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Jesus Takes Centre Stage





Cuthbert cross

Jesus Takes Centre Stage 


Read : Mark 11:1-11; Isaiah 50: 4-9; Philippians 2: 5-11; Mark 15: 1-39 (NIV) 

Several weeks ago, Fettes College staged a production of the 1970s musical Jesus Christ Superstar here in our Sanctuary. I was privileged to have seen the one of the performances and was impressed by the talent of the young cast and the musicians of the orchestra; I was much moved by the re-enactment of the final days of Jesus' life based on St John's gospel. The whole event was of the highest quality and the production team used professional lighting rigs and skilled operators to achieve the best effects possible within the space.  

At one point, I think it was possibly (and therefore appropriately), during the Last Supper the figure of Christ on our frieze was the only part of the church around us that was illuminated - literally and metaphorically the spotlight was on Jesus looking down on the actors sharing the bread and the wine together.  

The spotlights piercing the intense darkness left the audience in no doubt as to the importance of Christ in the scene being played out before us.  

fettes

Jesus Christ became the focus for every eye, for every mind. 

Our gospel reading today, Palm Sunday pulls the focus in tight on Jesus - Jesus makes his entry into Jerusalem, coming into the town as it prepared for the Passover Feast, he comes in from the outlying villages and countryside where he has been teaching and healing.  

Like an actor coming in from the wings to take centre stage Jesus moves into the spotlight, becoming the focus for those around him.  

Stepping into the spotlight leaves little room for error, as all eyes turn on the one who is centre stage, every word and every movement is under close scrutiny.  

When an actor steps into the spotlight he or she receives the full attention of the audience, and that audience will be comprised of fans and followers as well as those who would seek to criticise and condemn. 

Jesus had carefully planned, stage managed even, his entry into Jerusalem, he had arranged for the colt, a young ass to be waiting for him so that he could enter the city as a king coming in peace.  

Riding onwards ever closer to the city he knows that he is also making his way ever closer to the cross.  

The reaction of the crowds is delight, his fame precedes him and they greet Jesus as the one who can save them - Hosanna was originally a cry of 'save us' but these jubilant, palm waving, cloak spreading crowds acclaim Jesus as the one who saves, the Messiah.  

And so he rides on into the spotlight, to become the focus for the next few days, his last few days.  

As he does so Jesus knows that things are going to end badly for him, he knows that he has become a thorn in the side of the authorities, but he also knows that he rides onward to restore a broken relationship between heaven and earth, he will bring about a kingdom that the crowd cannot begin to imagine.  

The crowd, focussing their attention on this itinerant preacher are pinning their hopes on him, but their hopes are for an earthly liberation, they want to see their Roman oppressors overcome and have their city and land restored to the heirs of King David. 

The crowd who greeted Jesus with such excitement had, perhaps, not looked into the face of the one they claimed as their liberator. 

If they had, would they have seen pain in his face? 

Would have seen the grim realisation of his situation etched onto Christ's features? 

Would they have noticed the sadness in his eyes? 

There are many depictions of Jesus entering the city sitting tall upon the young animal, this moment is one that has captured the imagination of artists and storytellers, play-writes and film makers throughout the years.  

For the most part Christ is shown as a calm, thoughtful figure, hand raised in blessing. But some artists and film directors have, to great effect, captured a hint of the sadness and dread that he must have felt amid the shouting, smiling, cheering crowd who thronged around him. The face of Jesus, set towards the darkness of the cross, is in deepest contrast to the upturned and jubilant faces of the joyful crowd. 

And so this morning we have taken, not a palm branch, but a cross made out of a palm leaf, a reminder that as we shout 'Hosanna' we claim Jesus of Nazareth as our Messiah, the one whose death on the cross brings us liberation from sin and death, as we offer him our praise we claim him as our Saviour bringing God's eternal kingdom rather than restoring an earthly kingdom. 

As Jesus rides into the centre of the stage, into the glare of the spotlight, let us keep our focus firmly on him the days of this Holy Week.  

And as we do so may we be reminded anew that his rightful place is at the centre of our hearts and of our lives, let us remember that our focus, always, should be on our Saviour, the one who has liberated each of us from sin and death and the one who has restored us to a right relationship with the Father, promising each a place in his eternal kingdom. 

This Easter may Jesus Christ become the focus for every eye, for every mind and for every heart. 

To God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be all praise and glory this day and evermore. Amen 

Rev Suzie Stark, March 2015

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