Church of the Faithful Centurion
Today’s sermon brought the Collect, Epistle and Gospel together and is partly contained in the forewords above.
Consider these words from the Collect:
… thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility; Mercifully grant, that we may both follow the example of his patience, and also be made partakers of his resurrection…
In the Collect, we acknowledge God sent His Son to be our Savior. Think about that, the Creator, Lord and Master of the Universe sent His only Son to live amongst us and not just provide us with instruction and leadership, but to give His earthly life as a one time sacrifice for our sin that we might be accounted as perfect in our final accounting, the resurrection. How much did God value His Son? Consider what Paul tells us - Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Reading this, let us consider how much God valued His Son and how much He values us that He sent His Son here to teach us to guide us, to love us, and finally to give His Life for us that we might be free from the bonds of sin and death. Jesus humbled himself to a commoner’s death, and not just that of any commoner, but that of a thief. That says how much He loves His Creation, that He would die a most painful death that we might have everlasting life. He effectively took our place physically on the cross, physically in the sense we are sinners, and as Paul points out in Romans, the wages for sin is death. Jesus replaced us and took the wages for sin on our behalf so we might have everlasting life.
The Collect calls us to follow the example Jesus set in His actions of His Death and Resurrection, and also calls us to embody His great humility and His great patience, that we might follow the upward narrow path towards heaven and be partakers of His Resurrection. The Collect calls us to action and follow in the example of Jesus’s great humility, humbling himself, the being who created this planet, to die for us on the cross, laying down His Life for ours, is an example we must strive to emulate in our own lives, to the best of our abilities.
If we follow His Example and do our best to emulate His humility and patience, we too can be a part of His Resurrection. We will be a part of our own resurrection of sorts. To accomplish this, we have to have our selfish selves die and be replaced with the unselfish self, which we can achieve through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In other words, we need to stop our sinful behavior and replace that behavior with more Godly behavior.
Jesus set the ultimate standard for us to following God’s will. His entire ministry can be described as actions. He physically lived His Message. His Message can clearly be seen through His Actions. We need to do as He did and show by our actions that we serve Him.
Jesus knew ahead of time where, how and when He would die. He even told His Followers this, but they did not understand as they did not have the Holy Ghost within them to help them comprehend what He said. He knew with a 100 percent certainty it was going to be a physically and spiritually painful death, Yet, He also knew this was God’s Will that we might live. If He did this for you, how can you not follow Him wherever His Will takes you? And remember His Example, of acting even if it means the death of your temporal body. His Example that He has left to us to follow is that of Action.
Recall Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on this day so many years ago. Only Jesus knew of the upcoming crucifixion; everyone else, including Jews, Romans and His followers, thought he was making a triumphant entrance in to the city to take control of things and kick the Roman occupation force out. It was almost a full moon, this was the year of the Messiah according to Daniel. The natural events were lining up as Scripture had predicted which preceded the arrival of the Messiah. Jesus chose the route into the city, through the King’s Gate. The people saw Him coming and met him at the Mount of Olives. When He came in through the King’s Gate, the people were expecting to see their future earthly king. They did not have the Holy Ghost within them to see His true nature. However, they were incorrect, who they were seeing was and is their heavenly king. Jesus had no intentions of establishing a Kingdom of this World. He was looking for followers for the Kingdom of the Next World, of Heaven.
This World is only temporary, but the Next World is of Eternity. What ever trinkets we might acquire on Earth will never measure up to the gift that Jesus bought for us by His Death and Resurrection upon the cross. It is a gift of great joy, the fact is we should be by all rights dead and headed for the pit, instead headed to a kingdom of joyfulness and laughter and all pleasant things, and a world that will be far better than our pitiful shadowland here. This is indeed the most valuable of all gifts we will ever receive in our lifetime.
As an aside the Chief Priests, who had so much invested in their 613 laws, likely searched far and wide for the crowd to convict Jesus of the crimes they imagined against their system. We need to remember that not all of the Jews wanted Jesus executed, just those in power and those that followed them. The system that they followed was of this world, not God’s. Remember, there are none so blind as those who will not see. They were in the darkness, thus they could and would not see what was being shown to them because it would interfere with their comfortable way of living. A new way that asked of them, no demanded of them, accountability unto God for their actions. Know the crowd was not a self-forming group naturally set on condemning Jesus, but a handpicked gang. At the same time, many of those in the crowd who condemned Him the morning of Good Friday were in the crowd that welcomed Him to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. What a difference five days can make.
