Easter Sunday morning is marked by voices of Joy – for example, HE IS RISEN! We use our voices to rejoice, to declare our faith, to express the reality of the resurrection.
We sing together: Christ the Lord is risen today, or Up from the Grave he arose! We greet others with a smile and memories of maybe hunting for easter eggs or at least eating chocolate for breakfast. We express with voice our response to Jesus.
Hear the voice of John the Baptist:
Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Today we want to hear some of the voices that wrap around the Easter story and in the journey of Jesus to the cross and beyond.
47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” 49 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.
50 Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.”[d]
Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus, and arrested him. 51 With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out, and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
52 “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”
55 In that hour Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. 56 But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.
Imagine the scene – from the quietness of the garden in which the sound of the sleeping disciples is only disturbed by the prayer of Jesus…. But now the quietness of the garden is replaced by the noise of the oncoming crowd.
Judas leading the way, the rulers of the Temple and the guards in tow. Historians believe that there would have been some 250 soldiers providing the muscle to this official party, here to arrest the Lamb of God.
There are voices of anger, voices of authority, voices of hunger, voices of pain, voices of fear…
There are many voices in the Easter story… and as I read their words
I hear myself,
I hear others,
I hear us.
So, this morning can we hear together their words and can you, with me, let their voices speak to us,
to our expectations
and assumptions about God,
and The Lamb of God.
Let us begin with….
33 Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”
34 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”
35 But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.
Hear the certainty of Peter’s voice.
His ego is fully engaged. He is so sure of himself – he envisions that whatever is facing Jesus, he is up to as well.
No matter the threat or the price to be paid, Peter believes he can pay that price. So come his infamous words: “I will never deny you.”
I am sure the disciples gathered around are all nodding their heads… so certain that they are like Peter that they do not lack in any way other when it comes to loyalty.
Our words can be bold – can’t they? It is so easy to say yes, to declare our allegiance, to sing loudly, and to be engaged in the “I will never deny you” when it is safe. When we are surrounded by like people. Peter… even if all fall away…. I never will. Really?
How do our words reflect the reality of our faith? I sometimes think it’s so easy just say I love you, I’ll follow you, I will not deny you… We hear Peter’s voice and I wonder – do we hear ourselves?
Even as Jesus moved from Bethany to Jerusalem, Judas has gone to meet up with the Chief Priests… having seen the waste of money by Mary, anointing the feet of Jesus with such an expensive perfume… (Matthew 26:6-13) he makes his way to the authorities who he knows are looking for a way to trap Jesus, away from the crowds.
14 Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests 15 and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. 16 From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.
Hear the voice of Judas: What are you willing to give me?
All the disciples have struggled to understand Jesus, His mission, and the relationship He has with Israel’s future. That is why they were so eager to ask Jesus the question “is this the time when you will restore Israel?”
The hope of a restored Kingdom, with a King for Israel, is primary to the understanding they all had of the Messiah. So, the activity, words, and priorities of Jesus baffle them…. Even on the road, they had argued about who would get to sit on the right and left of Jesus as He established His Kingdom betraying their expectations. Among them, Judas has a remarkable expectation of personal gain.
As treasurer, he sees the funds, sees how they are used, and how much or little they have. He likes having his hand on if not in the piggy bank.
His expectations now unrealized change the focus of his loyalty. His loyalty is to himself, he has decided that if he can gain at the expense of the man, he has followed over the past 3 years then we will.
It challenges my loyalty.
It challenges what decisions I make and why I make them.
Is there an area of our lives that is more revealing than what we do with our money? Is this an area that needs consideration for ourselves? Is there anything in how we use our funds that illustrates our alignment to Kingdom priorities? Anything that betrays our allegiance?
21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.
“Barabbas,” they answered.
22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.
They all answered, “Crucify him!”
23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”
25 All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”
26 Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged and handed him over to be crucified.
Pilate: “I am innocent of this man’s blood”
Having tried to release Pilate but having been unsuccessful he believes that he has done his duty, that he is able to step back from his responsibilities and acquiesce to the crowd. Whatever happens now to Jesus is not his fault. Being faultless, being without blame is still a favourite activity of people.
You see, Jesus died because of our sin, because of our lostness…but many believe that Jesus did not die for them – that they have no need of a Saviour. His sacrifice is not caused by their sin. These people fall, in my experience, into two camps. The first are those who believe that there is no need of a saving God, that they are good of their own making, that they have personal integrity to such a degree that they can be called God.
Jesus who was called good replied, there is no one good except God.
We are all in need of saving….
The second group are those that do not believe in God. How are they different from the first group? They are different as they do not believe that there is an eternity to qualify for…. They believe that the here and now is all there is. We live, we die, and that is it. They will often believe that ‘whoever invented religion’ have done so for personal gain or manipulation. They have no need of a saviour…because there is no one able to save or a reason to save.
They look at crucified Jesus and say, “I am innocent of this man’s blood” for I have no need of Him.
15 Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. 16 At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus[b] Barabbas. 17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.
19 While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”
20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.
21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.
“Barabbas,” they answered.
Hear the voices of the people: “give us Barabbas”
The truth of the Gospel is that we must choose. In fact, the entire story inside the Gospel is the choice between Caesar and Jesus. The story of the first-century church is in this choice. Why were first-century Christians arrested, imprisoned, even sent into the coliseum to face the gladiator or the lions? Because they chose Jesus not Caesar.
As the crowd shouts out “give us Barabbas” they are in fact choosing Caesar. And it isn’t just this one choice, because our decisions cascade. We choose comfort over service and others suffer. We choose self over others and we isolate ourselves from the blessing of relationships.
We choose Caesar and we align our priorities with those of Caesar and therefore deny Christ. Jesus made it clear that you cannot serve two masters. You must choose.
For the sin of
He went to the slaughter silently…
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
But then comes the resurrection morning. And now hear the words of Jesus.
5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
The word of Jesus to the women…
“Go and tell my brothers…. “
Those of us who have had an encounter with Jesus need to tell of our encounter – we have met the risen Saviour, and what that means to us… despite the failure of the disciples, including boastful Peter Jesus wants to pull them close for he has words to share with them…and the Gospel of Matthew concludes with His words.
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
The words of Jesus… surely I am with you – always.
Isn’t it interesting to note that Matthew still records…”but some doubted”.
Yes, there are times when we feel unsure, we feel weak or vulnerable or even inadequate. We are represented in the words of the disciples, Peter, Judas, Pilate, the people…and even in that Jesus comes to let us know that He is with us.
He is with us this morning. And He offers to you and to me, to us, this assurance. He wants to be our Saviour – He died for us – for our salvation He gave His life – for our sin is forgiveness, for our failures the release from guilt. For our weakness is His strength.
His word is personal – it is personal to you. These words are recorded to us in John 16:33
33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
We are people of the resurrection – we are overcomers because he overcame! We have peace because He is our peace.
We have joy because He has saved us from our sin – from ourselves.
We believe because He gives us faith and we follow because He empowers us.
How what do you need?
What in your life do you “I need Jesus here – I need Jesus for….”? You have a need?
Jesus who is peace and joy and grace and mercy can meet your need.