Sermon for Sunday, April 9, 2017 || Palm/Passion Sunday, Year A || Matthew 22:1-11; Matthew 26:36 – 27:56
As we move in our service from the humble triumph of Jesus’ festive entry into Jerusalem towards his arrest, trial, and crucifixion, there is one question on my mind. It is the question asked at the end of the Palm Sunday Gospel reading. “When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, ‘Who is this?’”
Who is this Jesus?
At the end of today’s service, we will read the Passion Gospel; that is, the story of Jesus’ arrest, trial, suffering, and crucifixion. It is a story that is at once beautiful and heartbreaking, and I cannot read it without being moved. Indeed, it makes me tremble, tremble, tremble, as the old spiritual says. Today, as we hear this powerful story of our Lord’s unbreakable love for us and for all creation, I invite you to listen to how Matthew’s telling answers the question asked in today’s first Gospel story: “Who is this?” Continue reading “Who is this Jesus?”→
Imagine with me the thoughts of the disciple Judas Iscariot, after he has left the Last Supper while he is on the way to the police. You may wish to click here and read John 13:1-30 before reading the following.
I let him wash my feet. I knew what I was going to do, and I still let him wash my feet. I could feel the gentle pressure of his hands through the coarse towel as he dried them. God. Gentle pressure: it’s always gentle pressure with him. He touched the dirtiest part of me, and there was no recoil, no disgust. And all the while, I had this strange sense in my gut that he knew what I was getting ready to do. Even though I had decided to go to the police and let them know where they could find him, I still let him wash my feet. I let him serve me, but there was no earthly reason why he should, for I am on my way to betray him.
Betray him. It sounds so ugly when I say it like that. I’m not betraying him: I’m saving myself, saving all of those lazy hangers-on who don’t realize how much trouble he’s getting us into. Peter, who can’t keep his big mouth shut. Thomas, who says he’s ready to die with him, which I doubt. Andrew, Philip, Nathanael, the rest. They have no idea what’s really going on. I’m the only one that sees clearly. I’m giving them the opportunity to escape with their lives. Once he’s out of the picture, the police and authorities will forget all about the rest of us. I’ll be off the government’s most wanted list. I’ll be able to slip back into obscurity. No one will remember my name, and that’s just fine with me.
Will people remember his name after all this is through? He’s just another in a long line of disposable saviors. God. How did I let myself get caught up in all of this? I’m the smart one. I’m the planner. I see into the way of things. And still, he called my name and I followed. I feel so foolish. Foolish and angry. I’ve been angry for so long that I can hardly remember the last time I was at peace. Last week in Bethany, I yelled at Mary for being wasteful with her money, but I would’ve yelled at anyone who gave me an excuse. Why do I feel like this?
I’ve always sensed that I’m different somehow from the rest of them, that I’m on the outside of the group. Last year, he said one of us was a devil, and I’m sure he was talking about me. He didn’t say it outright, but I remember him looking at everyone but me. He always seems to hold me at arms length. I never feel close to him. Until tonight. Until he washed my feet tonight. Until he handed me that piece of bread tonight.
I had to get out of there. I felt this sudden surge of anger in my chest, a feeling of such malevolence, stronger and more foreign than I had ever felt before. He handed me that piece of bread. He handed me himself. God. At that moment, we had our closest connection ever and I understood most perfectly my place in all of this.
I’ve been so angry for so long because his words mean something different for me than for everyone else. I’m the exception. I’m the one who doesn’t count in the total. And he chose me! He chose me for this assignment. He knew all along. I’m not betraying him, no matter what people will say. I’m doing exactly what he wants me to do. I’m his most faithful follower. So why am I shut out? Why am I alone in the darkness?
He chose well. He knew I have the foresight and the stomach to see this through. I could go back. I could forsake the path I’m on. But that – that would be a betrayal. He handed me himself. He is in my hands. And I have to make those hands bloody. Now my anger is my ally. It steels me for the task ahead. As long as I keep seething with this foreign hatred I’ll be able to accomplish what he sent me to do. He told me to do it quickly. Perhaps he thought that I would change my mind if I dwelt on this task too long. But I will not. I will not. I will not. I will keep walking away from him, walking toward his end, walking with clean feet becoming dirtier with each step.