John 20:19–31 (NRSV)
Jesus Appears to the Disciples
(Lk 24:36–43; 1 Cor 15:5)
19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
Jesus and Thomas
24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
The Purpose of This Book
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
The greatest thing about the Easter season is that it is constantly filled with hope. As Friends, we do not often participate with the other churches in the liturgical calendar, but prior to Easter is the season of Lent. During this season, many will fast. I usually will fast from something personally, I do not often share what I fast from because it does not matter to you because it is something I do for my own spiritual enrichment. Last year I took a fast from Dr. Pepper, I never thought a fast would be so hard. This year I tried something different, and I tried to fast from meat one meal a day. Why do I do this even when I do not have to, it reminds me that I fail so often. When I was fasting from Dr. Pepper I found that every stressful situation I craved that bubbly bliss. I craved a substance instead of Christ. This year I must admit that the fast did not go too well. I started off strong, I ate salads during lunch at work I was starting to feel healthy and then we started getting ready for inventory at work. As the stress increased I began to choose comfort foods instead of something healthy. The day was getting stressful so I would get a pint of ice cream instead of hummus. What started off as a fast for health became a binge of junk, but for the most part I did hold to the fast from meat. Then we started getting busier as the holiday approached, what should have been a greater anticipation of the hope found in Christ, I instead found myself desiring more unhealthy foods. So, I quit my fast. I gave up because the fast was not directing me closer to God instead I was allowing the stress of the world to overcome and my way of coping was doing the opposite of what I anticipated.
I mention this because I imagine this is how the disciples of Jesus felt during the days following Jesus’ crucifixion. They had just spent the previous three years following their teacher around listening to every word he had to say and witnessing the most amazing ministry they had ever heard about. Then Jesus was arrested and he did not respond in a way that they had hoped. I am sure they expected Jesus to make some sort of rebellious move to throw off the chains of Rome and bring in the anticipated Kingdom of Israel. I believe this is the way they thought because Peter took out the sword as the guards approached and sliced off the ear of one of them only to be told by Jesus to put it away as he reattached the man’s ear and willingly went with them to face his trial and death.
They did not understand, they were filled with fear and became disoriented so they locked themselves in a room only to have the women among them to continue walking by faith. The remaining disciples wanted to live for God, but they did not know how anymore.
I get it. I understand just how they might have felt because I have tried to live that life on my own. That is the thing though I tried to live it on my own. So often we try to live for God trusting only on our own abilities only to be caught up in the stresses of the world. Like Mary in last week’s passage, we can get so wrapped up we do not even recognize that God is showing us fascinating and miraculous acts. We get distracted and we find something to help us cope. I gravitate toward Dr. Pepper and ice cream, the disciples just locked a door. They were afraid. They were afraid of the religious leaders, they were afraid of the Roman soldiers, they were afraid that they wasted their lives and that all their hope was lost so they locked the door trying to keep the world outside while they safely remained where they were. And Jesus met them there.
Imagine if you were there that day. Sitting in a room safely locked behind a door and suddenly your teacher is standing right there with you. None of you moved, no one was even near the door to unlock it and here he is. You had just calmed Mary down trying to convince her that she was just seeing things because of the immense amount of stress that you have all been experiencing. But now you are not quite sure you gave good council because your eyes are seeing things that should not be. You look over to Peter and you notice his jaw is agape. You look at John thinking surely one of them would show some indication that your mind is not playing a sick trick, but he too is staring in the direction you were staring just a moment before. Everyone in the room is looking the same direction so you close your eyes and turn again to look. Then He speaks, “Peace be with you,” and he begins to show you the wounds that He obtained a few days earlier. You still do not know what to think.
He speaks again saying the same blessing but adding, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And he walks over and breathes on each one of you. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” He continues, which causes your mind to race all the way back to the beginning of time. Adam was just a lifeless form of clay until the breath of God was breathed into his nostrils. Just a moment before you too felt as if you were dead. Your life seemed to be over, you felt as if you failed, your teacher and king had died and was buried, now a mysterious wind from the very same man was being blown over you and you know it is true because you can smell the same scents you had known for the past three years. Then he says something that stupefies you, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any they are retained.”
