Faithlife Sermons

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"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer."
"Beneath The Shadow Of The Cross"
(Mark  14:1-15:47)
It was weird.
It was really weird.
The sky that afternoon had taken on a ghastly, ghostly, almost haunted hue.
Ever since the mid-day bells had rung it had been like the edge of night.
The darkness of the day seemed to reflect the way the apostle felt.
It seemed to reflect the darkness of his soul and the darkness of the event taking place.
John; one of the chosen twelve; one of the inner circle of leadership; the one who always seemed closest to Jesus, stood shrouded in his own sorrow.
The lump  in his throat ached  as he stood there at the foot of the cross where Jesus hung.
He could feel Mary, Jesus' mother, shudder in agony and grief as only a mother could, as he held her in his strong arm.
John wasn't really sure who was comforting who as they both stood there on that ugly hill.
They both wept openly as they watched Jesus dying on a cross like a common criminal.
It was hard to believe, the Messiah, the Son of God, broken and cast aside like so much garbage upon the town dump, the place of the skull, Golgotha, Calvary.
The sound of the hammer striking those nails still echoed in John's ears.
The anguished grunt from deep within Jesus' soul that accompanied each strike of the hammer still tortured John's mind.
The pain that contorted Jesus' face still haunted John's soul.
His heart and soul ached.
They raged in disbelief, anger and frustration.
As he wept his fists clenched and unclenched.
He ground his teeth in nervous frustration and fear.
He must have been thinking: /"How/ /did/ /we/ /get/ /here?/  /Less/ /than/ /a/ /week/ /ago/ /we/ /entered/ /Jerusalem/ /in/ /the/ /midst/ /of/ /a/ /parade."/
And they had.
It was magnificent.
It was spectacular.
What was so wonderful about it was that it was totally spontaneous, no matter what the Pharisees had said.
It wasn't staged.
Jesus didn't enter the city like some great dignitary with an advance publicity crew.
There weren't any loud speakers.
There weren't any fliers.
There wasn't a chauffeur driven limousine.
There wasn't a huge entourage of hanger-on-ers.
It was just the twelve and Jesus.
Jesus didn't even come in on a regal white steed.
Jesus entered Jerusalem that day astride a lowly donkey colt.
The people were already singing.
Passover was a joyous time.
It was one of the high holy days of Judaism.
It was a time to gather the families together.
People came from all over the country to stay with their friends and relatives.
Passover always had sort of a homecoming, Christmas and Mardi Gras atmosphere all rolled into one.
It was a time of remembrance and celebration.
It was both festive and introspective.
And on this day, the first day of the week, the pilgrims were entering Jerusalem armed with the traditional festal branches, emblems of the king's royalty, and singing the festal songs of praise.
There was a natural rhythm and movement toward the Temple where the palm branches would be laid at the altar as a sign of thanksgiving and praise.
There was joy and laughter and shouts of /"Hosanna,"/ as people remembered their deliverance from bondage in Egypt and gave thought to the coming of the Messiah.
Into this merriment in motion rode Jesus on the donkey colt.
He smiled and waved, accepting the accolades with humbled honor and a knowing, bittersweet smile.
Behind the smile, his eyes were full of the future.
He knew the irony of this parade and this show of support.
Jesus knew where it would all end.
He knew because, while he saw the joy and the hope in the eyes of the people, he also saw the hatred in the eyes of his silent, sullen opponents.
So beneath his smile was sorrow and compassion.ú
When the folks in the crowds saw Jesus riding on that donkey, some laughed because he was so big and the sight was so comical.
But then like a flash, some of them remembered the Messianic significance of the un-ridden colt.
They were desperate for a Messiah and it was as if they all remembered at once.
The air exploded with shouts of joy and loud /"Hosannas."/
People began waving their palm branches in joyous abandon, shouting their praise to God, looking to Jesus as their Savior and Messiah.
It was as if they knew but didn't know.
It was as if there were safety in the crowds.
They could each remain anonymous in the mass of motion and sound and still shout their faith in Jesus.
Or at least voice their hoped for faith in Jesus.
The very air of the city that day was electric with anticipation and excitement.
It was one of the most joyous and exciting events that ever took place in Jerusalem.
But to John, standing below the cross and his Master, that day seemed so long ago and so far away.
In the darkness descending on both the world and his spirit, it felt as if the whole world were standing beneath the shadow of the cross.
Thinking back on it was like trying to remember a bad dream that you wanted to forget.
Who would have thought that their simple Passover celebration in the Upper Room would have lead to this.
When they set it all up and began to reminisce, it was fun.
Everyone was laughing and having a good time.
The meal was perfect.
But right in the middle of it all, Jesus did something very strange.
He got a basin of water and a towel; then hitching up his robe like a slave, he began to wash the disciples' feet.
At first Peter was offended, but when Jesus said, /"Unless/ /I/ /wash/ /you,/ /you/ /have/ /no/ /share/ /with/ /me."/
Peter said, /"Lord,/ /not/ /just/ /my/ /feet/ /but/ /also/ /my/ /hands/ /and/ /my/ /head!"/
When Jesus was finished and described what he had done for them, he started talking about death and betrayal.
He said one of the twelve, one of the chosen, one of his friends would betray him.
They all wanted to know who.
Jesus paused in the middle of the meal, looked right at Judas and handed him a piece of bread with which he had sopped the gravy, a portion usually reserved for the guest of honor.
Judas nearly choked.
He looked as if he'd seen a ghost, and he took off.
No one but Jesus knew where he was going or what he was about to do.
The more Peter thought about it, the angrier he got.
That was when he stuck his foot in his mouth, big time.
Jesus told the disciples he was going away and Peter wanted to go with him.
John couldn't forget the pained look in Peter's eyes when he thought they were going to be left behind.
Peter blurted out, /"Lord,/ /I'd/ /go/ /with/ /you/ /anywhere,/ /even/ /to/ /death."/
Jesus looked at Peter with a love like the disciples had never seen before.
And very softly and lovingly he said, /"You/ /say/ /that/ /now/ /but/ /I/ /tell/ /you,/ /before/ /the/ /cock/ /crows,/ /you/ /will/ /have/ /denied/ /me/ /three/ /times."/
Peter denied it would happen but they could all see that he was shook up.
Then Jesus went and changed the liturgy of the Passover even more.
Not only had he sent them all into a tailspin of faith, he messed with one of the very foundations of that faith, the Passover Meal.
Jesus took a piece of the unleavened bread, broke it and said, /"Take,/ /eat,/ /this/ /is/ /my/ /body/ /broken/ /for/ /you."/
Then he took the cup, the extra cup, the one reserved for the Prophet Elijah, blessed it and said, /"Drink/ /from/ /this/ /all/ /of/ /you/ /for/ /this/ /is/ /my/ /blood/ /poured/ /out/ /for/ /you/ /and/ /for/ /many/ /for/ /the/ /forgiveness/ /of/ /sins."/
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