Thursday, March 14, 2013

Midweek Lenten Sermon for 13 March 2013 before Compline

The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.
The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ Drawn from the Four Gospels (LSB/ESV)
Wednesday of Lent IV, 13 March 2013
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ Drawn from the Four Gospels    

When they had bound Jesus, they led him from Caiaphas to the hall of judgment and gave him over to Pontius Pilate, the governor. It was early. They themselves did not go into the judgment hall, so that they might not be defiled, but might eat the Passover.
Pilate then went out to them, and said, “What charge do you bring against this man?” They answered and said to him, “If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” Then Pilate said to them, “Take him, then, and judge him according to your law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put any man to death.” So the word of Jesus was fulfilled, signifying by what death he should die.
The charges they brought against him were: “We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding us to pay taxes to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.”
Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered him, “Do you say this for yourself, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Do you take me for a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have given you over to me. What have you done?”
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, then my servants would have fought that I should not be given over to the Jews; but now my kingdom is not of this world.” Pilate therefore said to him, “Are you a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. I was born and I came into the world that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone that is of the truth hears my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said to them, “I find no fault in this man.”
The chief priests kept laying one charge after another against him, but he answered not a word. Pilate questioned him again, saying, “Do you answer nothing? See how many charges they lay against you.” Jesus answered him not a word. Pilate was utterly amazed. He said to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no case against this man.”
They pressed their charges more vehemently: “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee to this place.” When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. When he learned that he belonged in Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him on to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem for those days.
When Herod saw Jesus, he was delighted, for he had long wished to see him because of what he had heard of him, and he hoped to see him do a miracle. He questioned Jesus repeatedly, but he gave him no answer. The chief priests and scribes stood there and vehemently accused him. Herod and his soldiers mocked him. They put a splendid robe on him and sent him back to Pilate. Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that same day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other.
Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, and said to them, “You have brought this man before me as one subverting the people. See now, I have examined him before you and have found nothing in this man guilty of any of your charges against him, and neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Mark this, he has done nothing worthy of death. I will have him punished and release him.”
Now at the feast it was the governor’s custom to release to the crowd any one prisoner whom they asked for. They had then a notorious prisoner named Barabbas. He was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection in the city. Pilate knew that it was out of malice that the chief priests handed Jesus over. Therefore he said to them, “Do you want me to release for you Barabbas or Jesus who is called Christ?”
The chief priests and elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. Pilate asked them again, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they cried out all together, saying, “Away with this man, and release for us Barabbas.”
While Pilate was sitting in the judgment seat, his wife sent him a message: “Do not have anything to do with that man; I have suffered much over him today in a dream.”
Again Pilate addressed them, for he wished to release Jesus. He said to them, “What shall I do then with Jesus who is called Christ? What shall I do with him whom you call the King of the Jews?” They all cried out, “Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found no guilt worthy of death in him; I will therefore punish him and let him go.” They cried out all the louder, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers of the governor led him away into the praetorium. They gathered the whole band of soldiers around him. They stripped him and put a purple robe on him. When they had woven a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and a reed in his right hand, and they 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. They knelt down and did him homage.
Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I bring him out to you that you may know I find him not guilty.” So Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!”
When the chief priests and officers saw him, they cried, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I do not find him guilty.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and by that law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.”
When Pilate heard this, he was more afraid and went again into the judgment hall and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” Jesus gave him no answer. Then Pilate said to him, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to crucify you, and I have power to release you?” Jesus answered, “You would not have any power at all over me, unless it had been given to you from above. For that reason he who handed me over to you has the greater sin.”
This prompted Pilate to go on trying to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Everyone who makes himself a king sets himself against Caesar.”
When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement or, in Hebrew, Gabbatha. It was the Preparation of the Passover, about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your king!” They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said unto them, “Shall I crucify your king?” The chief priest answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”
When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but rather a riot was under way, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this man; see to it yourselves.” Then all the people responded, “His blood be on us and on our children.”
Then Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, gave sentence that it should be as they demanded. He released to them Barabbas for whom they asked, the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder. He had Jesus flogged and then gave him over to their will to be crucified. The soldiers mocked him, stripped him of the purple robe, put his own clothes on him, and led him out to crucify him.
Here ends the Reading.

