Summary: It might suprise you which of the people at the crucifixion really knew what was going on.
Sermon: Suprising Vignettes
Text: Matt 27:1-54
Occasion: Palm Sunday
Who: Mark Woolsey
Where: Arbor House
When: Sunday, Mar 20, 2005
Where: TI Morning Prayer
When: Friday, April 8, 2005
Where: Providence REC
When: Sunday, April 9, 2006
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Palm Sunday is normally a day of pagentry and celebration. We reinact yet again the fickle crowd’s adulation of our Lord as He enters Jerusalem on that animal of peace, a donkey. Yet the Scripture passages our lectionary lead us to are much darker than that. The adoring crowd is replaced by angry hate-filled faces that lust for blood. Instead of palm branches being laid in His path, we see bone-encrusted flails laying open His back. Jubilation gives way to jeers. The payment for our salvation is exacted, strip by strip from His flesh. The fate of every last person on the face of the earth hangs in the balance. The Bible, as it were, cracks open the door and allows us to view this central event in the history of the universe. The facts it presents are straightforward, but each participant puts a different "spin" on them. Let’s examine this week from their perspectives and see what we can draw from them.
II. Priests & Elders
First, we have the priests and elders who strained at the gnat and swallowed the camel. In their jealousy to rid themselves of a rival, they convinced themselves that they saw a malefactor getting his just desserts. As a Sabbath-breaker and blasphemer He was guilty of the biggest crimes in the book, and they were going to make sure that the Law was executed to the fullest extent. Yet their great zeal was also a great irony. The only way to convict Him of breaking the Law was to break it themselves. They hired false witnesses (Luke 26:59), held a trial at night, and predetermined the outcome regardless of the merits of the case. Most ironic of all, however, was that in disobeying God by sacrificing Jesus, they were actually fulfilling their most important job. A priest sacrifices innocent victims in the place of the guilty to satisfy the wrath of God. In killing Jesus, this is exactly what they did. Yet this does not excuse their deed. Truly, the Jews were guilty of murdering our Lord.
III. Pontius Pilate
Pontius Pilate had the acumen to see thru the Jewish leaders’ duplicity. He knew #1, that Jesus was innocent, and that #2, He was being delivered to him out of jealousy. He wanted to let Jesus go. Yet Pilate was no angel. Here was the innocent judge, Jesus, standing on trial before the guilty criminal Pilate. For you see, Pilate had stained his hands with blood in murdering Galileans as they sacrificed. Pilate then rules three times that Jesus was innocent (Mat 27:24, Luke 23:4, and John 18:38). Jesus’ own people find Him guilty while a foreigner declares His innocence. However, in spite of his own findings, Pilate eventually condemns Jesus to a most cruel death. Had he let Jesus go as he ought to have, the rest of mankind would be found guilty. As one commentator puts it:
"We could not stand before God because of our sins, if Christ had not been thus made sin for us. He was arraigned that we might be discharged." (Matthew Henry on Mat 27:1-10)
Pilate’s cowardness was our salvation. As a Roman, he points to the Gentiles’ complicity in murdering their Saviour.
Next we are confronted with Judas. Here is a life that stands as a very sobering warning to us today. He knew Jesus was innocent. He had attended for three years the most highly rated seminary of all time - taught by Professor Jesus Himself. As events around him began spinning out of control - events that he helped put in motion - he saw that he had done wrong. He took the very dangerous step of confronting those seeking to kill Jesus and confessed Him before them. He repented of his sin. Yet it was not enough. He left out one crucial component - he didn’t trust in the mercy of God. Instead of his self-loathing leading to hope, it led to hanging and hell. Instead of trusting, he tripped. For God’s mercy he substituted self-murder. You see, repentance, while always necessary, is never enough. True faith which proceeds from regeneration leads to both turning and trusting.
Strangers are named as a group even though they never said a word in this whole story. In fact, they are all dead. Yet they give us reason to hope. You see, it is for them that the blood money was spent to purchase a grave yard. Whose blood? Why Jesus’, of course. One theologian said: