EASTER SUNDAY - SPECIAL MESSAGE - April 9, 2023
MONOLOGUE BY PASTOR ROB INRIG - BASED ON SCRIPTURES
Lk 23: 50-53 - JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA
Madness – I tell you! This one different they’d say, but they never were. Just one more wanna-be, spouting meaningless words. One more, ‘Messiah’ comes to save. Look, we all want that to be true. Do you think any of us want to live like this - prisoners under Rome’s heels? Their pagan ways were such a stench to God. Gods everywhere - a god of fire, a god of rain, gods of the over-world and gods of the underworld. How many gods did they possibly need?
But these ‘save the world’ Messiahs, keep coming like locusts, no doubt, like this latest ‘God-sent’ one. Just another attention seeker whose ‘God-given’ mission would quickly conclude at the end of Roman steel. Once again, God was seemingly unaware of another of His supposedly sent.
But these ‘save the world’ Messiahs, keep coming like locusts, no doubt, like this latest ‘God-sent’ one. Just another attention seeker whose ‘God-given’ mission would quickly conclude at the end of Roman steel. Once again, God was the seemingly unaware of another of His supposedly sent.
The desperate clinging to promises like, ‘Believe and be healed. Believe and be free.’ But success for this belief? always conditional on exorbitant amounts of coin. So don’t wonder why tears weren’t shed.
But this Messiah, as I would learn, was different. Demands for money? - not made. Actions to impress? - not done. Yet, as the first stories trickled in, the things said could only be considered laughable. Jesus filling nets to overflowing. Jesus walking on water. Jesus turning water into wine
With reports like these, do you wonder why the Council dismissed them as the ramblings of too much sun and too much Jesus, ‘wedding water’.
But it wasn’t long before the trickle of stories became a wave, then one wave after another.
Jesus healed the lame and gave sight to the blind. Jesus casting out demons. Jesus turned two small fish into a multitude’s feast. Jesus raising the dead to life.
Though stories were preposterous, they wouldn’t stop. And as stories grew, the Sanhedrin’s mood went from disdain to fear to anger. The anger this Jesus was getting the following He was
They’d invested too much to let some peasant girl’s son take center stage - a carpenter no less. People going to Him rather than them. I, on the other hand, became intrigued. Hadn’t Isaiah spoken of the coming One who would make the deaf hear and the blind see? Was it actually possible that this One was the Messiah - for whom we hoped? For whom we waited?
I assure you, Council members weren’t prepared to hear that.
Really? A carpenter Messiah? Now there’s a picture.
What was He going to do, lift up some roughly shaped wood as His fearsome weapon of deliverance? Use a few nails to bring a fatal blow to the enemy? Or spill blood to quell the enemy’s attacks?
But what were we to make of this carpenter?
Undeniably, He didn’t fit any definition we understood. No heart-stopping appearance. No royal bearing. No legions of power. Some of the Sanhedrin spoke loudly about the dangers He posed, but we knew He was more lamb than a lion. He presented nothing that shouted insurrection.
Then again, Jesus also presented nothing that screamed Messiah – nothing that seemed to line up with Isaiah’s prophesy, “And of His kingdom, there shall be no end.”
Kingdom? What kingdom? A kingdom of the unworthy? A kingdom of the rabble? - more suited for fishermen and peasants than palaces and thrones. No, Messiahs aren’t made of such stuff.
So, you can understand why Council members struggled. After all, we were God appointed to search Scripture and speak truth. But over time, we’d become more concerned about our about truth rather than God’s. Our truth demanded - far different from His truth that cared; His truth that loved. Jesus wouldn’t let us escape that hypocrisy. That’s one reason so many feared and hated Him - He shone a light on what we didn’t want others to see.
Yet while we struggled to make sense of who this Jesus was, others had no struggle at all. They were amazed by the things He did and said. No wonder - we were so ‘religious’ holding up God’s law and yet Jesus holding up the same law, only when He did, people didn’t feel condemned, they felt hope. And a God who loved and could be known.
