Sunday, March 29, 2015

What's Next? Mark 15:1-47

Mark 15:1-47  Common English Bible

15 At daybreak, the chief priests—with the elders, legal experts, and the whole Sanhedrin—formed a plan. They bound Jesus, led him away, and turned him over to Pilate. 2 Pilate questioned him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

Jesus replied, “That’s what you say.” 3 The chief priests were accusing him of many things.
4 Pilate asked him again, “Aren’t you going to answer? What about all these accusations?” 5 But Jesus gave no more answers, so that Pilate marveled.

6 During the festival, Pilate released one prisoner to them, whomever they requested. 7 A man named Barabbas was locked up with the rebels who had committed murder during an uprising. 8 The crowd pushed forward and asked Pilate to release someone, as he regularly did. 9 Pilate answered them, “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” 10 He knew that the chief priests had handed him over because of jealousy. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas to them instead. 12 Pilate replied, “Then what do you want me to do with the one you call king of the Jews?”
13 They shouted back, “Crucify him!”
14 Pilate said to them, “Why? What wrong has he done?”
They shouted even louder, “Crucify him!”
15 Pilate wanted to satisfy the crowd, so he released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus whipped, then handed him over to be crucified.

16 The soldiers led Jesus away into the courtyard of the palace known as the governor’s headquarters,[a] and they called together the whole company of soldiers.[b] 17 They dressed him up in a purple robe and twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on him. 18 They saluted him, “Hey! King of the Jews!” 19 Again and again, they struck his head with a stick. They spit on him and knelt before him to honor him. 20 When they finished mocking him, they stripped him of the purple robe and put his own clothes back on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.   21 Simon, a man from Cyrene, Alexander and Rufus’ father, was coming in from the countryside. They forced him to carry his cross.

22 They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha, which means Skull Place. 23 They tried to give him wine mixed with myrrh, but he didn’t take it. 24 They crucified him. They divided up his clothes, drawing lots for them to determine who would take what. 25 It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The notice of the formal charge against him was written, “The king of the Jews.” 27 They crucified two outlaws with him, one on his right and one on his left.[c]

29 People walking by insulted him, shaking their heads and saying, “Ha! So you were going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, were you? 30 Save yourself and come down from that cross!”

31 In the same way, the chief priests were making fun of him among themselves, together with the legal experts. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself. 32 Let the Christ, the king of Israel, come down from the cross. Then we’ll see and believe.” Even those who had been crucified with Jesus insulted him.
33 From noon until three in the afternoon the whole earth was dark. 34 At three, Jesus cried out with a loud shout, “Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani,” which means, “My God, my God, why have you left me?”

35 After hearing him, some standing there said, “Look! He’s calling Elijah!” 36 Someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, and put it on a pole. He offered it to Jesus to drink, saying, “Let’s see if Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 But Jesus let out a loud cry and died.

38 The curtain of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 When the centurion, who stood facing Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “This man was certainly God’s Son.”

40 Some women were watching from a distance, including Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James (the younger one) and Joses, and Salome. 41 When Jesus was in Galilee, these women had followed and supported him, along with many other women who had come to Jerusalem with him.

42 Since it was late in the afternoon on Preparation Day, just before the Sabbath, 43 Joseph from Arimathea dared to approach Pilate and ask for Jesus’ body. (Joseph was a prominent council member who also eagerly anticipated the coming of God’s kingdom.) 44 Pilate wondered if Jesus was already dead. He called the centurion and asked him whether Jesus had already died. 45 When he learned from the centurion that Jesus was dead, Pilate gave the dead body to Joseph. 46 He bought a linen cloth, took Jesus down from the cross, wrapped him in the cloth, and laid him in a tomb that had been carved out of rock. He rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was buried.
Imagine that we are there . . .  in Jerusalem.  We’ve watched Jesus enter the city.  We’ve waved our palms and lined the street with them, singing hosannah, shouting and laughing - so excited that Jesus has come into Jerusalem. Surely now he will declare himself - he will rise up at the head of an angelic army and defeat Rome.  Surely now everyone will recognize him!  Forget Herod and Tiberius - Jesus is the true King of the Jews! 

