Scripture: John 20:19-31
Of every miraculous event that has occurred in all of history there is one that stands as being the most controversial. That is the resurrection of Jesus. It makes absolutely no sense to the worldly minds of most. Those of opposing faiths make attempts to explain it. Islam, because they believe Jesus to be a prophet, say that at the last moment God replaced Jesus with the human body of Judas Iscariot, because God would not have allowed His Prophet to die in that manner. The leaders of the Hebrews have explained it in various ways saying that His teaching was alive and that the body was carried away by his followers and hidden from them. Even religions that have no relationship to the monotheistic line of Abraham tend to have their own statements about Jesus and try to explain the concept of the resurrection. The very fact that so many groups seek to make their own explanation to this one event would lead an inquiring mind to wonder, why all the fuss?
The fuss is because the dead do not rise. If the dead were to rise then individuals would have to change their thought processes, and would in many ways have to change the very direction they were going. Leaders and those that control the masses would suddenly lose an aspect of their control over others because if the dead were to rise, it would prove that the temporal power they wield was merely temporary. If the dead were to rise we each would be faced with some sort of choice that to be honest we might not want to answer, because if the dead rise that would mean that God is real and that God is active.
Last year I asked us each to consider a question, “what would happen if we actually believed in the resurrection and if we do what that would lead us to do?” That question still remains on the table for consideration. Several of my friends have been posting blogs and making other statements reminding us that Easter is not merely a day but a season. This is important because it was not a one-time event that is celebrated but one that has lasting value. The season of Easter began on the third day after the crucifixion and extends through Pentecost the day we as Christians celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit. During this period of time, Jesus appeared to his followers in full bodily form continued to teach and in some cases sat with them over a meal. Not only did the dead rise but the once dead lives, speaks and eats with His Friends. The dead is no longer dead but living.
I have contemplated about this over the past week. I have considered why and what the implications are in my own life and in our Meeting. I have come to realize that this has much more impact than giving hope to those that have lost loved ones or face the sting of death. I have thought a great deal about death and why death is in the world in the first place. I have to admit that it has not exactly been the most joyous week of prayer because I became aware just how tight the grip of death is in my life. I have sat up at night wondering why I, a minister of the Gospel, not only a minister but one that truly believes in this miraculous event could possibly admit that the fingers of death still has a hold of my life. And the only way to examine this is to ask yet again, if I truly believe in the power of the resurrection.
If I believe, and if we believe this should greatly affect how we live our lives. The Apostle Paul goes as far as saying the power that raised Christ from the grave is available to us. It was that power of the resurrection that inspired him to leave his home and embark on his various missionary journeys, even in the face of execution. Do we live by that power?
Death was not the state humanity was created in. Death is the destruction of life, death is the consequence of the failings of our first parents who were created, and given the breath of life. Death is destruction. Death is the break down of everything that God said was good with the world he placed us in. Death is the result of sin, which is the pursuit of destruction. Sin is much more than a simple breaking of a moral code, but it is the systematic lifestyle where each individual and culture chooses to fulfill their personal desires and the cost of obtaining those often results in some sort of destruction, either it damages our own bodies in some way or it damages our relationships. This extends throughout the generations and throughout our culture. The result is communities so broken that they exist only to perpetuate destruction. And in a life lived under the power of the destruction caused by sin there is no hope for anything better, so we might as well take what we can get and a life lived in fear.
That is why Jesus had to take on death, to break they cycle of destruction. His disciples though did not understand this. They locked themselves in a room together for fear. They had an idea of what the Messiah was to be and their ideas were not fulfilled their hopes were crushed in the ever present cycles of destruction and they felt that all was lost. Then Jesus comes to them and says, “Peace be with you.”
Peace be with you. What is peace? We have all seen photos, and some of us have experienced the hopelessness and destructive forces of war. That is the goal of war to destroy the other, to break them down to the point of surrender, to remove all hope from other so that they will submit. War, death and fear are results of sin. There cannot be peace unless the cycles change and people stop living under that direction of sin. Peace be with you, Jesus says.
