Sermon –March 20th 2016
Palm Passion Sunday (Year C)
By Roland Legge
Jesus is having a great day. He gets a great welcome when he arrives in Jerusalem on a donkey with people laying down their cloaks in honor of him. On the other side of town, the Roman army is arriving with great military fanfare with soldiers, weapons and war horses to keep the peace during the turbulent times of Passover. The mission of Jesus was so opposite of the mission of the Roman rulers.
Yet the great fanfare of Jesus did not last for long. I think we forget that Jesus was seen as a threat to those with privilege and power. First, Jesus was empowering the poor. The poor were starting to demand change from their rulers. Hence, the risk of insurrection was getting worse and worse as the Roman army oppressed the people more and more. He was a very different threat because he had a different type of power that came from within rather than through external sources such as armies, weapons and money. The Romans thought they could end his movement by killing him, but it didn’t work.
Jesus was also shaking up his own Jewish faith. He wanted to reform it so he used the traditions and stories of his own people to remind them who they were and where they came from. He challenged many of the Pharisaic rules that were getting in the way of people sharing the love of God e.g. not being able to heal a person on the Sabbath. He challenged the behaviour of some the Jewish leadership who were collaborating with the Roman invaders to keep their own power at a great cost to the average Jewish person.
Jesus was also challenging people’s attitudes toward women. While I wouldn’t consider Jesus a feminist he showed great respect and love for women. The scripture tells us that women played a very important roll in his movement. Some of his most courageous leaders were women even though non of them of were named as Disciples. He called on men to treat women in the same way that women are expected to treat men. I am sure this made a lot of people upset. It would be on the same level as how controversial it has been for the church to accept the GLBQ community as equal members of the church and even more importantly equally loved by God. Jesus riled up a lot of people.
Jesus also loved so many people on the fringes of society. He was able to recognize the spirit in every person he met whether they were tax collectors, women, prostitutes, a soldier, and any person that was considered by Jewish custom “un-clean”. He could talk and touch any one. He was able to see into a person’s heart and soul that made a lot of people uncomfortable. You couldn’t hide from Jesus.
Many people were looking forward to getting rid of Jesus. Finally, when he made his trip to Jerusalem the Romans had had enough. They set in motion the plan to kill him on a cross.
Jesus did not die to fulfill the scripture as the Bible says. Why does the Bible say this? People tried to make sense of how their Messiah could die like a criminal. The read back into their own scriptures to make sense of what happened. If they didn’t find some divine reason for his death on a cross they would not be taken seriously because no Messiah would die like Jesus did. So why did Jesus die? He died because he was a thorn in the side of the powerful just like Martin Luther King Junior died for his challenging the status quo of his time. The Roman invaders had to get rid of him and some of the religious authorities would be happy to see him gone because he was shaking up their faith.
Who in the end was responsible for Jesus death? It was the Romans’! The writers of the Gospels, Paul and his imitators had to get along with the Romans so they tried to put more of the blame on the Jews especially after the Christians were thrown out of the Synagogues. At the beginning it was like a family feud between the Jews who believed Jesus to the Messiah and those who did not. Sadly, these scriptures have been used as justification for violence against Jewish people and communities. It was this belief that paved the way for the Holocaust in Germany. In the end it was only the Romans who had the power to crucify a person. For the Romans Jesus would have been seen as a trouble maker.
For me it is important that we remember the story of Jesus crucifixion. I think we can all relate to the hopelessness that the early followers of Jesus felt. How they must have thought that this new and exciting movement was going to end with Jesus death.
There are many people in our world today who face the same kind of suffering that Jesus experienced. People are killed for their work in human rights, their religious views, feeding the poor, freedom, building democracy and much more. There are millions of people who can relate to the despair of the early followers. But we know that Easter does happen. Easter is no figment of our imagination. The love of Jesus was not stopped by his horrible death on the cross. In fact, the Jesus movement became magnified many times over bringing hope to thousands and thousands of people.
So I hope this Holy Season we will remember what Jesus was really about. Jesus was offering us no magical solution to solve our problems. He was offering us a way of life that can bring to life the Kingdom of God. A place where everyone has enough. A place where people are treated justly. A place where people are held accountable for their behaviour. A place where know one feels alone. A place where everyone feels loved. A place where the nations, nationalities, ethnic groups, people of different sexual orientations, able bodied and disabled, young and old can all get along with each other. But the bottom line being we need to have the faith and courage to live this out no matter what we face. We don’t need to get it perfect, but we do need to try. The miracle is that when we try the Spirt will help us along the way.