Passion / Palm Sunday; Year C (3/24/2013)

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. 35And 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!” 38There 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.

Safety and Faithfulness

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran Pastor, theologian, teacher, author, and Nazi resister. Concerned from the very beginning about Adolph Hitler, he worked unsuccessfully to keep the German Lutheran church free of Nazi influence. By 1939, Bonhoeffer was exhausted and frustrated, and accepted in a job in New York City. Although it would put him at great risk, he almost immediately knew that he had to return to Germany. He couldn’t bear the thought of living in a foreign country, at peace, when his own country was on the brink of war and destruction. He wrote to his mentor Reinhold Niebuhr (who had arranged the job for him):

I must live through this difficult period of our national history with the Christian people of Germany…. Christians in Germany are going to face the terrible alternative of either willing the defeat of their nation in order that Christian civilization may survive, or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying our civilization. I know which of these alternatives I must choose.

Bonhoeffer returned to Germany, played a lead role in the Confessing Church (a group of German Lutherans who opposed the state church and its support of Hitler), and was eventually hanged to death in the concentration camp at Flossenbürg just days before it was liberated by the Allies.

Sometimes safety and faithfulness are incompatible.

In this week’s “Processional Gospel” the people lay their coats on the road, and cry out with joy as Jesus enters the city of Jerusalem for the very last time. They welcome him as if he is a conquering hero, and no doubt some of them have visions of glory in their minds. Jesus knows better. He fully understands what will take place during the last week of his life, and tries to explain it to his followers.

Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.” [St. Luke 18:31-33]

His disciples protest, and advise him to stay away from Jerusalem. Jesus is not deterred. He enters into Jerusalem and during his last week — the week the Christian church commemorates beginning this Sunday — he chooses faithfulness, and pays the ultimate price.

Sometimes safety and faithfulness are incompatible.

Whether you are a member of Saint Peter living in the Denver-metro area, or a reader of this devotional message who lives at some distance from us, I hope you will join the church, as we remember the last week of our Lord’s life. Palm Sunday (3/24), Maundy Thursday (3/28), Good Friday (3/29), Holy Saturday (3/30) and Easter Sunday (3/31); each of these days offers an opportunity for God’s people to gather in worship, and give thanks for a Lord who chose faithfulness over safety.


David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What is the crowd thinking as it welcomes Jesus into Jerusalem?
  2. Why do the Gospel writers include the story of the donkey in the account of Palm Sunday?
  3. What does Jesus mean when he declares that the stones would cry out?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Do I most often think of Jesus as a powerful Lord or a suffering servant?
  2. When do I find myself torn between safety and faithfulness?
  3. How does my relationship with Jesus help me to choose faithfulness over safety?