A Billboard

 

“At that time, Jesus went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered.”

One of the first things you learn to do when preparing a sermon, is to find context in the passage you plan to preach about.  This means reading about what occurred in the chapter before, and after the passage.

I don’t know about you, but things around here have been pretty busy this week, so I realized that I had forgotten just what it was that Jesus said before he went out with his disciples…to refresh my memory, and perhaps yours, I looked it up… and found Jesus was finishing up praying to the Father, with his Disciples:

John 17:25-26

25 ‘Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.’

 Last week, I was in the Kearney Mesa area, running some errands, and as I walked out of the door of the office building, I glanced up at a huge billboard on the corner of Balboa and Convoy St.

It was a simple billboard, red, with white lettering with 4 short sentences:

“He Came.

He Died.

He Rose.

 Because He Loves.”

 Right in the heart of Kearney-Mesa…when on most days, what you will see are car dealerships, banks, Walmart, 24 Hour Fitness, Asian markets and restaurants and Gentlemen’s Clubs with signs boasting of Live Nude Dancers. Thousands of cars pass by this billboard each day…

And I wonder…what do those who read the bill board see? What do they think?

HE CAME.

Just a few days ago, we gathered with palms in our hands on the steps of this church, as a bagpiper led us in procession with bold, traditional bagpipe music, loud and clear, with our All Souls’ banner flying in the breeze, the cross was held high… the clergy followed with vestments of white and crimson, children were banging on drums, and various sound-producing instruments as we marched around the perimeter of the church building that ran next to Catalina Blvd, and Chatsworth.

Cars and bicyclists streamed by…and we waved our palms in remembrance and imitation of the crowds who celebrated Jesus entering Jerusalem for the last time.

I remember walking along, feeling like God had broken out of the “box” — out of the church walls where inside we celebrate God in great beauty, liturgy, music and tradition…but for our eyes only.

I thought, “ Now the world sees us commemorating the entry of a Jewish Street Preacher said to be the Son of God, the Messiah, riding on a young donkey into Jerusalem, some 2,000 years ago!”

But, then, I wonder, what do they really see?

I wonder, does the world know Him?

HE CAME.  HE DIED.

 Tonight, we are re-living the betrayal, trial, brutal crucifixion of Jesus.  “The most wretched of deaths”, according to Josephus, a 1st Century historian.

And as we move through the story of his betrayal, arrest and trial, I search for signs that the World Jesus was pulled into from the garden, man-handled, questioned, beaten, and dragged to Annas’ courtyards, to Caiaphas’ offices, to Pilate’s headquarters…I search for signs that they might recognize who Jesus is and know him, see God’s love.

But, the hearts of the world are coated with concrete so hard that no love can penetrate it. Their hearts are closed and they are fiercely protecting their power.

Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’ 38 Pilate asked him, ‘What is truth?’- Here is the one who came into the world to bear witness to the Truth standing right before Pilate…and Pilate, another representative of the World refuses to see the truth, refuses to recognize the love of God.  [1]

When Pilate takes Jesus out in front of the mob, lusting for Jesus’ death and says, ‘Here is your King!’ ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but the emperor.’- The concrete hardens even more…there is no recognition, there is no love…The people choose to be ruled by human powers– turning their backs on the Kingship of God. [2]thinking they are protecting status quo in the Temple. Thinking only they know what God wants, a religious system that they alone know: the careful division of the clean and unclean, the sacrifices of animals replacing the surrendering of the human heart.  They had fought off the prophets long ago, and now they will see to it that this Jesus fares no better.

Jesus goes onto his death …carrying his cross, to Golgotha. From the cross, he gives John the responsibility of caring for his mother, Mary… he is thirsty, and drinks from bitter wine, and then announces his work is done, his suffering done, his assignment finished, to the glory of GOD.

BECAUSE HE LOVES.

 To the world he left behind on that day, some only saw a tortured man, with misguided beliefs of grandeur, dead, a corpse. Just another man, crucified among hundreds.

Some believed the propaganda spread by the Temple Authorities, and saw a blasphemer, who got what he deserved.

Others gazed upon his lifeless form, remembering their faces and bodies, where once disease and deformities controlled their places in society, now healed with love and forgiveness.

Others saw their teacher, dead; but filled with memories of his teaching that would linger in their hearts forever, teaching that they would pass on.

Through their tears on that day, they remembered sitting at his feet, (now bloodied and pierced,) seeing a glimpse of heaven and God Himself, and they were filled with sorrow.

They looked at the cross as they Joseph and Nicodemus carefully brought down his body; and remembered his words, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” [3]

 

To be Continued.

AMEN

[1] Johnson, Luke Timothy.  The Writings of the New Testament.  The Gospel of John. Pg 488

[2] Johnson, Luke Timothy.  The Writings of the New Testament.  The Gospel of John. Pg 488

[3] John 15.13

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