Palm Sunday/Sunday of the Passion
March 25, 2018
Mark 11:1-10 and 15:1-47
“You Are The Weakest Link”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. The text that engages us today is from the Gospel of St. Mark
My Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,
Do you remember the TV show, “Weakest Link“? It was a show that came out in 2001 and tried to “ride the coattails” of the success of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” Initially, in America the show was a pop culture sensation. Why? It wasn’t popular because of contestants or the questions that were asked. It was popular, at first anyway, because of the host Anne Robinson and the way she handled contestants. When a player was deemed to be restricting the team’s ability to answer questions correctly for money, they were “voted off” the show and Anne Robinson would throw in her catch phrase in her crusty, snooty British accent: “You are the weakest link! Goodbye!”
Obviously there were not game shows as such in ancient Israel, but if there were, Jesus would have made for a great contestant on “Weakest Link,” at least after Palm Sunday anyway. When He arrived in Jerusalem the crowds were fired up; Jesus was an overnight pop culture sensation! Their deliverer was here! Their king was here! Hosanna to the Son of David! But by the end of the week, as far as the crowds were concerned, Jesus really was the weakest link. His message was ludicrous to them and the kingdom he proclaimed seemed ridiculous.
For the people of Jerusalem at that time, Jesus was the “weakest link” in that He was the wrong kind of king. Jesus did not intend to establish the peace envisioned by the people. The people wanted a powerful king who would remove the oppressive Romans. Their response was as simple as it was short-sighted. By Friday they wanted him not gone, but dead. Their shouts of “Crucify” were their way of saying “you are the weakest link. Goodbye!”
The High Priest, Chief Priests, and religious leaders truly believed that Jesus was the “weakest link.” He was a “Blasphemer,” one who slandered the name of God. When Jesus was falsely arrested and put on trial, they asked him if he were the Son of God, to which he replied, “I Am” (Mark 14:64). To Jewish leadership, this was completely unacceptable! This was blaspheme, and the penalty for any Israelite who blasphemed against God was death (Lev. 24:14-16). You and I know the real reason why, though. The chief priests and leaders saw Jesus as the “weakest link” because they were threatened by him. Believing in Jesus and what he was saying and what he was doing threatened the “status quo” of their day, and so in reaction they sought the fastest way to have him erased. They accused him of blaspheme which was punishable by death.
Pontius Pilate must have thought that Jesus was the “weakest link.” They brought Jesus to Pilate because the Jews determined that Jesus deserved death, but because the Romans were in charge, any death sentence had to come from and through the occupying Roman forces. They brought Jesus to Pilate and accused him of many things and Jesus did not respond (Mark 15:4-5). Pilate must have thought, “this guy is a fool!” Here they are bringing accusation after accusation and he’s not saying a word.”
To Pilate, it is obvious that the peasant Jew before him was no king at all…certainly not the king of the Jews. Kings have bodyguards and armies and money and power. Jesus has none of this. Any reasonable person would simply defend himself against the aggression of his enemies, save his life, and get out of there the best he could. Yet Jesus said nothing. Why? Simple. If Jesus speaks up, Pilate may have a reason to set him free. And if that happens: no condemnation, no crown of thorns, no whip, no nails, no blood, no cross. No salvation. No hope. No eternal life. No comfort in this life. Who knew so much hinged on silence?
The consequence of Jesus’ silence meant that Jesus would die. On the TV show “Weakest Link” when you lost and were out the host Anne Robinson would say “You are the weakest link. Goodbye!” And you had to leave in humiliation. The sad reality – the real humiliation – in this whole Palm Sunday/Passion narrative is that WE are the weakest link! When tempted, we give in. When confronted, we are sheepishly silent. We sinfully lie, cheat, deceive, gossip, slander, complain, and covet. In the salvation equation, we are the weakest link. But we have one who stepped in on our behalf – the King of the Jews…Jesus Christ.
Jesus is not the “weakest link.” He is the Son of God who is the King of the Jews. Throughout Mark’s Gospel, Jesus refuses to accept the title of king and messiah as the people understood. He is a different kind of king of a different kind of kingdom. He is the Son of God and the king of the kingdom of grace and peace, not military power and warfare. And nothing will prevent this kingdom from being permanently established, not even the horror of the cross. Paradoxically, the event intended to put an end to this “weakest link” becomes the means by which the kingdom of peace puts an end to all of the kingdoms of this world! The cross was once a symbol horror. Now it is the ultimate symbol of hope!
Have you watched “Weakest Link” lately on TV? Unless you have an obscure cable channel, the answer is “no.” After the 9/11 attacks people cared very little about those kinds of reality game shows and “Weakest Link” was canceled in 2002 after a year-long run in America. It may have looked like Jesus and his reign as king was “canceled” on Good Friday, a day that we remember this week, but instead on that day Jesus said “Goodbye!” to the power of sin and death and the devil for our benefit and for our salvation. Death will never cancel us. We cannot be voted off, because we have already won. The resurrection ensures our victory.
Welcome to Holy Week 2018.