“Jesus and the two other men”
John 12:12-27 & 19:16b-22
Pilgrim Congregational Church, UCC
Rev. Tina Walker-Morin
March 25, 2018
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you O God, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
This morning I have a message for you about carrying heavy burdens.
Today on this Palm/Passion Sunday we enter into Christ’s narrative with his parade into Jerusalem. The crowds are excited, waving their Palms (the very Palms that were waved for military victory) and shouting: Hosanna, hosanna in the highest! Our Savior, our Savoir in the highest, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! As quoted from Psalm 118.
The excitement in the air must have been electric. When I read our passages for this morning I immediately thought of the Boston Marathon in 2013. Instead of hearing Hosanna, hosanna in the highest! It was music playing, announcers counting down the time until the wheel chair racers started, then the elite women and men and finally the rest of the field. Wave 1 are you ready??? Wave 2 here we go….
The sun was shining that day, the temperature was beginning to warm up as we started the trek from Hopkinton with the goal of running 26.2 miles to Boylston Street in downtown Boston. It was a glorious morning, Hosanna, Hosanna in the Highest! Indeed.
None of us knew that this triumphal entry at Hopkinton was about to take an unimaginable turn. The excitement changed in an instant. Just as the people in Jerusalem, the ones who had seen Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead, who had heard of this great miracle worker, or dare we say Messiah, none of them knew the fate Jesus was walking into.
Jesus enters into Jerusalem on a colt only to soon be: denied by his disciples, specifically Peter; turned in by Judas; wrongfully arrested; then tried by Pilate and sentenced to crucifixion.
Now carrying his own cross, Christ heads to the Place of the Skull. Unlike the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) in which Simon of Cyrene is compelled by the soldiers to carry Jesus’ cross (Matt 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26), Jesus carries his cross “by himself”. Now, it was customary for criminals who were to be executed to carry their own crosses.
Jesus carried this literal heavy burden. He has the weight of the world on his shoulders and still he carries the cross. The author of the Gospel of John wants us to recognize this because he distinctly points out the languages used by Pilate to inscribe the charge against Jesus as ”King of the Jews.” This charge, “King of the Jews” was written in all three current languages at the time in Judea (Aramaic, the sematic vernacular), Latin (the official language of the Roman Empire), and Greek (the language of commerce). The scripture author wants us to understand that this pronouncement was giving universal acknowledgement of who Christ was here to save. Which in turn gives even greater weight to the message “King of the Jews” and power of Christ.
Jesus did not just take on the burden he was carrying, but he willing took on the burdens of all who believed in him and even those who did not believe as well as the burdens of those who denied him.
Burdens, we all have them. Think for a moment, what is it that you are carrying around? Is it a worry about something at work? Or maybe a family relationship? What weight is on your shoulders?
For AnnaMea, she wears her burden around her body. She is carrying a heavy load like Christ. So heavy a load that both knees have had issues. The left knee got fix but now her right knee is in rough shape. She is only 47 and maybe five feet tall. As she walks with a limb from the knee pain she clings to her cane for support. Going up stairs is the all too familiar good leg up and cane up, then the bad leg up. One at a time.
AnnaMea is also a survivor. Her home country of Haiti which was devastated back in 2010 with an earth quake. The U.S. opened the doors to those looking to escape the devastation to which AnnaMea and 60,000 others came. AnnaMea is a licensed CNA and even worked just down the road form us at Colonial Nursing home. As if fleeing an earthquake wasn’t enough, last year AnnMea lost her apartment to a fire in the building. Since then she has been staying with friends, coaching suffering from one place to another until three months ago she landed in a women’s shelter.
Next week her 3 months is up at the shelter, because you can only stay at this one for 3 months and then you have to be out for a month before you can come back, she must figure out where to go next. As the burdens have built up, one on top of the other, like a game of Jenga, she feels like one more thing could topple the whole stack over. And then her phone gets shut off. With no way of communicating she life line seemed cutoff. Another burden lying heavily on her shoulders.
We all have burdens however God did not and does not intend for us to carry them alone. Even Jesus did not carry his cross alone, but there were two other men one of each side also walking to the Place of the Skull. Together the three men each walked almost a mile (1.5 kilometers) from Gethsemane carrying their own torture and deadly device across their backs.
What might these men have been saying to one another?
In the Gospel of Luke it recounts that one of the men being crucified with Jesus says to him while hanging on the cross “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39). Might these three men while walking to their death have asked each other “why are you here?” Maybe the two men did not know who Jesus was, or only found out as they too were being tried before Pilate and overhead the commotion around Jesus.
No matter who these two men were who also walked the lonesome road to Golgotha, what we are to notice is that there were two other people with Jesus. Jesus did not face his crucifixion alone, but rather with two others who had also been condemned.
God does not intend for us to face hard times alone. Even our Messiah had companionship and the reassurance of other people with him during his most triumphant and darkest hour.
AnnaMea also was feeling the heavy burdens she was carrying as she limped along the streets from a Meditation group to the Library. After sitting a while in the library she prayed to God. After praying she decided she should try just one more time and go to the Cricket Wireless store to see if she could get her phone issues straighten out. She thought to herself, “I have a lot of things I need to do and I can get any of them done without my phone.” So packing up her bags, grabbing her cane and putting her winter hat on, she limped down the street.
When she entered the store the employee greeted her and asked “how are you today?” to which AnnaMea replied “I am not feeling to well.” “What’s the matter?” the employee asked? AnnaMea said, “I am upset because my phone has been off since Monday.” The employee quickly took down her phone number and looked it up in the computer, after hitting a few buttons he turned it back on!
One of AnnaMea’s burdens had been lifted!
I heard this story from her first hand and she thanked me for my help. But the reality is I did nothing to get her phone turned back on. That was all her. I was simply one of the other men carrying a heavy cross walking alongside her, while she too carried a cross.
This is often our spiritual work as Christians. Not to be fixers for others, but rather to simply walk alongside each other as we each carry our own burdens.
The 2014 Marathon was a great example of people walking together carrying burdens. Many of the runners, including myself had been there the year before. We witnessed the chaos of 2013 and as we ran from Hopkinton onto Bolyston Street our legs and bodies felt like they were going to collapse. Each leg feeling as thou it weight one hundred pounds and yet there was a light and energy which was greater than all the runners combined. It was a death and resurrection moment.
A moment which could not have happened, if as a community people had not come together after the bombing and helped carry each other’s burdens.
As we walk this Holy Week I invite you to not go at it alone. Find a family member, friend, fellow church goer, and know that God does not intend us to walk this road carrying our burdens alone.
All sermons posted are written by Rev. Tina Walker-Morin. All rights reserved.