Sermons

"I am the Son of Man": Sermon for Palm Sunday Year B

"I am the Son of Man": Sermon for Palm Sunday Year B

Mar 29, 2015

Passage:Mark 14:42-15:47

Preacher: The Rev. Claire Cowden

Series: Holy Week

Category: Love, Discipleship, Faith

Keywords: christ, holy week, suffering

Summary:

It is in his deepest suffering that Jesus comes to know most fully his own identity and to experience his Father's life-giving presence and power most intimately. This same intimate presence of the God who creates and sustains all life is available to us in our own times of deep suffering, offering new, transformed life.

Detail:

In the name of God: Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

It is hard to speak after we have read Jesus’ passion and left Jesus’ lifeless body wrapped in a linen cloth and lying in a tomb.

Our worship this morning began a long way from the tomb. We began with a great deal of honest enthusiasm and praise by welcoming Jesus as the “King who comes in the name of the Lord.”

The great crowds in Jerusalem who strew his way with branches from palm & olive trees expected Jesus to be a king in the tradition of King David, one who would deliver Israel from the oppressive hand of Roman Rule.

In Jesus’ passion, the story of his suffering & death, we find that God gives Israel & all of us so much more than a monarch.

In the suffering of Jesus, God shows us nothing less than the nature of reality, a reality that flows unceasingly with life: the kind of life that undergirds everything and everyone that ever was & ever will be.

The kind of life that surges beneath, lifts up, carries forward & embraces everything and everyone that exists.

This unstoppable life is revealed in a most unlikely and unpromising place - in Jesus’ trial before the religious authorities.

As he stands in the high priest’s court, Jesus stands abandoned and alone. All his close followers have fled.

Nevertheless, Jesus is solid. He is steady. Jesus embodies the Song of the Suffering Servant, a portion of which we heard in the reading from Isaiah, the song which says,

“I did not turn backward. I did not hide my face from insult and spitting. I have set my face like flint.”

Jesus is utterly obedient, “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” as our reading from the early Christian hymn in Philippians expresses it.

As Jesus stands in the court of the high priest, he remains remarkably quiet through much of the chaotic and noisy trial.

He speaks only to answer one final question, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”

Jesus reveals what he now knows is the full truth of his identity. And he does much more than simply say, “Yes, I am the Anointed One of God.”

Jesus declares, “I AM.” “I AM and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power.”

“I AM” is biblical language for God’s name. You will remember that “I AM” language is all over John’s gospel when Jesus speaks of himself. But this is the first and only instance of “I AM” language for Jesus in Mark’s gospel, and it is important that it comes right here, in this place of anguish.

“I AM and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power.”

“The Son of Man,” is also significant biblical language. Scholars debate the exact meaning of the phrase, but here in Mark it surely means, at least, “human,” a literal son of man, “a human person.”

Putting together the “I AM” with “the Son of Man” in Jesus’ declaration, we catch the astonishing significance of what Jesus is saying, and it is this: “I AM now where God is to be found. God is to be found right here in this mortal human.”

God is now with Jesus so much more intimately than even at his baptism, where God’s voice comes from OUTSIDE Jesus to declare him “My Son, the Beloved.”

The unstoppable presence of the Power of God, Creator of the heavens & the earth, are now INSIDE Jesus. Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury puts it this way,

“God is no longer separate from {Jesus}. … through what {Jesus now} does and suffers, {Jesus is establishing} what the voice of God and the presence of God might mean in this world.”

The meaning is that the life God creates is unquenchable. Williams continues, “God’s presence and resource, {God’s} love and mercy, cannot be extinguished by loneliness or injustice, {or} by the terrible, apparently meaningless suffering in which human beings {can and often} live.”[i]

It is in his deepest suffering where Jesus recognizes the fullness of his identity, as the Son of the Father. It is in his deepest suffering that Jesus knows God the Father most What is true for Jesus, is also true for us, because Jesus shows us the fullness of what it is to be human as well as the fullness of what it is to be God.

So we learn that the God of life comes to each of us deeply and truly in our dark moments, offering all God’s resources as creator and sustainer of all life, to bring us through such dark times to new life on the other side.

God does not make Jesus’ suffering vanish. God does not make our suffering vanish. The new life to which we can be brought on the other side of the suffering often looks very different than the old one.

I remember the time in my own life when the reality of Easter resurrection became vividly alive. It began with a broken heart that I brought with me on Palm Sunday. As I walked with Jesus throughout his final week and lived through the truth that each worship service revealed, I found myself, much to my surprise and astonishment, reborn with Jesus during one Great Vigil of Easter.

One of best ways I know for God’s surging, healing life to become palpably & profoundly present in our own, is to be present with Jesus in this Holy Week, however that looks for you as individuals and as families.

I hope you can come to all the services, because each one has a distinctive truth it reveals. But, if you can’t come, I hope you can find some way to walk with Jesus each day this week, as individuals and as families.

My prayer for all of us is taken from the collect for the day which we prayed earlier, Almighty God of tender love, Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of Jesus’ suffering, that we may also share fully in his glorious resurrection.

AMEN.

 [i] Rowan Williams, Meeting God in Mark, Westminster John Knox, 2014, p. 56 & p. 61. The “inside” and “outside” insights can also be found in the final chapter, “A Lifelong Passion.”