We have turned our eyes to carefully track the steps of Jesus all week. We watched as the crowd cheered and gawked at his ironic, and somehow still triumphant entrance in to the city. The crowd shouted “Hosanna! Save us!” and we too, echo their cry in our own ways every day, “Jesus, save us…” but save us from what? Are we looking for a savior we’ve created out of our own desires, our own needs, waving our vision of a savior enthusiastically as people waved thier palms that Sunday?
Jesus has shown us this week, he is not the savior we expected, not the savior we thought we needed. None of this went as we planned.
We remember this week that on his final night with the disciples, Jesus didn’t share profound final words, or call his followers to arm themselves. He didn’t send them in to hiding, or clarify any potentially confusing statements. He washed feet, a task for the lowest servant, not for the revered teacher, certainly not for God among us. He showed us that ultimate power and authotity fully displays itself by stooping low and serving in love. And we too bawlk at this posture. We too look in disdain upon people and tasks we see as below us, or beneath us. We too sit there, in astounded silence as Jesus removes the sandals of Peter, John and even Judas.
He was not the leader we expected, the leader we thought we needed. None of this went as planned.
We remembered last night that Jesus took a familiar symbol, bread and wine, and made it in to something new. A ritual the disciples had observed dozens of times, a sacrament that they knew that they knew that they knew what it meant, and Jesus flips it. This is my body, this is my blood. There is a new covenant. And they didn’t understand. We too gather around bread and wine, not understanding. Body broken, blood shed, what are we remembering? Are we also to break open and pour out for those whom we love? For those who are our enemies?
He was not the teacher we expected, the teacher we thought we needed. None of this went as planned.
Tonight we come to the moment when time stands still. The moment when the dream has finally, fully, fallen apart. The crowd that welcomed the spectical of a Rabbi on a donkey has now turned and clamors for his death.
Jesus is brought before Pilate for judgement, and he’s not alone. Others are also being held for crimes of sedition, for speaking against the empire, for threatening the peace of Rome. Pilate, the Roman leader, asks the crowd, “whom should I release? Jesus, the teacher, the supposed messiah, King of the Jews? Or Barabbas, also a rebel in his own right, why the uprising he led even killed a man.” The crowd calls for Barabbas, we always call for Barabbas. The way of Jesus is too slow, to painful, surely a power so great and oppressive as Rome should be taken down by force. Give us back the one who murders rather than loves his enemies, give us Barabbas.
Jesus is condemned. Dressed up in robes, and crowned in thorns, mocked and spit on. Blind folded and asked to prophecy. Surely if you were the Messiah, if you were anointed by God you could tell who hit you? The God who lovingly formed each of these soldiers, who numbered the hairs on their heads, now bleeding and broken, the subject of their abuse. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, but we neither recognized nor received him.
The disciples, who had once abandoned livlihoods and homes and family to follow Jesus, now abandon him. Only the women, Mary, Joanna, Salome, and Mary Magdalen remain. Disciples in their own right, they followed to the end, but the world is not so kind as Christ. Now, at the foot of the cross, they are but second class citizens, and wholly uncredible witnesses, watching in dismay as he is nailed to the cross. What kind of teacher is this? That only women, only the least, the most unworthy, would stay by him? The company Jesus keeps adds insult to injury.
Jesus, accused and condemned, now hangs broken and bleeding on a cross. The people have seen this before, there have been other uprisings, other leaders, Rome crucified people eagerly and often. There’s nothing really all that special about this scene. Those who followed him thought Jesus was finaly the one who would overturn the rulers and powers and set them free. Here is the end! The end of exile, we can finally go home. The end of oppression, we can finally breathe. The end of heavy taxation, of exploitation, of peace only under the threat of violence. They were wrong. Jesus lived and led in ways that subverted the temple and Rome. He was baptised by John in the Jordan, he spent his time among both tax collectors and pharisees, he touched and healed lepers, he spoke freely with women, he forgave the unforgivable, and challenged those whom society had rewarded. He stood against the powers and the powers fired back. Jesus is dead.
He was not the Messiah we expected, the Messiah we thought we needed. None of this went as planned.
Have you ever had that moment? When the cracks have grown too many and too large to ignore, when the letter arrives, when you get that phone call….this isn’t the way it was supposed to go.
This is the space we find ourelves in on this night. The unthinkable has happened. The grief is deeper than your words will even reach. This moment is too terrible to even name.
All of the hopes we had built up, all of the moments when our dreams seemed to be within our grasp, have crumbled and fallen, and hope slips through our fingers like water, unable to grasp.
Jesus is dead.
And with him, our hopes have died also.
What could possibly be good about this night?