Sunday, March 28, 2021
If the story of Jesus’ suffering and death was put into news headlines, imagine what they would say? “So-Called ‘King of the Jews’ Welcomed into Jerusalem by Large Crowds,” “Corrupt Judean Governor Releases Violent Criminal Barabbas,” “Chief Priests Collude with Roman Government to Condemn Jesus of Nazareth,” “Former Disciple of Jesus Commits Suicide after Turning Him In,” “Self-Proclaimed ‘Messiah’ Crucified This Morning alongside Two Bandits.” It’s a lot of bad news. To some, maybe it was just another day in the news.
If we put these headlines next to some of our own from the past year, we might agree with the author of Ecclesiastes that there is nothing new under the sun. “Once-Lauded Governor Mired in Scandal,” “Protests Turn Violent,” “550,000 Dead from Pandemic,” “X Number of People Killed in Mass Shooting in Anytown USA” (because there are too many to name specifics even in one week). The headlines weigh heavy on our exhausted hearts and minds – both of Jesus’ Passion of long ago and of the events of today. I think I’m not alone in feeling some numbness to the daily barrage of bad news – I’ve had my share of doom-scrolling along with many. Today takes us from the joy of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem with palms, riding on a donkey, the high hopes we all had for this new king and messiah, and then throws us into the depths of the Good Friday bad news. But this was not just another Friday.
One of my favorite hymns which we will not sing this year is “Ah, Holy Jesus.” Every time I can barely make it through the line, “Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon thee? Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee. ‘Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee; I crucified thee.” The retelling of Mark’s passion today puts us in the headlines. We are no different than the crowds who gather one day to shout “Hosanna” and just a few days later say, “Crucify him.” We are Judas, Peter, Pilate, the High Priest, or at the very least the other unmentioned disciples who quietly go on their own way as Jesus is arrested, put on trial, and executed as a common criminal. We put Jesus on that cross. And you don’t have to look much further than the daily headlines to see the truth of this reality. Today puts front and center the uncomfortable juxtapositions of human life -- that good and evil, saint and sinner, law and gospel, death and life are all mixed up in the daily living of life. We are reminded daily that we are a part of a sinful, broken world. And we still wonder, today, what is God going to do about all of this?
There is no Easter resurrection hope without acknowledging our need for a savior and our need for redemption. And yet, we call this coming Friday “Good” for a reason. Our sin puts Jesus on the cross, this is true. But as we listen to both Mark and John’s recounting of the day’s events of Jesus’ passion, we also hear how none of this news comes as a surprise to Jesus. Jesus knows who we are as human beings. He knew Peter would deny him, and that Judas would betray him. He knew Pilate didn’t really know what truth was and that he and the chief priests were beholden to a corrupt political machine. Jesus knows our sin. We call it Good Friday because “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” as Paul tells us in Romans. Jesus, Son of God and Son of Man finds a different way to save us than through political might or religious legalism. Jesus is a different kind of king, just as God intended. Jesus takes our suffering head on, directly faces what is most painful for us to admit about ourselves and the world, takes on our sorrows and puts them to death along with him on the cross. And so rather than the bad news that dominates the headlines of our daily lives, Jesus flips the script to assure us that in the paradoxes of life the good wins. On the cross, Jesus transforms us from sinner to saint, from condemnation to redemption, from despair to hope, from death to life. May we, along with the centurion, look beyond the daily headlines to see Christ’s good news on the cross: “Truly this man was God’s Son!” Amen.