Saturday, March 28, 2015

sermon, "What a Week!", by Raymond A. Foss, Mount Heights Healthcare, March 27, 2015

What a Week
Mt. Heights Healthcare
Raymond A. Foss
March 27, 2015

Good afternoon, are you enjoying the change in the weather, that it is getting brighter and a little warmer, I know I am. I am so glad we have finally entered a new season of spring, last Friday.
Today is the last Friday before the Passion of Christ, before Holy Week. We are about to finish the Season of Lent, these 40 days of walking, of journeying.
Did you receive ashes for Ash Wednesday?
Have any of you give up anything for Lent?
            Have you given anything up? Did you add a discipline?
            At our church we have been reading together the book, 24 Hours That Changed the World, by the Rev. Adam Hamilton. We have spent the last five weeks reading about the journey from the Last Supper to the cross. We have been purposeful in slowing down, in walking these steps that Jesus walked. We have watched videos that have taken us to Jerusalem.
            Here is a map that shows Jerusalem and that also shows Bethany, where Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus lived.
As we enter Holy Week, as we leave the season of Lent, it is important for us to remember what the steps of Jesus were even before he began his Passion, during those days before the first Holy Week.
He had set in motion and how the Jewish religious leaders had set in motion powerful forces to defeat and to kill Jesus. He had chosen to make his biggest miracle right under the noses of the Jewish leaders.
Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead in Bethany, as it written in John 11.
John 11:41 Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen,and a cloth around his face.
This is foreshadowing Christ’s own cloth on his face and body after he was crucified
These things were known in Jerusalem, just a few miles away, because we read in the next verse that the plot to kill Jesus was hatched at this time.
John 11:47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”
After this Jesus had to go into hiding until it was time for his entry into Jerusalem for the Passover, which starts this Sunday…
John 11:55 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover.56 They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple courts they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the festival at all?” 
57 But the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who found out where Jesus was should report it so that they might arrest him.
The trap had been planted; but now the time had come.
On the day before Palm Sunday, we read in John 12, of the extravagant love in the anointing of Jesus’ feet by Lazarus’ sister Mary. She broke open the bottle of nard, the precious oil and had washed his feet with her own hair.
His time had come to enter the City of David. To show the leaders of the people the depth of God’s love.
The home of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha in Bethany (on the right of the map) was just beyond the Mount of Olives, where the reverent Jewish dead were buried, all waiting for the coming Messiah and for the Final Judgment.
This Mount of Olives was where Jesus would go to on the night of Maundy Thursday to pray in the garden of Gethsemane, and this is the same road Christ would walk, this time in chains, being taken to be tried before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin, the Jewish court.
We are about to enter Holy Week, a week like no other, starting with Palm Sunday and ending with Easter morning. A week filled with joy, with sorrow, with darkness and with glorious light. A powerful way to end the journey of Lent, these days of slowing down our steps, to walk with Jesus.
Two days from now we will celebrate the moment when Jesus entered the city of David, Jerusalem, triumphant, as a king, the promised Messiah of His people.
Each of scripture captured this joyful moment,

Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as King

John 12:12 The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[e]
“Blessed is the king of Israel!”
and continuing Matthew 21 
39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said,“If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”
            Wow, Amen, the Son of the God, the Messiah, had entered Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, to redeem God’s chosen people. What a moment that was. But what sadness in these words of Jesus, on the fate of Jerusalem and on the Jewish people, on what was to come…
This was one end of the week, the start of Holy Week, when Christ was hailed as king of the Jews, the promised Messiah, the Holy One of God, when the palm branches were waved, when shouts of “Hosanna!” filled the air. Joy was on the lips of God’s people.
            But within six days,  Judas has betrayed Him, Peter has denied Him, the other disciples have all run away, the Sanhedrin, at the insistence of the Chief Priest Caiaphas, have convicted God of blasphemy by claiming to be God.
The religious leaders could not see what the common people had seen. The priests and the Levites could not believe the signs of Christ’s power, of His healing, His miracles. They who read the scriptures and interpreted Jewish Law could not see how Jesus was the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.
            And now, after this corrupt trial, they brought Jesus to Pilate to be crucified. God’s chosen people were handing God over to the pagans to be killed, to kill the innocent lamb, their long foretold Messiah. How did we go from “Hosanna!” to this!?!
            This is how the Gospel of Mark, in Mark 15 tells what happened next …
Mark 15:1 Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, made their plans. So they bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.
But he found Jesus innocent of a capital offense.
Pilate wanted to set Jesus free, but he gave in to the crowd.
12 “What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.
13 “Crucify him!” they shouted.
14 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
            How did we go from the joyful cries of “Hosanna! on Sunday and the angry shouts of “Crucify Him!” on Friday?
How did we lose sight of what Christ was? And yes, I am saying we, because we are like Peter who tried and failed to be faithful. We are like Judas who betray Jesus. We lose our focus on Jesus, we wander from his teaching.
We are part of the them that Jesus is praying for on the cross, when he said, as captured in Luke 23:43, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

            But that wasn’t then end, thank God. That wasn’t the end of the story. After dying a horrible death on the cross, he rose from the grave, on Easter morning, he appears to Mary, to Peter, to Cleopas and the unnamed disciple on the road to Emmaus and he appeared to the gathered disciples on Easter evening in the upper room.
            The week that began with such promise, that started in Bethany, in the walk down the Mount of Olives, that began with the shouts of “Hosanna! didn’t end with the cries to “Crucify” our Lord.
This week of joy and sorrow ended in triumph, with the shouts, “He’s Alive!” Our Savior was risen, Christ was risen indeed!
What a Week
John 11
John 12
Matthew 21
Mark 15
Luke 23
Opening Prayer
Message, “What a Week!” (as drafted before the service)
Message, “What a Week!” (more like as preached)

Closing Prayer
Stetson Memorial United Methodist Church
Fourth Friday of the month service at Mt. Heights Health Care Facility
worship led by Raymond A. Foss
March 27, 2015

All of my poems are copyrighted by Raymond A. Foss, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015. All rights reserved. Contact me at Ray Foss for usage. See all 36,770+ of my poems at Poetry Where You Live.

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