Feel the breath, hear the words. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. These disciples know that they too are among the many, the all. What does this mean? The Gospel of John teaches us many things, but the most prominent thing that John tries to tell us is that God loves us. God do not merely like us but God passionately pursues us to the point that He sent His son to bring us to Him. John’s greatest teaching is that God wants to have friendship with us, wants to be with us, to have a relationship with us. Sin, from the perspective of John, is anything that keeps us from that relationship. John says in his writings, “God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already because they did not believe in the name of the only son of God.” Condemnation is not a result of moral failings, but of relational failings. Our world is not in chaos because of immorality, we have immorality because our relationships are fractured and through our fractured relationships we seek to ease the pain through immoral means.
Let that sink in for a moment. Why do people become addicted and begin to abuse substances? What is the root of substance abuse? If we were to consider the family history we would find a trend. My sister is a licensed family therapist, and this is one of the things that they are taught to look at during their work. It is a counseling technique called systems theory. Every family is a system that works together and if there is some sort of disorder within the system, it can be seen in the history and will continue to be seen in the future unless the system is encouraged to change. The distress of a family is not caused by one individual and it cannot be remedied unless the entire system or family works together to overcome and change behavior. So, in the case of substance abuse, if you were to look deeper you would see that there is brokenness in the system with each generation. You would see that maybe one event three generations back triggered a change in the relationship within a family that prompted a successive draw to the use of substances to alleviate pain. There are relational scars and fractured relationships.
Even within good families and systems there are fractures. There are events and feelings that have never been resolved. We may not even know what the problem is but through our time within the system we have been reared to act accordingly. There is a story that has gone around mainly within business leadership circles that speaks of a study involving primates. In the supposed study, a basket of bananas on the top of a ladder in the center of a room that was occupied with primates. Whenever one of the animals would go onto the ladder to obtain a banana the entire room would be sprayed with water. Eventually the animals became violent toward any animal that would touch the ladder. And since the animals did not move up the ladder to get bananas water was no longer sprayed. As the study progressed they would systematically remove one animal and replace it with another and when it touched the ladder the other would attack. They continued to replace animals and after all the animals were replaced and not one of the animals in the room had been up the ladder or been sprayed with water, yet none of the animals would touch the ladder even though they knew food was on top. They were conditioned not to go near and none knew why and if any tried they were forcibly deterred. The primates within the system were conditioned to avoid the ladder. This story, and that is all it is because this actual study was never published, is used to warn people of the conditioning that is promoted within mob type rule. I use it for us to consider the concepts of forgiveness or retention. The primates in the study retained and the relationships were hindered and none got the bananas. What if they forgave? What if they could understand that the fact they were sprayed with water might have been that they did not take the whole basket down to share, but they were selfishly keeping the bananas for themselves?
Jesus breathed on them and encouraged the disciples to restore the relationships around them. To look past the personal injuries that might have occurred and to encourage systematic healing within the whole group. That is what forgiveness is. It is not allowing the injury to bind us. By saying I forgive you, I am not saying it is ok that you injured me I am instead saying that I am not going to let the fact that you injured me keep me from doing what God has called me to do.
And we see this within the passage. All the disciples left Jesus on the night of his betrayal, and they eventually came back to this locked room. All but two. One, was Judas who we are told was racked with guilt over his part in the death of Jesus that he threw the money he received at those that tricked him and he hung himself from a tree. The other was the disciple we know as Doubting Thomas. Thomas was not with the others that day in the locked room. He was somewhere else. He had removed himself from the community even though he had been one of the most eager disciples of Jesus. He was the one that told the others let us go and die with Him when Jesus decided to return to Judea to visit Lazarus’ grave even though the religious leaders were seeking to kill their teacher. Yet now that Jesus had been executed Thomas was the first to leave the fold.
When Jesus rose, and visited the others their first act of faith was to restore the relationship with their friend Thomas. They went to him telling him of the amazing things that they witnessed. And Thomas said I will not believe unless I see it myself. But where do we find Thomas a week after the first visit of Jesus? He is with his friends in the room. The broken relationship was not retained but forgiven and Thomas was restored in the community. Then Jesus comes again, this time He seeks Thomas out personally. Jesus knows Thomas and loves him. He knows that Thomas must see the marks must interact with the wounds before he can believe. So, Jesus looks at his friend, His friend that has experienced brokenness and separation within the group because he is the only one who had not seen the resurrected teacher. Jesus seeks Thomas to restore the relationship and Thomas is the first to announce the truth about Jesus saying, “My lord and my God!”