Make no mistake, we are that crowd. And, like Pilate, no matter what we say, we cannot wash our hands of the responsibility. Thus, we must separate ourselves from the crowd. Separate, that is to make ourselves holy, set aside.
When the time comes, how will you ACT?
It is by our actions we are known.
Be of God - Live of God - Act of God
The Sunday next before Easter is commonly referred to as Palm Sunday. The period between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday is often referred to as Holy Week. Most churchgoing people go to church on Palm Sunday, then to church on Easter Sunday. It’s a fairly uplifting time with not a lot of thinking. On Palm Sunday Jesus makes his triumphant entry into Jerusalem. On Easter Sunday there’s the joyous resurrection. What’s not to like about that?
The thing is, there is a tremendous amount that goes on between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, not all of it joyous, in fact most of it is pretty scary or sad. The beginning of the week was wonderful; in the end the week was even more wonderful. In between was a series of ups and downs the ups a little high and the downs very very deep. It is important to remember as you go through Holy Week that Jesus was in control of all the events of the week. The week starts with the Lord’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem and ends with the death of the Savior on the Cross and the burial of his body in the tomb. It is a week of ups and downs without parallel, the ups a little high and the downs very very deep, deep as Hell you might say, and precedes the most joyous day of the year, the Day of the Resurrection or Easter Sunday.
Jesus has a triumphant entry into the city on the First Day of the Week (Sunday); on Thursday night he celebrates the Passover with his disciples in the Upper Room, he prays and agonizes over what he knows is coming in the garden of Gethsemane; Judas betrays him early Friday morning, his most trusted disciple denies him, not once but three times before the cock crew; the Jews condemn him to Pilate who in turn orders him to be beaten and humiliated; that does not satisfy the Jews and at their request, Pilate condemns a man he knows to be innocent to a horrible death to pacify the crowd of Jews assembled by the priests; Jesus is crucified, asks John to take care of his mother and gives up the ghost; his body is taken down and buried; the disciples are dispersed and discouraged; they have listened to their Lord, but not understood.
Think of this week from the disciples’ perspective, on the first day they enter with their leader into Jerusalem in triumph; mid-week they celebrate the joyous feast of the Passover, then their leader is betrayed, defends himself not and is killed. At the time they surely could not think of this as a Holy Week and certainly not a Good Friday. Yet on the first day of the week that follows, our Lord is Risen, Risen indeed and delivers the promise of salvation in person.
It is important to remember as you go through Holy Week that Jesus was in control of all the events of the week.
What a week!
On Monday, Jesus preached in the Temple and further distanced Himself from the people’s vision and demonstrated God’s vision. He went in to the temple and through out the vendors selling “sacrificial” birds and animals at exorbitant cost, as well as the moneychangers, changing Roman money for Temple money dishonestly. Far from announcing Himself head of the temple, He announced they had made His Father’s house a den of thieves. Rather than working within the Jewish establishment, He over turned it!
Jesus and the Pharisees dispute in the Temple. He left for the garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. There he delivers the “Mount of Olives Discourse”. Judas agrees to betray him to the Jewish priests for 30 pieces of silver.
The Sanhedrin was gathered together and decided to kill Jesus, even before Pesach if possible. In the meantime, Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper. Here he was anointed on his head by Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, with very expensive ointment of spikenard. Some of the disciples, particularly Judas Iscariot, keeper of the purse, were indignant about this; the oil could have been sold to support the poor. “This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.” In this case, Judas recalls to mind many politicians. Jesus reminded them of the importance of first things first and the futility of giving, rather than helping, when He said in Matthew 26.11 “For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.” Judas went to the Sanhedrin and offered them his support in exchange for silver. From this moment on Judas was looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus. Judas spied on Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane where he came on his plan.
At the Passover Feast, Jesus and his disciples share the “Last Supper” and He washes their feet. Jesus blesses his bread and wine as his flesh and blood and shares it with his disciples, the institution of the Sacrament of Holy Communion. As Paul tells us in his First Letter to the Corinthians, “…the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.”