Jesus through his death took on the wages of our sin, but through His resurrection brings peace. Through His death he broke the cycle of destruction and ushered in the hope of restoration. But what was He restoring?
He was giving us the opportunity to live in the kingdom, providing the way to restore life with God that was lost when humanity decided to live under their selfish desires. Jesus through his death and resurrection restores and provides a way to restore relationships.
This was His entire mission and ministry to restore the damage caused by the destructive forces of broken relationships. This is why He ministered to the people that were marginalized by society, why he was quick to provide healing to those that were blind, lame, or were consumed by leprosy. These were the ones most affected by sin. They were the ones that needed rebuilt and restored. And Jesus says, “peace be with you… If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
Forgiveness is the beginning of peace, and the beginning of restoration. Forgiveness is the power of the resurrection. When we forgive we let go of the destructive forces that invade our relationship. We let it go, and stop the cycles of destruction and allow room for restoration and reconciliation. Forgiveness is one of the central themes in Jesus’ teachings, it is included in his teachings on prayer, it is the storyline in many of His parables, and as he breathes on the disciples He is sending them out to the ministry of forgiveness.
A couple of those teaching moments Jesus speaks about this ministry, once he says what we bind on earth will be bound in heaven and what is loose on earth will be loose in heaven, and today we read forgive and it is forgiven and retain and it is retained. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray He said, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Forgiveness is very important to Jesus. But I think often we get it upside down and backwards. If we quickly read through this we may assume that we have control over people’s final destiny through our forgiveness or lack there of. But as in Jesus’ teaching on prayer it is our destiny that is at stake when forgiveness is neglected. When we withhold or retain forgiveness though holding a grudge, we allow destructive forces to act in our lives. These forces cycle around growing more powerful until we are not at peace but are at war with others, and as we allow the grudge to consume us the one we fail to forgive is left unchanged.
Forgiveness is one of the hardest activities we participate in, because to forgive we release control, and become vulnerable. If we forgive we risk injury again and again, but all the while Jesus is also telling us Peace be with you. To obtain peace we must open up lines of communication and attempt to restore relationships that were previously broken through the destructive forces of sin. Peace is a two way street, but it begins when one side decides to forgive instead of continuing the fight.
I am reminded of various peace treaties nations have had, mainly the treaty at the end of WWI. At this time it was decided to lay down arms but there was a lack of forgiveness on one side. Germany was not forgiven for their part in this war, and though the fighting stopped the Allied nations sought vengeance. Germany was forced to pay for the war, this sent Germany into an economic tailspin. The allies retained the sins of a nation instead of forgiving and in the process paved the road toward WWII. I mention this because how many times do we allow the past actions of other determine our future relationships. How often do we seek vengeance instead of forgiveness? In the case of WWI the war never really stopped, but continued on. Though it seemed like there was peace, the lack of forgiveness continued to cycle to the next generation.
The power of the resurrection is forgiveness. That power is available to each of us and if we lay down the weapons we are using against each other we will see amazing things begin to happen. Yes you have been hurt by others, yes that emotional and sometimes physical pain is real. But if we want to restore and rebuild each of us must decide to forgive instead of retain. That is why the resurrection is so confusing to many even to ourselves, because to forgive is contrary to the ways of the world. Peace is contrary to the ways of the world. But without forgiveness relationship will never be restored and without forgiveness our faith is in nothing more than a confusing story that lacks all power.
As we enter into this time of open worship and communion as Friends, let us again consider the power of the resurrection, asking ourselves if we truly believe and if we are willing to live in that power through forgiveness.
