Summary: This sermon is part of a series on Words of lent and deals with the passion of Christ.
Palm Sunday Celebration moves quickly into holy week. The celebrant parade turns quickly into the mob scene. Hosanna’s become shouts of Barabbas! The week quickly becomes one of passion, or one of suffering that our Lord endured for us. Few of us dare to enter this week. Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services are often overlooked taking us from the jubilant celebration of the palms to the glorious celebration of the empty tomb. But what happens when we have only seen the parade?
“(1) Once a young farm boy lived on the outskirts of town. He was coming home from school one day and saw some men putting up a poster on a fence. He hung around until they finished, and then he went over to read it. It told of a real live circus coming to town; one that had animals and everything!
The boy rushed home and told his father and asked if he could go. The father knew they didn’t have any money, but told the boy he could go anyway. Come the day of the circus, the boy hurriedly finished all his chores and then changed clothes. Then he went to his father and asked if he could go. His father smiled and handed him a dollar. That was money than the boy had ever seen before. His father told him to have a good time and to be careful. Off the boy ran.
When he got to town, he saw the whole town standing on either side of the road, and then he heard the noises. Here came the circus! His heart raced and his eyes got big as the band played their instruments as they walked past him on the road. Next, came some animals in cages. He was sacred, but he stood his ground. How exciting this was! Then, group after group, all kinds of neat people and things came by. This lasted for the longest time, and then, at the very end was a clown, all by himself. He had the traditional clown garb on, complete with painted face and big floppy shoes.
When the boy saw the clown, he ran to him and gave him the dollar. Then the boy went home satisfied. He only saw the parade and thought it was the circus. And that is how many Christians view the Easter week. They see the celebration in the first part, and they see the miracle of ascension in the last part, but they miss the passion of the cross in the middle; yet they think they have seen it all, and they think they are satisfied.” (1 – Bruce Ball, “Palm or Passion” www.sermoncentral.com)
But unless we realize the depth of the pain and suffering that Christ endured, how can we fully realize that Christ died for us? Passion can be a powerful emotion, such as love or hate. It can be a desire, but it is also a word that has come to mean the suffering Christ endured in the final moments of his earthly life for us. The Greek word for passion (Strong’s #3958) means “to experience a sensation, usually painful”… literally “to suffer”. We must then move beyond the parade of the palms to realize and experience the depth of his suffering. Something that was criticized, but so adequately portrayed, by Mel Gibson in the film “The Passion of Christ”.
What does it mean to understand this passion? Unless we have truly suffered, it may be hard to imagine it! Maybe someone who had been burned in a fire, or was beaten like Reginald Denny following the verdict of the Rodney King case can relate to the experience of pain and suffering. How can we understand the sacrifice that Jesus made for us? We learn from Christ experience, that because of his suffering, there is not a pain that we will endure that Christ cannot understand: Beaten; spit upon; falsely accused; betrayed by friends; jeered; mocked; struck; left wounded and bleeding; even the pain of death…
This week, I came across an article on “online confessions”, entitled “Skip church and confess on ivescrewedup.com" Or take your choice and confess on or dailyconfessions.com or mysecret.tv or camfess.com. So I ventured over to see a few confessions on ivescrewedup.com . A 19 year old boy from Weston, FL was making a confession about internet temptations. The confession (nameless) is basically a blog entry. There is no absolution, which one may find in a confessional booth. But also something relevant is missing. Atonement! No suffering. No sacrifice. Just a meaningless confession that offers no hope of redemption. That redemption is found only in the passion of Christ, the lamb who takes away the sins of the world. But how could he endure that suffering for us?
It is only in our understanding that the "wages of sin is death" that we can find a way to be forgiven because "God showed us extraordinary mercy" in that while we were yet sinners he showed us His grace. He becomes the mediator in our transgressions, and in our sin. I recently found a marvelous passage in the Book of Job, where Job is arguing his case to his friends. Job states "If only there was someone to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both." (9:33) He also states "Though I were innocent, I could not answer him; I could only plead with my Judge for mercy". (9:15-16)