His Humbled Head / Mark 15:16–20 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Wednesday March 2nd 2022 / Ash Wednesday / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Wednesday March 2nd 2022: Ash Wednesday / Mark 15:16–20 "His Humbled Head"
And the soldiers led [Jesus] away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed Him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on Him. And they began to salute Him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they were striking His head with a reed and spitting on Him and kneeling down in homage to Him. And when they had mocked Him, they stripped Him of the purple cloak and put His own clothes on Him. And they led Him out to crucify Him.
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. Tonight’s Sermon is adapted from Lenten material provide Rev. Mark D. Femmel, assistant pastor, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Des Peres, Missouri. This will be the case for each of our Midweek Lenten Sermons in our WASCANA Circuit preaching exchange. The focus will be on “Our Savior’s Wounded Body” tonight is "His Humbled Head," in the weeks to comes leading to Holy Week you will hear sermons on our “Saviour’s Side,” His, “Unbroken Bones,” His, “Faithful Feet,” His “Holy Hands, and His, “Battered Back.”
Let’s say you have just applied mustered to your hotdog or smokie, it’s fully loaded with all your favorite fixings, and the moment you go to bite into it a big dollop of mustered drips out onto your shirt or pant leg? What is your first thought … thoughts are peculiar things. They can be good, they can be evil, a good thought can be twisted into evil service, and while it isn’t recommended for people to attempt God can take evil thoughts and actions and bring from them something good.
These days we like to think of thoughts residing in our heads, for this reason some try to fill our heads with thoughts, while others try to fish certain thoughts out of our heads, or keep them from getting into our heads in the first place; and some ideas seem to go right in one ear and out the other. Then there are the thoughts that crop up like quack grass in our minds and try as you might they just keep coming back creeping up again and again and again. Maybe the yellow mustard staining your clothing instantly makes you think, “I need to through this shirt, these pants, in the wash.” Of course many clever thoughts along the way ‘thunk’ by various smart folks, in the form of innovation, have changed the way we wash out things like mustard stains. We have many different options today compared to the past.
For instance there was a day when “dry-clean only” made absolutely no sense as there were no dry-cleaners in existence and no way of cleaning anything without getting it wet. When clothes became dirty, someone had to take them all the way down to the river and rinse them over and over, maybe even beat them against the rocks before hanging them out to dry (There are places in the world where this is still the primary method for washing clothing). Eventually, someone came up with the brilliant idea of a washboard. You would fill a tub or large bucket full of water, put in some soap (which itself was an innovation – in the early days you might have to make that soap yourself), and rub the dirty clothes up and down against the washboard until the dirt came out, then hang them out to dry. It was tough on the clothes and tough on the hands, but at least you did not have to walk down to the river and stand in the mud to clean your clothes. Now, we are able to throw our clothes into a washing machine, add store bought soap, and push a button, you don’t even need to put them on the clothesline any more. Finally, we have come so far that we can wash clothes without water by sending them off to the dry-cleaners where chemicals are applied. This is the most expensive way to do it and for most things is overkill but it will get the mustard stains out. Brilliant ideas have made lives so much easier. Brilliant ideas save hands, save time, and even save clothes from embarrassing stains. But not all ideas are as brilliant as the washing machine some of these thoughts are less useful, less helpful, even sinful.
Brilliant thoughts, sudden smart ideas are sometimes depicted as a light bulb lit up over someone’s head! Eureka! The light bulb goes on! On the flipside I’m sure you’ve experienced flipping the light switch only to be disappointed. Up and down you flip the switch but nothing, you look up and see a light bulb that should be bright, but is dark. The same thing happens with what goes on inside our heads. All those heads that have come before us have been able to solve challenges ranging from washing clothes faster to keeping churches around 21 degrees Celsius inside no matter what the weather is like outside. All sorts of brilliant ideas do come from our heads, but not all the thoughts that come out of these heads are so brilliant. Some thoughts that lurk in here are just dark; they are like a bulb with a broken filament or an empty light socket with no hope of producing light at all.
