April 17, 2011 A+D
St. Matthew’s Passion 26:1-27:66
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The ancient custom of reading or chanting the Passion in parts serves not only to break up a long reading, but also to hammer home the concept that these are our words. These are our people. They are us.
We are the evil priests. We plot to minimize Our Lord’s influence through murder. We mock the Scriptures and dare God to judge us.
We are the lying Judas. We pretend to be scandalized by the seeming waste of costly oil. We betray Jesus with a kiss.
We are the false witnesses against the Lord. We are His accusers.
We attack the disciples and search for fault in others.
We deny that we are disciples, fearing the opinion of men more than we fear or love God.
We are Pilate. We fail to serve justice. We act in cowardice, seeking our own gain above all.
We are Herod. We are Caiaphas. We are the Temple guard. We are Pilate’s wife. We are all of them. We plot, deceive, betray, and grow greedy with lust and fear.
Most appropriate to our sins, we cry “crucify.”
And yet, even as we are the boastful Peter claiming that we would never deny the Lord, we are also the fearful, sheepish disciples who recognize something of our complicity and guilt and ask, “Is it I? Is it I, Lord? Will I betray you? Do I cause your sorrow and shame? Are my fleeting pleasures, my little vanities, my constant selfishness that which drove the nails?”
Yes, and no. Sin didn’t cause the Incarnation. Sin didn’t cause the death of Christ. Love did. The compassion of the Shepherd, the enduring mercy and grace of the Father, the Holy Spirit caused it. The prince of this world had to be cast out. He could not win. He could not keep Eve or Peter or you. The Lord of creation would restore and redeem creation and set humanity again in dominion over it.
You are the children in the Temple who cry Hosanna, who pray for salvation. You are Simon of Cyrene. You carry the cross for Jesus Christ. You bear the burden of His confession in this world. You are the penitent thief who asks and hopes for mercy. You are Barabbas who, though guilty, goes free. You are the centurion who confesses and praises God’s Name and rejoices that such Blood has been shed upon us and opens heaven’s gates for us.
The stone cannot hold Him. He is not dead. Jesus lives. Hosanna to the Son of David. Hosanna in the highest. Amen.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.