By Rev. Dr. Sergio Arevalo, Jr.
Eagle Rock Lutheran Church
Los Angeles, CA
April 13, 2014 (Passion/Palm Sunday)
Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem like a king or a Roman general who just won a war. Usually a victorious general used to have a solemn procession called Roman Triumph and entered the city in a spectacular chariot drawn by four horses.
He was preceded by the senate, trumpeters, the humiliated enemy captives who were often in chains, the spoils and treasures taken in war, white bulls for sacrifice and his personal bodyguards (lictors).
The triumphator came next in the procession, riding on his chariot. He was followed by his family, officers, troops all of whom were unarmed. The procession followed a fixed route which ran from the Field of Mars down to the river Tiber, doubling back on itself to avoid an ancient bog, then through the Circus and along the Sacred Way (Via Sacra).
After passing in state along the Via Sacra the triumph ascended the Capitol to offer sacrifice at the Temple of Jupiter – the white bulls. The triumphator then entered the temple to offer his wreath to the god as a sign that he had no intentions of becoming the king of Rome. (tribunesandtriumphs.org).
Indeed, Jesus entered Jerusalem as triumphator, and the people welcomed Jesus like a king, they were shouting:
“Hosanna to the Son of David! How blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Matthew 21:9).
. . . but after a few days the Jews were trying to kill him. He was captured by the temple guards (high priest’s servants, Mt. 26:51) when he was praying at Gethsemane in the presence of his disciples.
He was brought to the governor (Pilate) and the high priests and elders for interrogation. “Are you the King of the Jews?” (v.11).
I. The Interrogation of Jesus
Pilate, the governor, meticulously asked Jesus, and he did not find any fault from Jesus. Pilate was trying to release him, but the Jews were instigated by the high priests, and the elders to choose Jesus Barabbas rather than Jesus Christ.
What was the reason? Verse 18 says it’s because of their jealousy! The high priests and the elders were jealous simply because a lot of people were following Jesus. Many were deserting, and believing in Jesus (John 12:11).
The governor threw the responsibility of judgment to the crowd as the governor’s tradition to free one prisoner during the Feast of the Passover to make the Jews happy (v.15, John 18:39, Mark 15:6).
II. The Suffering of Jesus
After the kangaroo judgment, Jesus experienced sufferings until his death on the cross. Our passage in the Gospel of Matthew recorded the following:
1. Jesus was flogged (v.26). Flogging with a multi-thonged whip weakened the victim before execution.
2. They stripped him with his clothes (v. 28).
3. Soldiers mocked him (vv.28-29).
4. They crowned him with thorns (v.29).
5. They spat on him (v.30).
6. They struck the reed on his head (v.30).
7. They pushed him (v.31).
8. They forced him to drink wine with gall (v.34). Gall is with bitter substance. The wine would dull the pain, but Matthew (following Mark) wants to show that Jesus accepted the pain of his death fully.
9. They nailed him on the tree (v.35). Crucifixion was a common Roman form of capital punishment for non-Roman citizens. It was regarded as particularly degrading, since it was a slow, painful method of death by suffocation that took place in public (The New Oxford Annotated Bible).
10. They divided his clothes (v.35).
11. He was insulted (derided) by people (v.39).
12. He was insulted by the two bandits (v.44). Some say they were either common criminals or popular leaders viewed as a political threat.
13. He really felt the excruciating pain (v.46).
The suffering of Jesus reminds us the importance of our salvation. He really gave himself up for our welfare, for our salvation, for our life. Our salvation is totally free–wholeheartedly given by Jesus, but he bought it with his life, he bought it with his suffering, he bought it with his excruciating pain! Jesus Christ died for us, for our salvation!
Jesus’ suffering reminds us that we might also experience suffering in our faith and Christian practice. We might experience challenges in our places of work or studies. We might experience testing while we are driving or commuting. We might experience sufferings when we are sick, depressed, lonely and forgotten by family and friends.
When we experience all these things, let us be reminded that Jesus experienced all of them before we do.
III. The Unusual Signs during the Day of Crucifixion of Jesus
2. The temple curtain was torn in two, from top to bottom. (v.51).
3. Earthquake shook them and rocks split (vv.51, 54).
4. Tombs opened (v.52). The passage does not tell whether their houses were destroyed thus we conclude that their houses were preserved. If they were destroyed, the gospel writer might wrote about that.
5. Dead were raised (v.52). Persic version renders the words, “and the bodies of many saints who suffered martyrdom, rose out of the graves.” Some believe that those martyrs who raised were the following: Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, John the Baptist himself, good old Simeon, Joseph the husband of Mary, and others.
There are two schools of thoughts here: (1) some believe that the saints were raised on the crucifixion day (v.52); (2) some believe that they were raised right after the resurrection of Jesus (“after his resurrection” v.53). The first school of thought contents that the word “his” there should be written “their” instead, thus “after their resurrection…”
6. Soldiers believed Jesus (v.54). Verse 54 says “Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, ‘Truly this was the Son of God.’”
Gen. William Nelson, a Union general in the American Civil War, was consumed with the battles in Kentucky when a brawl ended up in his being shot, mortally, in the chest.
He had faced many battles, but the fatal blow came while he was relaxing with his men. As such, he was caught fully unprepared. As men ran up the stairs to help him, the general had just one phrase, “Send for a clergyman; I wish to be baptized.”
He never had time as an adolescent or young man. He never had time as a private or after he became a general. And his wound did not stop or slow down the war. Everything around him was left virtually unchanged–except for his priorities.
With only minutes left before he died, the one thing he cared about was preparing for heaven. He wanted to be baptized. Thirty minutes later he was dead (sermonillustrations.com).
During the general’s suffering he remembered the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Probably he remembered the reason why Jesus died on the cross, and he received that faith when he was about to leave his earthly body.
General Nelson’s experience is different from us nowadays. Now we have time and strength to believe and serve Jesus. Let us exercise our faith now, let us serve God now. Let us live our faith as long as we exist here and now!