FEELING LENT…HUMILIATION IN THE PRAETORIUM
March 29, 2020…Fifth Sunday in Lent
Over these Sundays of Lent we are feeling Lent! We are exploring in this series of messages the waves of emotion that wash over Jesus during his final days in Jerusalem, while also encountering how these emotions speak to us in our life’s journey.
On previous Sundays, we have witnessed Jesus experiencing exhilaration on Mt. Olive Road as he enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. We have seen him filled with rage as he cleanses the temple of supposedly holy persons committing unholy exploitation of disadvantaged folk. We ran into confusion in the Upper Room as Jesus takes on the role of a slave, washing his disciples’ nasty feet.
Last Sunday there was defiance on full display as Jesus exhibits courage in the face of hatred before the religious leaders and Pontius Pilate.
This morning we see the pain of humiliation inflicted upon Jesus’ body and soul.
Hear the account from Matthew 27:
27 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.
OUR LORD’S TRAVAIL
The Praetorium is a large room on the first level of the Pontius Pilate’s headquarters in Jerusalem. After Jesus is brutally whipped outside in the courtyard, he is dragged inside to this chamber where he is subjected to further torture.
Over 200 Roman soldiers are gathered around – laughing, jeering, taking great pleasure in the spectacle of a bloodied, naked Jewish peasant being lampooned before them. For them, this is great sport – entertainment to break the monotony of their tour of duty. For Jesus, who has nearly had the life lashed out of him at the whipping post, this is salt being poured in his open wounds. He is utterly humiliated, shamed, disgraced.
It is yet another dark chapter in the divine plan to redeem you and me and all of humanity. Jesus endures the worst that a twisted, evil world has to offer that these words might become eternal truth for us: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
In these days of quarantine, please take time to ponder this. Ponder it deeply.
OUR TRAVAIL IN THESE PANDEMIC TIMES
Yes, we’ve all been impacted in various degrees by the coronavirus pandemic. For many, it has been an inconvenience, like a prolonged snowstorm that has left us hunkered down indoors. For others, it has been a huge disappointment, as schools, sports and other activities have been cancelled without further notice.
Some of us have been called to put in longer hours, risking exposure to infection in such roles as healthcare workers, supermarket clerks, truckdrivers, law enforcement, emergency medical personnel.
And yes, many of us have lost our source of income to support ourselves and our families as our jobs have been furloughed with no end in sight. Some 3.2 million persons. And this takes a mighty toll not just on our wallet, but moreso on our spirit.
It is very true that much of our self-worth is tied to what we do. It’s what defines us. And while we are thankful that our President and Congress are stepping up to help stem our personal financial losses, we still are hurting within. There’s a sense of humiliation, shame, disgrace…certainly not to the degree our Lord experienced in the Praetorium…but nonetheless, it is still very real.
My father, Sam Burch, was part of that greatest generation. As a 1st Lieutenant, he led a platoon ashore at Omaha Beach, Normandy on D-Day. And yet, Daddy never once talked with me about that harrowing, heroic experience.
But there was a subject he would talk freely about that preceded his days in the Army: Yes, we would be riding home from the grocery store or picking vegetables out of the garden to take to poor, elderly folks around the community or delivering a pie my mother had baked to someone who had experienced a death in their family, and Daddy would start talking about the Great Depression.
When the Great Depression hit, my father was in his early 20’s. He would work 48 hours at Spaulding Lumber Company and bring home $3.12, which $2.75 was owed to the company store. But then he lost his job as the mill closed down.
He recalled the humiliation of going months on end without any work, having to rely on others for food when the hunger pangs overcame his pride. Yes, he had to resort to begging for meals. Recalling the deep pain of those years, his eyes would well up with tears as told me about feeling like a nobody, a second-class citizen.
Daddy eventually found employment with a government works project doing road construction between Chase City and Boydton. And he also enlisted in the National Guard, which eventually took him overseas in WW2.
With faith and grit, my daddy survived those hard times. He met my mother. They were married, raised four kids. He worked the remainder of his life as a supervisor in that same lumber mill. He served as a Sunday School teacher and Lay Leader of Centenary UMC for over 30 years. And he took care of folks around the community, paying forward the kindness that had been shown to him decades before.
One of my daddy’s favorite Bible verses that he told me to never forget was Psalm 30:5: Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
Yes, friends, it is a foreboding night for some of us right now. All that seemed secure and safe for us has been overturned and overwhelmed in the matter of just a few weeks.
But the God who transformed the pervasive darkness of Good Friday into the glory and majesty of Easter morn…the God who conquered the chains of sin and death, raising his Son to new life…that same God has not forgotten you. He will see you through this. He will raise you up. You are not alone.
And, like my dad, you will come through this time a changed person, ready and willing to go the second mile in showing greater compassion to others.
Yes, weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
Yes, praise God, the dawn will arrive! Amen!