Sunday, April 05, 2020

Sermon for 4/5/2020: Palmarum, the Sunday of the Passion

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Blood and Innocence
Mark 27:11-54

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

There are two reactions to Jesus being sent to death. The first reaction is that of Pontius Pilate. He washed his hands and said, “I am innocent of the blood of this just person.” It's not my fault. Caesar told him to keep the peace. So he made a grand show of washing his hands and pretending he couldn't do anything to keep an innocent man from getting nailed to a cross. Sound familiar? “It's not my fault. Christ’s death wasn't caused by my sins. Well, maybe a little bit, but I’m not as bad as everyone else!” No, Pilate doesn’t get off the hook like that, and neither do you. You are responsible for sending Jesus to the cross. It was for your sins that He suffered and died. You can't say that the harsh words you said to someone aren't your fault. You can't get away with saying, “They did it first.” There is no claiming, “I'm not to blame,” or, “I have an excuse.” You sin against God and your neighbor all the time, and it is because of your sins that God in flesh is nailed to the tree. You don't get a pass just because your sins make you nervous.
The other reaction is that of the Jews. “His blood be on us and on our children!” They so hate and despise Jesus that they don't care if they are judged for killing God Himself. They hate God in the flesh so much that they want Him dead, and they'll gladly take the blame so long as it gets done. Pilate's answer is to claim innocence. The Jews' answer is to disregard sin. Even if they know it's wrong, they'll do it anyway. And that's your reaction too. “I know what I'm about to do is wrong, but I'm going to do it anyway. What matters now is what I want to do. I don't care if my sins killed Jesus. You can't tell me what to do!” How did that work for those called Christ’s blood upon themselves? Forty years later, the city of Jerusalem was leveled by the Romans and the inhabitants were slaughtered. How will it end for you if you disregard your sin?
Pontius Pilate and the Jews show us pictures of ourselves and how we react to the suffering and death of Jesus. And yet, what Pilate and the Jews say is true! Jesus goes to suffering and death to take away your sins. When Pilate says that He is innocent of this man's blood, by the grace of God, He really is! And when the Jews say that His blood should be on their heads, by the grace of God, it really is. And because He shed His blood for you, you are innocent of His death. God doesn't count your sins any longer as your own; they have become Christ’s sins. You are innocent, and He is made guilty. His blood is on your head. It has been sprinkled upon your head in the waters of Holy Baptism. The blood brings you forgiveness which is preached into your ears and even given you to drink in the Sacrament.
For those who no longer desire to claim innocence or disregard their sin, the waters of Holy Baptism join you to the death of Jesus, a death that is caused by your sins. But even as Jesus rose from the dead, you rise from those waters of Baptism to new life in Christ, a washing that takes those sins away. They are no more. Understand this, dear brothers and sisters in Christ: it was your sins that sent Jesus to Calvary. But when He hung upon that cross, those sins were no longer your sins; they became His sin. And now, cleansed by the water and the blood which flowed from His pierced body, you have everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness. It's not that you have gotten away with your sins, and it’s not as if your sins are not important. But your sins were taken away by your Savior. He took those sins upon Himself. He bore them the cross. He paid the wages you have earned with those sins. His blood is upon you by grace, and by His blood He has made you innocent. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.        

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.   

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