April 13, 2014 – Lent 4A
© 2014 Evan D. Garner
Audio of this sermon can be heard here.
A little while ago, we were all crying, “Hosanna in the highest!” And then, just a few minutes later, we changed that cry to, “Crucify him!” When we proclaim, “Hosanna!” we are praising God for sending us our savior—literally our “rescue.” But then, like the crowd in Jerusalem, we turn against the one who came to save us, and we call for his crucifixion. Because the words are chosen for us, it’s as if we have no power to steer ourselves on the right path. Every year, this chapter of human history repeats itself as the faithful become the faithless—the devoted become the despisers. How does that happen—not just in the story of Holy Week but in our own story, played out over and over again?
Did you hear Peter’s confidence when he told Jesus, “Even though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you?” When confronted by his master’s prediction that all of his disciples would turn and run away, Peter stepped us and assured Jesus that he was wrong. “I would never desert you, Lord!” And, only a few hours later, when questioned by some bystanders in the courtyard of the high priest, Peter cursed and swore an oath, saying, “I do not know the man!” And the cock crowed, and Peter ran out, weeping bitterly.
Did you hear Judas’ disbelieving question, when he asked Jesus, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” To the shock and horror of his disciples, Jesus announced that one of them would betray him. Even Judas, who had already accepted blood money from the Jewish authorities, could not believe what was happening—what he himself had done. “Can this be?” he asked. “Is it true? Have I done this terrible thing?” And Jesus, looking straight into his eyes, confronted his treachery, and said, “You have said so.” Eventually the grief was more than Judas could bear. Unable to undo his terrible wrong, he threw the money back to the authorities and went out to hang himself.
Neither of them, it seems, had the power to choose the right path. And, truthfully, neither do we. That’s why we reenact this drama every year—to remind us that, like Peter and Judas, we do not have the strength within ourselves to remain faithful and loyal to the one who came to save us. But what will we do? Where is hope to be found?
We come again this year to watch our Lord walk the path that is ahead of him—the road that leads to betrayal and arrest and torture and death. Unlike us, he never swerves. With focus trained on the cross ahead, he journeys down the path appointed for him. His faithfulness overcomes our faithlessness. His steadfastness absorbs our betrayal. His unwavering love for sinners like us—those who turn their backs on him—is the only thing that makes it possible for us to know forgiveness. So come again to Holy Week. Journey alongside our savior and watch as his selfless sacrifice brings hope to you and me. Amen.