Sermon for Lent Midweek 4

Sermon for Lent Midweek 4

(Transcribed by machine 04/07/2024)

Grace, mercy, and peace from God, our Father and His Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Amen.
The drama that is before us this evening is a debate which can be described as a formal
discussion on a particular topic in a public assembly for all to hear the opposing arguments
as they are presented.
The focus of this particular debate was, who is Jesus and what has he done?
Some would call this exchange of words, the sentencing phase of the previous trials that
now are before the high court, who has the authority to agree or the authority to disagree
Agree with the lower courts, should Jesus be put to death or not, based on the evidence
that is presented.
It seems like everybody in this drama involved, they have a designated plan as they gather
outside the Praetorium.
This facility we see King Herod’s design and desire to pacify both Rome and the Jews as
he is rebuilding and expanding the temple complex in Jerusalem.
The Praetorium is a building that contains a courtyard, meeting rooms, a judgment hall,
pilot living quarters, and a barrack for a large number of Roman soldiers.
And this structure is built right into the outer walls of the temple complex.
In other words, Rome will always have an eye inside Israel’s most important site
where large numbers of Jews periodically will gather together. Bound as a criminal
en route to Pilate, Jesus had just experienced two quick trials in the
darkness of the early morning. The first was before Annas, who was once the high
priest even though he was removed he still remained one of the nation’s most
influential people within all of the Jewish circles secondly he was tried
before Caiaphas the present high priest and the son-in-law of Annas Jesus’s
crime was that when he was asked are you then the Son of God he affirmed it by
saying, you rightly say that I am. Blasphemy, they cried out, blasphemy. And
the overwhelming majority voiced that he should be condemned to death. Now Pilate
comes out to the crowd as both sides begin with generalities. What accusations
do you bring against this man, Pilate asked.
And their response was, he’s an evildoer,
but don’t cut Pilate short
in his understanding of this situation.
He’s the overseer of a country on behalf of Rome
and he is in charge to know everything about everyone
in order to protect Rome’s assets and to maintain peace.
peace, and he has the resources and the history to prove it.
Scripture doesn’t tell us, but he probably had spies all over Israel, so he knew all
about this man called Jesus and his behaviors.
So with his declaration, judge him according to your law, he was attempting to brush off
the Jewish leaders, but they weren’t going to go away that easy.
Because their response was, we can’t put him to death.
You have to do it according to your law.
Then they began to fill the air with all sorts of lies, except one.
He claimed to be the Christ in King.
Did you notice how many times in the reading that you have heard the word
this man, king, in truth? Now at the next level there’s this exchange between
Pilate and Jesus. It came down to Pilate asking the same question twice. Are you a
king? Jesus answered, my kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this
world my servants would fight so that I should not be delivered to the Jews but
now my kingdom is not from here and he also said you say rightly that I am a
king for this cause I was born and for this cause I came into the world that I
should bear witness to the truth and everyone who is of the truth hears my
voice. This time, the chief priest and the crowd, as Pilate stands before them, he’s
firm this time when he says, I find no fault in this man. The leaders then
elevated their own rhetoric. He stirs up the people, and it was a truth. Yes, he
stirs them up with his teaching, his preaching, his miracles, and they were
being drawn unto him and he was impacting their lives. Even after shipping
Jesus off to Herod, he believed he resolved his problem until he saw Jesus
being escorted back to him with no charges from Herod. Pilate tried
reasoning. I have examined him. I have found no fault in this man but for you I
will beat him.” Pilate tried manipulation in fulfilling the custom of releasing
one prisoner on Passover for the Jews each year. He would put the extreme
opposite from this innocent man. An insurrectionist called Barabbas, he knows
that the crowd will not like him. Because of the murderous zeal like people like
Like him, Rome would usually retaliate by killing a lot of innocent people.
For sure, the crowd will pick to release this man called Jesus who advocates for peace and
seeks love.
But it backfired on him.
When the options were presented, he hears, away with this man and release to us Barabbas.
Pilate told them that he was going to release Jesus anyway. But without any
rebuttal, the crowd shouted, crucify him, crucify him. Why? What evil has he done?
Pilate demanded. I find no reason for death in him. I will therefore have him
beaten and then let him go. The crowd also responded with their own demand that
Jesus be crucified. With all the noise, Pilate retreated back inside and he
handed Jesus over to the Roman soldiers to have their way with him. Pilate
thought he could pacify them, those priests, those scribes in the crowd. So
Pilate goes out again to the crowd says behold I am bringing him out to you that
you may know that I find no fault in him there he was wearing a crown of thorns
draped in a purple robe and badly beaten I probably waved his hand toward Jesus
as he was pointing to him and says,
Behold the man.
In other words, look at him.
Look at him.
You think Rome should be afraid of him?
You think you should be concerned about him
and his claim about being king over you?
This man Jesus is nothing.
Nothing at all.
Leave him alone.
The response that Jesus heard with his own ears, crucify him, crucify him.
His own did not know him.
In this debate, neither side truly cared about the truth.
Jesus had left the evidence over the last three years all across Israel.
There were witnesses everywhere.
People sat at His feet to hear Him teach about the things of God.
People heard Him preach about God’s love and God’s plan to usher in salvation.
There were countless people along the highways and the byways of Israel that had been healed
by Jesus. Sicknesses and diseases had been removed from their bodies. Their
deformities had been made right. A large crowd along the seashore witnessed
fishermen at his command against the all odds and the knowledge of their trade
pull their nets full of fish enough to fill two boats. His own hometown sat in