“Lord Jesus, Thou art going forth.” That’s one way to describe what is happening. Another way is: “They led Him.” We know the only-begotten Son was sent. We’re used to that. We’re comfortable with that. We like the picture of Him going forth. But we’re uncomfortable with Him being led. We’re uncomfortable with all the silence, aren’t we?
Why didn’t He speak up? They had to invent fake witnesses and that didn’t even work—they couldn’t agree. Even the charges against Him before Pilate changed. They went from “He stirs up the people by claiming to be a king” to “He made Himself out to be the Son of God.”
Jesus didn’t resist. He was silent most of the time. He only spoke briefly. He was led like a Lamb to the slaughter and did not open His mouth to defend Himself. He explained who He was and was not, but did not defend Himself. We’re uncomfortable with the silence because we’re uncomfortable with the injustice.
How many times was Jesus’ innocence proclaimed? “I find no case against this man.” Pilate later said, “I…have found nothing in this man guilty of any of your charges against him, and neither did Herod…H has done nothing worthy of death.” “I have found no guilt worthy of death in Him…” “See, I bring Him out to you that you may know I find Him not guilty.” “Take Him yourselves and crucify Him, for I do not find Him guilty.” And Pilate washed his hands of the matter.
Those who brought Jesus to Pilate didn’t want justice. They wanted Jesus dead. Jesus’ silence makes us squirm.

Silence in general makes us squirm. There’s a time for silent self-examination during the Divine Service rite of confession and absolution. It always seems too long. During the season of Lent, there is more uncomfortable silence. No music sometimes! We’re uncomfortable with it, so we take that time to talk or discuss lighter matters rather than prepare for the service, examine our sinfulness using the Ten Commandments, and pray silently. And then the midweek service itself—prayer at the close of the day—there’s lots of silence in that, too! Isn’t somebody supposed to be doing something? It’s awful quiet! Did the organist forget her cue? Did pastor lose his place? It can’t be silence just for the sake of silence!
But it is. Silence gives us the uncomfortable opportunity to apply to ourselves the reason why Jesus went silently to an unjust death. The Just died for you, the unjust. He went silently, so that we could boldly proclaim what He has done. He suffered injustice, so that the Lord’s justice could be satisfied by punishing Him, rather than you.
Silence has a purpose. Lord Jesus, Thou art going forth, silently, for me, in my place. You provide silence for us today to take time out from the hustle and bustle of the busy world. Silence is my opportunity to identify, confess, and repent of my sin. Silence is an opportunity to meditate upon Your Word of Gospel after reading it or hearing it read. Silence—time to be still and know that You are God, the Son of God!
The Jews answered Pilate, “We have a law, and by that law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.”
When Pilate heard this, he was more afraid and went again into the judgment hall and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?”
It makes no sense for a mere human—a nice man, a popular preacher, a radical rabbi, or a good moral teacher—to willingly suffer so unjustly. Something else had to be going on! Jesus was a man but He was also true God. That claim to divinity caught Pilate’s attention.

Before we leave the Praetorium, what do we make of that controversial statement of the crowd: “His blood be on us and on our children”?
Some have pointed to this text of Scripture as the seed of anti-Semitism. Not only is that unfortunate, it is untrue. Jesus was Jewish. The leaders of His own people wanted Him dead. They got the Romans involved. We don’t blame today’s Italians for Jesus’ death. Why should anyone blame the descendants of these Jewish leaders? Racism or ethnocentrism of any kind is sinful and ignores that all of humanity has the same blood. Instead of pointing fingers, we should point both Jew and Gentile to Jesus as the Messiah!
Also, the crowd is only speaking for itself. They gathered early in the morning and were likely a paid mob of temple employees who were told what to say by the leadership. These were hired goons—not the same people who welcomed Jesus in on Palm Sunday and who would mourn for Him as He carried the cross to Calvary.
Finally, we all must recognize our role in the need for Jesus’ death. Our sins did it. But He willingly went forth, silently, for you. His blood is on us and our children in a good way—to cleanse us from sin and bloodguilt. All because of Jesus’ silence.
Next week, we follow Him to CALVARY. Amen.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.