Kruiz edited
The Banality of Evil
Monday of Holy Week
10 April 2017
The mob at His trial hated Jesus, though from Him they had nothing to fear. If he is so powerless and so weak, why are they so intent upon killing him? If they have nothing to fear from him, why do they fear him so intensely? Evil needs no reasons. Its power sucks the very marrow out of life. Its hatred is irrational. They want Him to grasp for power. They want him to lash out against them, berating them, accusing them; His eyes burning with hatred against them. Then they would be vindicated. They would feel so much better about their enmity against him. His remarkable silence, His sad eyes, and His quiet and dignified refusal to reply to their crazed accusations against Him hangs in the air with its own silent rebuke of their madness. But only Pilate, amazed by this quiet man, is taken aback and keeps on seeking to release Him.

Our Lord Christ will not lash out. He loves even His accusers. He loves especially them. They are His people. He chose them. He built the vineyard for them and gave it to them (Lk 20:9-18). He came to seek and to save them (Lk 19:10). Every beat of His heart is for them. Every drop of blood flowing through it, cries out for their vindication. He will give up His blood to transfuse their lifeless hatred with His life, that somehow they might be freed from themselves. But they will not. Their fathers resisted the Holy Spirit and so do they.

In the face of all this, He still respects and honors proper authority, because He is the author of all authority. He is not questioning Pilate's authority when he says to him: "You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above" (Jn 19:11), but giving Pilate a much-needed lesson about the source of earthly authority and its limits. He withstands the beating of the cohort without flinching at its injustice nor its vicious fury. He keeps the Fourth Commandment. He keeps the Fourth Commandment in our place.

Christ has countered the banality of evil by absorbing it. His unique act is to take such rage and spite into Himself, to accept it, to refuse to be deflected from His mission by it, to decline to argue against it, and to offer no defense against the indefensible. He consumes all the world's wickedness this way. Something wicked this way goes. It goes away because this holy One refuses to be consumed by wickedness and instead consumes all that is flung at Him. He breaks the centuries-long skein of accusation, viciousness, rage, and anger. No, He who alone had every right to return in kind, is kind enough not to return. His unique holiness is ours. He gives it as a gift. He goes to bestow it on us when they lead Him out to crucify Him (Mk 15:20).

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
"They contemplate Christ's suffering right who view it with a terror-stricken heart and a despairing conscience. This terror must be felt as you witness the stern wrath and the unchanging earnestness with which God looks upon sin and sinners, so much so that He was unwilling to release sinners even for His only and dearest Son without His payment of the severest penalty for them. Thus, he says in Isaiah 53, 'I have stricken him for the transgression of my people.' (Is 53:8). If the dearest child is punished thus, what will be the fate of sinners? It must be an inexpressible and unbearable earnestness that forces such a great and infinite person to suffer and die to appease it. And if you seriously consider that it is God's very own Son, the eternal wisdom of the Father, who suffers, you will be terrified indeed. The more you think about it, the more intensely will you be frightened.

"You must get this thought through your head and not doubt that you are the one who is torturing Christ thus, for your sins have surely wrought this. In Acts 2 St. Peter frightened the Jews like a peal of thunder when he said to all of them, 'You crucified him' (Acts 2:36). Consequently, three thousand alarmed and terrified Jews asked the apostles on that one day, 'Brothers, what shall we do?' (Acts 2:37). Therefore, when you see the nails piercing Christ's hands, you can be certain that it is your work. When you behold His crown of thorns, you may rest assured that these are your evil thoughts, etc.

"For every nail that pierces Christ, more than one hundred thousand should in justice pierce you, yes, they should prick you forever and ever more painfully! When Christ is tortured by nails penetrating his hands and feet, you should eternally suffer the pain they inflict and the pain of even more cruel nails, which will in truth be the lot of those who do not avail themselves of Christ's suffering. In this earnest mirror, Christ, will not lie or trifle, and whatever it points out will come to pass in full measure."

Martin Luther, A Meditation on Christ's Passion, 4-6
Isaiah 53:4-12

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned-every one-to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.  He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.  By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?  And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.  Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.  Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. (ESV)
Collect for Monday in Holy Week
Almighty God, grant that in the midst of our failures and weaknesses we may be restored through the passion and intercession of Your only-begotten Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

For Joanna Karner as she continues to live with her chronic disease, that the Lord of the church would give her the peace that surpasses all human understanding

For John Hatteberg, that he would be built up in the holy faith amid weakness

For Ellen Brda, that the Lord of the church would continue to grant her strength and healing
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias  Isenheim Altarpiece (c. 1515)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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