One of the tempting dangers of our minds is fact that no one else can see what we are thinking or imagining. A person can be sitting right next to us and if you have a good poker face they have no idea what is going on in your mind; they won’t be able to tell if the lights are on or if it’s pitch black as midnight on a moonless night. In here we are free to wander wherever we want. God has given us the gift of imagination, so we may come up with brilliant ideas. Yet those imaginations do not always find themselves entertaining the brilliant ideas; instead, our minds become tangled up in all kinds of dark thoughts following down dark paths. You may think that you’re free to think whatever you want to think, because these are only thoughts, thoughts that stay inside your head. But if you think certain thoughts long and hard enough they find a way to squiggle out into your life. No one else can see them, after all: that of course in not entirely true. There is someone who sees what is going on in your head, remember that God sees what’s going on inside your head. In Psalm 139 we confess it to be true with the Psalmist, “even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.” And in 1 John 3 we are called to remember how it is that “whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything.”
Also remember He is the one who knows your thoughts all together, the one who knows everything who judges whether or not, on The Last Day, He’ll put a crown of glory on that head of yours. This is why Saint James writes, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.” With that in mind, keep in mind that God does not approve of all that goes on in your head. This is true for every man woman and child; and to know what is ‘God pleasing’ and what is not ‘God pleasing’ a person needs to test their thoughts and ideas against the Word of God, against the 10 Commandments.
With all the thoughts that could be in your heads right now, turn your thoughts toward Jesus. This is true every day of our life, each year we also get this additional reminder in the Season of Lent; an opportunity to again turn our thoughts toward Jesus. Contemplate Jesus’ humble head: inside that holy head of His were only pure thoughts, only good thoughts, loving thoughts. He constantly thought of those around Him and was consumed with helping those who needed Him most—which is the entire world. Even when Satan tried to tempt Him in the wilderness, Jesus’ mind never strayed from His mission, the mission that would lead Him to His cross and passion, a journey that would take Him to back to Jerusalem and everything that awaited Him there. After all His traveling around the Roman Province of Palestine, after all His teaching and miracles Jesus returned to Jerusalem that first Holy Week. As the week progressed things became more and more messy and complicated. And after Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane following His institution of Holy Communion as Jesus was being bounced back and forth between the Jewish authorities and the Roman Governor and King Herod while He was in the custody of the Roman soldiers Pilate’s soldiers found long thorns and wrapped them around Jesus’ head in the shape of a crown.
After all the good that Jesus had publicly done over the three previous years this Jesus deserved a crown made out of the finest precious metals, gold and silver covered in diamonds and emeralds and rubies and sapphires and pearls, He most certainly didn’t deserve the rough and painful crown of thorns pressed down upon His humble head. Yet the soldiers did not find Jesus a costly kingly crown to go with the purple robe they mockingly wrapped around Him, no they thought of the most humiliating crown they could imagine to put on that holy head of Jesus: those thorns were tightly wrapped around the one head that never thought a dark thought. And along with all their disrespectful phony praise they beat His crowned head with reeds and spat upon His face.
As Jesus walked through the streets of Jerusalem, His scalp weeping with blood from the thorns, His face a mess, with the cross of His crucifixion on His back, all people who looked upon Him could see the ugliness of that crown on His head and some wept while others hurled insults. In that crown of thorns, you and I are called to see how ugly and how dark the thoughts in our heads can be. The soldiers’ thoughts and our thoughts put that crown on Jesus’ head. It was because of the thoughts that come into your head and my head that Jesus walked through the streets of Jerusalem, walking to His death, wearing the crown of thorns on His head—the only crown our dark thoughts deserve.
