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“The Sounds of Lent: Sneering and Weeping”
Luke 23:24-32, 49


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Lent Service V—March 17, 2010

“The Sounds of Lent: Sneering”

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

There is an old saying, “adding insult to injury,” which you could probably translate into modern English vernacular as, “to pile on.”  It means to keep on insulting someone, after they have already been badly hurt. 

Ironically, the first recorded use of the phrase “adding insult to injury” is by the Roman author Phaedrus in about 30 A.D.  That is ironic because just as Phaedrus was thinking up and first writing down this phrase in Rome, he could have had no idea that at perhaps that very moment that’s exactly what was happening, as the most significant events in the history of the world unfolded 1,500 miles away in the Roman province of Palestine at Jerusalem: the crowd around the cross literally “adding insult to injury” as they sneer at our Lord hanging there.

“Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself. . . if you are the Son of God!’  In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him . . .  ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he cannot save himself! . . . He’s the King of Israel! . . . Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross . . . and we will believe in him.’”

Jesus has already endured grievous injury.  Starting with his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, the last 15 hours have been a torture marathon, with Jesus as the target.  Slapped, spit upon, beaten with a club; a painful crown of thorns pressed down onto his head; flogged nearly to death by the Roman soldiers; led on a forced march, carrying his own cross out to Calvary.

In 1968 apartment buildings were being constructed in a suburb of Jerusalem.  They came upon some ancient tombs, and when the archaeologists investigated they found the first skeleton discovered of a crucifixion victim from Roman times.  Still embedded in the heel bones was seven-inch-long iron spike.  Peter proclaims in Acts, “You . . . put him to death by nailing him to the cross.”

Hanging on the cross itself was excruciating torture.  What actually causes death by crucifixion is having the arms stretched upward holding the weight of the body.  This position makes it impossible to breathe properly and causes fluids to build up in the chest and lungs, resulting in slow, excruciating death by suffocation and congestive heart failure.  The Roman poet Cicero wrote that crucifixion was, “the most cruel and disgusting punishment. . . it is impossible to find the words for such an abomination,” and the Jewish historian Josephus called it, “the most wretched of deaths.”

As Jesus hangs on the cross, his face is swollen from slapping, his head is bruised from being beaten with a club, his back is cut to pieces from flogging, his forehead is dripping with blood from the crown of thorns, and from his hands and feet protrude the iron spikes holding him on the cross.  The psalm we read earlier prophesied, “I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I found none.”  In his pain and agony, the crowd around the cross has no sympathy but actually adds insult to injury:

“Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying . . . if you are the Son of God . . . come down from the cross and save yourself.”  Jesus could have come down off that cross, but he remained on the cross for you, because his suffering and death had a purpose, to save us and the whole world from our sins.  As the verse from 1st Peter on the cover of this evening’s bulletin says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross.”

Paul explains in Colossians the blessings we receive because of the pain and suffering, the injuries and insults, that Jesus endured: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things . . . by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.  Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.  But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.”

Because Jesus bore your sins in his body on the cross, because he endured grievous injuries and insults as punishment in your place, you are at peace, reconciled with God, your sins are all forgiven, you are holy in God’s sight, without blemish and free from accusation.

Amen.

[Hymn Interlude]

“The Sounds of Lent: Weeping”

The Gospel of Luke reports, “As they led him away . . . a large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him.”

No one knows why people cry as an emotional response.  It is a universal, instinctive human reaction, across all centuries and cultures.

Though people also cry when they are happy, usually we associate tears with sadness and grief.  The women who are mourning and wailing as Jesus is led out to Calvary are probably the same grieving women which Mark reports witnessing his crucifixion: “Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome.  In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.”

Of course, the most mournful woman that day is Jesus’ own mother, Mary.  When she and Joseph took him as a child to the nearby Temple, Simeon had ominously prophesied to Mary, “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”  There can be no greater grief in this world than losing a child.  For the mournful mother Mary, these horrible events were like a sword piercing her soul.

At the Last Supper the night before his suffering and death, Jesus has told the disciples, “You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.”  The Gospel of Mark reports that after Jesus’ death his disciples and friends and loved ones continued to grieve and mourn and weep his loss: “When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene. . .  She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping.” 

But, on Easter the grief of those mourning Jesus’ death turned to joy, their mourning and weeping ended by the angel’s Good News, “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen!”

“Because I live,” Jesus promises, “You also will live.”  Your grief will turn to joy, as you are reunited with your loved ones in eternal life.  Isaiah prophesies that in heaven, “the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard no more . . .  And the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces.” 

No one knows why people cry as an emotional response.  It is a universal, instinctive human reaction, across all centuries and cultures.  But, just as the tears of the mournful mother Mary and the other women watching Jesus on the road to Calvary turned to joy on Easter morn, in heaven your tears of sadness will come to an end forever.  As the book of Revelation promises, “God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.”

Amen.

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