Devotional Message for Passion Sunday / Palm Sunday; Year B (3/25/2018)

REVISED COMMON LECTIONARY TEXTS

Isaiah 50:4-9a
Psalm 31:9-16
Philippians 2:5-11
St. Mark 14:1-15:47
or St. Mark 15:1-39 [40-47]

Processional Gospel

St. Mark 11:1-11
or St. John 12:12-16

Prayer of the Day

Sovereign God, you have established your rule in the human heart through the servanthood of Jesus Christ. By your Spirit, keep us in the joyful procession of those who with their tongues confess Jesus as Lord and with their lives praise him as Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

15:1 As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. 2 Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” He answered him, “You say so.” 3 Then the chief priests accused him of many things. 4 Pilate asked him again, “Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.” 5 But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.

6 Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. 7 Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection.

8 So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. 9 Then he answered them, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. 12 Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13 They shouted back, “Crucify him!” 14 Pilate asked them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

16 Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. 17 And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. 18 And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. 20 After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

21 They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. 22 Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). 23 And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but hedid not take it. 24 And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.

25 It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” 27 And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. 29 Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31 In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.

33 When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” 36 And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

St. Mark 15:1-39 New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

The Center of History

There are those who think of the birth of Jesus as the center of history. Nothing before it can compare with anything after it. And so we mark our years “before Christ” (B. C.) and “anno domini” (A. D.). Even those who prefer “less sectarian designations” divide time at the birth of Christ with B.C.E. and C.E. (before and during the “common era”).

For the Christian, though, this coming week is the center of history. The movement from the jubilant entry on Palm Sunday, to the establishment of the Holy Eucharist on Maundy Thursday, to the suffering and death of Jesus on Good Friday, through the agonizing hours of waiting during Holy Saturday, brings us to the most powerful and consequential proclamation that has ever found human voice: “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!” And the world will never be the same again.

So the church sets aside the first day of this week with a twofold purpose. We remember the jubilant entry of Jesus, as he makes his way into the Holy City for the last time. The cheers of the crowd. The smell of freshly cut leafy branches from the field. The hopes and dreams of God’s people. We sing with the crowd yet today, whenever we make ready to gather at the table: “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

And we mark the beginning of this sacred time. The entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem marks the entrance of God’s people into Holy Week. We watch with amazement as the crowd is turned against him. We look on with horror at his suffering. We are touched to the core by his sacrifice. We are embraced without exception by his grace. We are called to repentance, and forgiveness, and new life.

It is the center of history. As it is the center of our own lives. It is the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus which gives us hope. It is the expression of the depth of God’s love which heals our broken hearts. It is the invitation to pick up a cross and follow that leads us to a life of discipleship.

Welcome to this Holy Week; this time of drawing near to Christ. And if you are in town, join us for worship on Thursday (7pm), Friday (8pm), Saturday (9pm) and Sunday (8:30 & 10:45). Holy Week blessings to you all. May the grace of God and the passion of Christ transform your hearts.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel

  1. What might the suffering and death of Jesus have meant to his followers?
  2. What was it like for them to be close to him throughout Holy Week?
  3. How must they have been feeling on Saturday, having witnessed his death?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel

  1. What role do the suffering and death of Jesus play in my own faith?
  2. How do I understand the connection between his death and my forgiveness?
  3. How will I honor him in this coming week, as I prepare for the arrival of Easter?