Jesus sent the disciples out to spread the Gospel. He sent them out to continue the work that he had begun. He told Mary not to hang on to Him because his role and her’s along with every other disciples’ was about to change. The students were being sent out to be the teachers and the teacher was going to prepare the place for them. He sent them out to preach the Gospel that the kingdom of God is at hand and that we need to repent or return to God. We do this by believing in the Son who came to save us not to condemn us. Jesus tells us that we need to preach the gospel through our lives, by becoming active participants in the restoration of relationships. By helping others break through the broken systems that are keeping us distracted from the fullness of life God desires for us and bring healing to that brokenness. Paul tells us this in another way, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility regard others better than yourself.” Forgive and restore relationships, stop retaining the brokenness. Stop beating each other up for touching the ladder. Stop climbing the ladder to get a banana for yourself. Climb up and get the basket and share.
Do we believe in the resurrection? Do we believe that Christ can breathe life into us? Do we believe that he came to love us even though we live as broken members of broken systems? Or do we believe that he came to condemn us? Jesus came to give us life. Life in the fullness that He experienced. Life that was lived in communion and community with God and all of creation. What is keeping us from it? Often, we retain the brokenness, we retain it because we think we can overcome it. When the truth is when the heat gets turned on we reach out for ice cream instead of the good life. We seek comfort instead of truth. We seek injury instead of healing. Whatever we forgive will be forgiven and whatever we retain will be retained. We can either let go and move forward or hang on to the past and be left out.
As we enter into this time of open worship and communion as Friends let us challenge ourselves and encourage ourselves to forgive and let go. And let us embrace the hope that we have in Jesus our lord and our God.
John 20:1–18 (NRSV)
The Resurrection of Jesus
(Mt 28:1–10; Mk 16:1–8; Lk 24:1–12)
20 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
There are so many things surrounding the passion and resurrection of Jesus that we can speak about. It is the greatest story ever told on many levels. It is a story that every type of person must answer to in one form or another, even if you do not believe in God or if you believe in a different deity there is always a footnote in the teachings that speaks of one’s position of believe regarding Jesus. But how many of us really spend time in our daily life considering the real-world implications of this event?
The disciples of Jesus were not the bold men and women we remember in history during the days following Jesus’ execution. They were filled with fear and rightly so because their beloved teacher the man they followed for three years was executed as a political prisoner by the Imperial arm of government. He was executed as the king of the Jews, a title that we may not really consider too deeply but it was a powerful statement to all present on that day. The people proclaimed that they had no other king but the Emperor when they heard that the Roman governor was going to place that sign over the head of Jesus, the implications to that statement was that they placed their faith in the kingdoms of Men instead of the kingdom of God. The religious leaders of the day sold their faith in God to Rome for the price, the life of a teacher that opposed their teachings. The disciples also had a strong reaction to this sign because by claiming to be a follower of this teacher, they would openly profess their opposition to the emperor, making them targets to the same sentence as traitors.
Imagine yourself in that situation. All the religious leaders, your favorite radio teachers, the professors at the most respected universities all saying our nation is where true faith lies. There is no other ruler over us. You are part of a small minority of faithful the small minority that said no, there is only one king over me and his name is Jesus. Your king was executed, and your small minority is now marked.
This brings us to today’s passage. It was early on the first day, it was still dark. And Mary was walking to the tomb. I want us to stop and think about this because this is powerful. Mary walks to the tomb in the dark, the first thing she does after the sabbath. John only tells us that Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb, while the other gospel writers has a group with her but the same thing remains. Women were the first to go. This is not just a small thing. Often, we quickly rush through these verses and move on to the second part, where Peter and the beloved disciple run to the tomb, but I want us to think about Mary right not. Mary and the other women were walking to the tomb alone to anoint the body. Consider what they would be facing when they got there. Not only was the tomb sealed with a large stone, but it was sealed with an imperial seal if broken would be the death of whoever broke it. The tomb was also being watched by trained and hardened men of battle, soldiers of the Empire where were not exactly known to be the most loving overlords to the conquered peoples. A group of women walked to face this challenge alone. Only after they were on their way did they even begin to consider the obstacles they would face. The faith of these women is phenomenal.
We overlook this so often because they were just going to anoint the body, it was a custom that women always did. But this is different they were going to anoint the body of not only an enemy of the state but of the faith. By making that walk to the tomb they were saying to everyone that we will not be turned, we will honor our king and face the consequences. The female disciples were the first to walk by faith, they were the first to reject the world and embrace the teaching of Jesus fully. Why would they do such a thing when all the other disciples were locked in a room?
