Palm/Passion Sunday (no audio this week)
Passage: Matthew 27:11–27:66
†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Matthew 27:11-66
Date: April 9th, 2017; Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday; series A
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Today marks the beginning of Holy Week – a week set apart as special by the Church during which we remember, pray, receive, and focus on what Jesus accomplished for us through his suffering, death, and resurrection.
During Holy Week we remember the road Jesus went down to save us.
The road begins with a triumphal entry – there is a crowd of people along the side of the road waving palm branches and shouting Hosanna! (which means save us!).
The King makes his grand entrance riding atop a borrowed donkey and the people shout, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
The crowd is filled with excitement because they are convinced that once Jesus makes his triumphal entrance, once he makes it to his destination atop of that donkey - then with strength and might he will finally defeat their enemies and usher in for them the good life.
That was the messiah they wanted and were expecting. But that was not the Messiah they got.
The road winds to the temple and Jesus cleanses it as the prophets said he would.
He caused quite a stir - I suppose flipping tables will have a way of doing that.
There is opposition and scheming in the temple corridors and the religious leaders want Jesus dead.
There is betrayal. One of Jesus’ inner-circle agrees to betray his Master for 30 silver coins.
The road winds through the streets of Jerusalem to a borrowed upper room.
Jesus sits at the table with his disciples to celebrate the Passover meal - but this time it’s different.
Jesus takes the bread and serves it as it was never served before. He says, “This is my body.”
He takes the cup after supper, the cup of blessing, and serves it as it was never served before.
He says, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood which is being poured out for you.”
His words “for you” include all of us. They include you.
Today we continue to participate in this holy meal through which we receive the forgiveness of our sins, through which our faith is nourished, through which we receive the gift of eternal life.
The road leads to a peaceful garden at the Mount of Olives, a quiet place of prayer.
Jesus prays for another way, another road, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me.”
But he is the obedient Son and he prays as he taught his disciples to pray: “Yet not my will, but yours be done.”
He bears the sin of the world on his shoulders. Your sin and mine. The anguish is great. The road is stained with the sweat and blood that falls from his brow.
The peaceful garden of prayer becomes the arena of betrayal and arrest.
Judas kisses his Master. Swords are drawn and a disciple responds with violence.
Jesus reaches out and heals the ear that was cut off in his defence.
He does not resist his enemies. He once said that if your enemy forces you to walk one mile - go two. Jesus walks the whole way for his enemies - for you.
The road goes straight to the governor’s house, to Pontius Pilate, Caesar’s man.
There, Peter, the disciple who promised Jesus that he would lay down his life for him - all of the sudden lost his courage. Three times he says, “I don’t know him!”
The road takes a detour to Herod’s palace. Pilate was hoping that someone else would look after this pesky Jesus - and Herod was just the man.
Herod wants to be entertained by Jesus - maybe he will do one of those miracles he had heard so much about.
But Herod doesn't have the authority to kill Jesus, as the crowd demanded.
So they mock and ridicule Jesus and send him back to Pilate dressed in royal robes of purple.
The road takes Jesus back to Pilate who alone has the authority to sentence him.
Instead of Roman rule there is mob justice. A criminal named Barabbas is set free and Jesus goes to his death.
The innocent dies. The guilty lives.
And that’s how it is for you! Jesus was made your sin, so that in him, you might become the righteousness of God.
The road goes down the way of sorrows, a pavement soaked in blood and tears and sweat.
A traveler named Simon from Cyrene is called upon to carry the cross for Jesus who could no longer bear it.
Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him take up his cross and follow me.”
For a brief moment, Simon bears the cross of Jesus, so that Jesus might bear the cross for him - and for the world.
The road winds to a place called Calvary or “The Skull” where Jesus is crucified, nailed to a cross, between two criminals.
He absolves those who drive the nails through his flesh and bone, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Is there anything or anyone he is not willing to forgive?
The inscription above his head on his cross reads, “This is the King of the Jews.”
He is mocked in his agony, insulted, tormented.
Even one of the criminals crucified with him mocks him.
But the other confesses, “We are getting what we deserve, but this Man has done nothing wrong” and then pleads, “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus promises the repentant criminal, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.”
It is now 3 o’clock in the afternoon. A heavy darkness has loomed over the land for the last three hours.
The temple curtain is torn from top to bottom.
The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world declares “It is finished.”
He breathes his dying breath and cries out in hidden victory, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
The road finally leads from Calvary to the cemetery where there is a hasty burial in a borrowed tomb.
Even in death, the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.
Jesus is wrapped in burial clothes and laid in the tomb.
A large stone is rolled in front of the entrance to the tomb and guards watch to make sure that no one can get a hold of Jesus’ dead body.
As we begin Holy Week we remember this road that Christ Jesus went down in order that we may receive his gift of salvation.
It is a dark road. A road filled with sorrow, and suffering, and shame.
But the Good News is that it is a road that leads to Jesus’ victory over sin and death! Your victory over sin and death!
This Holy Week, as we travel this road with Jesus, we know and have the certain hope that it leads to an Easter Resurrection.
“Hosanna to him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb! Hosanna in the highest!” Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.