At this same dinner, the disciples manage to quarrel over who should be the boss of who. Jesus tells them he came in the role of a servant, as He is their master, their role is likewise that of servants. In a move designed to reveal both His knowledge aforehand and our frailty, He tells Peter that Peter will deny Him thrice fore the cock croweth, or dawn breaks. Peter, a loyal follower, denies what will be shown as clear fact. Remember the further you let yourself get from the Lord, the weaker you are. Weakness grows with the cube of the distance. Stay close.
As the dinner goes on, Jesus tells them one of them will betray Him. Not able to grasp that any of them would literally betray Him, each asks, “Is it I?” Judas knows.
Jesus tells the disciples things are heating up, counsels them to arm themselves and goes out to pray in the garden of Gethsemane. Disciples come with Him, despite their best efforts, they fall asleep. Night has long fallen, the end of the day is near by our reckoning. The end is near for Jesus here on earth. Even nearer for Judas.
Good Friday was the day in which Jesus was tried by the Jews, tried by Pilate, condemned, crucified, died and was buried. Except in hindsight, this was not a Good Friday at all.
In the early hours before sunup, Jesus is betrayed by the “Judas Kiss” and arrested. At sunrise, he is disowned by Peter thrice before the cock croweth. When brought before Caiaphas, the Jewish High Priest, and his Council, he is condemned. He says that he will rise from death after three days.
They hand him over to the Roman authority, Pontius Pilate, who sends him to Herod (Antipas, the son of Herod the Great). Then Pilate asks the crowd who he is to pardon: a murderer, or Jesus? The crowd chooses Barabas and Jesus is sentenced to death. Pilate’s actions made famous the line, “I wash my hands of this.” While he might have attempted to wash the guilt for the murder of the world’s one truly innocent man on to the Jews, he remains the one who condemned him to death. Pilate was nothing if not a politician and bureaucrat. The condemnation was to him the simplest solution to the problem of a Jewish hierarchy’s manufactured crowd’s anger. What was the death of one Jew to him? Yet he was worried enough to attempt to wash his hands of the guilt.
Jesus is brought to Calvary, where on the “third hour” (9 am) he is crucified. He is mocked as he hangs between the Bad Thief and the Good Thief, whom he blesses. On the “sixth hour” (noon), darkness covers the land. Jesus cries out “My God, My God, hast Thou forsaken Me?”
After drinking wine, he commits his spirit to his Father and dies. Matthew reports an earthquake that destroys the Temple. Many understand now that Jesus was the Son of God. His body is taken down and anointed. He is buried in a new tomb donated by Joseph of Arimethea. This is the first day of death.
The Jewish Council remembers his vow to return and has the tomb guarded and sealed with a heavy stone. His followers stay in the “Easter Vigil”. Second day of death.
On the third day of death, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary find the tomb empty, but for an angel who tells them Jesus is already resurrected and is on His way to Galilee. On their way to tell the others, Jesus appears to them. Death is conquered, the Promise delivered. Our lives from this day forward are eternal!
Think about the Week that was!
The reason Jesus came to Jerusalem at the Passover was to take the place of the yearly sacrifice by one perfect sacrifice, one time, for all time and for all mankind. His was the blood marking our door that the destroyer might pass over. The week started on a triumphant note and ended up trying to do between there were windows into the future, glimpses of the past, moments of despair, moments of terror, moments of confusion; but in the end joy and the ultimate triumph.
 The tomb was a new one which had been hewn for Joseph of Arimathea. Joseph, a native of Arimathea, was apparently a man of wealth, and probably a member of the Sanhedrin an "honourable counsellor, who waited (or "was searching") for the kingdom of God", according to John, he was secretly a disciple of Jesus. As soon as he heard the news of Jesus' death, he "went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus." Pilate, reassured by a centurion that the death had really taken place, allowed Joseph's request. Joseph immediately purchased fine linen and went to Golgotha to take the body down from the cross. There, assisted by Nicodemus, he took the body and wrapped it in the fine linen, sprinkling it with the myrrh and aloes that Nicodemus had brought. The body was then conveyed to the new tomb in rock in his garden nearby. There they laid it, in the presence of Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of Jesus, and other women, and rolled a great stone to the entrance, and departed. This was done speedily, "for the Sabbath was drawing on". Joseph of Arimathea appears in some early New Testament apocrypha.
Although there are no written records until the fifth century, tradition holds Joseph of Arimethea, who provided the tomb for the burial of Jesus Christ, brought Christianity and the Holy Grail to England in 37 AD and built a church in Glastonbury in Somerset.