Scripture: John 20:1-18
Thursday as I was driving across Kansas I drove into an inferno of flames and smoke. Flames were sprinting across the prairie consuming the dry brown grass until all that was left was the charred black earth. The smoke was billowing into the sky and wafting across the interstate to the point that it was becoming difficult to see. There was a sense of danger and beauty as you observe the grass fires of Kansas. If one did not know what was occurring you would be gripped with fear not knowing what type of a hell you may be driving into. But these fires are ignited every spring. When people first began to settle the prairies the constant fires scared them, they would ignite and spread rapidly devouring everything in their paths. They would try all they could to contain and stop the fires but still they would rage, and often through their efforts the fires would only intensify. After years of study they found that the periodic controlled burning of the grasslands was the only sure way to manage the danger of the prairie fires. If they would start small fires and burn a bit at a time they would be able to minimize effects of a raging uncontrollable wildfire. Through the observation they also found something else, the burning of the grassland had a positive effect on the environment. After the blaze in the spring, the various grasses would emerge more vigorously. They then began to study why this happened, they tried safer methods like mowing off the dry grass, but nothing seemed to work quite like fire. Because through the flames, that dreadful orange serpent that slithered across the hills, something almost magical happened, the flames removed the old growth and also heated the ground causing the seeds to germinate and then out of the char new life emerged stronger, thicker, and healthier than before. No matter what they have tried the risk of flames brought about the greatest life.
Without that knowledge the flames are scary. The fire is something that most intend to prevent. In the early days the preserves and national parks spent time preventing fires, but even in the forest they found that fire, though it is something destructive and something to be feared, can bring about awesome changes in the environment. Without careful observation humanity in its attempts to preserve nature can at times cause greater disaster. Every summer we hear reports of wildfires burning out of control across the western states. Families get displaced, cities are gripped with fear, the grand forests of our national parks are threatened but we can minimize the damage of most of these raging wildfires with disciplined, controlled, systematic burning to rid the earth of the dry dead plants that only kindle the flames.
Nature often speaks volumes to our spiritual conditions; this is part of the natural law. There are cycles of life and death, destruction and rebirth throughout nature. It is no wonder that the ancient religions built mythologies around the changing of the seasons and why the church used these natural laws of nature to share the gospel. But nature does not tell the complete story. It speaks in a language that we cannot fully understand, and it is only a reflection of a deeper truth that can only be revealed in the light of God. This is why Christ stands above all other religions because in Him all things have are made complete.
In today’s passage we meet again with Mary, this young woman whose life had been dramatically affected by the relationship she had with Jesus. Scripture says that she had been possessed by seven demons and was released from that bondage by a word from Jesus and she had seen Jesus restore life to her dead brother’s body, she had been the recipient of some of the most miraculous events in the life of Jesus. As a result she devoted her entire life to this man whom she believed was the Christ, they Messiah sent by God. Mary had an idea, an image, of Jesus, she thought that he was going to bring heaven to earth and restore the kingdom of David and the promise to Abraham. Yet as we meet Mary, rejoicing is not on her lips. Instead we meet her with tears streaking down her face, because two days prior, on a day we call Good Friday, the man she placed all her hope in was executed on a tree, and she had just spent the Great Sabbath, or Black Saturday, not in praise but mourning. Everything in her life, the escape from the bondage of demons, the restored life to her brother and benefactor, was no longer sources of hope. Her world was a char blackened scorched earth. It was as if a raging fire slithered its way through all her hope and dreams, consuming everything in its path leaving her with nothing but the cold tomb and a lifeless savior.
I want us to consider the emotional pain Mary is going through in this passage before we move forward. Pain is part of life. A friend of mine, a friend that has endured much pain and hardship, has tattooed on his arm “we cannot learn without pain.” There is truth in that statement, a depressing truth. We do not like pain, nor do we seek pain out willingly, but without the risk of pain we cannot grow. Love always carries a risk of pain. Success always carries with it the risk of total devastation. Life carries with it the risk of death. We can never remove that risk completely, when we attempt to something far worse often results.
Without the risk of pain in love, without making ourselves vulnerable to loss and emotional pain, we would never fully know love. Love is found in vulnerability, the shedding of our facades. But often in our attempts to save our own skin we build walls around our vulnerability, keeping the threat of pain at a safe distance only to find ourselves locked away, isolated, and alone never understood and never understanding. Living as a sheltered shell of a human.
