Palm/Passion Sunday Sermon after the congregational reading of Mark 14:1-15:47 on Sunday, March 25, 2018 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church, Richardson, Texas
It’s difficult to say, isn’t it? Crucify him! Crucify him! From the distance of 2000 years, it’s easy to convince ourselves that had we been there at that moment in history, we would not have felt it or said it. It’s easy to imagine that we would not have betrayed Jesus like Judas, denied him like Peter, and run away like the other disciples. It’s easy to believe that we really would have stood with Mary and the other women, as Jesus suffered and bled and died.
But saying those words, Crucify him! Crucify him!—pops the bubble of our idyllic picture and our self-deception. Crucify him. Crucify him. When we say those words out loud, ourselves, we have to admit that we do not want a God who dies. We do not like a vulnerable, seemingly weak God who will not fight back, who will not upend evil and oppression, who will not use the power he possesses to get the bad guys.
Because we love superheros who fight back—whatever your flavor of vanquishing hero—The Jedi, Guardians of the Galaxy, Batman, Wonder-woman, The Flash, Super-Girl, Spider-Man, Thor, Black Panther, DareDevil, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, DC or Marvel. The most popular movies and Netflix addictions (including my own—I’ve seen them all) are of superheroes crushing the enemy—and it feels so good when those enemies are finally beaten and victory reigns.
But that is not our God. That is not this Jesus. We crucify him too, because he does not behave like the superhero-God we crave. Why does he just take it and not fight back? Do a miracle or something, Jesus—anything to show the Romans, the religious leaders, and the people that you hold the power of God!
But he doesn’t. Instead, Jesus just takes it—he absorbs into his body and into his being, the worst humanity can do. Bullying, torture, mockery, abandonment, suffering, death. It’s as if his life has come full circle—Jesus was born among the beasts of the stable to now take on that which is most beastly, most vile, most broken in us.
Instead of fighting back, Jesus returns violence—not with violence—but with love—a love that absorbs the worst of who we are, widening his arms as if to embrace us in love, as he dies. God’s ways are not our ways. Love is what God does because Love is who God is. And violence is not the pathway of love. God will not assert power over and against us by force because that is not love.
Even when we try to kill God, God loves the worst of who we are, to show us the best of who God is—love, a love that is much greater than even death itself. On the cross, we behold a God who created us out of love, for love, to live and die in love, and to return to love. Ramon Llull, a 13th century Spanish mystic wrote this dialog on God’s love:
They asked the Lover where he was from. He replied, 'from love.'
What are you made of? 'Love.'
Who conceived you? 'Love.'
Where were you born? 'In love.'
Who raised you? 'Love.'
What do you live on? 'Love.'
What is your name? 'Love.'
Where do you come from? 'Love.'
Where are you going? 'To love.'
Where are you? 'In love.'
Do you have anything besides love?
He replied, 'Yes, sins and offenses against my Beloved.'
Does your beloved pardon you?
The lover said there was mercy and justice in his Beloved, so he found shelter between fear and hope [in love].
We may have shouted, Crucify him—but Jesus responds with a love stronger than violence and hate. Jesus responds with a love stronger than death. So bring the worst, and the best, and all of who you are, and come to the table of love, Holy Communion. This table of forgiveness was set by love, in love, for love, for you, for-ever.
Receive the greatest power in the universe—God’s love—trusting that Jesus is the only superhero we need.
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