March 29, 2015: Palm Sunday – Passion Sunday

Posted on : Mar 26th, 2015 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

Last Sunday I spoke about Elie Wiesel, the Jewish theologian who survived the torture of the Concentration Camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald. He was 16 years old when he and his family were arrested and hauled off to the camps. Elie was separated from his mother and three sisters. He and his father were sent to the same camp: Auschwitz.

Elie Wiesel witnessed unbelievable acts of human cruelty and horror. On January 29, 1945, just a few weeks after the two were marched to Buchenwald, Wiesel’s father was beaten by an SS guard. His father was suffering from dysentery, starvation, and exhaustion. His father was later sent to the crematorium, only weeks before the camp was liberated by the U.S. Third Army on April 11.

Reflecting on the horror and tragedy of what he experienced, Elie Wiesel has dedicated his life to educating humanity about the nature of intolerance in hopes that such an act of genocide as occurred in the Concentration Camps will never occur again. In light of that, Wiesel writes extensively about love, hatred, intolerance and “what makes us human.” One of his writings says this:

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.

The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference.

The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference.

And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”

Similarly, two hundred years earlier, Edmund Burke wrote: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.”

Yet even before that, the Gospel of Matthew gives us these words from Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judaea from 26 AD to 36 AD.

When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this Man’s blood; see to that yourselves.” And all the people said, “His blood shall be on us and on our children!”… (Matthew 27: 24-25)

This Sunday our journey through the Season of Lent comes to an end. It ends with the death of Jesus. Pontius Pilate was the governor of Judaea in the last week of Jesus’ life. He was a Roman citizen – a secular person; certainly not Jewish. When the religious leaders brought Jesus to Pilate, accusing him of trying to become “King of the Jewish people,” this secular guy knew these religious zealots were lying through their teeth. Their witnesses contradicted one another. The testimonies were so absurd they were obviously false. Even Pilate could tell this was a set-up.

Pilate tried to save Jesus’ life by offering the people another notorious murderer, but the religious zealots – the Scribes and the Pharisees – riled up the crowd even more, and Pilate was concerned that a riot was about to break out. So he ceremonially raises his hands, took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this Man’s blood” (Jesus’ blood)… and then he turns Jesus over to the authorities to be executed (crucified).

On this last Sunday of Lent, we will think about how we are like Pilate, wanting to wash our hands of the evil of others. Over the centuries, we’ve become exceptionally gifted in following Pilate’s ways; but, as Christians, can we ever “wash our hands” of the blood of the innocent? And what is the cost when we do?

Blessings to you as we begin this Holiest of weeks,



~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Luke 19: 28-40

Luke recounts Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

Hosanna! Hosanna!

Blessed is the One who comes in the Name of our God.

Hosanna in the highest!

Jesus went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he drew near to Beth’phage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village opposite, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat; untie it and bring it here.   If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this, ‘The Savior has need of it.’” So those who were sent went away and found it as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” And they said, “The Savior has need of it.”  

And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their garments on the colt, they set Jesus upon it. And as he rode along, they spread their garments on the road.

As he was drawing near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, 

Hosanna! Hosanna!

Blessed is the One who comes in the Name of our God.

Hosanna in the highest!

And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”


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