On the Road to the Cross: The Trial Mark 15:1-15

Road to the CrossWe are using these weeks of Lent to immerse ourselves in 24 hours that led to the death of Jesus.  We have given our attention to the meaning of the meal in the Upper Room when Jesus took bread and cup gave thanks and said: “This is my body given for you; This is my blood poured out for you.”  We have placed ourselves in the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus, the drowsy disciples, and Judas the betrayer.  Last week, we stood beside Peter as he vehemently denied Jesus three times.

I have a childhood memory, which I cannot attach to the right game or year, but all the same it is very vivid.  I attended an evening Cowboy game at the Cotton Bowl with my uncle.  The stands were packed and this little guy was overwhelmed.  My uncle took my cousin and me to the small restrooms in the Cotton Bowl, which felt even more sardined with humanity.  A feeling panic struck when I was separated from them; thinking I may never find my family.  I’m sure I was crying.  Suddenly, my uncle found me in a crowd that seemed not to care about my condition.  He lifted me above them and placed me on his shoulders; saving me as I put my complete trust in him.

The text brings us to a decision about we believe of Jesus’ capacity to save us from our own wayfaring ways and from being trampled by the forces of this world.  The trial of Jesus asks us what fragmented part of our lives need to be saved by this Jesus on trial.  Jesus’ trial puts us on trial; asking if we believe this arrested man can change the portion of lives we’ve been powerless to overcome.  Let us stand beside Jesus at his trial, asking; what we will do with a man who offers no defense for himself.  How can this Jesus be trusted to save us?Trial of Jesus

At Jesus’ trial, all players are on stage.  Religious authorities, representing organized religion bring Jesus to Pilate.  Governmental authorities, which include Pilate, and all those who were with him gather to employ power as needed.  The crowd of ordinary people, every vocation and occupation, were among them.  Persons opposed to organized religion, and anti government zealots, joined in a display of ecclesiastical and political abuse; shouting for Jesus’ crucifixion.  The religious, military, political, leaders, along with crowd represent the whole world.  Each group was trying to deal with an itinerant Galilean preacher, who stirred up the country folk, and confronted city folk; calling both groups to follow and be changed.

So, if everyone is present, then every person has to ask and answer the same key question at the trial of Jesus.  “What does it mean to say, Jesus died to save the whole world?”  It’s an essential question, whose answer becomes rhetorical after noting every representative person in the world was present at the trial of Jesus.  What does it mean to say Jesus died to save the whole world?  It means: Jesus came to give his life because he loved each and person in the world, including me and you.

Jesus’ trial wasn’t only about the religious leaders misunderstanding Jesus.  Jesus’ trial wasn’t only about Pilate being overwhelmed by the shouting crowd.  Jesus’ trial wasn’t only about the hysteria of the mob; doing what they otherwise would not do.  Jesus’ trial wasn’t only about the disciples abandoning their teacher.  Jesus’ trial was about all of those things and all those people; religious leaders, government officials, and regular ordinary people (followers included) who tried their best to thwart the power of the living God who came to love the sin out of each of us, so we might be saved from ourselves and the forces of this world that can swallow us up.

You TOBE SavedThe idea of needing to be saved is foreign for some folk.  Some think of it as demeaning talk that under appreciates the goodness of who they are.  I can understand how some have grown to disdain our arrogant tone when we speak of others needing to be saved; insinuating people different than we need to be like us.  Each one of us equally needs to be saved; all people, groups, races, nations, economies, and societies need salvation.  We equally suffer from a condition, which leans too heavily on our own understanding, preventing us from being able to trust the loving hand of God that invites us into union through a relationship with this same Jesus who is on trial.  His trial affirms all of us and each of us needs to be saved.

Jesus lets the scene play out so all may see we are all equally in need.  Religious leaders need to be saved from their traditions that impede opportunity for people’s heart to be changed.  Governmental leaders need to be saved from their power mongering that prevents people from being set free.  The shouting crowd needs to be saved from its thirst for a victim, so they can let themselves off the hook.  In the face of it all, Jesus says I love you, offering the same thing he offered in the Upper Room: This is my body broken for you; and this is my blood poured out for you.

Most of us cannot identify with religious and government authorities at Jesus’ trial, though perhaps we should.  Yet, we can see ourselves in the crowd, though the text does not tell us who is in this nebulous chorus.  Perhaps the merchants whose tables Jesus had overthrown in the temple were in the crowd.  Maybe, people who fervently disliked how Jesus repeatedly violated their holiness code were among the mob.  Maybe, the crowd was made up of activists (terrorists) like Barabbas who couldn’t stomach Jesus’ advice to “love your enemies and do good to those who mistreat you.”  Maybe the crowd was simply made up of temple “hangers-on”, like gawkers at a car crash.  It could’ve be any of us if we are honest.Crowd

People, in mobs, act in ways individuals never would.  Would you have had the courage to yell Jesus name instead of Barabbas?  If you were living in Hitler’s Europe, or Joseph McCarthy’s America, or amidst a lynch mob in the south, would you have stood up for those wrongly accused?  We all have fallen into the crowd; failing to stand up when persons are treated unfairly by others.  It takes a lot of courage to go against the crowd.

In this 21st century digital world, the crowd’s voice has grown to something that can’t be rationally challenged as social media becomes a chamber of mistrust, anger, and hatred.  Before we blame them, let’s not remove ourselves too quickly from the crowd; it’s easy to become a part of the herd that by it nature is usually inherently untrue.  The challenge of being the person God made is to step out of the crowd and cry, “Jesus save me!”

In 2009, I went for my annual physical, which biannually involves an echo cardiogram because of a bicuspid heart valve, which I inherited at birth.  At the end of this exam, the physician told me the valve was failing and I needed to replace it by undergoing open heart surgery.  I had all the external signs of health; I wasn’t feeling ill, no shortness of breath, no loss of vigor.  I simply wanted to complete my physical and get on with my life.  But, an echo-cardiogram told me something I didn’t want to hear; and I had to decide what I was going to do with what I now knew about myself.

Cat ScanI didn’t want to be a heart patient; I wanted to slip back into the crowd of normalcy as I understood it, though in denial.  We had a trip planned to Israel in March of that same year.  I told Terri I would be fine and we could do the surgery when I returned.  She and the doctor kindly, but clearly, reminded me of what I had learned from this medical exam.  I wanted to only listen to my inner voices that said all is OK, refusing to listen to the truth about myself.  I finally had to face reality and act on the facts, putting my trust in a physician that could save my life.

The trial of Jesus is a biblical scan that reveals with laser like honesty the spiritual condition of all those present at the trial of Jesus.  On this day, it asks those of us in the crowd if we’re ready to step toward God’s love poured out in this Lamb of God, which is on trial.  Once we know we don’t have to remain in the crowd, the decision is before us to receive the unusual love of the one on trial who can change the parts of our lives that needs to be saved.

Jesus isn’t the only one on trial.  We, whose voices blend into the chorus and sing, crucify him are asked to decide if will place our trust in the one being tried.  We can be different than the crowd and cry Jesus; trusting in his grace to save us.  Once we know God’s saving power, we can offer the innocent Son of God, who stood trial for us to others left in the crowd; knowing his love can overcome all our sinful ways, so all persons might be saved.  What say you today, have you fully trusted this Jesus on trial.Jesus Saves

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