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.
Gospel: Mark 15:1-39
Part 1: Being Treated Unfairly
How many of you have been treated unfairly? What happened?
Play requires a minimum of nine players and two readers. The Players are Jesus, Pilate, the chief priest, a passer-by, Simon the Cyrene, two thieves and and two soldiers.
Scene One: Jesus (center stage) appears before a seated Pilate (slightly to the left). Two soldiers stand to the right of Jesus. The chief priest and passer-by stand to the left of Pilate.
Just after the sun rose, the Jewish leaders met together as a council. They had Jesus tied up and taken to Pilate to be judged. Pilate asked Jesus, "Are you the King of the Jews?"
"That's what you say," Jesus answered.
The chief priests who were there accused Jesus of doing many things. 4 So, Pilate asked Jesus, "Why don't you give me a straight answer? Look at the charges they made against you!"
But Jesus remained silent. And Pilate wondered why Jesus didn't give an answer.
(Pause for a few seconds)
Every Passover, Pilate freed any prisoner the people asked for. Barabbas, a criminal accused of murder in the riot, was held with the other rioters in jail. Many people came to Pilate's court and began to ask him, "Aren't you going to free a prisoner for us this year?"
"Do you want me to free the 'King of the Jews?'" Pilate answered, because he knew the chief priests handed Jesus over out of jealousy. But the chief priests stirred the people up, so that Pilate would release Barabbas instead. Pilate again asked the people in a different way. "What do you want me to do with man you call the 'King of the Jews?'"
"Crucify him!" the people shouted back.
The crowd cried out for Jesus to be hung on a cross.
"Why?" Pilate asked them. "What did he do wrong?"
"Crucify him!" they shouted all the more.
All exit the stage except Jesus and the soldiers
Tommie was the smallest member of the roller hockey team, but he had 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.
Part 2: When Others Make You Suffer.
A scapegoat is someone others blame for their problems. Has anyone ever made you a scapegoat?
Scene Two: The soldiers put the crown of thorns and a royal cloak on Jesus. One stands to whip him, the other bows in homage. Simon the Cyrene stands to the right with the cross in hand.
In the end, Pilate wished to please the crowd. So, he released Barabbas to them and ordered Jesus to be whipped first, then crucified. Jesus was taken inside the courtyard of Pilate's palace and the soldiers were ordered together.
The soldiers put a purple robe on Jesus and set a woven crown of thorns on his head. They insulted Jesus, "Welcome! King of the Jews!" They kept beating him on the head with a reed, spitting on him, kneeling before him so they could salute him. When they finished making fun of him, they pulled the purple robe off Jesus and made him put his clothes back on. Then, they took him away so they could crucify him.
There was a certain man named Simon from Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. He just arrived from the countryside and happened to be passing by. The soldiers forced him to pick up and carry the cross for Jesus.
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.
Part 3: Being Made Fun Of.
How many of you have been made fun of while you were there? What happened?
Scene Three: Jesus is on the cross at stage center. The two thieves are to his left and right. Then, there is a soldier to the left and right. On the outside edges, the chief priest stands stage left and the passer-by stands stage right.
They took Jesus to a place the local people called the "Skull." Jesus was offered wine mixed with spices, but he refused it. Then the soldiers crucified him and gambled to see who would get a piece of Jesus' clothing. It was nine o'clock in the morning when they crucified him. "King of the Jews" was written on the sign with the legal charge against Jesus.
Along side Jesus, the soldiers crucified two robbers, one on his right, the other on his left. People traveling in and out of Jerusalem stopped to shame Jesus. "So!" they sneered. "Here is the one who would destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days! Save yourself by coming down from the cross!" The chief priests mocked him in the same way. "He saved others, but he can't save himself!" they joked with each others and the scribes. "This man thinks he is the Christ, the King of Israel. He should come down from his cross so we might see and believe in him!" Even the robbers crucified next to Jesus threw words of hatred against him.
At noon, there was a darkness that covered the entire countryside. It lasted until three o'clock in the afternoon. About three o'clock, Jesus shouted, "My God! My God! Why do you leave me alone?"
Some in the crowd heard his cry. "He's calling for Elijah!" they kept saying. Someone ran, soaked a sponge in sour wine, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus so he could have a drink. "Let's see if Elijah comes to take him down," the man said.
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.
Part 4: Glory
Scene Four: All leave the scene but Jesus on the cross and one soldier who kneels before Jesus with arms out toward him.
Jesus groaned loudly and died.
Then, the long curtain in the Temple tore from top to bottom. And a Roman officer who stood facing Jesus and seeing him die, said, "This was really God's Son!"
The next morning's sports headline said it all: Little player scores big winning goal.