Passion Sunday / Palm Sunday (April 17, 2011)

Lessons:Isaiah 50:4-9a Psalm 31:9-16 Philippians 2:5-11 St. Matthew 21:1-11 (Processional Gospel) St. Matthew 26:14 - 27:66 or St. Matthew 27:11-54

Prayer of the Day: Everlasting God, in your endless love for the human race you sent our Lord Jesus Christ to take on our nature and to suffer death on the cross. In your mercy enable us to share in his obedience to your will and in the glorious victory of his resurrection, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

27.11 Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus said, "You say so." 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, "Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?" 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

15 Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. 16 At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. 17 So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, "Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?" 18 For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. 19 While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, "Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him." 20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. 21 The governor again said to them, "Which of the two do you want me to release for you?" And they said, "Barabbas." 22 Pilate said to them, "Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?" All of them said, "Let him be crucified!" 23 Then he asked, "Why, what evil has he done?" But they shouted all the more, "Let him be crucified!"

24 So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves." 25 Then the people as a whole answered, "His blood be on us and on our children!" 26So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor's headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" 30 They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

32 As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross. 33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull),34 they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. 35And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots; 36then they sat down there and kept watch over him. 37 Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews."

38 Then two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, "You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross." 41 In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, 42"He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, ‘I am God's Son.' " 44 The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way.

45 From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 46 And about three o'clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" that is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" 47 When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, "This man is calling for Elijah." 48 At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, "Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him." 50 Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. 53 After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. 54 Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, "Truly this man was God's Son!"

St. Matthew 27:11-54, New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ.

Passion Sunday

This Sunday, the week before Easter, is an interesting day in our church calendar. It used to be recognized as “Palm Sunday” (maybe you remember that from when you were young). In the 70s, 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 could be experienced in the deepest way. So this Sunday was declared “Passion Sunday” – a Sunday that doesn’t just remember Jesus’ Palm Sunday entrance into Jerusalem, but that one that recalls the whole of his last week of life.

It is this week, of course, that gives our faith such great meaning. As the Apostle Paul said:

If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. (1st Corinthians 15:17-20)

This week is often referred to as the most important week in the entire church year, because it commemorates the most important even in the life of the church: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As Paul understands, the death and resurrection of Jesus makes all the difference in the world. It changes everything.

We are believers who live in the shadow of this death and resurrection. It is our source of hope. In the mystery of God’s wisdom, the death and resurrection of Jesus is what effects our forgiveness. For that we are deeply and profoundly grateful. This gift from God is the source of our joy, our hope, and our strength.

The life, death and resurrection of Jesus also reveal what it means to live as God’s people. His sacrificial attitude towards life, his strong commitment to being an agent of grace and forgiveness, his efforts at promoting justice and righteousness – these all provide a glimpse of what the faithful life is all about.

To live such a life is not easy, and so God has given us the ministry of the church – through word, sacrament, and the gathered community, God strengthens us for lives of faithfulness. We know that through our times together, whenever two or three are gathered in Christ’s name, God is present with us and for us, and empowers us to be far more faithful than we ever could be on our own. Come join us often this week (Passion Sunday at 8:30 and 10:45; Thursday at 7:00 pm; Friday at 8:00 pm; Saturday at 9:00 pm; Easter Sunday at 8:30 and 10:45), and be strengthened for a faithful life in Christ. Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why did the crowds turn against Jesus during Holy Week?
  2. What does it mean that Pilate tried to distance himself from the suffering and death of Jesus?
  3. When Jesus quoted Psalm 22 in verse 46, was he feeling despair, or was he remembering the turn the Psalm takes in verses 21-24?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What will I do to enter more fully into my church’s Holy Week commemoration this year?
  2. What does it mean to me that Jesus suffered and died before he was raised from death?
  3. Inspired by my Lord, how might I give my life for the world around me?