A DAY OF UNMITIGATED SADNESS AND WITHOUT HOPE. HE WAS NOT THE HELPLESS VICTIM OF THE POWER OF THE RELIGIOUS AUTHORITIES, THE POWER OF THE MOB, OR EVEN THE POWER OF ROME. THE ONLY ONE WHO HAD ANY POWER ON THIS DAY SO LONG AGO, AND WHO WAS IN CONTROL OF ALL THAT HAPPENED, WAS JESUS HIMSELF.

WHEN THEY CAME FOR HIM IN THE GARDEN, HE DID NOT HIDE OR RUN AWAY, BUT ASKED FOR WHOM THEY WERE SEARCHING. WHEN THEY SAID, “JESUS OF NAZARETH,” HE REPLIED, EGO EIMIE, “I AM;” AND AT THE POWER OF THE WORD OF THE GREAT “I AM,” THEY FELL TO THE GROUND. HE HAD TO TELL THE SOLDIERS AND THE POLICE AGAIN WHO HE WAS TO GET THEM TO REACT. HE HAD THE POWER TO ESCAPE, BUT DID NOT DO SO.

THEY HAD TO SEIZE HIM BY NIGHT IN SECRET, BECAUSE THE RELIGIOUS AUTHORITIES WERE AFRAID OF THE POWER OF THE CROWDS WHO FOLLOWED HIM. WHEN THEY QUESTIONED HIM IN A SECRET TRIAL IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT, HIS CALM AND MEASURED RESPONSE, EVEN WHEN SLAPPED IN THE FACE, INFURIATED THEM, AND THEY HAD TO TAKE HIM TO PILATE BECAUSE THEY DID NOT HAVE THE POWER TO PUT HIM TO DEATH.

WHEN HE WAS IN FRONT OF PILATE, HE DID NOT COWER OR PLEAD, BUT FACED HIS SUPPOSED JUDGE AS AT LEAST HIS EQUAL. HIS RESPONSES SO IMPRESSED PILATE THAT HE FOUND NO BASIS FOR KILLING HIM, SO HE HAD JESUS SCOURGED AS A MEANS OF PACIFYING HIS ACCUSERS AND DEFUSING THE SITUATION. THE SOLDIERS MOCKINGLY PUT A PURPLE ROBE ON HIS BLOODY BACK, A CROWN OF THORNS ON HIS HEAD, AND HAILED HIM AS THE KING OF THE JEWS; UNWITTINGLY AFFIRMING THAT THE GREAT “I AM” IS THE KING OF THE JEWS AS WELL AS THE KING OF HEAVEN AND EARTH.

WHEN PILATE STILL TRIED TO RELEASE HIM, SAYING, “SHALL I RELEASE THE KING OF THE JEWS?” THE CROWD SHOUTED FOR HIM TO RELEASE BARABBAS INSTEAD (WHOSE NAME MEANS SON OF THE FATHER), AND PILATE FOUND THAT HE DID NOT HAVE THE POWER TO RELEASE THE TRUE SON OF THE FATHER. SO, POWERLESS TO CONTROL THE SITUATION, HE SENT JESUS TO BE CRUCIFIED, BUT IN A LAST PETTY DISPLAY OF HIS POWER, MADE A SIGN THAT SAID, “JESUS OF NAZARETH KING OF THE JEWS.”

TO ALL THIS, JESUS SAID NOT A WORD, BUT CARRIED HIS OWN CROSS TO THE PLACE OF HIS EXECUTION. THERE, EVEN WHILE HANGING ON THE CROSS IN AGONY, JESUS WAS STILL IN CONTROL AS HE SAID TO HIS MOTHER AND HIS DISCIPLE JOHN, “WOMAN, HERE IS YOUR SON,” AND “HERE IS YOUR MOTHER.” WITH HIS LAST BREATH, HE DETERMINED, “IT IS FINISHED,” AND GAVE UP HIS SPIRIT.

AS THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST UNFOLDED BEFORE THEIR EYES, HIS DISCIPLES, HIS CLOSEST FOLLOWERS, WERE POWERLESS TO INTERVENE OR DO ANYTHING AT ALL EXCEPT BE SPECTATORS HIDDEN IN THE CROWD. OF ALL THOSE WHO WERE VYING FOR POWER ON THAT DAY, THE ONLY ONE WITH TRUE POWER CHOSE TO WITHHOLD HIS, AND FOR THAT HE SUFFERED AND DIED. HE DID THIS TO BREAK THE POWER OF SIN AND DEATH, BECAUSE, ON OUR OWN, WE ARE POWERLESS IN THE FACE OF SIN AND DEATH. HE DID NOT CHALLENGE THE TEMPORARY POWERS OF THIS WORLD, BECAUSE HE WAS FIGHTING AGAINST THE REAL POWERS OF THIS WORLD; SIN AND DEATH. JESUS DID NOT FIGHT AGAINST THE RELIGIOUS AUTHORITIES, THE ROMANS, OR EVEN THE CROWDS WHO SHOUTED FOR HIS CRUCIFIXION. HE WAS FIGHTING FOR THEM; HE WAS FIGHTING FOR US ALL.

JESUS KNEW WHAT HAD TO BE DONE AND WHAT HE HAD TO SUFFER FOR OUR SAKE, AND HE DID IT WILLINGLY. THIS IS WHERE THE REAL POWER WAS ON THAT GOOD FRIDAY; IN THE HANDS OF OUR LORD JESUS WHO SURRENDERED THE POWER OF GOD ON THE CROSS, AND THAT IS WHERE THE TRUE POWER FOREVER CAN BE FOUND; AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS OF THE CHRIST OF GOD. THIS IS WHY THIS SAD AND SOMBER DAY IS INDEED GOOD.
AMEN

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