O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
This man is guilty of being the King of the Jews
"This man is guilty of being the King of the Jews"
Based on Mark 15:1-47
Preached on April 1, 2012
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Fellow baptized saints, how far could you make it? How much could you take? At what point would you stop? The same mouths that just cried out, "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!" have turned against you. They hunger for your death. They are asked, "What shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?" And they cry out all the more, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" Your close friends have become your mortal enemies. They want the worst for you. They are demanding a death for you that is so horrible it is illegal for a Roman citizen to be punished in this way. Crucifixion is reserved for the criminal outcasts of those suppressed by Roman rule. A brutal example of the way Rome deals with those who challenge their authority. Yet this is the ultimatum for Christ.
He doesn't have to deal with this. He could speak up. He has no issue with Rome. There is no law He has broken. No line He has crossed. He is innocent. He could stop the whole proceeding if He wanted to, in any number of ways. He is the Son of God after all. But then, what would become of His friends, the ones who want Him dead - the ones who hate Him, mock Him, beat Him and nail Him to the cross? Who would rescue them from death? Who would forgive them for all they have done? Who would save them from themselves? No, He must endure. He must go on - for them.
Why? It just doesn't make sense! Why would He unjustly suffer for those who want Him to suffer? Why would He unjustly die for those who want Him to die? It just doesn't make any sense! We would never sacrifice in this way for those who are so aggressively against us. We would fight back. We would run away. We would cry out injustice in hopes that they would be punished. We would never sacrifice ourselves to help them. And that is exactly the point.
What is it that kept Jesus going to the cross? To His death? Through the pain. Through the lies. Love - the love that we have lost - the love that has been missing in us since the Fall - Unconditional, undeserved, unasked for Love. Not love that is only for those who love back. Not love that fades with time, or distance or abuse. God's Love. Love that is. Like God. This is what kept Christ going. This is what drove Him to pour out His lifeblood. To feel pain in our place. To be forsaken by His heavenly Father for us. This is the source of His passion. The way He felt about us in His heart. In our Lord Jesus Christ we see the gracious heart of God in the actions of a man. Actions that are so loving they make even a Roman centurion say, "Truly this man was the Son of God."
Pilate asked Him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" "You have said so," Jesus replied. We have such a hard time understanding the grace and love of God, it is no wonder we also struggle to understand Christ's kingdom. Pilate was simply trying to understand how Jesus was called a king, but how can anyone understand a man who willingly endures such suffering to be a king?
After torturing Him so severely that He was barely recognizable, the soldiers made fun of His claim to be king. They threw a mock coronation ceremony for Jesus. They clothed Him with a purple robe and gave Him a reed as a sceptre. Then they twisted together a crown of thorns and pressed it into His head. They marched around saluting Him, saying "Hail, King of the Jews!" Then they spat in His bleeding face and struck Him in the head with His own sceptre. They even kneeled down in crude mockery of Him. What kind of king could this pitiful man be?
But if all this wasn't enough, when they crucified Him between criminals in broad daylight, His charge was written above His head on the cross: "The King of the Jews." Jesus was being crucified for being the king of the Jews. He was guilty of being king. He wasn't crucified for being a robber like the men crucified with Him. He wasn't crucified for being a murderer like the man released in His place. His hands and feet were nailed into the wooden cross, from which He hung, because He was a king. Because He had a kingdom to protect. He had a kingdom to save. For Christ is the king of all who acknowledge their loveless ways, and want God's Love to make them whole again. Love to the loveless shown, that they might lovely be. The king dying for the criminals, that they may wear crowns.
"And all the prophets saw this, that the kingly Messiah was to become the greatest thief, murderer, adulterer, desecrator, and blasphemer there has ever been in the world... In short, He has and bears all the sins of all men in His body - not in the sense that He has committed them, but in the sense that He took these sins, committed by us, upon His own body, in order to make satisfaction for them with His own blood." Christ gave up His life of His own accord - He did not fight it - He did not resist it - He let death take Him so that we might live in His kingdom forever. The body of Your God and king was laid in the grave. It became cold to the touch, so that yours will be warm forever.
Who can fathom such a sacrifice? How do I approach such a King and Savior and Redeemer? By means of rules? No, just cling to the Son in faith. Receive Him. He is giving Himself to you. Unconditionally, undeservedly, unasked for. Have Him. He doesn't want you to make it up to Him. This is not a favour He wants you to pay back. This is a gift. He wants you to receive it. He wants you to benefit from it.
And that is exactly what happened for young Maks this morning. He was baptized into the death of Christ Jesus. Maks was given all of the things that our king accomplished in His death. He is forgiven of all His sins, washed in the blood of Christ. He has eternal life, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. But that's not all. This morning we witnessed the making of a king. A real coronation ceremony. For in these waters, Christ has clothed Maks in the white robe of His righteousness. He has stored up a kingly inheritance for him in heaven, and he has promised him the crown of salvation. Christ's death was worth it for baptized little Maks.
But it was worth it for you as well. For all of this is also yours in your Baptism. God has made you a member of His kingdom in the same way, and His same promises have been spoken upon you.
No, you wouldn't have made it very far that day. You wouldn't have sacrificed yourself for those who hate you. You wouldn't have followed a king who appeared to be so weak. But His unconditional, undeserved, unasked for Love has called you back, that you may be a king under Christ. In the name of the King of kings.
In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr