18 February 2018 – Were there in the Shouting Crowd

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Rev’d Jonathan Gale

The sudden collapse of the Jesus cause between the triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to the killing of Jesus as a common criminal was staggering.

The Jews who followed Jesus must surely have recalled David’s words at the death of Saul and Jonathan:

25 O how the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle! (2 Samuel 1: 25a)

Jesus arrives as a king in fulfilment of the prophecy of Zechariah and within a week his disciples have literally run away, their leader has denied that he knows Jesus, and he finds himself at the mercy of the Jewish authorities who are strong-arming the Roman Governor into crucifying him.

The shepherd is struck and the flock is scattered. The disciples must have been in shock and feeling very vulnerable indeed as all they had hoped for disappears and the very person in whom that hope had been placed, appears to be on the point of a violent death.

22Pilate said to them, ‘Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?’* All of them said, ‘Let him be crucified!’ 23Then he asked, ‘Why, what evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Let him be crucified!’

What would you have done, had you found yourself in the midst of a murderous mob that was egged on by the religious authorities and your Lord was about to be killed?

Would you have spoken up for him, or would you have been silent, as all the disciples were?

Pilate then washes his hands of the matter. 25Then the people as a whole answered, ‘His blood be on us and on our children!’ 26So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

One by one, the people supporting Jesus fade into the background until Pilate (the representative of the law) does so too.

Would you have washed your hands of Jesus in those circumstances? Would you have handed him over to be crucified? Where would you have been when the multi-thonged whip (edged with sharpened bone fragments) lashed into Jesus, again and again?

27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters,* and they gathered the whole cohort around him. 28They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ 30They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head.

“I would never have struck Jesus!” you may say. But what would you have done? Would you simply have watched, or would you have protected yourself and  slunk off?

31After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

“I would never have crucified Jesus!” you say. Perhaps you wouldn’t, but the writer to the Hebrews says those believers who turn their backs on following God,  have fallen away, since on their own they are crucifying again the Son of God and are holding him up to contempt.

If in becoming spiritually lax we are crucifying Jesus again, do we really know how we would have behaved at the time?

Crowning Jesus with thorns and mocking him as though he were a king when he was indeed the king, reveals the essence of the human condition that refuses God.

And if contempt is such an awful thing (and when one thinks of it what could be worse than contempt for God?) how is it that we exhibit contempt for God in our lives today?

  • Is it in failing to make the time to listen to God in prayer?
  • Is it is failing to soak up God’s word as our staple diet?
  • Is it is failing to meet together regularly to honour him?
  • Is it in failing to deal with others with compassion?

How are we contemptuous of God?

But here’s the thing (as Bishop Jim is fond of saying), Jesus was mocked and abused for our salvation. He has purchased us, redeemed us. We are his. In belonging to God, how do we conduct our lives?

Let’s begin Lent by being honest with ourselves and with God.

Let us pray.

31After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

Were you there in the shouting crowd? If we’re honest we all are.

Lord Jesus you suffered agony for us. We can never understand such love. Forgive us

  • where we take you for granted,
  • where we mock you by ignoring your wishes (pretending you are a king and then treating you as though you were not there),
  • where we fall way,
  • hold you in contempt and
  • crucify you all over again. Forgive us, Lord!

We thank you for

  • your restorative grace,
  • your unstoppable love,
  • your gentle embrace.

We owe you our very selves. May our lives crown you, not with thorns, but with the worship that is your due.


Readings for today:

  • Isaiah 50: 4 – 10
  • Psalm 25: 1 – 10
  • Matthew 27: 15 – 31