Mary has experience the most heart wrenching pain that one could experience. She lost one that she loved. To her Jesus was everything. She spent hours sitting at his feet, she wept and anointed his feet with her tears and costly perfume. To her Jesus was more than just a friend; she risked her entire existence to be with him, as did the rest of her family. They risked their name, their house, their very lives to be part of his disciples. Now all they invested is buried. She lost a brother, a potential lover, a king, and hope. All that she had left was to anoint his body and to attempt rebuild a destroyed life.
What she does not know is that on the other side of pain is something better. Just beyond the smoke something just below the surface of her reality is beginning to take form. Just as the fires that consume the prairie give rise to the next season of grass. Sacrifice, pain, and struggle often give birth to the greatest reward.
In the Garden of Eden, God told our first parents that if they eat the fruit of the tree that they would die. God created the world with a potential of loss. Some would look at that potential as being a sign of an unloving God, but without the risk of loss is there really love? We know love because of the sacrifice and effort. The process of bringing life into the world is filled with danger, even from the very start of the process. Yet for each of us to be sitting here today someone took the risk. Our mothers risked their bodies to bring us into this world, for some the risk was so great that it nearly took their lives, or their lives will never be the same afterward. For a few they gave their lives completely just to participate in the creation of life. Yet there is not a mother in this room that would have had it any other way. The opportunity to participate in the creation of life was worth the risk they took. Love is sacrifice.
For Abraham, God promised him a great nation for a price, he would need to leave his homeland and go to the place that God lead him. The risk Abraham took was great, the reward was greater, he left everything that he knew, a life that he had build and extended family that he loved, and he walked out into the wilderness. For years he lived on that promise and that nation he never saw until the birth of his son at a time when all hope was lost. Yet he clung to the promise, he made the sacrifice, and he became the father of a great nation. Throughout history we see testimonies of sacrifice and success, both in a spiritual sense and in the secular arena.
Mary risked her comfortable life, and lost it all, yet behind a stone something amazing happened. Mary walked to this tomb to finally seal and conclude her dreams yet when she got there the stone was removed. She lost it all and suddenly it felt as if someone was pouring salt on an open wound. She ran to the others in a panic that words could not begin to express. Sure all her hope was gone but the tomb where they buried her dreams was tampered with. A crime regarded so heinous that the penalty was death. She cried to the others and they ran to see, only to find a mystery. Everything was there, the grave clothes and the head covering, but the body was gone. The clothes were where they knew the body once was. There is no mention of the condition of the clothes, except for the head covering, which was rolled up by itself. They make no mention that anything is amiss about the clothing other that one fact, everything else was as it should be except there clothes were empty.
They were all at a loss. The flames had consumed the last bit of hope they had, and they were all left devastated. The men returned home, Mary stayed to weep over the grave that once held her greatest friend. And then two angels visit her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” they ask. Every ounce of hope she had was now gone she was left there broken and as empty as the stone tomb she was standing in front of, and two beings ask her why she was crying. She took a chance and by all accounts she failed. The only activity her body could muster was for tears to flow. Then someone walks up behind her and she turns, again the same question is asked. Irritated and hurt she lashes out at the man and says, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”
Through our pain and hopelessness we will often lash out and cry. Saying things to people we care about that we do not intend to say. It is part of our emotions, and part of our defenses. I imagine that Mary screamed at this man that she thought was a gardener. Darkness was shadowing everything in her life. All was lost and in her mind there was not even a glimmer of hope left. Until the man before her spoke her name. The smoke lifted and the sun shown all around. Suddenly new green grass emerged through the charred scorched earth. Hope returned with one single word.
Why is this day the crowning glory and completion of all things? Hope returns. In nature winter turns to spring, in the prairies life emerges from the ashes, in this moment in history in Judea 2000 years ago life was restored to the dead. All of creation groans and the trees clap their hands because through sacrifice and death life returns. Love emerges triumphant, fear and death no longer has a grip on those who put their faith in Jesus, because He emerged from that grave once dead but living again.