Mary Magdalene has been given harsh treatment throughout history, being shamed for no reason, and even today people like to assault her character without any definite proof. What we do know is that she sat at the feet of Jesus listening to his teaching. We know that she had faith that Jesus could heal her brother and she with her sister Martha sent for Jesus when Lazarus fell ill. She was close to Jesus to the point Jesus wept with her at Lazarus’ funeral, and she more than likely was the most vocal when Jesus called Lazarus from the tomb. Mary was a disciple of Jesus. Jesus accepted Mary into his community. Mary was permitted to listen to Jesus not from a different room, or separated from the men, Jesus let her sit right at his feet listening to the words that he spoke. In the first century women did not have this sort of opportunity, even if they were married to the Rabbi. Mary was a disciple. Mary saw and heard nearly everything the Apostles did, and they sat in a room where Mary went to the tomb of her rabbi.
She approached the tomb, and made a startling discovery. The stone that covered the opening was rolled away. The entrance to the tomb, which was under armed guard and sealed by the government was open. She went there to anoint the body, she was preparing herself to face off with the guards to plead her case to have the tomb opened so she could properly pay her respect, and there it was open. She immediately ran to get the Peter and the others. She ran to them because she knew they would be blamed if anything would have happened to the body. She ran to warn them, to give them time to prepare because they would soon be accused.
Peter and the beloved disciple, traditionally known as John, ran to confirm what she said. John, who must have been in better shape, got their first and looked inside. Mary saw the stone moved, John stopped outside and saw the burial clothes, and Peter boldly entered the tomb and saw the head covering rolled up and placed apart from the rest. The tomb was empty.
The care in the description is important. The body was gone but the clothing remained. The reason they give this testimony is because almost immediately the accusations would be waged that they stole the body. And if they stole the body they would be criminally charged. But that is not the entire story. To touch a corpse would one unclean and thus unable to participate in temple worship. For the body to be gone and the grave clothes to remain would mean that the coverings would have been removed from the body and the perpetrator would have touched the corpse. The body was not removed by anyone of Jewish faith.
The two disciples returned home, and Mary remained. She remained at the tomb to face the trial alone. Mary remained in that place weeping. Everything she hoped for, everything she longed for was laid in that tomb and even that was missing. John tells us that while she was weeping she bent over to look into the tomb and two angels were there on either side of where the body should have been. They asked her why she was weeping and she answered. Mary was so caught up in her grief, so caught up in the stress of her current situation that she did not even realize that two intelligent beings miraculously appeared in a tomb of solid rock. She did not even recognize that she was having a conversation, because she was too worked up about everything going on in her life. She had faith yet she was distracted to the point that she was unable to see God working all around her.
Then another person comes and asks her a similar question, “why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” This other person she assumed was a gardener and she accuses him of stealing the body. Again, she is so wrapped up in the situation at hand that she is unable to see, and even what she does see she misinterprets through a filter of previous knowledge. Dead bodies do not rise on their own. Sure, she knew they could rise, she had only seen it a few days before when Jesus restored her brother to life, but Jesus was dead and she assumed that that was the end.
I have asked on several occasions do we truly believe in the resurrection? I ask this because it is a touch point, a home base when we are facing times of trouble. Mary was so entrenched in her own sorrow, grief, and hopelessness that she could not see the amazing work that God was doing all around her. She was even in the presence of God and was unable to recognize Him. Every day we ourselves face trials and struggles. We are constantly bombarded with the stresses of this world from hurrying to file our taxes, which by the way need to be filed by Tuesday in case you forgot. Maybe we are exhausted from work, or running two different directions all the time. We might have faith but we can get distracted even while we are faithfully doing our work for our Lord. Mary was serving her King by going to the tomb that first day morning so long ago, yet she allowed her emotions to get out of hand and distract her from the truth being revealed before her eyes. Jesus has risen!
Jesus stood there with Mary, he was there while she wept. He showed compassion for her and he spoke to her calling her by her name, “Mary.” That is all it took, one word. Obviously spoken in a way that only Jesus spoke, it was said with great friendship and love, “Mary.” Mary was not even looking at the man when he was speaking she was continuing to frantically carry on seeking the body that was not in the tomb, because that body was standing just outside her field of vision. “Mary” She turned and in a moment, everything stopped. All her worries, all the things that were distracting her fell away as she looked up into the face of her friend and her King. She exclaims, “Rabbouni!” Which means teacher, but not just teacher it means my teacher. By using that one word Mary is saying that Jesus is her exclusive teacher, there is no other before Him. Her faith and hope are instantly restored. Jesus speaking her name.
