Palm Sunday, March 25 2018
Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”
Crowds. Parades. Shouts. Noise. Chaos. Confusion.
The smell of blood and sweat. The stench of jealousy and jockeying for positions of power and advantage. The crowds caught up in mob mentality. Hatred and violent emotions the rule of the day.
This was not a protest for racial equality in Birmingham, Alabama though the description would fit that too. Nor was it an anti-war protest against the war in Viet Nam though that too might fit this description.
Saturday’s March-4-Life held in Salt Lake City and across the country was much more peaceful, yet at the same time the emotions ran very high. The high schoolers I listened to at our March-4-Life were articulate and passionate. The whole issue of how we deal with the tragic loss of life that has happened over and over in our country and the highly debated and divisive issue of gun laws is captivating our news media. And well it should.
All this has made me wonder and think about what it means to make a public statement, to be a politician running a campaign. If you were Jesus’ campaign manager how would you have advised Him? Would we vote for Him?
The phrase “King of the Jews.” It is political. The Jewish leaders protested it. They were offended by it. Jesus did not deny it. But He did redefine it. Jesus came into our broken, violent world not to be the territorial ruler of a temporal government. Jesus came as a Jew, to fulfill the Law of the Old Testament as Messiah of the world. But He did not come to be an earthly king. He did not come to set up government and a political office in Jerusalem to make the world a better place.
He came as Savior of the world. He did not come to work out a compromise with people in power. He did not come to negotiate with the power brokers of His day. He came to take on and defeat the evil trinity—sin, death and the devil. And He did this by allowing the human organizations of government and church—religious and secular leaders—combine their forces against Him.
This is the mystery. This is the wonder. He did not come on the scene as a super hero to match might for might and power for power and physically over power evil. No. Jesus did it in such a way that He broke forever the power of evil by His passive, quiet death on the cross. He didn’t protest. He did not resist.
This is the mystery. This is the wonder. He was not overcome or overpowered and taken against His will. He let evil have its day. The Gospel of John, over and over again, uses the phrase, “His hour had not yet come.” And now, it was His hour. The time was now. The forces of evil amassed against Jesus did not take Him by surprise. This was all part of the scheme, the plan of our salvation.
Jesus, in loving obedience to the Father. Jesus in loving action for us willingly, quietly submitted Himself to the worst that evil could do. When Jesus was whipped and flogged; when Jesus was lied about, spit upon; when Jesus was beaten and dressed in a mockery of a robe and plated with a crown of thorns that they beat into His scalp; this He did willingly and on purpose. He could have called a million angels to His defense, though He would not need to have a single angel’s assistance. One word from His mouth—the mouth that spoke the world and all our galaxies and universe into existence—and He could have utterly destroyed all evil. He didn’t because He was saving us. His mouth that spoke all that is into existence held its peace because He was taking away the power and punishment of our rebellion and sin.
The powers of evil and all in our world that threw itself against our Savior completely failed. Like the violent storm on the Sea of Galilee that Jesus calmed with a simple phrase, “Peace! Be still,” evil lost its power that day. Jesus’ death was a victorious death. He yielded His spirit only after sin and death and the devil were completely defeated. Then He spoke those three words—IT IS FINISHED! The empty tomb, three days later, are tangible proof for us as believers.
The forces of evil in our world today still rage and fume. Wrath and violence, killings and hatred are still the composition of our daily news. Yet, our King, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ is our Prince of Peace. Evil, hatred, lust, greed, fear, bigotry, jealousy, gluttony, sloth, envy, anger and wrath do not have to reign or rule us anymore.
Charles Wesley’s famous hymn lines ring in my ears and soul—“He breaks the power of cancelled sin! He sets the prisoner free!” (O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing)
This week, Holy Week, we celebrate and live out the reality of what it means to be Christian—what it means to be a believer and a follower of Christ in this evil, fallen world. We are in the world, but not of it. We are governed by a higher law, the law of love. And the Christ of the Gospels, the Man of Galilee still lives and reigns in you and me. And we are making a difference in our world. I saw it in action. I wrestled with it when a boy and young teenager in the sixties. I live it today. Together we are making a change that will continue to impact the world one heart, one soul, one life at a time.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.