Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

The Cost of Sin


The Cost of Sin

Depending on your tradition, the words to the 5th petition of the Lord’s prayer will vary. Some say ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us’. Some say ‘forgive us our sin as we forgive those who sin against us’. And we say ‘forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors’. As we approach Holy Week and the story of what Jesus is about to do for us, the word ‘debt’ is most appropriate to help us understand this whole week. Think about what a debt is - a debt is something you owe someone. If your refrigerator breaks and someone comes and fixes it for you, and you say to the repair person - bill me - then you are in debt to the refrigerator repair person. At the end of this week, Jesus will ‘repair’ you - Jesus will fix the problem of all the sin in your life. So just like the refrigerator repair person, we owe a debt to Jesus for what he has done for us. Then Jesus cancels that debt by paying the cost for us. No bill is coming - your debt is paid. Then Jesus tells us to ‘go and do likewise’ - as iI have forgiven your debts, you now have to forget the debts owed to you by those who have harmed you; those who are wronged you. You need to cancel that debt as well. And you know why it is in the prayer? Cause it is hard to do! We ask God to help us do this. We essentially say - As Jesus forgive my debts, my sin, help me to remember that and then help me do the same for those who have wronged me, those who have committed sin against me. And we say it every time we say the prayer to remind ourselves……
And by remembering the events of this week, it helps us see what the cost of paying my debt is - it is a high one. The cost of my debt, my sin, is the death of God’s son.
On Sunday morning of this last week of Jesus’ life, Jesus gets up and he and the disciples all began to walk into Jerusalem for the Passover. Jesus sent a couple of his disciples to find him a donkey to ride, because the prophecy declared that the messiah would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey. This was the day of gathering for Passover and Jews from all over were traveling into Jerusalem to get ready for the Passover. Hebrew law required that everyone who was able was to come to Jerusalem for the Passover – this was the reason all these crowds were on the road that morning. Everyone traveling is in a festive mood – they looked forward to all coming together during this celebration. You would come to see people you only saw once a year, you would gather for feasts and parties as the week would build up to the Seder meal and the Passover rituals near the end of the week.
Think of a festival or gathering you go to every year that you look forward to and see people you only see there and everyone comes together and just has a fun relaxing time. That was Passover in Jerusalem. Jesus comes riding a donkey and the people are thinking the Messiah is going to come in and overthrow the Roman government in Jerusalem; they are singing Hosannas because they thought that Jesus was coming to give them back their land – to kick out the Romans and once again there would be a Hebrew king governing the people of Israel. So the celebration heightened as they did what you did for a King, - wave palm branches, lay your cloaks on the road, sang Hosanna. What a great time – the great celebration of Passover and just like the first Passover when they were released from slavery, they would now be released from the oppression of at the Romans Into the city they go, rejoicing and having a great day! Jesus, the disciples and the crowds continue into Jerusalem under the watchful eye of the religious leaders who are leery of what is going on. All this allegiance to this wandering teacher was disturbing. The leaders were worried their power would be questioned. This teacher had the crowds all worked up looking for change. Change is never good when you are in power and the religious leaders were understandably worried. Even today we are cautious of new ways and new ideas and change;. Jesus was turning everything the Jews thought were absolutes and telling them there were new

ways to look at what they thought was truth. New ways to understand their role as God’s people. The leaders thought everything was fine the way it was. They thought they were being obedient to God the way they were. By that afternoon, however, after everyone has entered the city, we see Jesus not joining in on the party, but sitting on top of the hill overlooking Jerusalem and weeping. He knows that this great celebration and this happy mood and these hopes of a new government will be crushed by the end of the week – things will not turn out as these people who are now so full of joy think it will. As the week goes along, the mood will quickly become dark. Jesus knows that everyone is going to turn against him and even his closest disciples would abandon him. On Monday, Jesus goes to the temple and he see what is going on there and he is really angry. The temple has become a market place selling sacrificial animals, overcharging people who are trying to pay the temple tax - and he grabs a bullwhip and he runs everyone out of the temple in disgust over how they have corrupted the worship of God. The religious leaders who not only sanctioned this market place, but who also profit from it are really worried now. They knew they had to get rid of this man - immediately. Jesus appears every day in the temple teaching and telling parables. There are crowds standing around listening to these stories. The Pharisees are hearing these stories as well and became very angry because they knew that Jesus is not only talking to these crowds who are around him, but Jesus is talking to them as well. Jesus is reminding the religious leaders it is not about them and their power but about their being faithful to God. And they are upset. The religious leaders looked around and saw the crowds and were afraid of what the people might do if they arrested Jesus, so they try to figure out how they are going to get rid of him.
Jesus’ teaching at the temple however changes as the week goes along. His teaching is much more serious than the people have heard before, much more about sacrificing your life, your time, your money for God. His teaching was about how one needed to put God first over everything else. About how choices were going to be difficult and about how no longer being a descendent of Abraham was enough to be part of God’s people. The Religious leaders came and questioned Jesus and they didn’t like his answers about how they had missed the point of what a life as God’s people was all about. The people who had crowded around Jesus and hung on every word he said began to drift away as well. He wasn’t saying what they wanted to hear anymore. He actually told them to pay their taxes to Caesar. He told them, give all they had left to God……. As the week progressed, Jesus continued his difficult teaching, telling the people who were left that if they followed him people were going to hate them. He talked about death. As the crowds left, so did one of his disciples. Like the crowds, Judas is disillusioned because Jesus is not doing what Judas thought he should do. Like the crowds, Judas wanted Jesus to do something radical. Like the crowds, Judas wanted Jesus to do something political and that wasn’t the direction things were going. So Judas thinks he can force Jesus’ hand by turning him in. Surely when they come to arrest Jesus, he will be forced to act in a different way; Jesus would be forced to start the coup against the government.
And by Thursday, all the crowds had left. There was no one left willing to listen to Jesus. it was only his disciples who were with him. And not only did one of them betray him, but one would deny him, and all but one of the remaining 10 would desert him. Only John would remain with him to the cross.
What a difference a week makes. Holy Week begins today. We began the service with the waving of palm branches and we end with the somber music and a somber mood to remember this is the way this week will go. It begins with celebration and ends with death. It began with large crowds and ends with Jesus all by himself as he goes to the cross. A death of an innocent man, who dies to pay a debt for us; who spends the week trying to help us understand what being the people of God is all about; a man who still goes to the cross even though everyone has deserted him…. A man who goes to the cross and looks out over those who have beat him and made fun of him and have put a nail through his hands and feet and in his agony cries out for God to forgive them – and to forgive us.
And he reminds us that every time we pray his prayer, we remember what he has done so our debt is paid.
Amen.