1 TRULY THIS MAN WAS GOD S SON Palm / Passion Sunday (Year B) March 29, 2015 Lessons Isaiah 50:4-9a Psalm 31:9-16 Philippians 2:5-11 St. Mark 14:1-15:47 (or St. Mark 15:1-39 [40-47]) Processional Gospel St. Mark 11:1-11 (or St. John 12:12-16) Pastor David J. Risendal facebook Dave Risendal Twitter: drisendal Saint Peter Lutheran Church 9300 East Belleview Avenue Greenwood Village, CO / facebook.com/stplc Prayer of the Day Sovereign God, you have established your rule in the human heart through the servanthood of Jesus Christ. By your Spirit, keep us in the joyful procession of those who with their tongues confess Jesus as Lord and with their lives praise him as Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. a soldier s insight truly this man was God s son salvation beheld Sermon My usual practice at this point in the service is to stand behind the pulpit and read a lesson from one of the Gospels, in preparation for my sermon. But today s Gospel reading is a bit different than what we usually read on a Sunday morning. Rather than focusing on this particular day in the liturgical church year, it carries us forward to the events that will take place on Good Friday. It is a Gospel lesson which intends to prepare us for the week ahead of us a week of walking with Jesus through his passion and death. Not only that, this is an exceptionally long Gospel reading: forty-seven verses from St. Mark s Passion Account. That makes preaching a sermon in response to it a bit problematic. I usually try to boil the Gospel lesson down to one or two main points, and then develop a sermon around them. But this lesson is so long, with so many scenes and characters and exchanges and twists and turns, that I couldn t do it justice with a dozen sermons. So this week I am going to do something a bit different. My sermon will precede the reading of the Gospel, and my goal is to give you a fresh perspective from which to
2 Palm / Passion Sunday Year B (March 29, 2015) 2 consider this long, powerful reading. Given that introduction, let s begin: "Grace to you 1 and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ." Amen. As we prepare ourselves to consider this Gospel reading St. Mark s version of Good Friday, the day of Christ s crucifixion I want to draw your attention to one particular character. It is the centurion: the Roman soldier who looked on as Jesus died, and declared: Truly this man was God s Son! We know a good deal about centurions from history. They were professional soldiers, employed by the Roman Empire. The Imperial Roman Army was divided into legions. Each legion had about 5,000 men. The legions were divided up into cohorts. Each cohort had about 500 men. And each cohort was divided into centuries. Each century had 80 to 100 men. The centuries were led, of course, by centurions, and there were usually six centurions in a cohort. You might think, since Judah had basically become a vassal state of Rome, that people of faith would have a pretty dim view of centurions. But in the New Testament, the exact opposite was true. Centurions were admired respected by people of faith and by those who wrote the New Testament. This is true, in part, because Rome tended to recruit the best and brightest to hold this office. They had a great deal of responsibility, and many people depended on them. (Besides, they drew a fairly decent salary...) So centurions tended to be men who were honorable, dedicated, courageous, respected, and dependable. The kind of people we prefer to have involved in religious communities, right? It is a centurion who speaks at the end of the story, but that isn't the first time the centurion appears in this Gospel. As the text begins, the religious authorities turn Jesus over to Pilate, the Roman governor in Jerusalem. Pilate questions Jesus, and at the insistence of the crowd, turns him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified. At this point we see something very interesting; something I hadn't noticed before this year (and I've been studying these passages for thirty years...). The soldiers bring Jesus out into the governor's courtyard, and they call together the whole cohort. Remember, this is somewhere in the neighborhood of 480 to 500 men, including six centurions. Can you imagine this? 500 Roman soldiers - the whole cohort - crowded into the courtyard. It must have felt like the Roman Coliseum. As the soldiers mock and torture Jesus, there is this great crowd of other soldiers cheering, jeering, hooting and hollering, slapping each other on the back... I had always pictured this scene in a much different way. I had this image of ten, maybe twenty men, gathered in a circle around Jesus, each playing a role in his suffering. That was bad enough. But Mark paints the picture of Jesus being stripped naked, beaten and ridiculed, all the while surrounded by this huge, threatening assembly of men. It is a horrific scene, and one that makes Jesus seem even more vulnerable. 1 Romans 1:7, 1 st Corinthians 1:3, 2 nd Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians 1:2, Colossians 1:2, 1 st Thessalonians 1:1, 2 nd Thessalonians 1:2, Philemon 3; New Revised Version Bible ( 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America).
