This Sunday we will continue with our worship series "The Road to Light". The topic will be "The Road through Jerusalem to Death". Here is what I wrote in my plan for the series:
Why did the cheers and praise of the crowds on Sunday turn to cries of “Crucify Him” on Friday? Why were the religious and political authorities threatened by this carpenter turned itinerant preacher/shaman from a backwater part of the empire? What were they afraid of? The answer may lay in John 11 when the High Priest Caiaphas says, “it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.” Therefore, Jesus is betrayed, arrested, tried, beaten, and crucified. One friend betrays him, one denies him, all run away. Only the women, the powerless in society, stayed with him. A Roman Centurion says, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”
This Sunday will be Palm and Passion Sunday. We will be reading the texts for both portions. It used to be that Palm Sunday only included the reading for the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. That was at a time when most church goers then came to Good Friday Services which were almost always held in the afternoon, because schools weren’t in session and businesses closed for a couple of hours on Friday afternoon. Since that is not the case these days, most people, including church goers, don’t hear the Passion of Jesus but only the glory of Palm Sunday and the glory of Easter. Hence, the necessity of hearing the Passion on Palm Sunday. (To get from one mountain top to another, you must go through the valley.)
Palm Sunday Texts:
Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 – The title given to this psalm in my NRSV Bible is “A Song of Victory”. One verse in our reading is well known. “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (verse 24) The most quoted Old Testament verse used in the New Testament is verse 22, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.”
Mark 11:1-11 – Verses 1 to 6 are the preparations for the entry. Verses 7-10 are about the actual entry. Verse 11 is about what Jesus did after riding in: he looked at the Temple and then went out of Jerusalem to Bethany.
Passion Sunday Texts:
Isaiah 50:4-9a – This is part of the third of four Servant Songs found in Isaiah and extends to verse 11. God has given the servant the gift of teaching and listening. God calls the servant to teach even though he is opposed by people who whip and beat him. Yet, God gives him strength and vindicates him.
Psalm 31:9-16 – This psalm in its entirety is the cry of a victim of society calling upon God to save him from his enemies.
Philippians 2:5-11 – Paul quotes an early Christian Hymn which affirms Christ descent from Godhood to humanness and his ascent back to God so that every knee should bow before him and declare him “Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Mark 14:1-15:47 (We will be starting at 14:12.) – I will simply share with you the titles of all the sections as the NRSV has it with some parenthetical comments:
14:12-21 – The Passover with the Disciples (Someone at the table will betray Jesus)14:22-25 – The Institution of the Lord’s Supper (commonly called “communion”)14:26-31 – Peter’s Denial Foretold (“No, I won’t!”)14:32-42 – Jesus Prays in Gethsemane (Peter, James, and John can’t seem to stay awake.)14:43-52 – The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus (Judas does the deed.)14:53-65 – Jesus Before the Council (chief priest, high priests, elders, and scribes; not a “city council”)14:66-72 – Peter Denies Jesus (Yes, he did.)15:1-5 – Jesus before Pilate (Jesus only says three words, “You say so.”)15:6-15 – Pilate Hands Jesus over to be Crucified (The chief priests were jealous; they stir up the crowd; “Crucify him”; Pilate caves in.)15:16-20 – The Soldiers Mock Jesus (purple robe; crown of thorns; “Hail, King of the Jews!”)15:21-32 – The Crucifixion of Jesus (Everyone mocks Jesus: the crowds, the chief priests, and the two crucified bandits.)15:33-41 – The Death of Jesus (Darkness at noon, Jesus cries out, the temple curtain is torn, and a Roman soldier declares him “God’s Son”)15:42-47 – The Burial of Jesus (Joseph, a member of the council, retrieves Jesus’ body and lays it in a tomb; two Mary’s watch.)
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor