St. Mark's Episcopal Church

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Friday Lent Passion Sermon 2011
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Rev. Bonnie Campbell

JoDene told us last week that we have to go to the tomb or we will miss the raising of Lazarus.  This week we are going to the Passion so we can remember Jesus’ resolve under adversity--his perseverance through trouble.

For someone who always seemed to have lots to say, Jesus doesn’t say much during this series of trials.  It’s frustrating to read it.  When I saw the focus today was perseverance, I had to go back and read it again.

It seems to me that Jesus’ accusers-the members of the Jewish elite-were persistent, but where is the perseverance?  After all, Jesus died, so in what way did he persevere?  I looked up the definition just to be sure I was thinking correctly.  Persevere is to persist in or remain constant to a purpose, idea, or task in the face of obstacles or discouragement.

What was Jesus’ purpose, idea or task, and did he persevere, or did his trial and death obliterate his ministry?  We know his trial and death didn’t destroy his ministry--it didn’t even destroy his body in the end.

What good would it have done for Jesus to respond to his accusers?  Even Pilate found it was impossible to reason with them and he held the power as the representative of Caesar.  No, they would have only twisted Jesus’ words and caused more trouble.  Once he was sentenced and carried off, he was at the mercy of the Roman soldiers, as we see in the scene where they mock him and strike him on the head.

So, Jesus did persevere--he left some members of the Sanhedrin sick over the destruction of an innocent man.  He left Pilate feeling helpless before the very people he was supposed to rule.  Jesus refused the mixture of wine and vinegar that would have numbed his pain--this after persevering through a flogging and the humiliating parade through the streets of Jerusalem.

He hung on the cross between criminals as people passed by to enter the city. People noticed who he was and called out insults and he persevered.  The Jewish elite made fun of Jesus, too.  In their taunts, I hear an undertone of fear: they are worried he will save himself, that he might really be the chosen King of Israel, or that God will come to rescue him.  They are afraid Jesus will persevere and win out over them.

Then, the men hanging with him start in, too.  Really?!  Matthew is telling us no one was on Jesus’ side, yet he persevered.

Then it got dark—in the middle of the day in Jerusalem--it got dark. Inconceivable!  Jesus persevered to this point and then he said, “My God, my God, why have you left me?”  Those listening and watching thought he was calling for Elijah and they wondered if the old prophet would come.  Jesus was offered a drink of vinegar.  Jesus called out again and died.

The earth shook, rocks split and people were raised from the dead.  There were tombs nearby Golgotha--I wonder if anyone walked out of those?  And, the 12 layer thick, interwoven curtain of the sanctuary was torn into two pieces from top to bottom.  Now, that is remarkable!  The Roman centurion recognized that Jesus was special in all this for he proclaimed, “This was certainly God’s son.”

Jesus’ perseverance through the trial and crucifixion came through his silence and lack of resistance.  This is a gruesome story--there is no way to make it seem pretty and nice.  Jesus suffered terribly over a period of less than 24 hours, he died, and was placed in a tomb.  And, we must persevere in remembering how he suffered.

Jesus tried to help his contemporaries understand that God was about helping people--about loving people.  His enemies tried to kill Jesus and that love.  But, he and the love of God prevailed.  God forgave those who tortured his son because he loved them.  Though Jesus asked why God had forsaken him, God was with him.  Jesus persevered through the worse kind of obstacles and discouragement.  So, when we have come against obstacles and discouragement how has God persevered alongside us? 


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