Sunday, April 16, 2000

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday

Mark 11:1-11; 15:1-39 
April 16, 2000

An Attitude of Opportunity - "When Triumph & Tragedy Kiss Each Other”

Introduction:  Passion –Palm Sunday consists of mixed emotions.  One does not know whether to laugh or cry, to celebrate or to mourn.  Palm Sunday seems to be triumph for Jesus and Passion Sunday is one of agony, suffering, and death.  Within a week this was Jesus’ experience, and we need to re-live it with Him.

How triumph turns to tragedy –

1.      Was Jesus a King? (v.2) The central issue in the trial, passion and death of Jesus was the matter of kingship. He was accused of making Himself a king. This claim was the subject of Pilate's interview with Jesus. His enemies rejected Jesus as a king.  They claimed to have no king but Caesar. Using the idea of a king, the soldiers had fun with Jesus dressing Him up as a king. While on the cross, His enemies used the King idea as the basis for mockery. The superscription on the cross identified Him as a king. But what a King! He was a king without a crown, throne, and scepter; He had no countries, no army, nor navy. All He had was a kingdom of truth and love.

2.      And yet there was no answer that Jesus would give to His accusers. (v.4) In the trial with Caiaphas, Herod, and Pilate, a distinctive feature was the silence of Jesus. He refused to defend Himself. To deny the charges, or to expose His enemies. Why did He give "no answer"? An answer would do no good because His enemies had made up their minds that he was guilty of death.  Moreover, they were not open to truth or to change. Jesus' silence indicated He was willing to die for the sins of the entire world.

3.      It was out of envy and spite that these false charges were leveled at Jesus (v.10). Pilate was convinced that Jesus was innocent of the charges. He realized that Jesus was brought to trial because of the envy of the religious leaders.  Well might they envy one who could heal the sick, raise the dead, still the storms, and captivate the people. If Pilate knew this, he had reason to release Him. Pilate was a person who knew what was right but he lacked the courage to act on it.

4.      After a night with no sleep, enduring four trials (three Jewish and one Roman) after repeated beatings and extreme cruelty Jesus was led through the streets of Jerusalem bearing His own cross.  But He fell under the load a pilgrim who had come to the city was compelled (v.21) to carry Jesus' cross to Calvary. His name was Simon, Simon from Cyrene. A cross may be carried voluntarily, but most crosses are thrust upon us.  If it is our own cross, we may choose to carry it. But, it is another matter if the cross belongs to another person. Life often thrusts a cross on us - it is unavoidable and inevitable. Even though the cross is compulsory, we gain from carrying it. Simon must have become a disciple for the early church; for he is identified as the father of Alexander and Rufus, men known by the church to be key leaders. Simon was a role model for his children in bearing the cross for Christ even when it was thrust upon him. May we model Simon as we bear under the crosses that are placed upon us.

5.      When Jesus died, the curtain between the Holy of Holies and the Holy Place was torn from top to bottom (v. 38). The Holy of Holies was the place where God was identified with the Ark of the Covenant. Only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies but once a year. The torn curtain indicated that the crucified Christ broke down the partition between God and man. There was not restoration and peace between God and man. Where there was once enmity there was now a bond of peace.

6.      It took a hard man of war and a Gentile to see in the crucified 0ne that Jesus was the Son of God. (v.39)  This is a confession that Jesus is divine and the chosen Messiah. This conviction came as a conclusion to his experience at the cross. He saw and heard a man who acted like the Son of God would speak and act. His conclusion that seemed to explain everything to him was that Jesus was the Son of God. So, it must always be - the truth that Jesus is God's Son is not a priori thesis but a conclusion that is inescapable after experiencing the cross. May this be your story as you begin Holy Week this week.  In Jesus' Name. Amen.

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