Saturday, March 31, 2012

Palm Sunday

Almighty and everlasting God the Father, who sent Your Son to take our nature upon Him and to suffer death on the cross that all mankind should follow the example of His great humility, mercifully grant that we may both follow the example of our Savior Jesus Christ in His patience and also have our portion in His resurrection.

Mark 11:1-10; 15:1-39
The Way of the Cross-Gives an Opportunity to Decide

We come to the last of our Lenten meditations on the way of the cross. This morning we see that the way of the cross gives an opportunity to decide. Pilate’s question “What then shall I do with Jesus?” makes everyone responsible to give an answer. How we answer depicts our faith in Jesus and determines our destiny. In the Passion story there are various answers given to Pilate’s question. Today, as when they were first asked, the same answers are possible.

What will you do with Jesus?

I. You can Praise Him. – 11:1-10

A. At this point, a new section in the Gospel of Mark begins. Jesus arrives in Jerusalem and the rest of His ministry will take place within the confines of the Holy City of Jerusalem.

B. Nothing is left to chance as far as Jesus is concerned. Beginning with His triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem Passion Week has begun. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is a deliberate Messianic action – He offers Himself as the people’s Savior knowing that this will provoke the leaders of the ruling Council to take action against Him.

C. And yet, the people praise Him. They shout, Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! This is a direct quote from Psalm 118:25. The people understand what they are saying. Their praises are a prayer – a prayer for the Lord to continue to save and sustain His people.

Transition: One option is to praise Him another is to mock Him.

II. Mock Him – 15:16-20

A. At the headquarters of the Roman Governor, the soldiers place a purple robe upon Him and place upon His head a crown of thorns. The robe was probably an old military cloak, whose color suggested royalty. The crown of thorns was made of briers, which grew in the region. Both the robe and the crown were parts of the mock royal attire place upon Jesus.

B. While under the care of Pilate, the soldiers mock Jesus. They cry out “Hail, king of the Jews!” which is nothing more than a mocking salutation that similar to the Roman salute “Hail Caesar!

C. Finally they struck Him with their fists and beat Him with a staff. It was customary in the Near East that when in the presence of royalty one was to offer a kiss. The homage Jesus received. They spat in His face!

Transition: Some will praise Him, others will mock Him, and still others will condemn Him.

III. Condemn Him– They crowd shouted in one accord “Crucify Him!”15:13

A. A Romans means of execution was that of crucifixion. Heavy wrought-iron nails were driven through the wrists and the heel. If the life of the victim lingered too long, death was hastened by breaking the victim’s legs.

B. Only slaves, the basest of criminals, and offenders who were not Roman citizens were executed in this manner.

Transition: There are plenty of options the world may choose to consider when asked what one should do with this Jesus. For the believer there is but one choice to consider.

IV. Confess Him With the Centurion we say; “Surely this man was the Son of God!” - 15:39

A. The Centurion was a commander of 100 men in the Roman army. Mark specifically mentions that he “saw how Jesus died” The strength of Jesus’ cry indicates that Jesus did not die the ordinary death of those crucified. Normally one suffering crucifixion suffered long periods of complete agony, exhaustion and finally unconsciousness before dying. Not so, with Jesus – within three hours He was dead!

B. Luke in his Gospel would tell us that the Centurion “praised God” and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” The writers of the Gospels saw in the Centurion’s declaration a vindication of Jesus, and especially since the centurion was the Roman official in charge of the crucifixion, his testimony was viewed as significant.

Pilate announced to the chief priests as well as to the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man!” What would be a similar circumstance in our world? It would be almost as if a grand jury announced in the press “there is insufficient evidence to go to trial…” to which the Governor expedites the papers for an execution! Is this an injustice? Possibly, so, but in these events of Christ’s Passion we find salvation and life. What will you do with Jesus? Will you mock Him, will you condemn Him, will you praise Him, or will you hail Him? Now, let you be the judge.

Artwork by Ed Riojas, ©Higher Things; - Julius Schnoor von Carolsfeld ©WELS;

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