Palm Sunday C
159: March 20, 2016
319: April 14, 2019
Psalmist: Richard Bruxvoort Colligan
Mary Luti’s Excellent Holy Week Note:
As Christians, we live under the burden of a sad and violent history of anti-Semitism, in the sobering shadow of the Shoah (Holocaust). It is critical for us to be clear about what our sacred texts mean when they make reference to “the Jews,” especially during Holy Week, when we contemplate Jesus’ death.
When the crucifixion narratives speak of “the chief priests and leaders of the people,” they are referring to officials who collaborated closely with the Roman systems of oppression, and were viewed with contempt by much of the Jewish community in their time. They should not be identified with the Jewish people of the past as a whole, and certainly not with Jews in the present.
It may be helpful to recall the cultural context of our Christian scriptures, emerging as they did from a small, originally Jewish community of believers in Jesus as the Messiah. All of the Gospels originated from Jewish communities. Jesus himself, was born, lived, and was crucified, a Jew. Any criticism of Jews from Gospel writers should be understood as the expression of differences of opinion among or about their fellow Jews. The gospels’ use of the term “the Jews” therefore, should not be read as a criticism of the Jewish religion, and especially not as a condemnation of an entire people, either then, or now.
It is one of the bitter ironies of history that our sacred texts have been used to justify the persecution of the covenant people, from whom our Savior came, and who are created, as we all are, in the precious image of God.
No Palms. Not even cut branches on the road.
According to Fred Craddock, these are symbols of nationalism. They are intentionally left out of Luke’s story. The “King” to whom they refer is a call for peace, not a call for rebellion.
In Luke especially, the King is associated with peace. Think back to Jesus’ birth. Jesus is worshiped as King, but deeply connected with the heavenly host promise “Peace on earth.”
Almost verbatim from Mark 11:1-8
Jesus enters Jerusalem on the colt no one has ridden.
People cheer “Hosanna Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessings on the coming kingdom of our ancestor David. Hosanna in the highest.”
Goes to Temple, goes home because it was late, and returns to Bethany.
Comes back next day he curses the fig tree and clears the Temple.”
Jesus enters Jerusalem on the colt no one has ridden (in Matthew it is a donkey and a colt.)
People cheer “Blessings on the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heavens.”
Pharisees tell people to be quiet.
Jesus weeps and predicts Jerusalem’s destruction.
Enters the Temple, throws people out.
Wild horse - uncastrated, never ridden. Horse or donkey? Only Matthew says donkey.
Never ridden - typical for sacred events.
There seems to be some foreknowledge.
Did Jesus set it up beforehand?
Did a disciple own the horse?
Disciples heavily involved
Secure the colt
Place Jesus on the colt
Called him the King
No general crowds - named specifically disciples
As opposed to John, where crowds were there because of Lazarus and Matthew’s crowds there because it is Passover.
“His disciples did not fully understand his messiahship, to be sure, but neither are they person who sing praise and scream death in the same week. The portrait of such a fickle crows must come from some account other than Luke’s.” (Fred Craddock, Interpretation: Luke, p. 227).
Objection by the Pharisees
Unknown motivation, but it fits with their previous action (in Luke 13:31) that they wish Jesus to preserve his own life.
They fear reprisal.
Selfish - because they fear greater wrath will come down, possibly even unsettling their position.
Care for Jesus - misunderstand his mission, and wish only for him to play it safe and survive.
“That stones would shout is, of course, a figure of speech, but the expression does remind us that in biblical understanding, the creation is involved in events that we tend to think affect humans alone” (Craddock, p. 228)
Thoughts and Questions
Difficult to faithfully separate the entry into Jerusalem from going into the Temple - especially since in Luke it all happens in one day.
Luke’s understanding of clearing the Temple is not directly connected to the plot for his death nor is it directly tied to its destruction. They seem to take umbrage with the fact that he set up his own operations there.
Pharisees want to silence the people from rocking the boat. Who wants to silence us? The disciples were making so much noise that the leaders wanted to keep thing quiet.They feared reprisal. It is important to wonder - who is fearful of us? This is not to say we must be loud just for the sake of being loud, but if no one hears our churches, our preaching, our service, what’s the point? If we are doing things that upset the status quo, there will be retaliation.