the synagogue and heard him affirm, claim, according to the prophecy, that he is the
promised Messiah.
Demons had been possessing and tormenting people, and by his word, they were cast out.
People were restored.
Even death, even death had no power against him and his word.
Just a week earlier, across the Kidron Valley on the other side of the mountain, the presence
of a crowd accompanying Mary and Martha, Jesus spoke,
Lazarus, come out, come forth. After three days without life in him, Lazarus walked
out of the tomb alive. Evidence is everywhere. The Jews had the holy
scriptures that were given to them by God through his inspired writers,
in them were all the prophecies that foretold of the coming Messiah and all
the things that he would say and all the things that he would do. Did they review
their list and did they put check marks to verify? Did Pilate recall all the
things his spies had said about this man’s words and actions? He was different.
He was not just the regular guy. This debate was really not about who Jesus is
or what Jesus has done. It was about self. It was about control. Pilate didn’t like
the Jews and did not want them to have power over him telling him what to do.
Likewise, the Jews did not like Pilate and did not want him to have power over them and
to tell them what to do.
The Jews did not like Jesus’ version of the kingship and his description of his kingdom
because it did not match their version of the Messiah and their roles and their rules
in his governance.
So, for the sake of self-preservation and for their continued position of control, their
plan was to kick it into high drive, overdrive, and to deal with the situation by having Jesus
killed.
Pilate was no different.
I have always wondered, did Pilate really care about Jesus, or was he just concerned
about the reactions of the mass of people across Israel when this man of peace who has
done nothing but good is crucified?
Is Jesus just a disruptor in his life, a problem to him?
He too was more concerned about self-preservation and control because Rome would not look favorably
upon him if riots broke out across his region of authority.
So, he was trying to work his plan.
Is this not a temptation that we face each and every day?
Are we blessed to have Jesus in our lives with all his benefits and blessings?
The evidence is all around us as we look at God’s creation.
The evidence has been revealed to us in God’s revealed word of truth through his providence.
It has been passed down from generation to generation to us.
We see where mankind has failed, and we see where this man Jesus in our readings this
evening is faithful.
Then the pressure of our sinful flesh, with the sin-filled world’s enticements and the
whispering of the devil in our ears, then we start to think and we start to act, it’s
all about me.
I’m in control. No one’s going to tell me what I can do and what I cannot do, even
God in His Word. And we find ourselves in the same ditch like the Jews with Pilate’s
avoidance. Crucify him. Crucify him. Instead of releasing an innocent man,
Pilate said, you take him and you crucify him for I find no fault in him. In other
words, your people can be mad at you and not at me for killing this man. Pilate
was constantly adjusting his plan in this debate. Then the Jews threw him a
curveball by saying, we have a law and according to our law he ought to die
because he made himself the Son of God. So the issue is not about what Jesus has
done, but it is about his state of being. Who is Jesus? So he brings Jesus back
into the praetorium to question him, but Jesus gave him no answer. And I can
imagine that through this whole episode that Jesus was now on Pilate’s last
nerve when he said, are you not speaking to me?
Do you not know that I have the power to crucify you?
I have the power to release you?
Pilate was telling Jesus, I myself have the sole authority in this situation.
And I have all the power to determine your future.
This entire time of this debate, everyone had been working their plans, trying to outwit
their opponents.
But now Jesus sets Pilate straight in this matter when he says, you could have no power
at all against me unless it had been given to you from above.
Therefore, the one who delivered me to you has the greater sin.” In other words,
Pilate, you have sinned against God in thought, word, and deed, and all that you
have heard about Jesus’ preaching and teaching and miracles is true. Jesus was
in harmony with his Father as they joined with the Holy Spirit to work out
their plan. Ultimately, God has the power. He is the one in control. It is his plan
to provide the way of salvation and that being the perfect sacrifice in place for
the imperfect people. To pay the price for the sins of the world and the cost
will be to give up his own life in their stead. Jesus knew where he would be
spending most of this day nailed to a cross.
This was his plan, and it was to save you.
Out of options, Pilate goes out to the crowd
to the judgment seat.
Behold your king.
Do you notice that Pilate rejects Jesus
because he does not say, behold our king?
From the different perspective,
the Jews also rejected Jesus as they cried out,
away with him, crucify him like Pilate. Their desire to separate themselves from
Jesus was so great that when asked, shall I crucify your king, their loyalty
shifted to the one that they had hated and had hoped that their Messiah would
one day throw off Israel. Caesar himself as their king, that self-declared
God a true blasphemer. In all of this chaos and all of this rejection, Jesus
stayed focused on the goal of his mission for coming into this world. He
knew that at the end of the day, his lifeless body would be lying in a tomb
and it would be there for three days. Even though he was all-powerful, Jesus
is submitted to being that instrument through which sin,
eternal death, and the power of the devil
would be defeated once and for all,
and he would win the forgiveness of sin,
salvation, and eternal life,
as well as the means to distribute these gifts
in the waters of holy baptism.
You have been washed.
You have been washed in the blood of the Lamb
and rescued from death and damnation
and adopted into God’s family.
In the sacrament of the altar,
you will receive Christ’s body and Christ’s blood
for the forgiveness of your sins
and the strengthening of your faith.
By God’s grace, by God’s grace,
you know who Jesus is and you know what he has done,
what he is doing and what he will do for you.
This Lenten season, we reflect on God’s love for us
and while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Thanks be to God.
The peace which passes all understanding,
keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
Amen.