Do we understand what that truly means? Do we grasp what power we really have in that knowledge? I do not think we have begun to experience the fullness of what the resurrection has in our lives today. But we do get glimpses. William Penn once said, “The adventure of the Christian life begins when we dare to do what we would never tackle without Christ.” The adventure begins when we dare, when we put ourselves out there to attempt to do things that our worldly wisdom would never allow, risking it all because we have hope in the power of the resurrection.
St. Patrick prayed this in his prayer, “Against the demon snares of sin, The vice that gives temptation force, The natural lusts that war within, The hostile men that mar my course; Or few or many, far or nigh, In every place and in all hours, Against their fierce hostility, I bind to me these holy powers. Against all Satan’s spells and wiles, Against false words of heresy, Against the knowledge that defiles, Against the heart’s idolatry, Against the wizard’s evil craft, Against the death wound and the burning, The choking wave and the poisoned shaft, Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.” He understood the power in Christ resurrection, the power that even when we face risks of greatest proportion we can live without fear, and it is that life without fear that won the hearts of the Irish.
Mary began bound in hopelessness, with a word she was freed to life. Again was brought low in despair, but with a word was given a power to testify before the apostles and her testimony was recorded for all of history to see as being the first to see the risen Lord. Love sacrifices, Love loses, Love risks, and Love conquers. The love of God for His world sent his son to give himself so that we could be freed from the fear of death, and restored to love other. An adventure has been set before us, an adventure to go and make disciples of all the nations, beginning here in our community. Our community like the days of St. Patrick is a society that is bound by fear; people have been so driven to remove that fear that it has crippled us from being able to even live. That is the destruction of sin. That is where the power of the resurrection can bring new life into our often-scorched earth.
As we enter our time of Holy Expectancy and communion as Friends. Let us imagine the emotions of Mary, let us imagine the power of St. Patrick’s prayer over the fears that bound the land he was called too, and let us imagine and embrace the adventure Christ is urging us to embark.
Scripture: Matthew 27:11-54
Today we celebrate with thousands if not millions of people the crowning of a king. A king who we believe was sent to us from God, who was going to restore order and peace to the nations. Today is Palm Sunday.
Over the years I wonder if we really understand what this day really represents? We like millions before and around us claim that Jesus is king. We sing Praise to God, “Hosanna. Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” Hosanna, such a strange word. A word that means save, rescue, help, or “save, I pray.” It is a cry of mercy of those that are found in the midst of a deep dilemma. Hosanna, blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. This was the cry of people that were caught in the midst of cultural, political, and religious bondage and they we crying PLEASE SAVE US!
Today we use this term almost flippantly. We sing in our hymns and choruses of praise, but do we really think about what is being said? We say it as if it is the rallying cry or the slogan of a dynamic king but in reality it is a cry for help, an urgent desire to know the truth and to be set free.
The depth of the words we use can loose their meaning on us. Terms like awesome were once used only to describe seemingly miraculous events that were beyond description and could only be attributed to divine intervention. Today its use is so common that my tie could be awesome… And my tie is not nearly a miraculous event that can only be attributed to divine intervention, it is something common, anyone and everyone has access to one similar if they go to their local department store. Hosanna is one such word. We raise our hands and cry hosanna as we sing… well some people do but not us necessarily, but when we use it we are not really screaming for salvation. We use it like many other words in worship; its deep meaning has almost been completely lost through the generations.
I begin here because I want us to really picture the struggle of this festive and turbulent time, this day we call Palm Sunday. There were many that wanted Jesus to be their king, as he rode into the City of David on the donkey so long ago. In the midst of their struggle, their strong desire to be free from the exploitation of their overlords they were crying out Save us, and lead us to God. Then there were others there that had become accustom to the overlords and the status quo. They used their positions to manipulate and control, though being very faithful to the traditions of their Fathers, but using it for personal advantage in their present life. The faith and the law became empty. Those that could afford the status gained favor and those that could not could only move up in status if they exhibited some extraordinary gift: a gift of leadership, a beautiful voice, maybe even if they had some special understanding of finance and they systems of trade. Both sides were looking for a king but both sides were seeing very different pictures of what that king would actually look like. One was the source of salvation, freedom, and dignity. The other saw one who would unite and empower the leaders to rule and control the nation completely.