3 Palm / Passion Sunday Year B (March 29, 2015) 3 Among this assembly of combatants were six centurions. They may have been looking on with a smirk as this humble rabbi is kicked around. But they were also watching their men, measuring the temperature of the crowd, making certain that the proceedings didn't spiral out of control. This was their responsibility. They were always on duty. Always attentive to the whole situation. Always responsible for the actions of their men. Always mindful of how everything would play back home in Rome. At the end of this episode, one of these six centurions assembled a detail of men and led Jesus up the hill to Golgotha, where they hung him on a cross and watched as he died. It was 9:00 in the morning when they lifted him up onto the cross, and 3:00 in the afternoon when he took his last breath. For six hours the centurion stood his post with the others. Watching passers-by hurl insults at Jesus. Listening as the religious leaders mocked him. But also watching Jesus. Watching him deal compassionately with the criminal hanging next to him. Watching him ask St. John to care for his mother after he is gone. Listening to his last words. Words of faithfulness. Words of anguish. Even his prayers to God that these very soldiers, who don't know what they have done, will be forgiven. The centurion takes all of this in, measuring it and evaluating it as he always does. And after six hours of careful, thoughtful attention from the centurion, St. Mark ends the story of Jesus' suffering and death with these words: 39 Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, Truly this man was God s Son! As I read the Gospel lesson now, I'd like you to imagine what this experience must have been like for the centurion. What did he think of Jesus as this story first began? How did he understand the involvement of the religious leaders during this incident? What must he have thought of Pilate's leadership or lack of it? How did the way the other soldiers mistreated Jesus affect his attitude towards him? What did it feel like to be the one leading him up the road, to his death? Did his heart go out to Jesus every time he stumbled or groaned? What was it like to see his last acts, hear his last words, be present in his last moments? How does he change from being a bystander as Jesus was tortured, to being among the first to declare him as God's son? Centurions observed crucifixions time and time again during their service, but this one changed him. It wasn't just another day at the office. It caused him to be aware that something much greater was at stake on Golgotha that day. Nothing less than the death of God's own son. So close your eyes if it helps. Imagine yourself in the Governor's courtyard, at the side of this centurion, as the story begins. If you'd like to follow along, you will find the text on page (5 [8:00]; 4 [10:45]) of your worship folder. David J. Risendal, Pastor Gospel Lesson; English Text 2 15:1 As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. 2 Pilate asked him, Are you the King of the Jews? He answered him, You say so. 3 Then the chief priests accused him of many things. 4 Pilate asked him again, Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you. 5 But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed. 2 A list of Bible lessons for the coming weeks is available at
