Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday”Is 50:4-9; Ps 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11; Mt 26:14-27:66
A sermon preached at St. John’s-Montgomery, AL on 4/13/2014
Surely not I, Lord?
Betrayal, abandonment”that is the story we hear today. Judas betrays Jesus. The disciples cannot stay awake and pray. Peter, though forewarned denies Jesus three times. The crowd that has just welcomed Jesus into the city in triumph and joy, waving palm branches and singing Hosannas, now refuses him, choosing a murderer over a messenger. Pilate washes his hands of him. Even God abandons him”My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Even more than just who betrays Jesus, is how it is done. There is the offering and accepting of the bribe; the kiss and the arrest; the denial of a servant girl’s accusations; the ritual of a public trial to degrade a citizen’s status; there is mob mentality and the futility of an attempted intercession; there is a cross.
In the words of my favorite professor, Albus Dumbledore, ˜There comes a time when we will have a choice between what is right and what is easy. In this case, that choice presents itself time and again, and yet, what is easy is what is chosen”not what is right.
It is hard to buy into mystery, much easier to sell out to doubt. It is hard to stay alert and intentional, much easier to lose focus and fall asleep. It is hard to stay true to your word, much easier to live in a state of denial, even when that denial has been pointed out to you.
It is hard to maintain one’s personal convictions, much easier to just go with the flow of the crowd. It is hard to accept personal responsibility, much easier to wash your hands of a difficult situation. It is hard to make the right choice, so much easier not too.
But there are a few who do make the right choice”there is Pilate’s wife who provides the only voice of contention. She is the only one to speak for Jesus. There is Joseph of Arimathea who, when all is said and done, comes to Pilate and asks for the body so that he might bury him. And there are the women, the women who never abandon him, who follow and watch and keep vigil.
And there is Jesus himself, who knows and understands that this is what must happen”not my will, but thy will. Jesus’ loss must be complete for it is only in the complete emptying of his manhood that he is filled with divine grace and in that fullness we find salvation.
But on this day, on the day when we remember the passion of our Lord, we will simply end, sitting opposite a tomb”allowing space in which to grieve, space in which to keep vigil, space in which to be present with our Lord.