THE SUNDAY OF THE PASSION AD 2018
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
Mark 15:16-20 And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor's headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.
You may have noticed the Pastor Reinhardt sized palm trees at the front of the Church this morning. I saw these at the store and just had to have them. I’m thankful to the dear soul who got them here since they wouldn’t fit in my car. They aren’t scraping the ceiling this morning but I do apologize for the way in which they hide the hymn board. Nine months from today (if I have anything to do with it) the church is going to be filled with green again - a great big green tree - with twinkling lights and ornaments to be sure and a bright star on top. Only nine months until Christmas! Now before you roll your eyes, I do know it was only 3 months ago and its not really the time to be talking about it since its Palm Sunday.
But there is something that tied Christmas day and this day together for me this year and it wasn’t just big green trees, or even that both are important Jesus days, or that what we will celebrate 9 months from today was announced by Gabriel to Mary on this date. There’s all that, but this year what stood out for me, was a little greek word that means hail or rejoice. It shows up in Gabriel’s greeting to Mary - “Hail/Rejoice O favoured one1” As it appears in the words of the prophet Zechariah that go along with Jesus entry into Jerusalem, “Hail/Rejoice O Daughter of Zion!” And finally it appears in the mouths of the soldiers in the praetorium, “Hail/Rejoice King of the Jews!”
It’s actually quite shocking that the same word that heralded the joyous good news of His miraculous conception is now spat at Him with the greatest contempt and derision. As Mary is called to rejoice that the Lord has chosen her to be the Mother of God’s Son, the soldiers call on Him to rejoice as He stands there naked before them, with only a purple robe of mockery hanging from his shoulders, while the blood dripping from His thorny crown mingles with their spit on His bruised and battered face. Hail/Rejoice King of the Jews? Sick? Cruel? Demonic?
Satan’s voice without question is sounding out loud and clear in the soldiers' taunts. It is his forte after all … questioning what God has said … what God has done … tempting us to doubt all that God has made us to be. King of the Jews? Really Jesus? Is this how a King looks? How a King is treated? Can you rejoice in this? In the disdain? The shame? The humiliation? Is this the way that things should go for the Son of David? Is this what God promised for the King who was a man after His own heart? Rejoice in your nakedness? Rejoice in your mocking purple robe? Rejoice under those piercing thorns? Rejoice with spit on your face?
Rejoice? As man perhaps not. Our Lord’s humiliation was real beloved. More real than any of us can ever know. He did not flee from it to some happy place to hide from it all. He didn’t cover his ears and hum a tune to drown it all out. No, He endured it in all of it’ s fullness to it’s deepest depths for us. But as God did He not rejoice in it? Indeed, beloved, this is the awesome mystery of this moment, that even while He suffers shame beyond imagining, He rejoices because the hour that He was conceived and born for has come … the hour that begins what He has come to finish has finally arrived. He has longed for this hour from the beginning, from His conception and birth of the Virgin Mary, indeed, He has longed for it from the beginning of the World itself.
Beloved, you need to know this about the love of God for you. From the very moment of our fall into sin God longed for the hour when He would save us. He longed for the hour when He would send His Son, as the Son longed for the hour when He would come. Mary is hailed to rejoice because in that moment God is rejoicing. She is not called to rejoice just for herself, or even mankind, but along with the Lord, because finally the fullness of time has come. She is hailed to rejoice because she is going to have a Son who will be born to be despised, mocked, and shamed. She is called to rejoice because her Son is being born to stand naked in a robe of mocking purple crowned in thorns with spit on his face, while a group of soldiers hail him in mockery as the King of the Jews. Mary is hailed to rejoice because the Son is going to be born through her to suffer and die to save the world.
Zion also is hailed to rejoice through the prophet Zechariah because her King is coming to her on the colt of a donkey in great humility. She is hailed to rejoice because He has come to be stripped naked and clothed in mocking purple and crowned with thorns. She is called to rejoice because He has come to be hailed in mockery. She is hailed to rejoice at this, because it is great good news for her as it was for Mary. The hailing of Jesus in this way secures for them, as it did for her, that they would be truly hailed as God’s favoured ones. The hailing of Jesus in this way, means that we will not be greeted with judgement, for having pretended to be something we are not, but for what He has truly made us to be. In sin we sought to be our own God’s, which we could never be, but Christ in His mercy was mocked, as though He was not what He was, so that God could receive us as His true children. Christ is shamed like a fraud so that we won’t be, even though in sin, frauds is what are.
Because Jesus was stripped bare and clothed in robe of mockery, the Lord in your Baptism has taken away your robe of sham holiness and dressed you instead in His royal robe of righteousness. Because Jesus was crowned in thorns that pierced his brow and made Him bleed, the Lord has claimed you as His children and crowned you with glory and honour. Because Jesus stood in all your shame to be hailed in mockery, you are received at this altar, not as people who have claimed to be children of God and yet in so many ways have thought, spoken and acted as though you were not. No, you are not received as frauds, but as God’s truly beloved children in Christ. Jesus was hailed as a fraud though He wasn’t one, so that the likes of you and me would never be rejected for the ones that we are in our sin. Not here. Not when we die. And not on the last day.
Of course Satan will delight in throwing in your face all that God has made you to be in Christ but you fail to live out in your sin. He will keep on trying to make you wear the shame of your sin, working hard to convince you that such rags are your proper clothes. He will spit out his “all hail” to you as he beats you with your failures. “Hail the child of God who failed to love Him with all his heart and mind and soul! Hail the Child of God who got irritated and cranky and grumbled about serving his neighbour! Hail the child of God who doubted his heavenly Father instead of trusting Him for all things!
But the Lord comes to you in his body blood today, beloved, so that you might learn to resist the devil in your faith. He gives you the very flesh and blood that stood there and took all your shame, that was treated as the fraud that He was not for the fraud that you are, so that you might with all boldness and confidence shut Satan down with the truth. “You had your go you old snake. You put all my shame on Jesus already. That was your mistake. He wore it all for me so that I wouldn’t have to. Move on I tell you, nobody’s buying what you’re trying to sell today. See my Lord Jesus being hailed in my nakedness in my purple robe of mockery wearing my thorny crown bleeding my blood and go to hell and leave me alone. In Christ I am and always will be a holy redeemed child of the most high God!” Amen.