Despite the dangers, Nicodemus and I talked much of this, at first not wanting to share our thoughts about Jesus because we weren’t sure how the other would respond. But then he told me of his night visit when Jesus told him that his goodness fell short of the good God required. Jesus told him he needed to be born again – born new. Nicodemus said it was as if the scroll of Isaiah had been opened in front of him, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” And in that, Nicodemus knew that the ‘everyone’ Isaiah spoke of was him and the One on whom our sin would be placed was Jesus.
There were other things that convinced me - like His statement, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so too must the Son of Man be lifted up for the forgiveness of sins.” Jesus drew a line from Moses to Himself and the Cross in the wilderness. A line of healing and forgiveness – a line of rescue and new life.
Jesus’ words which once seemed like riddles, now ringing true. So as others moved away from Jesus, I moved closer until I could no longer deny what I saw.
Those preposterous reports? The lame walking, the blind seeing, the demon-possessed set free. All true! No trickery. No deceit. Instead the miraculous. Not miraculous to impress but miraculous to transform - a transformation that called me to decide. This Jesus was more than just someone sent by God, He was God, come in the flesh so we could know Him. God’s invitation of redeeming love.
An invitation so simple a child could receive and so profound the most undeserving could take.
He coming, inviting us to new life. I saw that new life in the joy of a leper first embraced and then healed. I saw it in the celebration of one hopelessly lost who’d been spectacularly found. Jesus not giving them better ways to live or nicer ways to act. Jesus offering all of us new life.
That’s why Jesus became my Messiah! When I saw beyond the things He did and saw Him for who He was. Jesus Messiah which is where we all needed to come – seeing Him with the eyes of a child, the heart of the broken, the dance of the found. Just like these, welcoming Him with belief, palm leaves fanning the air; coats were strewn on the ground. Young and old, celebrating. Euphorically shouting, ‘Hosanna, Hosanna. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”
If only the story ended there!!
Intermission - Video: Blessed is He Who Comes
But the story didn’t end there because there were other forces at work determined to put an end to Hosannas and celebrations. Forces of unimaginable evil.
Among the evil recruits, Caiaphas, who spat out his hate so easily, Jesus needed to die. To hear him tell it, you’d think he was talking about removing some vermin from the Temple. In truth, Caiaphas thought Jesus was no better than that. Sure, he and others dressed up their intent in the religious but the real reason was Jesus threatened who we were; threatened the places of power and influence we held so tightly. It was for these dangers that He must die.
But that’s not what he said. Instead, he tried to take some, ‘it’s for the nation’, moral high ground - ‘People are being deceived so we must act or Rome will act for us’. “Better to sacrifice one than for the whole nation to perish.” We all knew the nation he spoke of was our nation of power and privilege and the benefits those things brought.
With that, plans were put in motion. It was Passover week. The mood is perfect for turning people against Jesus. Numbers large. Emotions were high. A few were euphoric, thinking this could be the day Messiah would come. Others, like the insurrectionists, bold – opportunity before them. And in this sea of emotion, a fortified Roman presence was on edge. Yes, the mood of unrest was perfect.
The only thing left to do was to ignite hatred and there were many who would help with that - the money changers whose profits dropped when Jesus overturned tables in the Temple or the idol makers, fortune tellers and pimps whose business had fallen off. And moving among these, more purveyors of evil - my companions, still stinging from being called blind guides and white-washed sepulchres.
All leading to the events on Friday - cheers erupting as lash whipped across His back. Who was He to scatter coins on the Temple floor? Who was He to set sacrificial animals free? Who was He to invite lepers to come close? To them, the lash was small satisfaction.
Cheers erupted as a crown of thorns was pressed in; cheers erupted as a robe was stripped off Animalistic cheers wanted more blood than what they’d seen - while those in much smaller groups wept.
Those weeping didn’t ask, ‘Who was He?’ That had been answered by sightless eyes that saw and paralyzed legs that walked. Their question? ‘What wrong has He done? Tell us - Was it new life for a beggar or the embrace of a leper? Was it offering love rather than hate or gifting life to a child once dead?’ Was it forgiveness felt in the heart instead of words ritualistically said?
The mob never stopped to ask those questions because their hatred was greater than any truth. Caught up in the frenzy, soldiers took on the mood of the crowd.
One reached out, grabbing Jesus’ beard, ripping hair and flesh from His face. Even then the lust for blood wasn’t satisfied. That wouldn’t happen even when Romans took up hammers and nails, spilling blood from hands and sides.
