Hard Tasks and Bragging
1. What is the hardest test you have ever taken? How did you feel after you finished the test? Were you proud of your test grade? Why?
2. Has anyone ever bragged about something you did that was hard? What was it?
First Reading: Philippians 2:6-11
Christ Jesus lived as God. He did not have to try to be God. Instead, Jesus emptied himself like a servant when he was born. When he grew up, he humbled himself and obeyed God, even as he died on the cross. So, God raised Jesus up and gave him a name that was more glorious than any other name. In heaven, on the earth, and even in the grave, everyone must worship Jesus whenever his name is mentioned. And every language must declare "Jesus Christ is Lord" as a way to glorify God the Father.
St. Paul traveled to many different cities, so he could tell people about Jesus. After he visited a Christian community in certain city, he would write them a letter. This reading is part of a letter St. Paul wrote to the Christians in a city called Philippa.
St. Paul is telling us something we already know: the hardest things we do are the things people brag about. (Don't our parents and teachers brag about us when we do good things?) But, Jesus did some very hard things. He made himself something less than he was; he was God and he became a human being. Then Jesus died a hard and humiliating death for us. Because of these two things, God raised Jesus to new life and made him Lord, ruler over all things. God the Father is proud of Jesus and wants everyone to know what Jesus did!
Let us read about the hard things Jesus did; let us read about his death.
Bridging Question: How many of you have been treated unfairly? What happened?
Gospel: Matthew 27:11-18, 20-41, 44-52, 54
Scene 1: The Trial of Jesus
The religious leaders in Jerusalem arrested Jesus and questioned him. Afterwards, they took him to Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judea.
"Are you the King of the Jews?" Pilate asked him.
"If you say so," Jesus answered.
But, when the Temple priests and other leaders accused Jesus, he didn't answer.
"Didn't you just hear all the charges they've made against you?" Pilate said.
Again, Jesus didn't answer, not even a single word! Pilate was really surprised! During the festival of Passover, Pilate usually freed one prisoner the crowd asked for. There was a famous prisoner in jail named Barabbas. So, when the crowd formed, Pilate asked them:
"Who do you want me to free, Barabbas or Jesus, the so-called Messiah?"
Pilate knew the leaders turned Jesus over to him because they were jealous. The Temple priests and other leaders convinced the crowd they should ask Pilate to free Barabbas and punish Jesus.
"Which man do you want me to free?" Pilate asked the crowd.
"Barabbas!" they answered.
"What should I do with Jesus, the so-called Messiah?" Pilate said.
"Crucify him!" they responded.
"But why? What crime did he commit?" Pilate replied.
"CRUCIFY HIM!" they shouted even louder.
Pilate saw he was getting nowhere with the crowd. In fact, a riot might break out. So, he got some water and washed his hands in front of everyone.
"I'm innocent of this man's death. You're responsible!" Pilate announced.
The crowd agreed. So, Pilate released Barabbas. Then he had his soldiers beat Jesus and lead him out to be crucified.
Tommie was the smallest member of the roller hockey team, but he ad the biggest heart. Tommie would skate his hardest and would never complain when he was hurt. The coaches and the parents liked him, but his team mates were embarrassed by him when they played tournaments.
At during a tied game of the league finals, Tommie was skating hard in the last seconds. The team captain made a shot in the opponent's goal, but the puck ricocheted off the glove of the goalie. Tommie caught the rebound with his stick and moved to make the goal. Tommie's shot flew by the goalie into the net, but too late. The buzzer sounded, and the referee signaled "no goal."
After a few words with the ref, the team skated off the floor dejected. "If Tommie had only made the shot quicker," one team mate complained. "He's too small to play, anyway," another team mate said frowning. "The only reason Tommie is on the team is because his mother is good friends with the coach," mumbled another. The complaining went on and on. And everyone blamed Tommie.
Interlude: The Soldiers Beat Jesus
Some of Pilate's soldiers took Jesus into the governor's headquarters. And the rest of the soldiers gathered around. Stripping off his clothes, they put a purple robe on him to make him look like a king. They wove a crown of thorns and placed it on his head. Then, they put a reed stick in his right hand. Finally they knelt before him and insulted him.
"Greetings, King of the Jews!" they sneered as they spat on him.
They took the reed stick from him and hit him over the head with it. When they got done, they removed the purple robe, put his clothes back on him, and led him away so they could crucify him.
Tommie felt bad enough when he did not score the goal. When he overheard the rude remarks of his team mates, his heart sunk even lower. As the officials set up for the shoot out, the team mates drew numbers at random to see who would face the goalie. When Tommie chose the number to shot last, his teammates gave him a cold stare. Their faces all said, "It your fault! It's your fault!" Tommie felt like quietly skating way.
The moments up to the shoot out were the longest in his life. The hard working, confident Tommie was now limp with self-doubt. The game might come down to him, and he wasn't up to the challenge. No one believed in him and he didn't believe in himself.
Scene 2: The Crucifixion of Jesus
On the way out, the soldiers found a man named Simon and made him carry the cross of Jesus. When they got to Skull Place, they gave Jesus wine mixed with a bitter spice to drink. Jesus tasted it, then refused to drink it. The soldiers crucified Jesus. Then, they threw dice to see who would win his clothes. After that, they sat around and guarded him as he died. Above his head they placed a sign with the crime he had been charge with. "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews," it read. Then they crucified two robbers, one to his right and the other to his left. Those who passed by shook their heads as they insulted Jesus:
"Hey! Weren't you going to tear down the Temple and rebuild it in three days? If you're really God's Son, save yourself and get off that cross!"
In the same way, the Temple priests and religious leaders made fun of Jesus. Even the crucified robbers insulted Jesus. About noon, the sky became very dark. And the darkness lasted for three hours. About three o'clock, Jesus shouted:
"My God! My God! Why have you given up on me?"
Some of the people standing there said:
"This man calls on Elijah!"
One of them quickly ran to get a sponge, filled it with vinegar, placed it on a reed stick, and offered it to Jesus as a drink. But, the others said:
"Don't! Let's see if Elijah comes to save him."
Members of the opposing team overheard the complaining and saw the long look on Tommie's face. Soon, the opposing team was making jokes about the "midget" Tommie. Who would have such a loser on the team? Why is this shrimp playing? Why isn't Tommie playing in the junior league? The taunts continued and got louder.
The shootout got underway. Each team got five chances with five different shooters. First one team tried then the other. And Tommie was the last to shoot. Tommie's team grumbled while the other team laughed. But each team missed, one after another. With each shot, Tommie's team gained hope and the opposing team got quieter.
Finally, the league championship came down to a single shot that Tommie would shoot. The floor was so quiet, all you could hear was the air conditioning. Tommie took the puck and skated toward the opponent's goalie. Tommie set up as he skated, took his best shot, and immediately turned away. His shot was in God's hands.
Why did God make Jesus suffer people's comments and beatings? Why did God make Jesus die in this way? God the Father loves us and wants to give us an example. God the Father is telling us: "People will hurt you and make fun of you, but look at what happened to Jesus. The pain and hurt you are going through he went through. Pray to Jesus. He understands."
Jesus rules our hearts because he loves us and understands us. He was willing to suffer, so he could help us.
Scene Three: The Death of Jesus
Jesus groaned loudly and died. Suddenly, the Temple curtain tore in two from top to bottom. The ground quaked and rocks broke apart. Tombs opened up and many holy people who died were raised to life. Then captain and his soldiers who guarded Jesus saw the earthquake and other things that happened. They were so afraid, they said:
"This man was really God's Son!"
The next morning's sports headline said it all:
Little player scores big winning goal.