4 Palm / Passion Sunday Year B (March 29, 2015) 4 6 Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. 7 Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. 8 So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. 9 Then he answered them, Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews? 10 For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. 12 Pilate spoke to them again, Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews? 13 They shouted back, Crucify him! 14 Pilate asked them, Why, what evil has he done? But they shouted all the more, Crucify him! 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified. 16 Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. 17 And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. 18 And they began saluting him, Hail, King of the Jews! 19 They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. 20 After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him. 21 They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. 22 Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). 23 And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take. 25 It was nine o clock in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The inscription of the charge against him read, The King of the Jews. 27 And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. 29 Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come down from the cross! 31 In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe. Those who were crucified with him also taunted him. 33 When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 At three o clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani? which means, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? 35 When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, Listen, he is calling for Elijah. 36 And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down. 37 Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, Truly this man was God s Son! [ 40 There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41 These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem. 42 When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. 45 When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. 46 Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in
5 Palm / Passion Sunday Year B (March 29, 2015) 5 the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid.] 3 Gospel Lesson; Greek Text: 15:1 Καὶ εὐθὺς πρωὶ συµβούλιον ποιήσαντες οἱ ἀρχιερει ς µετὰ τω ν πρεσβυτέρων καὶ γραµµατέων καὶ ὅλον τὸ συνέδριον, δήσαντες τὸν Ἰησου ν ἀπήνεγκαν καὶ παρέδωκαν Πιλάτῳ. 2 Καὶ ἐπηρώτησεν αὐτὸν ὁ Πιλα τος σὺ εἰ ὁ βασιλεὺς τω ν Ἰουδαίων; ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς αὐτῳ λέγει σὺ λέγεις. 3 καὶ κατηγόρουν αὐτου οἱ ἀρχιερει ς πολλά. 4 ὁ δὲ Πιλα τος πάλιν ἐπηρώτα αὐτὸν λέγων οὐκ ἀποκρίνῃ οὐδέν; ἴδε πόσα σου κατηγορου σιν. 5 ὁ δὲ Ἰησου ς οὐκέτι οὐδὲν ἀπεκρίθη, ὥστε θαυµάζειν τὸν Πιλα τον. 6 Κατὰ δὲ ἑορτὴν ἀπέλυεν αὐτοι ς ἕνα δέσµιον ὃν παρῃτου ντο. 7 ἠ ν δὲ ὁ λεγόµενος Βαραββα ς µετὰ τω ν στασιαστω ν δεδεµένος οἵτινες ἐν τῃ στάσει φόνον πεποιήκεισαν. 