Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 23:26-31
The role of the crowds in the gospel narratives is always in flux. They are people – like you and me. They are women and men. They are witnesses of our Jesus – of his ministry, his miracles, and his majesty. They are potential disciples. They become his supporters and fellow travellers. They waver through his arrest and trial. They join the opposition and shout for his crucifixion.*
And in this scene, they walk behind him on the way to Golgotha – the Place of the Skull – where Jesus will be crucified.
In the past when I have read this text I conceived that the crowd followed Jesus for one of two reasons. One – they wanted to have “the last laugh” when Jesus was, in fact, not able to save himself and get down off that cross. Two – they were curious and, not having missed any of the spectacle to this point, thought they would see it to the end.
Recently I received a different point of view from an excerpt by pastor and theologian Fred Craddock, whose words continue to be so life-giving for me. Craddock acknowledges that a mighty throng follow Jesus as he stumbles – bruised and broken – towards the cross. The people that follow him do so beating their breasts and wailing for him. Craddock connects this activity to the traditional gesture of lament enacted by prophets like Zechariah:
And I will pour out a spirit of compassion and supplication on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that, when they look on the one[a]whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn (Zech 12:10).
Craddock notes that Luke takes care to connect this behavior – wailing and beating one’s breast – to the act of repentance. In Luke 18 Jesus tells the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. The Pharisee praises God in prayer that “he is not like other people…even this tax collector” whereas the Tax Collector rends his heart, “standing far off, [not even looking] up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Lk 18:12-13). Jesus said, I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted (Lk 18:14).
I was wrong. The people did not want to have the last laugh. Neither are they curious. They are repentant. And they are committed. Their allegiance to Jesus returns.
And so they walk to the cross. To the grave. And – thanks be to God – from the empty tomb.
I look forward to the opportunities to walk with the people of TUMC this Holy Week. We walk as the foremothers and forefathers in our faith – repentant and committed. To the cross. To the grave.
And – thanks be to God – from the empty tomb.
Holy Week at Tuskawilla UMC
Saturday, April 13 – Easter Egg Hunt
9:30am – Gather in Fellowship Hall
Sunday, April 14 – Palm Sunday Worship
8:30am – Morningsong in the Sanctuary
11am – Here Is Love Cantata in the Sanctuary
Monday, April 15 – Prayer Stations
5:30-7:30pm in the Sanctuary
Tuesday, April 16 – Prayer Stations
5:30-7:30pm in the Sanctuary
Wednesday, April 17 – Prayer Stations
11:30-12:45pm and 5:30-7:30pm in the Sanctuary
Thursday, April 18 – Maundy Thursday Drama
Daughters of Jerusalem concluding with Holy Communion
7:00pm in the Sanctuary
Friday, April 19 – Good Friday Service of Tenebrae
7pm in the Sanctuary
Sunday, April 21 – Easter Sunday
Bring flowers for our Courtyard Easter Cross
7am Sunrise Morningsong Service with Holy Communion in the Courtyard
9:30am Easter Breakfast in the Fellowship Hall
11am Worship in the Sanctuary
Monday, April 22 – TUMC Offices Closed
Prayer: “The people of the Hebrews with psalms before thee went; our prayer and praise and anthems before thee we present. To thee, before thy passion, they sang their hymns of praise; to thee, now high exalted, our melody we raise. Thou didst accept their praises; accept the prayers we bring, who in all good delightest, thou good and gracious King. All glory, laud, and honor, to thee, Redeemer, King, to whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring.”** Amen.
*The People’s New Testament Commentary 275-276.
** “All Glory, Laud, and Honor,” The United Methodist Hymnal 280.