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Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

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Palm Sunday 03/24/2013

With all of the gospels, the Passion, the account of Jesus arrest, trial and crucifixion is the longest and most detailed part of the story.  Mark, the first gospel writer, set the pattern that placed the greatest emphasis on the Passion and the other gospels followed it.  The most obvious conclusion one can draw from this is that from the beginning, this part of the story was seen to be critical to understanding who Jesus was.  His teachings were an important part of his identity; his miracles were important but to know Jesus we have to follow him to the cross and when we do that we find that what looked like the end of the story instead becomes the beginning of an even greater story.  That’s what we hear today and what we consider the rest of this week.  We don’t try to figure things out, not yet anyway; we don’t wrestle with the various theories of atonement or worry about how Jesus’ death changes our lives.  Today we just hear this story that is so central to our faith.

What’s also unique today is this is the only time during the year that we have a gospel reading that’s this long.  You know that most weeks the readings are shorter, smaller pieces of a larger story, but today we get two full chapters of Luke, both of them pretty long chapters.  If you come back for the Tenebrae service Friday night you get two full chapters of John’s telling of the Passion story. 

In a way, the longer readings demand more of you as you may have to work to stay with it.  If your attention wanders though (and it might), you know the story well enough that it’s not hard to get yourself back in.  But if you do stay with it and let the narrative kind of carry you it affects you emotionally and that’s part of today too.  The Passion story should affect you emotionally because you and I, all of us become part of it; in particular each of us shares in the guilt.

The intent of the forces that line up against Jesus is to find him guilty.  The council of the chief priests accuses him of blasphemy but they know they can’t have him executed for that so they take him to Pilate, the Roman governor with the charge that he is “perverting the nation and stirring up the people.”  Pilate finds their claim weak and passes Jesus on to King Herod who really wants nothing to do with it, so he hands Jesus back to Pilate until Pilate caves in to the cry of the crowd that Jesus be crucified, a form of execution reserved for the worst of the worst; and so it goes.  They think the story is over.

Perverting the nation and stirring up the people.  That’s all they could come up with, but it was enough.  Mostly though, for those involved the desire to eliminate Jesus was a matter of convenience.  For those opposed to him, whatever their motives, it would be more convenient for them to have Jesus gone so they could carry on with business as usual.  So they did what they thought they had to do.

Perverting the nation and stirring up the people.  When you think about it, they were right.  That is what Jesus did.  When you think about it, that is still what Jesus is doing or what we who claim to be his followers should be doing.  We should be challenging the nation when its ways are not the ways of Jesus.  We should be the people who are stirred up by Jesus’ teachings that call for a radically different way to be in the world; we should.

We do find ourselves in this Passion story and what we find is that  we share in the guilt, the guilt of convenience.  We’ve tamed Jesus so that there is nothing challenging about him.  We’ve just made him nice because it’s convenient and we can then carry on in whatever manner we want with our own business as usual.  We find ourselves in the story and we’re not just innocent onlookers. 

Let us now hear the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St. Luke.

Rev. Warren Geier


Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor

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