8 καὶ ἀναβὰς ὁ ὄχλος ἤρξατο αἰτει σθαι καθὼς ἐποίει αὐτοι ς. 9 ὁ δὲ Πιλα τος ἀπεκρίθη αὐτοι ς λέγων θέλετε ἀπολύσω ὑµι ν τὸν βασιλέα τω ν Ἰουδαίων; 10 ἐγίνωσκεν γὰρ ὅτι διὰ φθόνον παραδεδώκεισαν αὐτὸν οἱ ἀρχιερει ς. 11 οἱ δὲ ἀρχιερει ς ἀνέσεισαν τὸν ὄχλον ἵνα µα λλον τὸν Βαραββα ν ἀπολύσῃ αὐτοι ς. 12 ὁ δὲ Πιλα τος πάλιν ἀποκριθεὶς ἔλεγεν αὐτοι ς τί οὐ ν [θέλετε] ποιήσω [ὃν λέγετε] τὸν βασιλέα τω ν Ἰουδαίων; 13 οἱ δὲ πάλιν ἔκραξαν σταύρωσον αὐτόν. 14 ὁ δὲ Πιλα τος ἔλεγεν αὐτοι ς τί γὰρ ἐποίησεν κακόν; οἱ δὲ περισσω ς ἔκραξαν σταύρωσον αὐτόν. 15 Ὁ δὲ Πιλα τος βουλόµενος τῳ ὄχλῳ τὸ ἱκανὸν ποιη σαι ἀπέλυσεν αὐτοι ς τὸν Βαραββα ν, καὶ παρέδωκεν τὸν Ἰησου ν φραγελλώσας ἵνα σταυρωθῃ. 16 Οἱ δὲ στρατιω ται ἀπήγαγον αὐτὸν ἔσω τη ς αὐλη ς, ὅ ἐστιν πραιτώριον, καὶ συγκαλου σιν ὅλην τὴν σπει ραν. 17 καὶ ἐνδιδύσκουσιν αὐτὸν πορφύραν καὶ περιτιθέασιν αὐτῳ πλέξαντες ἀκάνθινον στέφανον 18 καὶ ἤρξαντο ἀσπάζεσθαι αὐτόν χαι ρε, βασιλευ τω ν Ἰουδαίων 19 καὶ ἔτυπτον αὐτου τὴν κεφαλὴν καλάµῳ καὶ ἐνέπτυον αὐτῳ καὶ τιθέντες τὰ γόνατα προσεκύνουν αὐτῳ. 20 καὶ ὅτε ἐνέπαιξαν αὐτῳ, ἐξέδυσαν αὐτὸν τὴν πορφύραν καὶ ἐνέδυσαν αὐτὸν τὰ ἱµάτια αὐτου. Καὶ ἐξάγουσιν αὐτὸν ἵνα σταυρώσωσιν αὐτόν. 21 καὶ ἀγγαρεύουσιν παράγοντα τινα Σίµωνα Κυρηναι ον ἐρχόµενον ἀπʼ ἀγρου, τὸν πατέρα Ἀλεξάνδρου καὶ Ῥούφου, ἵνα ἄρῃ τὸν σταυρὸν αὐτου. 22 Καὶ φέρουσιν αὐτὸν ἐπὶ τὸν Γολγοθα ν τόπον, ὅ ἐστιν µεθερµηνευόµενον Κρανίου Τόπος. 23 καὶ ἐδίδουν αὐτῳ ἐσµυρνισµένον οἰ νον ὃς δὲ οὐκ ἔλαβεν. 24 Καὶ σταυρου σιν αὐτὸν καὶ διαµερίζονται τὰ ἱµάτια αὐτου, βάλλοντες κλη ρον ἐπʼ αὐτὰ τίς τί ἄρῃ. 25 ἠ ν δὲ ὥρα τρίτη καὶ ἐσταύρωσαν αὐτόν. 26 καὶ ἠ ν ἡ ἐπιγραφὴ τη ς αἰτίας αὐτου ἐπιγεγραµµένη ὁ βασιλεὺς τω ν Ἰουδαίων. 27 Καὶ σὺν αὐτῳ σταυρου σιν δύο λῃστάς, ἕνα ἐκ δεξιω ν καὶ ἕνα ἐξ εὐωνύµων αὐτου. 29 Καὶ οἱ παραπορευόµενοι ἐβλασφήµουν αὐτὸν κινου ντες τὰς κεφαλὰς αὐτω ν καὶ λέγοντες οὐὰ ὁ καταλύων τὸν ναὸν καὶ οἰκοδοµω ν ἐν τρισὶν ἡµέραις, 30 σω σον σεαυτὸν καταβὰς ἀπὸ του σταυρου. 31 ὁµοίως καὶ οἱ ἀρχιερει ς ἐµπαίζοντες πρὸς ἀλλήλους µετὰ τω ν γραµµατέων ἔλεγον ἄλλους ἔσωσεν, ἑαυτὸν οὐ δύναται σω σαι 32 ὁ χριστὸς ὁ βασιλεὺς Ἰσραὴλ καταβάτω νυ ν ἀπὸ του σταυρου, ἵνα ἴδωµεν καὶ πιστεύσωµεν. καὶ οἱ συνεσταυρωµένοι σὺν αὐτῳ ὠνείδιζον αὐτόν. 33 Καὶ γενοµένης ὥρας ἕκτης σκότος ἐγένετο ἐφʼ ὅλην τὴν γη ν ἕως ὥρας ἐνάτης. 34 καὶ τῃ ἐνάτῃ ὥρᾳ ἐβόησεν ὁ Ἰησου ς φωνῃ µεγάλῃ ἐλωι ἐλωι λεµα σαβαχθανι; ὅ ἐστιν µεθερµηνευόµενον ὁ θεός µου ὁ θεός µου, εἰς τί ἐγκατέλιπες µε; 35 καί τινες τω ν παρεστηκότων ἀκούσαντες ἔλεγον ἴδε Ἠλίαν φωνει. 36 δραµὼν δέ τις [καὶ] γεµίσας σπόγγον ὄξους περιθεὶς καλάµῳ ἐπότιζεν αὐτόν λέγων ἄφετε ἴδωµεν εἰ ἔρχεται Ἠλίας καθελει ν αὐτόν. 37 ὁ δὲ Ἰησου ς ἀφεὶς φωνὴν µεγάλην ἐξέπνευσεν. 38 Καὶ τὸ καταπέτασµα του ναου ἐσχίσθη εἰς δύο ἀπʼ ἄνωθεν ἕως κάτω. 39 ἰδὼν δὲ ὁ κεντυρίων ὁ παρεστηκὼς ἐξ ἐναντίας αὐτου ὅτι οὕτως ἐξέπνευσεν εἰ πεν ἀληθω ς οὑ τος ὁ ἄνθρωπος υἱὸς θεου ἠ ν. [ 40 Η σαν δὲ καὶ γυναι κες ἀπὸ µακρόθεν θεωρου σαι, ἐν αἱ ς καὶ Μαρία ἡ Μαγδαληνὴ καὶ Μαρία ἡ Ἰακώβου του µικρου καὶ Ἰωση τος µήτηρ καὶ Σαλώµη, 41 αἳ ὅτε ἠ ν ἐν τῃ Γαλιλαίᾳ ἠκολούθουν αὐτῳ καὶ διηκόνουν αὐτῳ, καὶ ἄλλαι πολλαὶ αἱ συναναβα σαι αὐτῳ εἰς Ἱεροσόλυµα. 3 St. Mark 15:1-39 [40-47], New Revised Standard Version Bible, opp. cit.
