Processional Gospel: Mathew 21: 1-11
Gospel Reading: Matthew 27: 11-54
April 13, 2014
Here we are face-to-face with the paradox at the heart of our Christian life: how can God be both the power that created life and also the one to die a brutal death as a terrorist? Jesus’ death at the hands of the religious and political establishment of his day should not shock us. We have seen so many good men and women die at the hands of a system that doesn’t want to be disturbed. When its values and their justice are called into question, the powers that be fight back, crafting laws that protect and insulate them, and disregarding the suffering of anyone in the way of holding onto the power they exercise. Jesus knew what was coming when he paraded into town as if he were the King of the Jews. He knew he was testing the limits of the powerful to put up with his attempts as dismantling their hold on the reins of power. Actually he probably knew that this was the road he was on from the beginning. He must have known that continuing to flout the rules about Sabbath, his inclusion of outsiders and the marginalized as God’s people, and his teaching that called the powers in the church hypocritical would cause him great trouble.
People still expect that when God shows up it will be to smite the evil-doers and bring about justice. That God will not let the innocent die, nor will God let good fail to change the world. But it doesn’t happen that way. Instead God submitted to the same powers of evil that so many have experienced. What happened to Jesus was the same kind of injustice that happens all the time. Innocents suffer, good people are assassinated, greed and larceny control the lives of so many. But Jesus shows us another way. Paul tells us that Jesus could have marched through the world making everything the way God thinks it should be, but he chose instead to throw in his lot with those who suffer, who feel abandoned, who are unjustly accused and tortured, even with those who die for freedom. Jesus shows us that the real power of God is to be human, to be willing to step outside our own needs to see and hear the needs of others, to be willing to sacrifice even our own life to stand up to evil, and to overcome evil by meeting it head-on. Jesus’ resurrection shows us that God has the power to create new life even when face death, and that even what looks like death cannot separate us from God’s power of life.
At the heart of our life in God is the cross, the place where we see past the suffering of Jesus to God’s great love for us. It is shown in Jesus’ willingness to walk this path of sorrow and suffering. If you ever want to know how much God loves you, you can look at the cross. It is our proof of a love stronger than death, given as gift to any and all who will accept their belovedness.
The processional gospel tells us that those who witnessed the chaos of Jesus’ entry into the city asked the question: “who is this?” As we spend this week in meditation on the last days of Jesus’ life on earth, I hope that you will be asking yourself the same question. Who is this? What does this story tell me about who God is and what that means I am? Who is this man Jesus? For me? In my life? And what difference does it make in the way I see myself and the world? Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.