As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” He answered him, “You say so.” Then the chief priests accused him of many things. Pilate asked him again, “Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.
Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. Then he answered them, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” They shouted back, “Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.
Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.
They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.
It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!” In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.
When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”
There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.
When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid.
Pastor Marc's sermon on Palm/Passion Sunday (March 29, 2015) on Mark 15. Listen to the recording here or read my manuscript below.
Did you notice that today is brought to you by the letter P?
Palms and Passion. Pilate and Purple. Priests and Preparation. The letter P is all over the place. In worship today, we started in the back - waved our palms in the air - processed down into our prefered pews - all while praising the presence of God here today. We might think, for a moment, that we’re caught in some real life version of Sesame Street, about to see Ovejita, Murray, Big Bird, and Elmo making some kind of big cake out of the letter P. But we’re not. We’re here to kick off the most important week of the entire church year - Holy week - where we remember Jesus’ journey into Jerusalem. It’s a week filled with action and drama; a week where the sheer amount of scripture we hear can easily just wash over us. We’re going to hit up the Gospel according to Mark and John. We’re going to watch Jesus enter God’s city - watch as the crowd greets him waving palm branches, throwing them on the ground to keep the dust down, treating Jesus like he’s a king or a Roman emperor. On Thursday, we’ll be there when Jesus partakes in the last supper and when he does a truly unbelievable thing: he becomes a slave, and washes his followers’ feet. And we’ll also be there on Friday, when we see Jesus die, his body nailed to a Cross. We’re traveling from the beginning of the story all the way to the tomb. And this story is so big that we’re kicking this whole week off with text, and worship, that’s full of a plethora of p’s.
Except for one. There’s one p-word that the text doesn’t use but that I think it’s just as important. On this Palm Sunday - during this Holy Week - let’s do more than just hear the p-words. Let’s not let Pilate and Purple, Preparation and Passion, just wash over us. Let’s make this story ours. Let’s make this story “personal.”
Our reading today of Jesus’ passion starts in the middle. We call Jesus’ final journey into Jerusalem the Passion because of the greek word paschein - which means to suffer. Jesus’ journey includes suffering. And we’re starting halfway through it. Jesus has been betrayed by one of his friends; he’s arrested; he’s brought before the religious leaders and he’s convicted of blasphemy - claiming that he’s the Messiah, the Son of God. And so Jesus is handed over to the Roman governor of Jerusalem to be dealt with.
Now this governor, Pontius Pilate, probably didn’t hang out in Jerusalem much. As a Roman military leader, he prefered nicer, more upscale, Roman-like towns. But he’s here in Jerusalem because it’s Passover. Thousands of people are traveling into the city to celebrate this great festival in God’s Temple and Pilate wants to make sure no one starts anything - rebellious. He’s there with his full cohort of soldiers, to make sure people are safe - and to make sure that anyone who claims that they are a king, someone who will drive the Romans out of town - Pilate is there to make sure that those folks are dealt with quickly - and severely. And so that’s where our gospel reading starts - with Jesus’ hands and feet tied together, standing before the Roman governor.
Now, Pilate, here, does something peculiar. He asks Jesus, right away, if Jesus is the “King of the Jews?” Up to this point in the gospel according to Mark, no one has claimed that Jesus is the king of the Jews. Messiah, sure. Peter confesses that a few chapters earlier. But Pilate doesn’t care too much about the Messiah. What he cares about is a king. What he cares about is someone who is there to set themselves up against the Roman Emperor. Pilate isn’t interested in God. He’s interested in order and control. So he immediately asks Jesus if Jesus is setting himself up to be a king - to be the kind of leader that deserves, and receives, the waving of palm branches when he enters a city. And Jesus, in a even more peculiar way, simply looks at Pilate and says “You say so.”
Pilate hears in Jesus’ words a non-answer. Jesus doesn’t confirm; he also doesn’t deny. Instead, he lets Pilate do the talking and Jesus says nothing. He doesn’t fight back. He doesn’t stand up for himself. He doesn’t use his miracle mojo and save himself. Jesus is surrounded by people saying who he is - people who are giving him titles and identities - labeling him as a king and a messiah and a heretic. People are busy projecting their own views onto him - and Jesus says nothing. People keep saying who they think Jesus is - and all of that - brings him to the cross.
So who do we say Jesus is?
Messiah. Lord. Son of God. Yes. That is what we say. And all of that is true. But - if we let ourselves step into the story - to be in that room, to be in the crowd, to be one of those Roman soldiers or one of those priests - if we bring ourselves, our history, doubts, fears, faith, and joy - if we step into the story instead of just letting it wash over us - just who do we say this Jesus is?
Because that - I believe - is what Holy Week is all about. We’re not re-enacting Jesus’ life but we’re encountering it. We’re hearing his story, entering into it, and finding out just who we are. So let the palms, passion, Pilate, and purple become personal. Enter this week by entering the story. Let all these p-words become your words. Let’s let ourselves dwell with Jesus - live with his disciples - live with his rejection - and stand from afar while the tomb is sealed. Let’s make this personal - because Jesus has. He made this personal for each of us. He lived this story - lived this experience - lived this life - not because he had to - but because he loved us too much, not too.
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