Antonio Ciseri “Ecce Homo”
5th Sunday in Lent
March 17, 2013
Mark 15: 1-15
The story goes that a man and his son were driving to a birthday party. They were talking about super heroes, as that was the theme of the party they were attending. When the boy asked his dad for his own superhero, the dad said that he didn’t really have and Superman or Batman kind of heroes, he preferred real people who did extraordinary things to change the world. “Like who?” said the boy. “Well, like John F Kennedy,” he said. “He was the president when I was in high school, and he was so full of hope for the future and what people like me could do to make good things happen, that he got me all excited about it. I joined the Peace Corps and worked for two years in Malaysia teaching people who wanted to become teachers.” “Wow, he sounds really important. What’s he doing now?” said the boy. “Well, he was assassinated before he got to run for another term as president,” said the Dad. “Oh, too bad. What other heroes do you have?” “Well, there was Martin Luther King, Jr. He was part of getting black people treated more fairly in this country, so no one could keep them from voting or buying a house or getting a good job. He went to jail and a lot of people got killed who worked for the things he spoke up for.” “Really,” said the boy, “where is he now?” “Well,” said the Dad, “he got killed too. He was really trying to put in place some of the things that Jesus talked about.” “Oh, yeah, Jesus,” said the boy, “and what happened to him?”
This story’s been running through my head all week, as we are talking about Jesus and Barabbas. Adam Hamilton, in his discussion of Jesus before Pilate, points out that Barabbas was arrested for murder and sedition. He started a rebellion against Rome, a fight in which there was a murder. Jesus Barabbas was a different kind of hero than Jesus of Nazareth. Actually, advocating violent overthrow was more what the Jews expected of their promised savior than the announcement that the last would be first and the first would be last. The way of violence versus the way of love. Hmmmmm. How does that usually turn out?
It’s a worthwhile question in our day as well. Is there ever a time when love wins over violence? Humans just don’t seem to be created to share, to be fair, to do justice and love mercy. The commandments tell us that God’s people don’t hurt people, don’t steal from them, don’t lie about others or ruin their reputations, don’t envy and try to win away what belongs to their friends and neighbors. But the second story in the Bible tells us that envy between brothers leads one to murder the other. So our lives are ruled by regulations, contracts, checking that little box that says that you accept the rules of paying on-line or downloading an app. All of these are supposed to curb our ability to steal other’s property, lie and cheat, hurt others intentionally or thoughtlessly. And still some people spend more time and energy trying to get around the rules than just doing things the right way. Where does this come from, this need to put ourselves first, no matter the consequences? The interpreters of the 10 commandments tell us that it is our inability to keep the first of these commandments that ruins it all. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”
There are multiple theories of how Jesus’ suffering and death saves us. And faithful believers have struggled to understand this amazing turn of events in the life of one who was fully God as well as fully human, one who could have done everything in a lot less painful way. Some focus on the suffering as a substitute for our suffering and his death instead of our death for our sins. But I think that Jesus’ whole life and his conduct leading up to that suffering and death tells us something important about the power of love. Love doesn’t have to fight back to win, it can change hearts and release people from hate and fear. It is love that we see when we see Jesus’ suffering and death, a love so strong that it will bear every evil of the world we live in to show us that death is not ever the end of the story. God’s mercy trumps God’s punishment in every story in our Scripture. God’s love is what raised Jesus from the dead, and trust in that love is what made it possible for Jesus to submit to the violence inflicted upon him. I believe that it is the power of God’s love that makes it possible for us to choose not to fight, not to injure, not focus on ourselves. And the world does not value it. Given the choice between love and violence, in the end, the world always chooses violence.
So what difference does it make as I look at my world. First of all, you can be absolutely certain of God’s love for you. Jesus did this for you, so that you would know how much God loves you. You can be sure that this love is a gift, not something you have earned, or that you can lose by not being good enough or by not doing the right things. Now that you know about that love, you can accept your forgiveness, the gift of God’s mercy that you understand is for you. You don’t have to be afraid, ever, that you are alone or unloved. With that freedom you can look at the world so differently. You don’t have to be afraid that you’re missing something or losing out. You can share the love and blessings that fill your life, and live with the kind of generosity that God has shown to you. You can come here to celebrate the love of God and the richness of your blessings with this community that feels that love and blessing, too. And then you can go out, living like a beacon, to share love, to care about the welfare of people you don’t even know, and to joyfully offer your participation in the lives of those who need a hand or a pat on the back or even just a smile. This is a life that is rich and full of joy. It’s a Technicolor life over one lived in black and white. It is the life in which love wins. Amen.
Now may the God of hope give you all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.