On Palm Sunday, we will gather in Church to listen to the Gospel account of the Passion.
In most churches, this reading will be in dialogue form, with different people reading the lines from the Gospel. Normally as part of this unusual presentation of the story, the congregation participates as well. As we approach this holy day at the end of this Lenten season, we should reflect on our part in the Our Lord’s Passion.
This particular year, we are reading from the Gospel of Luke. When we read Luke’s Gospel together, we find that we are Jesus’ accusers. We come before Him with our complaints. In the text, we are the ones who make the case against Him and why He should be condemned.
This is very common in our post-modern world. Instead of beginning at the starting point of faith, many of us begin with skepticism. As a theology teacher in high school, I can see how many of my students, even those raised Catholic, come in with a cynical veil over their eyes. The world tells them that the story of Jesus is just a fairy tail we tell ourselves and that true maturity comes from growing beyond it. They are encouraged to treat the faith like a joke that they have set aside like other childish pursuits. To many of them, Christ is guilty and must be proven innocent.
But when He does not jump act exactly the way we want Him to, we take that as proof of His falsehood. We live in a world full of desperate need. We call out to Jesus to help. But if we do not see things working the way we plan, we can despair.
Jesus is also stand accused of making our lives uncomfortable. Our modern world says things that are directly opposed to the Gospel message. Things that are evil like abortion, sexual immorality, and materialism are praised as goods by many. Christ stands in the breach and His goodness acts as a judge against such evils, so those that embrace them must then say that it is not their own vice that is the problem, but Christ Himself.
We see this again when Jesus is brought out before the crowd along with Barabbas. When Pilate asks who should be released, the crowd shouts “Barabbas!” The Author of life was rejected in place of a murderer. Jesus calls us to love our enemies. But so often we don’t want to do that. We want to pay them back for the wrongs we feel they have inflicted upon us. We want them to hurt they way we do. Perhaps we don’t physically attack them, but we destroy their reputations, we gossip about them, and we hold them in a conviction of ill will. We don’t want Jesus to tell us to forgive. We want to deal out vengeance by our own hands.
And when Pilate finally asks us what to do with Jesus, the crowd cries:
One of the most important moments of my life was when I was seventeen and I came to realize that every time I sin, I am also in that crowd shouting “Crucify Him”
“Yes, Jesus, I know this is all very sad, but this thing I’m doing that You don’t like, well it is just too much fun. So I am choosing this of You. CRUCIFY HIM!”
“Oh, Jesus, that person got me so angry, so that’s why I behaved the way I did. I know you told me not to, but I just had to. Well, someone is going to have to pay the price for this sin and it certainly isn’t going to be me. So: CRUCIFY HIM!”
This is what it means when we say that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Our sins placed Him there.
And even on the cross, the crowd shouts, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” (Luke 23:35)
It bothers us so much that Jesus tells us to take up our cross. By staying on the cross, Jesus is forcing us to confront our own selfishness. We want to be the center of the universe. Whenever we sin, we place our own comfort, pleasure, pride, reputation, and all else before that of others. Jesus shows us that we have to sacrifice that idol of the self and place others at the center of our lives. That is one of the most important lessons of the cross.
So now we understand that we are in that crowd and we place Christ on that cross for our sins. So what do we do about it now?
Jesus cried, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do!” (Luke 23:34)
Even after everything we’ve done, all He wants to do is forgives us. The question is not whether or not God will forgive us. The question is will we accept His forgiveness.
Will you step out of the crowd and into the light of His love?
Copyright 2022, WL Grayson
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