These two views bring us to the passion we read about today, two groups with two very different views of a singular figure looking through lenses of their interpretations to determine where they would stand. This tension was not only on the outside the circle of disciple of Jesus, but ran deeply in the interactions of those closest to Jesus. When we consider the names and occupations of the twelve men we know as the disciple or apostles we see stories emerge Matthew or Levi was a tax collector, a man whose namesake was the tribe of Israel devoted to service to the Lord but was living a life sold out to the ones that were oppressing the chosen people. We have Simon the Zealot; we may assume they added the Zealot to differentiate between Simon Peter and the other Simon but Zealot is a term that had meaning and would not be used for a person without a purpose. Simon was a freedom fighter, one that would give his life for the cause of Israel and would do anything to advance the faith and nation. Then there is Judas Iscariot, the demon of the gospel narratives. Some would venture to say that Judas was also an extreme Zealot likening the term Iscariot to the men of the dagger, meaning that Judas may have been a member of an ultra secret fighting force of Israel, a band of assassins. We do not know this for sure, but it does give some insight into how or why he did the things he did.
Men of different background within and without Jesus’ inner circle with projecting their desires onto who or what Jesus should be. Yet a week after this seemingly jubilant time Jesus is found not on a throne but mocked before the world standing at the judgment seat. How quickly the crowds moved from crying out for salvation to crying out for blood, yet how far are we from these people?
Jesus, standing before the governor is asked, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus replies, “You say so.” Have you thought about that short conversation? Have you really considered what Jesus was really saying? You say so. Meaning, for him to be standing before this man, this man in some fashion had to make a judgment either way. This man, Pilate, would either have to say yes he is the king or say no he is not. The answer to this question had very different ramifications. One leads to death as a rebel the other would lead to freedom. Pilate refused to make a judgment. This is not the history of this particular man. Pilate was not an indecisive man, in fact history shows that this man would nail someone to a tree for a cross less, Jesus even makes a reference about the bloodiness of Pilate when he speaks of the Galileans whose blood was mixed with the blood of the sacrifices. Pilate was quick to make Judgment. But there was something different about Jesus.
Jesus was a very popular and radical figure. He had a following that could at any moment turn to rebellion, Rome definitely would have had their eyes on this man, because any large group of people meeting together would have attracted the attention of any tyrannical leader. Pilate knew what Jesus taught, he was probably behind some of the questions that Jesus was asked, because the Sadducees were in many instances puppets of the Romans. Jesus posed a threat but the greater threat was not in the man himself but in what would happen if he took a side in the issue.
Pilate comes up with a crafty plan, he had made a custom of pardoning someone during the festival, so he brings before the people Jesus, and Jesus Barabbas. This is an interesting trial. Jesus or Joshua means literally means God Saves, or God is our deliverance or salvation. Both men presented before the people had this name. Both men stood before them as icons of the hope that the people of God had in their future, an image of who their faith and trust truly hung. Barabbas is a compound name, Bar means of, and Abbas, or abba means father. So Barabbas means of a father, or a man’s way. We have before the people a trial or a crossroad. Standing before them they must chose do we want to move forward in this new teaching of Jesus or do we want to fall back into the comfort of the faith of our fathers. Do we move forward in the light of God, or do we keep doing what we have always done. Do we choose the kingdoms of men or the Kingdom of God? This choice would determine not only the future of the nation but is a testimony in who or what their faith lays.
The crowd chose the zealot, bandit, freedom fighter Barabbas over Jesus. They chose to continue the struggle and fight between the cultures of Rome and Judea over a new path. They chose war over peace. Jesus was not anti Rome, and Pilate knew this. Jesus was not worried about the political aspects of the world, but was focused on the personal relationships between God and man. In other Gospels Jesus answers Pilates question my kingdom is not of this world. Which was ok with Pilate because in that statement Jesus was saying I could careless about the government, but what is important is how we treat the people around us. But the people chose Barabbas.
