Note: This series is based on the 1970 rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, by Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice.
This Sunday is the final week before Good Friday and Easter. Commonly – and even noted in the Revised Common Lectionary – this Sunday can either be experienced as Palm Sunday (the celebration of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, which we did a few weeks ago) or Passion Sunday (exploring the betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion of Jesus).
We may experience this as a service of somber reflection on the cruelty of humanity, and I don’t believe that would be unwarranted. Indeed, an important part of the season of Lent is authentic reflection on our spirituality and how we live out our faith, an acknowledgement of our temptations, and an intentional centering in our faith in our Creator and God – just as Jesus did in the wilderness.
This week, we enter into the final week of Lent, and so so exploring the Gospel story at its darkest point. We begin Holy Week with our most difficult readings. But let us not do so without hope. Easter comes…
Luke 23:7-11 (CEB)
7When he learned that Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.
8When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform a sign of some sort. 9He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him. 11Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate.
Consider these questions:
- Many Christians hold the crucifixion of Jesus as the most important theological part of his ministry. What do you think?
- How do you view the arrest and trial and crucifixion? What emotions are evoked when you read these scriptures? What happens in your spirit?
- Part of the cruelty of the “trials” is the way Jesus is mocked and ridiculed. We might connect this in our minds to last week’s questions about humanization and de-humanization. Are there ways that we mock and/or ridicule others in today’s culture that are worth re-examining? How do these stories about Jesus’ experience inform this re-examination?
Post-Worship Update on 4/16
Audio from the sermon can be heard below, and video can be found at this link (will open in a new tab).
Sunday’s message was one that included the confession of how difficult it is to sit in the space of Holy Week when the urge may be to jump directly to the Easter celebration. Yet in doing so, our common thread was this question: what do we learn from the cross of Jesus?
In the Passion narrative, we see two trials. One is Peter on trial by those who accused him of being an associate of Jesus, and the other is Jesus on trial before the religious and political authorities. Their reactions to being on trial is striking. In Peter’s attempt to save his own life, he loses himself. And in Jesus’ willingness to lose his life, he redeems us all. So, what do we learn from the cross of Jesus?
The word Passion comes from the Greek word paschō, which means to be done to. It is the opposite of the greek word poieō, which means “to do.” We may understand that we sometimes take action in the world and that sometimes the world happens to us. But this may inform our question: what do we learn from the cross?
German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) may offer us guidance. On the night that institutional violence was publicly revealed by the Nazi government on Jewish homes, businesses, and synagogues – a night known as Krystallnacht – Bonhoeffer read from Psalm 74. In its margin he wrote, “How long, O God, shall I be a bystander?” [quoted in Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 2, pg. 181]
Perhaps what we learn is that the cross, our faith, our God, will not allow us to be bystanders.
Consider these questions:
- What importance does Holy Week have for you? Do you have any meaningful practices for this time? What did you do for Holy Week in your family origin? Has this changed?
- How have you felt “put on trial” for your faith? Do you feel able to proclaim your faith and/or spirituality openly? Are you able to do so comfortably? If so, how does this feed your spirit and your self? If not, what is preventing you?
- How does Bonhoeffer’s quote about being a bystander inform your understanding of the cross? Does it change anything? Does it add to or take away from a previous understanding? Will you think or do anything different? Why or why not?