Giving Up

I don’t have to tell you that we have a hard time giving things up. It’s human nature. And it’s everywhere in the story of Christ’s death.

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Sunday of the Passion / Palm Sunday B
Preached at Faith Lutheran Church, Three Lakes, WI.

Isaiah 50:4-9
Psalm 31:9-18
Philippians 2:1-11
Mark 14:1–15:47

Every so often I see a question asked on Facebook that goes something like this: “Would you live in this cabin out in the woods for 30 days and receive $1 million, BUT, you have to give up watching football?” Or “Would you spend a week in this beautiful island oasis, BUT, you get no internet and no cell phone reception?” Ever see those? Would you? Would you accept $1 million if it meant you didn’t get to watch the Packers (for my Wisconsin congregation) for a whole season?

Essentially, these sorts of scenarios are asking this question: what are you willing to give up for something perceived to be better? Where do our priorities lie?

Years ago, I came across a song by TobyMac, a contemporary Christian songwriter and artist. I usually don’t listen to contemporary Christian music, but this song caught my attention, specifically because of it’s music video. The song is called “Lose My Soul”, and I recommend looking it up when you get home today.

In the video, TobyMac plays the owner of a pawn shop, and throughout the video different people in to the shop to do business. One woman comes in and sells her wedding and engagement rings, and by the look on her face, you can deduce that her marriage has ended in some way or another and she no longer needs them. Another man comes in with a bag of old cell phones, cameras, and iPods (that’s when they were still a thing), trying to pawn them off. A few come in with less than honorable intentions, some acting as distractions while another slips a laptop under his shirt and sneaks out of the store. One, at the urging of his friends, buys a handgun, and the three leave together.

In each instance, someone was giving up something—their relationship, their junk, their innocence. And in each case, it’s not easy. It’s not easy to give something up.

I don’t have to tell you that we have a hard time giving things up. It’s human nature. And it’s everywhere in the story of Christ’s death.

The people of Jerusalem were not ready to give up their image of who Jesus was, a political king who was going to rescue them from the oppression of the Romans.

Those present at Simon the Leper’s house were not ready to give up their snide judgment of the woman that anointed Jesus’s feet with oil.

Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, was not ready to give up what he thought Jesus could and should be; and he betrayed him because of it.

The other disciples were not ready to give up their self-righteous images of themselves as noble and brave disciples, and were not ready to face the reality that as soon as trouble came, they’d abandon Jesus—especially Peter, Jesus’s favorite.

Peter, James, and John were not ready to give up their complacency in prayer, falling asleep when Jesus asked them to stay awake. They failed at that three times.

The disciple who cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest with a sword was not ready to give up his idea that more violence and more weapons was always the answer.

The Sanhedrin was not ready to give up their need to kill Jesus, even though there was no evidence they could use against him.

Peter was not ready to give up the safety of anonymity, knowing that identifying himself with Jesus would mean he, too, could be arrested, beaten, and killed.

With just a little bit of bribery, the crowd was not ready to give up their trust in an armed revolution to overthrow the government as the only thing that could save them.

Pilate was not ready to give up what little peace and order he had in order to release an innocent man.

And because they weren’t willing to give anything up—because they weren’t willing to make admittedly hard and difficult choices—Jesus died. There was always some hope that maybe Jesus wouldn’t have to. He begged for another way to accomplish God’s purpose. Maybe Judas wouldn’t betray him. Maybe Peter wouldn’t let him down. Maybe the Sanhedrin or Pilate could see reason. Maybe the crowd could put aside humanity’s obsession with violence and killing.

But it wasn’t to be. Because they weren’t ready to give up anything, Christ died. And yet, they weren’t the only ones not willing to give some things up. Christ wasn’t ready to give up, either.

Christ wasn’t ready to give up loving human beings, even and especially the really bad, really awful ones.

Christ wasn’t ready to give up on the work of redemption, freeing all of creation from the power of sin and death.

Christ wasn’t ready to give up showing love to the very end instead of showing hate.

What Christ was ready to give up was his life, and to give it for ours. He was willing to give up violence, to become a victim of it, to reveal God’s intention for life in this world.

At the end of the TobyMac video for “Lose My Soul”, the young man who bought the handgun returns to the pawn shop. He walks up to the counter, draws the gun from his belt, and points it straight at the owner. And then, he slowly sets the gun down on the counter; and even though there’s a sign behind the counter saying “All Sales Final”, the owner gratefully accepts the gun back that this young man gave up.

When Christ marched into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, he marched to his own death. He was ready to give up his own life, to do whatever it took to let us know that God was not ready to give up on us. He marched for our lives.

What are you ready to give up?

Featured Image taken by the author at the March for Our Lives in Minocqua, WI.

Author: Pastor Ken

Ken Ranos serves as the pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Three Lakes, WI, a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

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