And when the parade was over we all wandered off to have Passover dinner with our families.  Life went on as usual for us.  After all, we’re just folks.  Jesus and his followers, they’ll be doing all that king-making stuff . . .  We’ll be happy to celebrate when the time comes . . .

and then . . . Wait . . .What???   He was arrested?  He is a blasphemer?  The Temple police have him?  He’s been crucified?  What happened?  He’s dead??!!  It’s over, then.  Our hopes are dead with him. . . .

Guess we just have to wait for the next Messiah to come along. . . because there have been dozens of them rise up in the last couple of decades.  We must have been mistaken again.   And most of us will give up, mourn a bit, mostly for ourselves, and go back to our pre-Jesus lives.

What we don’t know . . . what no one seemed to know . . . even though he had told them . . . is that in a few days, he won’t be dead any more.  He won’t be dead anymore and he will live for ever.   But we don’t know that yet . . . we don’t understand at all.

When I was in seminary in Indiana I had a classmate from Kenya.  We walked to class together one snowy February day and I asked him what he was doing outside without a hat.  He replied that he was toughening himself for the cold.  He thought it was something he could get used to.  I explained to him that he needed to cover his head because his body heat would escape quickly though his scalp and that wasn’t just uncomfortable, it was potentially deadly.  There is no such thing as toughening yourself to withstand the cold.  You simply have to cover up.  We talked a bit about winter.  He said, “I really just can’t get used to the way everything looks so dead here in the winter.  At home, if we saw trees that looked like these do - no leaves, no green, nothing that even looks a little bit alive - we would cut it for firewood.  Because clearly, it is dead.”   So I explained Spring.  And because we were in seminary it was really easy to make it a theological conversation, centering around the  resurrection and our hope for new and eternal life.  

I do understand that many of the people sitting in front of me here don’t know about winter snows and the hope that comes with tiny, seemingly suicidal crocus flowers breaking through the snow on the ground.  We do have some trees here that lose their leaves in the winter.  We do have some Spring blossoms, like flowering almond trees and nectarines.  But that despair that strikes so many in mid-winter after months of grey skies, that really-hard-to-dismiss feeling that everything is dead and hopeless and it will never be Spring . . . that’s not part of our reality in Southern California.  

Boxer is an adorable little dog who belongs to friends of mine.  When I visit the first one to greet me at the door is almost always Boxer, wagging his entire body and holding a toy in his mouth.  He loves to chase his toys so much that sometimes he could be distracted from whatever was on my dinner plate by a carefully timed toy-throw.  Then, on St. Patrick’s Day I heard that Boxer had been rushed to the vet with a slipped disc. They tried a laser treatment but the prognosis was grim.  Boxer was paralyzed from the waist down.  He would never walk again without really expensive surgery!  The vet thought it would be better to just put him to sleep so he wouldn’t suffer.  My friends took him home to think and pray and try to figure out ways to pay for the surgery . . . They asked all of their friends on Facebook to pray for solutions. . . .  and the strangest things began to happen.  On March 19th my friend said, “He is paralyzed in his back legs and he still moves just as fast around the house, he still whines annoyingly to play with his ball, and he even wagged his tail when I got home!!!”  One day he figured out a way to “walk” on his knees,  then he learned to lock one of his legs and swing it around to “walk” better.  Boxer doesn’t know he is broken.  My friends are talking about maybe finding one of those little wheeled carts for him.  He’s still broken, but his life isn’t over.  It is simply different.  He is a miracle.  

I have long felt the power of the resurrection in this congregation.  Even when it seems like everything is dying, when we don’t have enough money to do what we really would like to be able to do with our ministry, when we don’t have the bodies we need to do the work of the church that we would like to be able to do . . . I have felt the power of the resurrection.  Like a crocus barely peeking its head through the snow . . . .when you see one you just sort of pray that the cold won’t kill it, that this one will survive to blossom.  I’ve felt a little like Bullwinkle the Moose, who is trying once again to pull a rabbit out of his hat, saying “This time for sure!”   I have felt that power moving and swirling, like the sap in trees as they get ready for that break in the weather.. . and then kind of flowing back, as if to say, “Not just yet.”  

Holy Week has begun.  It is a week for reflection, for introspection, for looking forward to what comes next, for hope …. that incredible, hope-against-hope for a miracle kind of hope.  It is a week to look toward the grave . . . and then beyond, beyond the grey skies, beyond the brokenness, beyond the sorrow and pain . . . to that new life we believe will come, that we have faith will come, because it always has come and it always will come . . .  If we will trust in God to guide us.