What then are we to do with the thoughts in our head? What are we to do with the dark thoughts that spring forth there, the sinful thoughts; the thoughts like black crows that make their nests of thorns in our mind seeking to hatch new horrible thoughts and ideas? I suppose we can try to ignore the dark thoughts but that won’t really work. The best would be to be honest about them: first grieve your thoughts when they are evil and lay them at the cross of Christ Crucified, then repent and take to heart Saint Paul’s wonderful Christian advice which he wrote to the Philippian Christians, saying, “whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me [Saint Paul says]—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
Dear ones how can Saint Paul give the Philippian Christians this advice, how can he by extension give you that advice today? He can do this because Jesus did not abandon you to the prison of being stuck in your dark thoughts. Jesus didn’t send you a birthday cake with a file in it hoping that a light bulb would go off above your head and you would use it to break out of the prison by your own works. No, when Jesus came to live among us, He came to a world full of dark thoughts to rescue us. Dear ones Jesus is the one who fulfilled perfectly what Saint James writes, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.” Because of His steadfastness under trial Jesus was set to receive the Crown of Life but He obediently took upon His brow your crown of thorns, the crown of thorns that rightly belonged on our brow. In that crown, as He wears it in our place, we can see how much Jesus loves us. He chose to wear that crown, and through that crown He shows how much He was willing to suffer for us. He took all of our dark thoughts, all of the less than wholesome things that fill these heads, and He took them to the cross.
Today we hear about Jesus’ humble head wounded in our place. When Jesus died and His body was taken down from the cross of His crucifixion on that first Good Friday, that crown of thorns was removed and set aside, He was wrapped in linen and laid in the tomb. His precious blood would stain the linen through that Holy Saturday but that blood does not stain you today that blood from His humble head washes you clean: No rocks by the river, no washboards, no washing machine, no dry-cleaning chemicals required. Jesus’ holy innocent blood washes away the sins of our minds better, more thoroughly, than you are able to wash out a mustard stain on your best day with the best help the world can offer. Dear ones, when Easter Sunday came and the linen cloths were set aside the risen Lord Jesus came forth from the tomb alive, the first fruits of all those redeemed by His blood. That crown of thorns which marred His humble head has served its purpose, and our dark thoughts, which put that crown on His holy head, are dead and gone.
Now you might wonder what is to come regarding our minds. Remember what we hear in the Book of Revelation the promise Jesus makes, “Behold, I am making all things new.” This includes your thoughts, all the ideas in your head, all that your mind contains, all of it made new. Even the dilapidated parts of the mind, the rusty memories, the bits that need pharmaceutical support, the broken connections that cause heartache and pain in this life will be made new and you will have the mind and heart you were always intended to have with not one dark thought found there. That is what will happen on The Last Day in your resurrection from the dead; but that seems like it’s a far way off, for some of us a lot further off than for others, as far as we know.
What of today? Do not forget, evil thoughts bring forth evil deeds; resist them for your own good, for the good of your neighbour, your friends, and your family. Resist knowing that Jesus has already won forgiveness for your sins of thought. His blood washes out the stain of sin and His thoughts illumine and light the mind of all who trust in Him. In Him there is forgiveness. In Christ Jesus you will receive the crown of glory which He has won for you and in heaven not a hair on your head will be harmed ever again. Jesus took it all upon Himself in love and humility. By the wounds of His Sacred head, we are healed. Now “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28
 James 1:14–15, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”
 Psalm 139:4
 1 John 3:20
 James 1:12
 Isaiah 53:3-4
 Philippians 4:8–9
 John 1:5–14
 Revelation 21:5
 Isaiah 53:5
 Philippians 4:7
Photo Credits: Main Photo Caravaggio The Crowning with Thorns 1602-04 from wikimedia; Detail Hand with hotdog from pexels; Detail of Neon Brain from unsplash; Washing Machines from pexels; Brilliant Idea Light Bulb from pexels; Detail of Rubbish Idea from pexels; Ideas from unsplash; Detail of Thoughts from pexels; Stained Glass Window of Jesus Crowned with Thorns from pxhere; Jesus Carrying His Cross from pxhere; Detail of Man Looking Out Window on City from unsplash; Heart and Mind from pxhere; Christ Crucified from pexels; Detail of Woman Looking Out Window from pexels; Detail of Jesus Crowned on the Cross with Stained Glass from pexels.