Worship Sunday at 10:30

Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

 
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Passion Intro 03/25/2018

On the First Sunday in Lent we always hear the story of Jesus being tempted by Satan in the wilderness. This year we heard Mark’s version and it’s pretty brief, not as much detail as Matthew and Luke provide, but with or without detail, the point is the same; Jesus is tempted, but resists and thus overcomes the temptation to stray from the path set out for him, and with that, Satan, the tempter, is put in his place…for the moment.

We too are familiar with temptation. We don’t resist as well as Jesus did and even when we do, we know that whatever it is that tempts us doesn’t go away. The same was true for Jesus; the source of temptation was always there and this Palm/Passion Sunday, the last Sunday in the season of Lent, winds up being something of a bookend to the First Sunday in Lent because here too, it’s not a stretch to see temptation as a major theme. This Sunday starts with Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem and that may have represented the greatest temptation of all for Jesus. Here he is, riding into Jerusalem like a king returning after a great military victory, the crowds cheering, shouting Hosanna, Lord, Save Us, and waving their palm branches. Hope for the promised Messiah had faded over the years but the people hadn’t totally given up and while Jesus didn’t exactly fit the mold of what they expected, there was still the hope that he was the one. There was hope that he was the one who might finally get them out from under the thumb of the Roman Empire, hope that he was the one under whom the kingdom of Israel would be restored. For Jesus, it had to be tempting. He had a following. He had courage to challenge those in authority. He could get people to rally behind him and oppose those in power. After his triumphant entry into Jerusalem Jesus could get the people who welcomed him what they wanted and then he could bask in the glory of it all. The temptation had to be great. But it was really just a different version of what he had faced back in the wilderness, the temptation to follow a path different from the one set out for him and to use his power for the wrong reasons, The temptation had to be great to do the “this worldly” thing and rally the people and to fight for himself and for them, but…that wasn’t the path set out for him.

So today the story and the mood shift rather dramatically as we move into the Passion reading. Mark was the first one to put this story into narrative form. The stories were out there being told orally and hinted at in the letters of Paul. Some of the interpretation of what it all meant was out there as well, quite notably in the Philippians passage that was read earlier. There we heard of Jesus emptying himself of the power that those Palm Sunday crowds thought he should use against the Romans.

Using whatever sources he had, Mark makes this story of Jesus’ final days the central feature of his gospel. It’s funny though, because while it’s a story we know very well, we don’t really look forward to hearing it again. As well as we know it and even though we know the final outcome, it’s upsetting and in some ways we just as soon not hear it. We’re more like the Palm Sunday crowd; we want Jesus to flex his divine muscles and avoid the death we know is coming. We like the Easter ending, but this part is a little too dark plus it just doesn’t make sense. A crucified Messiah doesn’t make sense.

From our perspective, the glory, laud and honor of the triumphant Palm Sunday entry does make sense and that’s why we just as soon stay there and then come back next Sunday to the joy of Easter. Then we wouldn’t have to deal with what we hear today and in the days ahead. That might make things cleaner and less disturbing, but it wouldn’t make them better.

Let us now hear the Passion according to St. Mark.

Rev. Warren Geier
 
 

Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640
contact@bethanyishpeming.org

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor
pastor@bethanyishpeming.org

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