Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You say so.” But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?” But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.
Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. 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?” For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. 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.” Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” All of them said, “Let him be crucified!” Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
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.” Then the people as a whole answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 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!” They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.
As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross. And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots; then they sat down there and kept watch over him. Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”
Then two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads 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.” In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, “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. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, ‘I am God’s Son.’” The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way.
From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 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?” When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.” 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. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. 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!”
We aren’t deserving of this day. We don’t in any way deserve to be associated with the God/man who gave his life because he believed in love more than he treasured living. But do you want to know another truth, Christ comes anyway! He rides right into town and then walks all the way to the cross. All of us with our half-hearted belief systems, selfish motives, indifferent attitudes and self-absorbed lifestyles – he sees us all. In fact, we line the streets. We line the streets into town as he rides that colt. Two thousand years ago or the day before yesterday, it doesn’t matter, the people are the same. They are us and we are them. There we stand cheering him along so that he might enjoy his 15 minutes of fame. We stand around on Golgotha too, gaping at the loser who wouldn’t even stand up for himself, wondering if there is anything to see as we watch him die.
He knows us. We are all as guilty as sin and yet he comes anyway. He gives his life to die on the cross – because he loves us. He loves us!! In spite of our weaknesses, in spite of our failures, in spite of our raging inabilities, he loves us. And he says – I will do for you what you cannot do for yourselves. I will lead you back to God.
We can’t know, I can’t know, the real power of this day until I have been convicted of my sin. I, who call myself a Christian, fall so short of the glory of God and yet God loves me anyway. I, who call myself a priest, can be so very unfaithful and yet Christ still dies for me. Jesus says, don’t try and put a good face on it. I know how dark and ugly it can sometimes be inside your soul. I have seen it with my own eyes. Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s denial – I have seen your underbelly and I know no matter how hard you try, left to your own devices, you will never really change. There will still be ugliness, indifference, cruelty, prejudice, hypocrisy and selfishness no matter what you do. You are not capable of freeing yourself from this mess – without me. For that reason, because I love you, I am going to die for you. And I don’t just do it once, two thousand years ago, I do it over and over and over again. I have born the shame of humanity so that humanity might be something more. I have sunk to the depths of human depravity that I might lift human beings closer to God.
We don’t deserve him, but he comes anyway. Thanks be to God – he comes anyway.
Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(Book of Common Prayer)
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