Today, we began with a parade, music, tambourines, waving palms, and welcoming Jesus into the holy city. I imagine the crowd in the original parade so long ago was very similar; shouts of Hosanna ringing in his ears – shouts of victory, shouts of adoration to God for giving them a savior, a messiah who would conquer their oppressors.
As is often said in our day and age, “well, that escalated quickly”. Shouts of praise turn into shouts of “Let him be crucified”. One of his own beloved betrays him with a kiss and another denies even knowing him. In the distance the cock crows and the tears come, filled with agony, anger, and fear. Even the one who handed him over tried to take it all back… it was a horrible mistake, all for 30 pieces of silver, the price on his head, the price of a slave. One man hangs himself while another howls in grief. It is a dark night leading into an even darker day. Shouts of praise turn into shouts of “Let him be crucified”.
The governor calls him by the name that will be on his cross, “King of the Jews”. He does not answer their questions. It wouldn’t matter anyway. They have already twisted his words and his deeds against him. There is nothing that can save him from what is to come. Pilate becomes his ally in a twisted act of fate. We didn’t see that coming. But even Pilate could not persuade the crowds to stop asking for his death. Pilate tried to wash his hands of innocent blood… news flash: it didn’t work; we speak of the blood on his hands still, today when we profess our faith… crucified under Pontius Pilate has been spoken by the faithful for two thousand years. Pilate will never be declared innocent – but perhaps he will be forgiven. Forgiven is almost as good as innocent. I wonder if Pilate knew he was forgiven? Did he even know he was guilty?
Shouts of praise have turned into shouts of “Let him be crucified”. He can hear them and yet he says nothing. He knew his own would desert him, and crowds, well, there would be a new messiah to take his place in a few days… or, would there? He disappointed them; they wanted someone to lead them into war – even now he was trying to lead them into peace; but there is no peace, not for him, not for them. He is tortured, and mocked – this “king of the Jews” is even crowned, but not with the crown of human kings; no, this one who is in King David’s line has no gold, no wives, no concubines, no sin…But he has a crown that only God could wear, as he stares into their eyes that cannot see who he really is.
His body cannot take much more; they pull Simon of Cyrene out of the crowd and make him carry the cross at least for a while. Dear Simon, the only one who can ease the suffering. How frightened he must have been. Does Simon know what it is he carries and for whom he carries it? Does Simon look into his eyes? Does he see the love of God in them? Does he know that upon that cross his sins and the sins of the world will rest embraced by this tortured man they are about to murder? Do we know that our sins are up there as well, embraced by the one who is perfect love? It wasn’t until he died that the centurion and others realized that he was God’s son. By then, there was nothing that anyone could do except the women who grieved and made preparations for his burial. Joseph of Arimathea, a righteous man and a sometimes reluctant disciple, gave his own tomb so there would be somewhere for his body to be. Pilate tries once again to control that which is not his to control and orders the tomb to be secured.
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but
first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he
was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way
of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and
peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. BCP pg 272