LENT MIDWEEK 3  ++  St. Paul’s, Falls Church  ++  March 6. 2013  (Passion Part II)

This third passion reading shines all its light on the innocence of the Lamb.  It underscores the lies told against Him and reminds us that the near unanimous verdict was the one the Jewish leaders decided beforehand, “It is better for us to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed (Jn 11.50).”  Through all their questions and abuse, the “Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world” was silent.  Isaiah foresaw it, “Like a  lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth (Is 53.7).”  His silence declares His passion – “No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord…..and I will take it up again (Jn 10.18).

His silence so frustrated the High Priest, that he finally demanded of Jesus: “Are you the Christ?”  From the moment the angels sang at Bethlehem, we who have followed Him have known Him as the Christ.   In every miracle we saw yet another sign.   The crowds of Jerusalem hailed Him with their Hosannas.    And now He declares it to Israel’s rulers:  “Are you the Christ?  I am, and one day you will see this Christ, triumphant and riding the clouds of heaven.”

So will you – see Him on the clouds.  On that coming day of the Father’s choosing.  But in the palace of the High Priest almost no one knew Him.  In fact they hear His great confession as  blasphemy.  The High Priest tore his robes: “What further need do we have for witnesses.”  Thus he deftly side-steps the fact that they have only false and conflicted witnesses.

In John’s Gospel, the entire time Jesus was on trial in the inner court of the High Priest’s house, Peter was outside, waiting with the servants by the fire.  John interspersed Peter’s opportunities to repeat His good confession at Caesarea Philippi as each of the charges were piled up aggainst Jesus.  One day Peter had declared for them all, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  But on this awful night, not once, and not even just twice, but three times, Peter denied Jesus as witness after witness falsely accused Jesus.  Isaiah saw that too, “He was as one from whom others hide their faces, he was despise and we held him of no account (53.3).”

They are intertwined –  these 2 stories……….the religious leaders heaping false judgment on Jesus and the only disciple with a speaking part denying Him.  So Jesus will arrive before the Roman Governor on Friday morning utterly alone.   Cut off from all the people.

From the beginning of His public ministry all of this was foretold.   John said it before His baptism.

“Look, there is God’s Lamb, Who takes all sin away.”  Linking Him to the innocent victim whose blood stayed death’s hand and opened the way to the Promised Land.   John underscores it:  only in John does Jesus hang on death’s tree as the Lambs for Passover were being slaughtered.   Though they should have known,  in the moment that mattered, Israel chose to know no king but Caesar.

This is God’s time, the fullness of His time, and the Lamb went obediently where the Father sent Him.  He redeemed us, Luther says, “Not with gold or silver, but with innocent suffering and death.”

One final thought:  I don’t think any Christian can read Jesus’ trial story without crying out for someone to take His side, for someone to shout, “He is innocent.”  But even my sins join with the high priests, and with the shouts of the crowd, because my sins require death just as much.  The whole point of this journey is to face that.  And learn anew to truly lament them, and leave them with Jesus.  Only He and only this takes away the sins of the whole world.  Behold the Lamb of God.!


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