Thursday, March 22, 2012

“Jesus in the Courtyard” 5th in sermon series Places of the Passion

S-1305 5MIL/3B 3/21/12 Hymns: (O) #151 vv. 1-4; (S) #145; (C) #151 vv. 5-7TLH

Text: Psalm 26; Exodus 14:26-31; Acts 25:1-12; Matthew 27:1-2, 11-14, 24-26

Theme: “Jesus in the Courtyard” 5th in sermon series Places of the Passion

Question: “Have you ever stood for a long time?” Armour, SD.

Faithful followers of the Savior, the text for the 5th Midweek in Lent is from the Gospel Lesson: When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put Him to death. And they bound Him and led Him away and delivered Him over to Pilate the governor(Matthew 27:1-2).

Saints in Christ, Jesus has had a very rough night filled with emotions, anguish, and pain. It all started out in the Upper Room late last night, when He told Judas His betrayer, “What you are about to do, do quickly!” and it just kept getting worse. From there they head to Gethsemane. There He is all alone. The disciples fall asleep while He is praying and no one is there to soothe or comfort Him. He prays profusely so that His sweat is like drops of blood. Then the betrayer comes and with a kiss sells His friend for 30 pieces of silver. They chain Him, dragging Him first to Annas, then to Caiaphas and there more torture and humiliation. By now His body is aching from all that He has gone through.

From the moment the Rabbi woke up on Thursday morning till now, it has been a little over 30 hours without sleep, without rest and without peace. And most of the time He has been standing for interrogation. But it is still getting worse. As the night came they put Him in a dungeon.

Having condemned Jesus, the Jewish leaders now bind Him, lead Him away and deliver Him over to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate—exactly as Jesus predicted several times before. It is now early Friday morning. Off they go to the Governor’s Palace and drag the bound-up Jesus with them to be tried as a criminal against the State of Rome—and Pilate as the Judge to condemn Him to death by crucifixion. But they themselves did not enter the Praetorium in order not to defile themselves before the Passover by being in the house of a gentile.

What hypocrisy do we witness in the early morning hours of Friday in the Courtyard by these Jewish leaders? What holy men are these! They had just most out­rageously sentenced an innocent man to death. They had been the chief accusers to the crime of perjury, they were criminal participants in the outrageous treatment given Jesus; but, ironically, they could not step within the shadow of a pile of stone and mortar for that would make them unfit. What a strange compound is human nature. How blind sin makes it. What terrible things it will do in the name of religion, to serve their cause. What injustice do we behold them acting.

Like ravenous wolves, the Chief Priests and the Jewish leaders began to make one accusation after another. They were waiting for blood to spill from His sacred veins. There is no denying it; they wanted Him dead. They wanted Him out of the picture. But since they can’t crucify Him, they bring Him to Pilate to be the judge and jury and sentence Him to death on a cross.

What irony we behold in the early morning hours, as we review the scene. Jesus is fatigued, weary, haggard, pale, bearing the marks of physical abuse, and ready to fall from exhaustion, Yet He stands tall and strong. He doesn’t try to defend Himself against His accusers. No, He remains silent. Through Scripture we learn the truth that they wouldn’t understand or believe: “He came unto His own, but His own received Him not.” How sad. What mockery and travesty. All is playing out in the courtyard.

Consider the scene before us and what a strange scene it is! On the throne of judgment sits a regional governor of a conquered province: before Him stands in chains, the Judge, the King, of heaven as well as earth. What irony we behold here; the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth” (Is. 53:7).

Why might you ask? Why does Jesus the King of heaven and earth remain silent? You and I are different. When we are accused the first thing we want to do is defend ourselves. We want the world to know the truth that we are not as bad as they are painting us to be. We swear in the name of God that we are not guilty. That is our nature.

Even the Apostle Paul, wouldn’t remain silent before Festus in Caesarea (our second reading for tonight). He speaks in his defense and tells them the truth he is not guilty of any of the charges against him. He wouldn’t let Festus send him to Jerusalem to be tried, but asked to go to Caesar instead.

But not Jesus! Jesus remained silent for you and me, for this reason He came. St. John put it this way: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (1:29). Yes, behold Him please as He in the early hours without sleep, without companions, without anyone to defend Him or rescue Him—standing all ALONE for you my beloved. PAUSE.

With His silence Pilate is amazed at this strong Man before Him. After reviewing the case and the evidence, Pilate came to the clear conclusion that Jesus is innocent of all charges. Saying, “I found no fault in this man. I will scourge Him and release Him”. But that wouldn’t do. Their eyes pop out and the vessels on their necks expand as they scream for His death. They wouldn’t let the Judge give the innocent verdict.

Yet, since we read in every Gospel account that Pilate found no fault in Jesus and wanted to set Him free, we have to ask: What happened to justice? Why did Pilate change his mind? Matthew even says that Pilate’s wife, Claudia Porcula, had dreamed about Jesus and sent word to her husband: “Don't have anything to do with that innocent man” (Matthew 27:19). But the screams of the Jewish leaders prevailed. They kept pushing Pilate into a corner.

He finally asks Jesus to get away from the crowds and follow Him inside. And there in the quietness of the chamber, He asks Jesus, “Are You a King?” Jesus answers, “Do you say this of yourself or others told you about Me?” Pilate is in a frenzy. He doesn’t know how to get out of this situation. He knows without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus is innocent but not a threat to Rome, so he decides to pull the Ace in his sleeve.

It is the governor’s custom to release a prisoner of minor offenses during the festivities to show favoritism to the Jews. But early Friday morning, he will up the ante and decides to give them a choice between a real criminal Barabbas or this simpleton, Jesus. And again with a roar, the Jewish leaders ask for Pilate to crucify Him. At long last, Pilate can’t take it anymore and gives in to the ravenous wolves and condemns Jesus to be flogged and then be nailed on the cross. PAUSE.

My beloved and His beloved, Pilate asked a very important question that you and I must answer also. Who is Jesus—a rebel or royalty; a murderer or Messiah; a sinister or Savior? Is He a King? But more importantly is He Your King and Lord.

I pray that you and I would be bold enough to stand shoulder to shoulder with Christians and proclaim that He is not only a King, but my King who lives in my heart and I would gladly pay homage to Him any day and anywhere.

In our O.T. reading we read of the great redemptive deliverance Moses brought about in the early morning hours as the Israelites walked on dry ground but Pharos’ army drowned in the Red Sea. Tonight as you and I stand in the early hours of Good Friday, we see greater and far grandeur redemption—ours—worked in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Know this my beloved. In the early hours that long ago Friday the Jews wouldn’t go into the palace because they didn’t want to defile themselves, so that they can observe and celebrate the Passover. But Jesus takes the punishment of our sins, so that we, who are defiled may not remain outside the Palace of Grace or in the courtyard; but be brought in with Him to the Holy of holies and live with Him forever.

Yes, behold Him in the early hours of Friday standing in the courtyard in your place. Amen.

Now the peace…


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