(Isaiah 50:4-9a, Psalm 31:9-16, Philippians 2:5-11)
1Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate. 2They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.” 3Then Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He answered, “You say so.” 4Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no basis for an accusation against this man.” 5But they were insistent and said, “He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.” 6When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. 7And when he learned that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. 8When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign. 9He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. 11Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate. 12That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies. 13Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, 14and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. 15Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death. 16I will therefore have him flogged and release him.” 18Then they all shouted out together, “Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!” 19(This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.) 20Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; 21but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” 22A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.” 23But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. 24So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. 25He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished. 26As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. 28But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ 30Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” 32Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34⟦Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”⟧ And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” 36The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” 39One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” 44It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. 47When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.” 48And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. 49But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
There’s an old hymn by Kate Wilkinson entitled, “May the Mind of Christ, My Savior,” and the lyrics go like this:
May the mind of Christ, my Savior, live in me from day to day, By His love and power controlling all I do and say.
May the Word of God dwell richly in my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph only through His power.
May the peace of God my Father rule my life in everything, That I may be calm to comfort sick and sorrowing.
May the love of Jesus fill me as the waters fill the sea; Him exalting, self abasing, this is victory.
May I run the race before me, strong and brave to face the foe, Looking only unto Jesus as I onward go.
May His beauty rest upon me, as I seek the lost to win, And may they forget the channel, seeing only Him.
What a beautifully applicable hymn to lift up on this day! We have gathered this morning to celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the start of our Holy Week. Jesus rides, head held high and heavy hearted, into that city knowing full-well what laid in store for him. Jesus knew he was riding into the city for the last time. Jesus knew the people of Jerusalem would eventually persecute him and crucify him. Jesus knew his ministry was quickly coming to an end in spite of all the praise and fanfare. Jesus gratefully accepted the people’s love and fearlessly rode on. It takes great courage to accept one’s fate no matter how good or bad it might be. Jesus has great courage…Jesus has great love!
Over the last 6 weeks, we have walked with Jesus as he’s gotten ever closer to this day of entering into Jerusalem for the last time. For those of us who have participated in the midweek Lenten sermon series, we’ve reflected on the words that Jesus spoke from the cross in his final hours. In many ways, the readings and reflections have helped us to better understand Jesus and why he did what he did and said what he said. Jesus is a difficult man to understand. He did and said things that puzzled those around him and continue to puzzle us. Jesus is more than a man. Jesus is also God and because of this we have a hard time truly understanding his thoughts and ways. Recall the words from Isaiah: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Jesus’ thoughts and ways are not our thoughts and ways. He may be fully human but he’s also fully God so the best we can hope for is for Jesus to help us understand his thoughts and ways. We can’t understand Jesus without Jesus’ help and lucky for us Jesus wants to help us. Jesus wants to ride into Jerusalem even though he knows what lays ahead.
Similar to the readings from the last 6 weeks, our readings for this morning further help us to understand Jesus’ thoughts and ways. In our first reading, we heard the witness of Isaiah yet we can easily transpose it onto Jesus. Like Isaiah, Jesus was given “the tongue of a teacher, that [he] may know how to sustain the weary with a word.” Like Isaiah, Jesus “gave [his] back to those who struck him and [his] cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; [he] did not hide [his] face from insult and spitting.” Like Isaiah, it is “the Lord God who helps [Jesus]; therefore [he] has not been disgraced; therefore [he] has set my face like flint, and [he] knows that [he] shall not be put to shame.” Yes, we hear these words from Isaiah and easily hear the words of Jesus as he rides into Jerusalem and the misery that awaits. Jesus is a teacher, perhaps first and foremost. Jesus teaches us so very much about the will of God and the love of God. We are so blessed to have such a teacher! We are so blessed to have such a fearless teacher willing to be disgraced and put to shame for our learning. Indeed, it is for US and OUR learning that Jesus endures everything that Jerusalem throws at him.
Again, we easily hear Jesus’ words in David’s psalm. Jesus could have sung, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble; my eye is consumed with sorrow, and also my throat and my belly.” Jesus could have easily sung, “But as for me, I have trusted in you, O Lord. I have said, ‘You are my God. My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies, and from those who persecute me. Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.” Through the words of Isaiah and David, we better understand the thoughts of Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem.
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul comes right out and encourages us to “let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” We are encouraged to take on Jesus’ fearlessness. We are encouraged to take on Jesus’ humility. We are encouraged to take on Jesus’ love. Let the same mind be in us that was in Jesus in the week ahead. Today we celebrate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem because we know that Jesus has to go to the cross for our sake. We can’t save ourselves. We are by nature sinful beings. We need someone who is sinless to take our sins into death. We need someone willing to vouch for us with our heavenly Father. We need someone like Jesus!
Every year we retell the passion narrative as we did in our gospel reading for today. Like the other 3 readings, the passion narrative also helps us to better understand the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross for our sake. Jesus spoke so very few words in his remaining hours that it helps to hear the words of Isaiah and David along with Paul’s encouragement. Jesus’ last days in Jerusalem were a tragedy but a joyful tragedy. It is right to celebrate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as we do each year on Palm Sunday. Jesus came for US! Today and in the days ahead, let us strive to better understand…the mind of Christ. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.