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This week we hear from Isaiah, Philippians, and the Gospel of Mark. In this reading of Palm Sunday gospel reading, may we remember focusing our worship on Christ. As we walk the path with Jesus on Palm Sunday, we join crowds of pilgrims from millennia before preparing for festivals remembering God’s salvation.

See the human capacity both for coming to Jesus and for killing him. In Mark 15, Jesus endures the violent and humiliating mechanisms of Roman power. Mark tells this story with a paradoxical emphasis on both divine providence and human agency.

"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. 2Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” He answered him, “You say so.” 3Then the chief priests accused him of many things. 4Pilate asked him again, “Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.” 5But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed......"


Readings and Psalm

Isaiah 50:4-9a
The Palm Sunday context of Isaiah 50 leads one instinctively to the coming suffering of Jesus that will culminate in his crucifixion (John 19:16-18) and resurrection (John 20:13-16). Christians have historically viewed the suffering of Jesus as divinely ordained by God and willingly accepted by Jesus, and that clearly fits the model of the servant in verses 4-9.

But if the servant in verses 4-9 is to be a model for the community of faith in exile, shouldn’t the servant also serve as a model for us? How can we read the passage in that context?

Psalm 31:9-16
For the Gospel writers this psalm, along with Psalms 22 and 69, seems to have expressed better than any other passages the nature of Jesus’ suffering and his emotional turmoil while being rejected, betrayed, and crucified. Psalm 31 appears explicitly only one time, in Luke 23:46 when Jesus quotes verse 5a, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” But the entire psalm provides appropriate backdrop for Jesus’ passion. The psalm is a prayer by one who suffers unjustly and in that suffering puts complete trust in God. Psalm 31:9-16 is chosen as a lectionary reading for the Sunday of the Passion, the beginning of Holy Week. It is appropriately paired with Isaiah 50:4-9a, which gives testimony to the suffering of God’s servant. Like the servant in the Isaiah passage, the psalmist in Psalm 31:9-16 reports that he or she trusts completely in God, yet is rejected by the people. This combination of trust and rejection makes the passage well-suited for Passion Sunday.

Philippians 2:5-11
In this hymn in particular, and throughout Philippians, two aspects of Jesus’ character are emphasized—his humility and obedience. If we are to have the mind of Christ, we must be humble and obedient. These are relational terms. Humility is one’s posture in relation to another; obedience is a form of deference, to act or respond out of respect. They are neither weak nor passive conditions. This hymn also makes clear a relationship between humility and exaltation. “Therefore God exalted him and gave him a name that is above every name” (2:9). God exalts in response to our obedience. Jesus did not exploit his equality with God. He did not wield his power in ways that he could have. He did not seek fame or fortune. Though acknowledging our ability and work is important, our success will ultimately come from the recognition that we will receive from the one who has called and equipped us. In order to be like Jesus, we must not exploit our relationship with God, but respond to it by demonstrating our willingness to serve.

Mark 15:1-39 [40-47]
Mark conveys God’s providence chiefly through allusion to Jewish scripture, showing a special affinity for the Psalms. Jesus’ silence before his accusers echoes Psalm 38:13-14 (perhaps also Isaiah 53:7), the dividing of Jesus’ clothes echoes Psalm 22:18, the mockery of onlookers at the crucifixion echoes Psalm 22:6-8, and Jesus’ cry of abandonment quotes directly from Psalm 22:1.

More than anything, Mark simply wants us to see the human capacity both for coming to Jesus and for killing him. On the one hand, mostly in the first half of the narrative, we see crowds of people repeatedly drawn to his ministry. He heals the infirm and welcomes sinners, bringing human wholeness without regard for approved methods and timing. On the other hand, Jesus’ indifference to approval provokes the ire of those claiming the authority to approve and condemn. In Mark 15, this animosity finally turns deadly. Particularly noteworthy is the way Mark casts human animosity in forms of ridicule, especially on the question of Jesus’ royal/messianic identity. It is precisely Jesus’ claim to be “the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One” (roughly equivalent royal expressions for Mark) that invite the high priest’s verdict of blasphemy and the derision of the priestly council (14:61-65).


Compiled by Deacon in Waiting Stephen


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