Passion Sunday / Palm Sunday; Year C (3/20/2016)

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.

Holy Week

Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” [St. Luke 23:20-21]

And so the holiest of weeks begins. We will gather this Sunday to begin our commemoration of the Passion of our Lord. Jesus is the one “who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross.” [Philippians 2:6-8]

There are any number of “theories” that have been developed to understand the meaning of the events we remember this week. Some claim that God sent Jesus to die in order that humanity might be put right again. [see, for instance, St. John 3:16-17] Some say it was the Jerusalem Council — the group of Temple authorities which included Scribes, Pharisees and Chief Priests — who put him to death because they felt threatened by his power and popularity. [see, for instance, St. John 11:45-53] St. John, on the other hand, pictures Jesus as actively embracing his destiny. His fate isn’t in the hands of religious or political officials. He is in control. He is faithful to the mission of opening up a way for all people to become right with God. He chooses, out of his love and compassion for all people, to offer his life. [see, for instance, St. John 12:27-30] The Apostle Paul would agree. Jesus is the one who empties himself; who becomes human; who humbles himself; who choses to be obedient to death on a cross.

During this Holy Week we do not remember a man who is vulnerable to the whim of human authority. We remember a man who is active in love, insistent in compassion, and determined to give even life itself in the effort to draw us to God.

It is the love of God that we know in Jesus which stands at the heart of what this week is all about. A love that witnesses to strength, hidden in weakness. A love that witnesses to life, hidden in death. A love that doesn’t conquer the religious and political officials who set themselves in opposition of Jesus, but a love that conquers our hearts, and graces us with the gift of eternal life.

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 give thanks for the love of Christ this coming week. Palm Sunday (3/20), Maundy Thursday (3/24), Good Friday (3/25), Holy Saturday (3/26) and Easter Sunday (3/27); each of these days offers an opportunity for God’s people to gather in worship, and give thanks for our Lord who chose to give life on our behalf, that we might be embraced by God’s love.

Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What do the stories of Holy Week teach us about the nature of God?
  2. What do we learn from the story of those who were closest to Jesus?
  3. How are these stories signs of hope for all the world?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How have I come to understand the events of Holy Week?
  2. What does it mean to be that Christ makes me right with God?
  3. Who might I invite to worship with me this Holy Week?