“If you be the Christ, why don’t you come down from the Cross and save yourself? You saved others, save yourself and us?”
Accusing hands and protesting raised arms. Taunting. Scorning. Ridiculing. Wanted no part of the bloodied hands they saw spread out before them. Innocent hands welcomed the outcast and healed the sick. Hands that embraced the orphan and raised the dead.
Hands that took nails because the hands He reached out to, responded with angry, clenched fists.
Laughter and scorn - as nails pierced flesh. Hail King of the Jews!! Mocking, as spear impaled side. Mocking as the head bent low.
This scene was so different from the joyous coronation I’d witnessed only a few days before. It was lamb selection day when we chose our Passover lamb.
I was on my way to select one for our family when the noise of dance and celebration drew me to see Jesus entering the city on a donkey. It was what Zechariah prophesied, “See, your King comes to you righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Zech 9:9 (pound table)
How did we move from extravagant joy to the unspeakable evil we’d just witnessed? How does the celebrated become crucified? There was no answer to that. But there had to answer for the other things I questioned:
Was it a coincidence that Passover ‘lamb selection day’ was the day Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem?
Was it a coincidence that when the shofar sounded, announcing the lamb had been slain was the very moment Jesus, the Lamb of God, cried out, “It is finished!” as He took on Himself the sins of the world?
Was it a coincidence that at the very moment, the Light of the world was extinguished, the sky turned black, the heavens quaked and the earth began to shake?
And was it a coincidence that the veil covering the Holy of Holies was split open from top to bottom? A curtain was as thick as the width of my hand and as high as the columns supporting the roof. A curtain like this doesn’t split. It may fall. Or crumple. But it doesn’t just split.
Only God tears a curtain like this. The veil once separating God from man split open welcoming all who would come.
Those questions endlessly circling around. Questions dogged me even as I went to Pilate to request Jesus’ body for burial. Pilate was only too glad to be rid of Him. And Caiaphas? As expected, he was furious when he heard what I’d done. He wanted Jesus’ body to be discarded outside the city where birds of prey could finish what he had started.
At the moment I didn’t care what he or anyone thought. Today’s events changed all that. Now I was determined to protect in death what I couldn’t protect in life. It was the least I could do. I refused to let Jesus be cast in a dump like some common criminal. That is why the sepulchre chosen for my death, would now be His.
Small comfort that was. How could it be any other way? We’d watched God’s Promised One be killed. And before that - spat upon, beaten, mocked, made to suffer like no man. Tell me is this the way we are to come before God during a week we were to worship, to praise, to give thanks, to bow. How is Passover week to be celebrated after this? How do you praise when evil at its worst has destroyed life at its very best?
VO Yet, it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him putting Him to grief; rendering Him as a guilt offering. My righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. Because he exposed himself to death, He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels Is 53:10-12
But how it ended? Now that’s an entirely different story …….
It was Sunday and the stories came quickly - words pouring out. Gushers of emotion, impossible to understand. Tears, shock, confusion. Stone. Tomb. Soldiers were struck down as dead. Grave clothes are present, but the body is not.
And then, other reports. Jesus and Mary. Jesus with Peter. Jesus appears to be two on a Damascus road. Jesus terrified the disciples as they gathered behind closed doors. A risen and alive Jesus.
Delusion? Perhaps. Logic might give you reasons to think so. But delusion to so many? In story after story? Place after place? On a road. On a seashore. In a room. In a graveyard. On a hillside.
Jesus dead. Listen, I know – I was there!
I heard the whip. Smelled the spit. Saw the nails. Felt the spear. Touched the body. Jesus was undeniably dead! But now?
Alive? Jesus is alive?! Jesus is alive!!
Breathing. Speaking. Healing. Proving. Transforming. Undeniable evidence
Almighty God. God above all gods. King of King and Lord of Lords. Saviour.
Redeemer. Returning King. My Lord and My God!
His power - is greater than death. His promise - greater than hope.
His presence - greater than life
Jesus IS ALIVE!
Video Blessed is he who comes in.. ( In Hebrew Language and English)
Video: Then Came the Morning