Palm Sunday Homily - March 28, 2021 - The Cross through the Killer's Eyes

Palm Sunday
Isaiah 50:4-9a
Psalm 31:9-16
Philippians 2:5-11
Mark 15:1-47


When you look at the cross,
 what do you see?

Do you see a religious symbol,
 a wooden or brass engraved adornment
  that shows up in church sometimes,
   or that might be visible on the church sign outside?

Do you see the millions of dollars of silver or gold crosses
 that dot the jewelry isles in places as generic as Walmart or Target
  that you can pick up for pennies on the dollar?

When you look at the cross,
 what do you see?

Do you imagine an empty cross,
 with Jesus not on it?

A bare cross,
 that bears no body on it,
  that has no sting in it,
   and that shields yourself from having to contemplate
    the suffering that the Only Begotten Son of God
     freely chose on behalf of the whole human race?

Are you tempted to skip over the more brutish parts of the scene,
 choosing to insulate and isolate the heaviness of the cross
  by cold analytic of the text of St. Mark,
   the safely distant observing of an interesting bit of Ancient Near East literature
    about a Jewish rabbi killed by the Roman Empire
     in the way that Rome usually killed those whom it deemed too dangerous.

When you look at the cross,
 or particularly, dear friends in Christ,
  when you look at the cross this morning,
   would you instead look at it in the way we must?

Would you instead look into the deep mystery of God's sacrifice for the world
 and not turn your eyes away?

Would you look at the very body of God
 that we in our frail humanity have scourged and torn,
  a real, visceral look at the lengths we will go
   to maintain our control over the world,
    even if it means to crucify the very God who came to save us.

Do we have the courage,
  to look down at our own hands,
   and find that we indeed are holding both the hammer and the nails
    that have pierced the body
     of Jesus Christ?

And do we have the bravery
 to stay at the cross
  for those hours of darkness,
   where the world mysteriously is blackened,
    where Christ breathes his last?

Because it is only when we go through it all
 that we can also confess
  as the Roman centurion who is overseeing the execution of Jesus confesses,
   "Truly this man is God's son!"
    an exclamation that Jesus himself told his disciples that flesh and blood cannot say
     apart from the Father giving it to be said. 

When you look at the cross,
 the temptation is strong to want to see the cross
  merely from the other side of Easter,
   and to omit the suffering of Christ.

But when you look at the cross today,
 would you instead look at it through the eyes of the centurion?
  Would you look at the cross as a man who was a foreigner in charge of the execution,
   who prepared the hammer and nails,
     who oversaw the actual act of crucifixion?
Because it is this centurion,
 this foreigner,
  this unworthy killer of Jesus
   that actually understands the truth of the Holy Cross 
    after what he witnesses.

And if we see with the eyes of the centurion,
 perhaps we will also begin to understand
  that we, who were foreigners and outcasts,
   unworthy sinners of the worst type
    are also those very same people
     that Jesus cries out to God, saying,
      "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. 


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