Thanks to the Rev. William Weedon for much inspiration on this sermon. A few of the sentences, and the closing prayer, are directly from his hand.
By His holy cross our Lord Jesus Christ has redeemed all the world. Tonight we behold Him standing nearly silent, like a sheep before its shearers.
We behold Him betrayed by Judas, one of His own disciples; dragged by night through the streets into the hands of the Council; bound up and delivered into the hands of Pilate and the Romans.
These cowardly children of the devil aren’t satisifed to do their own dirty work. Their law doesn’t allow it! They cannot shed this man’s blood! Oh what hypocrites we are when sin gets ahold of us; we’ll hide our betrayal of our Lord behind our own self-righteousness.
But then a question from Pilate: Pilate has no self-righteousness to worry about, at least not before God. He’s not out to impress the Lord with his works. He’s a coward of a different sort, one who will do whatever it takes to keep the peace. He’d rather this all just go away, at least from His hands.
“Are you the King of the Jews?” And [Jesus] answered him, “You have said so.”
Jesus confesses – he does not deny – But confesses that He is indeed a King. And then as Mark tells the story, Jesus says nothing more except in prayer to His Father. He has spoken the words of eternal life. It is for these, His wonderful, life-giving words, that He is put to death.
Pilate gets what’s happening here, at least in part. The Chief Priests are envious. The freedom of the Gospel leaves no room for their authority which is based in self-justification and law. This is why we lash out at God too. To completely let go of the idea of us earning even just an itty-bitty-bit of God’s pleasure is something we mightily struggle against. The preacher comes in and shows us the true freedom that Christ’s Gospel gives and our sinful flesh rages against it. In our sin-darkened hearts we hate Jesus’ overwhelming grace just as much as His people did. But, thanks be to God, our Lord rescues us from our sin—even this sin—and keeps us in belief and faith.
But not so these hardened sinners. The Council wants Jesus dead and their reign preserved. Pilate wants peace at all costs.
So “Crucify him… Crucify him” it is. Put this King of the Jews in His rightful place. Curse Him beyond all curses by hanging Him on a tree. Cast Him outside of the holy city, outside of Zion, outside of God’s presence. Set free the murderer Barabbas. Even he is better than this King!
And that is the point. Jesus came to set the Barabasses of this world free. We are Barabbas. We are guilty of murder and rebellion. Jesus came to be cast outside of Zion. Jesus came to be put outside of the presence of God. This is His terrible, painful work; all done because He loved the world.
Pilate washes his hands. The soldiers mock Jesus, arranging a mock coronation with a royal robe and bloody crown. Why is he still silent, they wonder? They beat him and spit on him and still, no words.
Jesus is resolute. He is the King and He will pay for the sins of His people. He loves them. He loves us. He loves you. No matter what you do to King Jesus, His love is unstoppable. He is not like you and me. He is without sin, without malice, without hatred. He is perfect, loving, and obedient. Unto death. For you.
Let us pray:
O King and Lover of us all, O Bleeding and Dying Redeemer, O Silent and Suffering Lamb of God, have mercy on us who deserve no mercy. Grant peace to us who would give you no peace. Transform us by the vision of Your silent, suffering love, O King of kings!
- Pastor Michael Schuermann