Jesus came teaching a rhythm of life, a rhythm of Worship, Prayer, and Service. He taught this rhythm to his disciples, a rhythm goes beyond national boarders, cultures, and races. It did not matter if the faithful to this lifestyle were Jewish, Samaritan, or even a Gentile, Jesus taught the rhythm and served all people. The healing he provided went to the people of Israel and also to the Roman official, Jesus sat at the table with Pharisees and touched the lepers. It did not matter who you were if you cried Hosanna Jesus was willing to serve.
But the people chose Barabbas, and in that choice they chose tradition over obedience. The soldiers dressed Jesus up and mocked him. Giving him a robe of scarlet and crown of thrones and a reed as scepter. They bowed down to him hailing him as king, but just the hails were nothing more than empty words filled with hate. They hung him on a cross and the people also mocked him. “He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him.”
How often do we join in that chorus, mocking Jesus instead of crying out Hosanna? How often do we cry out for Barabbas instead of becoming a blessing for those around us? I ask these questions in all seriousness because often we can get so tied up in our theology and apologetics that we forget to listen to the cries of hosanna around us. We see the person struggling with a substance abuse problem and we judge before we offer help, we talk badly about the scared teenager who chose an abortion instead of encouraging her to embrace a testimony of respect for all life, or maybe we reject completely a person who has a view different world than our own. When we cry Barabbas or hold firm to tradition, we often fail to participate in the very ministry that Jesus has been urging and inspiring us to take up.
I am not saying that theology is bad. I love theology. I will read theology as eagerly as I can read the latest mystery novel. But theology should be moving us to action. Theology is one of those deep aspects of prayer and embracing the Spirit of God, as we study theology or study God we should be moved into something greater. Our prayers and interactions with God should draw us closer to the one we worship and to those He loves.
The mockers stood before Jesus on the cross, and listened to Him scream out to the Father, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” It is similar to the pleas that Jesus gives in the Revelation recorded by John and sent to the seven churches. So many left their first love, so many left the cries of Hosanna, and instead began to cry Barabbas.
Why have you forsaken me? Where do you find our help, where do we find salvation, where is our hope? Is it in the heritage we gain from our fathers or is it in the revelation of God? Jesus is the full and true revelation of God, He is the Word made flesh to dwell among us. Jesus left the glory of heaven, was made into the likeness of man, and born of Mary. He grew in knowledge of the Lord as He learned just like each of us how to read, how to interact with others, and how to work all the care of our parents. He took on the full experience of humanity, he knows our struggles and our pains, and He knows our temptations, and the spiritual and emotional strength that is required to overcome those temptations. He had friends and lost friends, he experienced rejections and wept when a loved one died. He came down to earth to restore the relationship between God and Mankind. In His divinity He brings God to man, and in His humanity he lifts us up to God.
Today we are left with a choice, the choice is one that has faced every person in all of history, and it is the choices that Pilate gave the people of Judea that day. Which will you choose? Who will you choose to be your salvation, Jesus or Barabbas? One led the people of Judea into the Jewish wars and the destruction of all that they held dear. The other leads us to the cross. One leads us to the failing kingdoms of men here today and gone tomorrow, while the other leads us to the hope of a new restored life that will last into eternity. One mocks while the other restores, one is a path of darkness and destruction while the other is a path to light. One is a rhythm of continuous cycles of selfishness, exploitation, and manipulation, while the other is a rhythm that bring us to become a people loving God, embracing the Holy Spirit, and living the love of Christ with others.
As we enter into this time of open worship and holy expectancy I want us each to imagine ourselves standing there with the crowd before Pilate, looking up toward the judgment seat. Who will we choose? Which lifestyle will we choose? Will we chose a life that brings hope or despair? Will we choose Barabbas or Christ?