6 Palm / Passion Sunday Year B (March 29, 2015) 6 42 Καὶ ἤδη ὀψίας γενοµένης, ἐπεὶ ἠ ν παρασκευὴ ὅ ἐστιν προσάββατον, 43 ἐλθὼν Ἰωσὴφ [ὁ] ἀπὸ Ἁριµαθαίας εὐσχήµων βουλευτής, ὃς καὶ αὐτὸς ἠ ν προσδεχόµενος τὴν βασιλείαν του θεου, τολµήσας εἰση λθεν πρὸς τὸν Πιλα τον καὶ ᾐτήσατο τὸ σω µα του Ἰησου. 44 ὁ δὲ Πιλα τος ἐθαύµασεν εἰ ἤδη τέθνηκεν καὶ προσκαλεσάµενος τὸν κεντυρίωνα ἐπηρώτησεν αὐτὸν εἰ πάλαι ἀπέθανεν 45 καὶ γνοὺς ἀπὸ του κεντυρίωνος ἐδωρήσατο τὸ πτω µα τῳ Ἰωσήφ. 46 καὶ ἀγοράσας σινδόνα καθελὼν αὐτὸν ἐνείλησεν τῃ σινδόνι καὶ ἔθηκεν αὐτὸν ἐν µνηµείῳ ὃ ἠ ν λελατοµηµένον ἐκ πέτρας καὶ προσεκύλισεν λίθον ἐπὶ τὴν θύραν του µνηµείου. 47 ἡ δὲ Μαρία ἡ Μαγδαληνὴ καὶ Μαρία ἡ Ἰωση τος ἐθεώρουν που τέθειται.] 4 First Lesson; English Text: 50:4 The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher,that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. 5 The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. 6 I have my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting. 7 The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; 8 he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. 9 It is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty? All of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up. 5 Second Lesson; English Text: 2:5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 6 Second Lesson; Greek Text: 2.5 Τοῦτο φρονεῖτε ἐν ὑµῖν ὃ καὶ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, 6 ὃς ἐν µορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων οὐχ ἁρπαγµὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ, 7 ἀλλὰ ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν µορφὴν δούλου λαβών, ἐν ὁµοιώµατι ἀνθρώπων γενόµενος καὶ σχήµατι εὑρεθεὶς ὡς ἄνθρωπος 8 ἐταπείνωσεν ἑαυτὸν γενόµενος ὑπήκοος µέχρι θανάτου, θανάτου δὲ σταυροῦ. 9 διὸ καὶ ὁ θεὸς αὐτὸν ὑπερύψωσεν καὶ ἐχαρίσατο αὐτῷ τὸ ὄνοµα τὸ ὑπὲρ πᾶν ὄνοµα, 10 ἵνα ἐν τῷ ὀνόµατι Ἰησοῦ πᾶν γόνυ κάµψῃ ἐπουρανίων καὶ ἐπιγείων καὶ καταχθονίων 11 καὶ πᾶσα γλῶσσα ἐξοµολογήσηται ὅτι κύριος Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς εἰς δόξαν θεοῦ πατρός St. Mark 15:1-39 [40-47], The Greek New Testament, Aland, Kurt, Black, Matthew, Martini, Carlo M., Metzger, Bruce M., and Wikgren, Allen, ( 1983, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft Stuttgart). Isaiah 50:4-9a, New Revised Standard Version Bible, opp. cit. Philippians 2:5-11, New Revised Standard Version Bible, opp. cit. Philippians 2:5-11, The Greek New Testament, opp. cit.