Then Jesus says something very interesting. “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father.” Mary, I am sure, did not just say Rabbouni she more than likely jumped for joy and probably was about to tackle Jesus. I say this because she was prone for the dramatic. And that is just fine, she had every right to be excited to see Jesus because she had been so blessed by this man. “Do not hold on to me,” Jesus says. Jesus was one that challenged the interpretations of the day. He pushed those of faith to look at things from different perspectives and he accepted people that were consider unacceptable by the religious establishment. Jesus was standing there with a female disciple, a woman that sat at his feet while he taught. A woman that served him meals and whose family were considered dear friends. Mary wanted to latch onto Jesus and not let go, because He was her teacher.
But things were about to change as they always do. We cannot hang on to the past and we cannot live in the future we can only experience this present moment. Do not hang on to me Jesus says, do not hang on to me because I am going to take on a new role and you need to be free to experience it. Do not bind me in the past but let us both live today. Jesus was once her teacher, He was once her friend and he still is but He has something more to do and so does she. He must ascend to the father so that the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit can come and live within the people who will form the Church. And that assembly of Disciples will be commissioned with the task to share the Gospel in Jerusalem, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Jesus tells us to let go, to be loosed from what has happened in the past both good and bad, be loosened from that so that we can live for the Gospel now. Jesus lived to teach us how to live life with God. He served to teach us how to live life with each other, he died to take on the debt the wages we owe for our rebellion from God, and he rose again to loosen us from all that holds us back and keeps us from experiencing life with God today.
Do you believe in the resurrection? Or are you like Mary caught up in the stresses of life unable to see the angels speaking to you? Do you believe in the resurrection? Or are you like Mary wanting to hold on to the things of the past even the good things that bring you such hope? Do you believe in the resurrection? Or are you like the disciples who return home confused, hopeless and scared? Do you believe? If so let us not hold on, but let us release Jesus to work through us. Let us release him so that we can see lives changed all around us. Let us entrust our lives into his, let us take on His lifestyle so that we can participate in the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in Heaven. Let us release God from our selfish embraces and let Him bring people to Himself. Let us build friendships with those people who seek Him and are beginning to turn toward him. Let us build those friendships so that when they and when we begin to get distracted we can call each other by name so we can encourage each other to turn to our teacher once again. Do we believe in the Resurrection? If we do then let go and expect to be amazed.
Matthew 27:11–54 (NRSV)
Pilate Questions Jesus
(Mk 15:2–5; Lk 23:2–5; Jn 18:29–38a)
11 Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You say so.” 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?” 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.
Barabbas or Jesus?
(Mk 15:6–14; Lk 23:13–24; Jn 18:39–40)
15 Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. 16 At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. 17 So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. 19 While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.” 20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. 21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” All of them said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
Pilate Hands Jesus over to Be Crucified
(Mk 15:15; Lk 23:25; Jn 19:16)
24 So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” 25 Then the people as a whole answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” 26 So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.
The Soldiers Mock Jesus
27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.
The Crucifixion of Jesus
(Mk 15:21–32; Lk 23:26–43; Jn 19:16b—27)
32 As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross. 33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34 they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. 35 And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots; 36 then they sat down there and kept watch over him. 37 Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”
38 Then two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, ‘I am God’s Son.’ ” 44 The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way.
The Death of Jesus
(Mk 15:33–41; Lk 23:44–49; Jn 19:28–30)
45 From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 46 And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47 When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.” 48 At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50 Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. 53 After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. 54 Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”
For the past few weeks we have been walking with Jesus through the last year of his ministry. Last week we went with Him and His disciples to Bethany to the estate of their friend Lazarus who had died. And when Jesus left Lazarus was a bit less dead. How would you react if you had witnessed this event? Have you ever actually considered your reaction?
Well there were a couple reactions to this event within the religious circles in Jerusalem. The first was crown him King! The second was just as emotional but had a more negative look kill him before they make him king.
Today’s passage takes us into the last week of Jesus life. Jesus leaves Bethany and he goes into Jerusalem for the Passover feast. If we were to look at all the accounts of this last week of Jesus’ ministry we would see that Jesus road into the city on a donkey’s colt and the crowds cheered and worshiped him laying their cloaks and palms down before him. This only caused the group that opposed Jesus to push harder. They convinced one of Jesus’ own disciples to betray him. This betrayal is something I have often contemplated, in the chapter previous we can get a hint into why Judas betrayed his teacher, he was upset that Jesus allowed a woman to anoint his feet with costly perfume when she could have sold the perfume and given that money to the poor. Of course, Matthew tells us that Judas was not concerned with the poor just the money, but it causes me to pause because Judas’ argument could have been pretty convincing.
