Passion / Palm Sunday; Year C (3/28/2010)

Lessons:St. Luke 19:28-40 (Procession with Palms) Isaiah 50:4-9a Psalm 31:9-16 (5) Philippians 2:5-11 St. Luke 22:14–23:56 or St. Luke 23:1-49

Prayer of the Day O God of mercy and might, in the mystery of the passion of your Son you offer your infinite life to the world. Gather us around the cross of Christ, and preserve us until the resurrection, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

23:1 Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate. 2 They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.” 3 Then Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He answered, “You say so.” 4 Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no basis for an accusation against this man.” 5 But they were insistent and said, “He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.” 6 When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. 7 And when he learned that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. 8 When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign. 9 He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. 11 Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate. 12 That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies.

13 Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, 14 and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. 15 Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death. 16 I will therefore have him flogged and release him.” 18 Then they all shouted out together, “Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!” 19 (This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.) 20 Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; 21 but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” 22 A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.” 23 But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. 24 So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. 25 He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished. 26 As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27 A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. 28 But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ 30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31 For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” 32 Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. [34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”] And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35 And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” 39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” 44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. 47 When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.” 48 And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. 49 But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

St. Luke 23:1-49 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

This Sunday, the week before Easter, is an interesting one in our church calendar. It used to be recognized as “Palm Sunday.” In the 1970s, our church realized that many people were coming for the great celebration at Palm Sunday, skipping Holy Week Services, and then coming back for the great celebration at Easter Sunday. It caused them imagine that Holy Week was simply a time of celebration and joy. The leaders of our church believed that Easter made less sense when taken out of the context of Holy Week: one had to know about Jesus’ passion before his resurrection made sense. So this Sunday was declared “Passion Sunday” – a Sunday that doesn’t just remember Jesus’ Palm Sunday entrance into Jerusalem, but the whole of his last week of life.

This year, we have before us St. Luke’s version of the passion. First a word about what St. Luke did not intend. Luke did not intend to provide a theory of atonement. No mention is made of why Jesus had to die, or how his death works to grant forgiveness to us. Luke did not intend to speak a harsh word against the Jews, like other Gospel writers did. (They are treated fairly by Luke – a reminder that it was not “the Jews” who killed Jesus, but humans: us!) Luke is not even as harsh on the disciples as, say, St. Mark is.

Instead, Luke intends to offer, through his account of the passion, an invitation to receive forgiveness. Whether it is Jesus’ inclusion of Judas at the table during his last supper, his prayer for those who are putting him to death, or his promise to the criminal hanging at his side, we see that Jesus dies as he lived: extending grace to any and all who would receive it. Jesus is the central character in this narrative, but attention is also paid to the crowd – those who are near him during his last hours. The Centurion sees his innocence and believes. The crowd “beats their breasts” and goes home repentant. This section of Luke’s Gospel is intended to call us to repentance, and invite us into God’s grace and forgiveness.

Luke writes for the same reason that the church recognizes Passion Sunday and Holy Week: that we might be invited into God’s grace, and that our faith might be strengthened. I offer you the text for this Sunday, and invite you to read it. Prepare yourself for this coming week. Prepare your hearts to receive God’s grace. And may the purpose of this week, the purpose of Luke’s Gospel, be fulfilled in our lives.

God's peace to you all,

Pastor Dave

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How does Luke’s version of the passion differ from that of the other evangelists?
  2. What are the central points of Luke’s narrative?
  3. What do we learn about God from these verses?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What does it mean, to me, that God was willing to give even life itself for me?
  2. How does Jesus’ death and resurrection give me hope in God’s promises?
  3. Who might I share this story with, that they might know the grace God has for them?