Significant Scriptures for Palm Sunday
"...because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced... Therefore have I set my face like flint...and I know I will not be put to shame..." Isaiah 50:7
"...let your face shine on your servant...save me in your unfailing love..." Psalm 31:16
"......the prophet who prophesies peace will be recognized as one truly sent by the Lord...only if his prediction is true...then the prophet Hananiah took the yoke off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah and broke it, and he said, before all the people, 'This is what the Lord says: 'In the same way will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon off the neck of all the nations within two years.' At this, the prophet Jeremiah went on his way..." Jeremiah 28:9-11
"...'Are you king of the Jews?' asked Pilate...'Yes, it is as you say', Jesus replied...the chief priests accused Him of many things... So again Pilate asked Him, 'Aren't you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of'...but Jesus still made no reply...and Pilate was amazed..." Mark 15:2-5
It was 1988. I'd been the pastor at Holy Cross for five years already, and, in fact, had been recently contacted by an insistent Scottish Presbyterian minister named the Rev. Dr. Harry Washburn to take over a chaplaincy ministry with the San Mateo County Convalescent Ministry, now called, SpiritCare Ministry for Seniors. I told him it was enough to be called his friend. Eventually I would do so in 1999.
I heard of a dramatic Easter musical. After a number of conversations with my Christian jazz buddy, Gordon Hultberg, known by many as "The Killer", together we decided to present the idea of the Holy Cross congregation putting on a major contemporary musical for the Pacifica community.
Holy Cross had always been a lively church body before my arrival, and it continued to be so, after Priscilla and I came. Our church council and the members got excited about the idea of having such a musical for Easter, and so off we went, headlong, into the project. Due to Gordon's directorship things went along smoothly. Gordon not only directed the play, but also took on the musical portion. Since every single member in the congregation had some function or "part" to perform, the question came up along the way... "Hey, who's going to come to see the musical---we're all in the production?" The response of all involved was, of course, "...the Lord will find a way..."
One of the production volunteers on lighting was a high school student, who was not a believer, named Erik Rasmussen, a student at Terra Nova High. I'm sure Gordon invited him to participate because he was accomplished in his art, but also, because Gordon has always had a delightful evangelical heart, and probably thought, God would do a work in Erik's life.
That happened, but let me tell you about it...
Erik did a great job for us. I thought, it was good for him to be with us, and good for us to have him help us, but I was certainly unsure about what kind of effect spiritually the message of the musical would have on him. I figured we were fortunate to have him on hand to help out.
One evening, after all the actor-members and production staff had left, I was cleaning up in the sanctuary at the altar. I'd thought that everybody else had already left for home or La Playa. I turned toward the exit and noticed Erik sitting in the back portion of a darkened sanctuary, in Merle Eggen's usual seat...
I was about to ask him what he was doing there, since it was past dinner time, and I knew he loved to eat, but I didn't have time to pose the question...
"Why didn't He say something? Why didn't Jesus say something to defend himself?" Erik asked. I was astounded at his question --- I was dumbfounded. His voice sounded perplexed and absolutely serious. For a split-second, inside of myself, I asked, "Who is this 'Erik Rasmussen' that I thought I'd 'sized-up' appropriately?"
Erik remained seated. I stood before him in the aisle. We talked. I cannot [for the life of me] remember what I answered, or if I didn't try to answer. I did ask my usual question, whether in conversation or counseling, "What do you make of it?"
It made no sense to him. Why didn't Jesus attempt to defend himself?
Incidentally, Erik continued to grow in his walk with the Lord. He was baptized and continued to grow spiritually and intellectually. There were setbacks along the way, but the Lord was with him. God gave him a wonderful wife and a fabulous family. He now lives in Australia and will probably read this message. Erik eventually went into Christian ministry as an ordained pastor, and then, after several years, went on to become a lawyer. Is it more than possible that Gordon's invitation to Erik to volunteer with us at Holy Cross actually ended up changing his life so fundamentally that he took the path in life that he has. As I remember that encounter in the sanctuary decades ago, I couldn't fully envision his life perhaps in ministry, or perhaps in law, but I did know, that the Holy Spirit entered into the deepest recesses of his heart.
It brings to mind the thought that the Holy Spirit can bring those, not necessarily only with "the hardest of hearts" to Him, but certainly those who seem so "distant" that they have no potential interest, nor ever could have, in the Gospel, or the Lord Jesus Christ, or the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit. There are those who say this is the age of technology, and of reason, and post-rationality alone... but I say not. This age and time in human history, more than any other, needs to know and experience the fact that there is forgiveness for those who truly want and need it...there is such a thing as dying to one's self...to become a new being... to leave guilt, shame, and regret behind...to be truly free inside, able to really enjoy life...and to know the Lord has a fail-proof provision for those who are fearful and lacking profound meaning in life...
Having breakfast with Erik after 32 years recently at "The Breakers" in Pacifica, Rockaway Beach...I reflected upon this very conversation...and also consequently, rich, rewarding fellowship with Erik over the years, now having become decades... a gentleman of vision, of insight and conviction, faith in the Living God, and great responsibility in serving others, a man dedicated to issues of justice and mercy. I sometimes wonder if he still asks the same question...or...if at times...persons of faith, like Jeremiah, too, and the Lord Jesus, just need to remain silent, and speak when the Lord wants us to speak...and to speak up...with assurance and conviction!
So why didn't Jesus say something to Pilate? Why didn't Jesus speak up to defend Himself? We don't have an answer to that question, and yet, we DO have an answer!
Because Jesus, in the wider perspective, was not on trial...Pilate and the chief priests were on trial. I can just imagine the Lord Jesus and Pontius Pilate in dialogue up in heaven...Jesus saying to Pilate, "Do you get it now, why I didn't try to defend myself?" I imagine Pilate replying, "Lord, forgive me! I should've known better! How can I deal in the eternal perspective...with what I did...and what I didn't do! I thought I was in charge...actually, Jesus, you were in charge..."
It paved the way for the cross, Jesus' death, the Resurrection...and our salvation...
You know, you are loved so dearly, so completely in the Lord. Respond to that love with your heart. Respond to that love with you mind. In the process, be kind to yourself, and be compassionate to others. Remember to pray for all in need.
Dan Cinti continues to heal...Lea will have her baby very soon...to all who've been ill or experienced loss, blessing and healing in Jesus.
Happy, Blessed Holy Week to all! Cordially, Tom