Jesus was betrayed, He was betrayed by someone within his own inner circle, and the seeds of that betrayal had religious highlights. We give Judas a bad rap and rightly so, but have we faced similar situations and failed just as bad?
Jesus stands before the governor accused. The man asks him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” This question is a political question, one that would require a yes or no answer. If yes, Jesus would be charged with treason and executed. If no, Jesus could be charged with starting a riot and again executed. The governor was not one that was opposed to the death penalty and mastered it as if it were an art form. Jesus answered, “You say so.”
What type of answer is that? It is a plea of no contest. Pilate, no matter how Jesus answered, would lay that title on Jesus because as far as he is concerned any leader or teacher within the Jewish population is a threat to his position. But Pilate had a custom according to Matthew to release one prisoner during the Passover Feast. He chooses two men to stand before the people, both carry the name Jesus. This is something that is very interesting. The name Jesus is a Greek translation of the name Joshua which means Jehovah is salvation. Two men named Jesus stood before the crowd which will you choose?
We do not know exactly what the crimes of Barabbas were but legend would state that he was a militant leader, who reminded the people of Israel of the Maccabean revolts which freed them from their overlords which gave them liberty for around three hundred years. Jesus Barabbas would have been a potential military leader, or a king who would lead them into battle. If this were the case Pilate presented the people with two kings.
But he also presented the people with two sons. It is always important to remember that there are real lives attached to every story we read. Connected to these people are others, and everything that happens deepens the story with each person affected. There is always more to a story than what meets the eyes. The brutal governor of Jerusalem, Pilate, acted the way he did for reasons because he was connected to people and his behavior reflected the relationships he had. Pilate was charged with keeping order in province of the Empire that did not want to be subjects of Rome. He was a political appointment to this post and the one that appointed him was losing favor in Rome so Pilate needed to prove his loyalty by keeping Israel off the radar. He did this through quick and heavy handed judgments. The offer he made before the people is an oddity to his personality. It is a concession, it is offering the people of Israel an olive branch of peace. I will be merciful and give you back a leader if you will only subject yourselves to the rule of Rome. Jesus Barabbas is also a son, he is connected to others and has family and friends who would do anything to keep him alive.
There is a deeper story being played before us. Jehovah is salvation, but where does our salvation rest? Barabbas or Christ? The name Barabbas means son of a father. We have a son of a father and the son of God standing before the crowd. Jehovah is salvation through a father or man, or Jehovah is salvation through God. We have a picture of faith and where our faith lies right before us. Is our faith, our hope of salvation resting in the hands of men, or is it in the hands of God. Do we put our trust in the hands of mankind or do we entrust our lives to God?
How we answer that question is very important. Look at the lives we see in this passage. Pilate the Governor of Jerusalem seeks to release all guilt from himself and pass it onto the people. The soldiers act with mockery and brutality. The crowds react with self-interest. And Jesus enters a plea of contest. Why is there violence and a protective attitude on one side and not the other? Because deep down we all know that this life is short and that within a heartbeat we can lose everything. In one moment, the stock market can crash and our financial security can vanish like smoke in the wind. Look at world news and we can see once secure leaders of nations are being toppled by their own people or more vicious rebels. In the kingdoms of men our faith is placed on ourselves, and our security is in how well we can defend what we claim. The larger the empire the more violent the empire must become to protect itself till it no longer cares for the people living under its rule but is instead interested in preserving the empire.
Two Jesuses stood before the people. Two Jesuses whose name points to where salvation lies. Where will we place our hope? One of those men walked free that day, the other was led away, flogged, mocked, forced to carry a cross through the city and up to the top of a hill, and was nailed to that cross and left to die. Two Jesuses one was the son of a father, the son of a man the other as far as the Romans were concerned was no one. History will tell us that the personality of Barabbas led the people of Israel into a revolt invoking the wrath of the Empire and ultimately the destruction of everything the people held dear. The soldiers knew that day was coming when they let Barabbas walk, but the other Jesus they did not know how to read and it terrified them. He did not lead a rebellion in the same ways. His weapons were mercy, charity, and healing. His arsenal was food and prayer. Yet when he died they said, “Truly this man was God’s Son.”
Two Jesuses stand before us. In them is the image of our hope for salvation. In which do we entrust our lives?