Grace, mercy and peace to you from the God who died for us, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The story we read tonight is for you.
In the story of Jesus’ passion and death there are many complications and seeming contradictions. Things are the opposite of the way they should be. If your life is complicated and confusing, if your life is filled with contradictions, tonight’s story is for you.
A kiss should be a sign of affection. It should mean, “I love you”. In tonight’s story, it means: “I have accepted money to turn you over to people who will kill you.” in tonight’s story, a kiss means betrayal.
The person being arrested is usually the most violent one on the scene. But in tonight’s story, the one the soldiers and police come for is the peaceful one. Jesus is the one who ends up calming the crowd. Jesus is the one who heals the victim of violence, and tells Peter to put away his weapon.
Even the names in tonights story represent a contradiction. Barabbas is a man who name literally meant “son of the father”. Barabbas is set free. Jesus, the real Son of the Father, is condemned to death.
In tonight’s story, social roles and expectations are contradicted. In that culture women were supposed to be the weaker sex, supposed to be taken care of, treated more like property than full human beings.
Yet the women were the ones who stayed with Jesus to the end. They were there – the only faithful witnesses at the end. They were the strong ones after all.
If your life is complicated and full of contradictions, tonight’s story is for you.
If you have had times of feeling lost and alone, tonight’s story is for you.
In the story tonight, Jesus is alone.
He is betrayed by one of his closest followers.
His best friend pretends three times that he doesn’t even know who he is.
The religious community accuses him and the soldiers mock him.
The soldiers even dress him up like a king so they can mock him and slap him around.
Even strangers passing by mock him as he is dying.
If you have ever been betrayed by a friend,
if you have ever had a friend deny you,
if people have ever made fun of you, or laughed at you,
or bullied you in any way,
tonight’s story is for you.
Also, If you have ever been the one who complicated someone’s life
if you have ever betrayed someone
if you have ever bullied someone
if you have ever laughed at someone
if you have ever looked the other way when someone else did any of these things
If you have done anything you wish you could take back
if you, too are broken and know you need forgiveness….tonights story is for you.
Tonight’s story is for all of us. It is the story of our salvation.
We are all in tonight’s story.
We all turned our backs on Jesus in the garden. We are the ones who stand by the fire warming ourselves, pretending we don’t know Jesus. We are Pilate, asking him questions, wanting him to prove himself so we don’t have to take personal responsibility or upset anyone with our decisions.
We are Barabbas, the guilty one who has been freed. We are in the crowd, following our leaders, laughing and mocking a dying man, trying to justify ourselves and be part of the group.
We are also the women, standing by him at the end sharing the deepest sadness we have known.
And we are Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, followers in secret, taking care of the body quietly and respectfully.
We have been all of the people.
Tonight’s story is for all of us because we are in it.
But while tonight’s story is for us, it is not about us.
Tonight’s story is about Jesus.
It is about the Son of God who willingly humbled himself,
who willingly went to a horrible death on the cross,
crucified for declaring the unloveable to be God’s beloved,
Dying for us and for the whole world.
That is how much God loves us. Amen.
I am indebted to Robin and John McCullough-Bade for many of the ideas in this sermon from their Bible Study “Daily Discipleship” at ELCA.org.