Palm Sunday - if you want to call it that - doesn’t happen with Jesus alone. It happens because the disciples are faithful. They carry out Jesus’ orders, but they also help him - literally - carry out the plan. They get the horse. They put him on it. They cheer him when he enters. They praise him “for all the great things they have seen.” They might not completely get it, but they know they have seen something special. They cheer for this King - not because he is going to come and conquer - but because he will usher in peace. Some wish they would just be quiet, but in the end, they cannot be silenced.
Lectionary selection for both Palm Sunday and Easter for all three years, though the selected verses overlap.
Both weeks read the intro v 1-2: “Give thanks to the LORD because he is good, because his faithful love lasts forever. Let Israel say it: "God's faithful love lasts forever!" (CEB)
v 24-29 overlap
“This is the day the LORD acted; we will rejoice and celebrate in it! LORD, please save us! LORD, please let us succeed! The one who enters in the LORD's name is blessed; we bless all of you from the LORD's house. The LORD is God! He has shined a light on us! So lead the festival offering with ropes all the way to the horns of the altar. You are my God—I will give thanks to you! You are my God—I will lift you up high! Give thanks to the LORD because he is good, because his faithful love lasts forever.”
Psalm 118’s place in Ancient Hebrew worship is debated. One theory is that this was a Psalm that “celebrated the re-enthronement of the Davidic monarch” (James Newsome, Texts for Preaching, Year A).
Fits Palm Sunday as an enthronement psalm, when Jesus is acting as a new kind of King in his triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
End of what Clint McCann calls the Hallel collection (113-118) which came to be used at Passover.
Can also be seen in context of Israel’s return from exile. It’s use is versatile, as thanksgiving, victory.
Tone and emotions of the Psalm are all over the place. Lots of praise, also distress, so the lection tries to cut it up to make it fit Palm Sunday and Easter.
“A psalm of thanksgiving sung by one who has been to the edge of the abyss and who has been delivered by God” (James Newsome, Texts for Preaching, Year A).
Non Palm Sunday section
v 1-4 Call to Worship - Let all say “God’s steadfast love endures forever”
v 5-13 I was in distress, but God saved.
v 14-18 God is victorious
salvation, victory, valiant, strength
v 19-24 Procession
In midst of procession is reminder of the failure that preceded this celebration
v. 22 - The stone that was rejected has become the cornerstone.
The people have come to celebrate, but it is the Lord that is taking action
v. 24 This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad.
This is the proper order - Acknowledge God’s action, then rejoice.
v 25-29 Call for salvation and thanksgiving
Ending verse mirrors the opening
118:29 “Give thanks to the LORD because he is good, because his faithful love lasts forever”
Thoughts and Questions
Pattern of praise and petition affirm God’s sovereignty. More realistic as a whole psalm, instead of chopping it up. Isn’t most of life full of both praise and petition?
Powerful as communal prayer and individual promise. Martin Luther called it “My own beloved psalm.” (Clint McCann, New Interpreter’s Bible, v. IV, p. 1156).
The story of Holy Thursday
Tell the story Christmas Pageant style? Or do we stick to one Gospel?
Luke or John?
John is the text and the reason we call it Maundy Thursday
from the Old English Mande which comes from the Latin Mantatum or Commandment (or mandate)
“commandment: to love one another as I have loved you”
from the Old English Maund- which means to beg because beggars would gather outside the churches during Holy Week
NO “LAST SUPPER” other than “during supper”- happens the day before the passover (John 13:1)
Foot Washing- only Gospel this appears
Possible origin of the “stole”
Focus on serving one another in love, not obligation or charity, but friendship and love
Longest day in John- chapters 13-18:28!
mainly due to the extensive farewell discourse
Last Supper = clearly a passover meal - words of institution
Cup - bread - cup
Foretelling the cup of suffering v.42
The bread and cup are deliberately shared with everyone:
Peter - denyer
Judas - betrayer
Thomas - doubter
rest - of the disciples - deserters
Betrayal - woe to you who would betray the Son of Man
Argument about greatness - same as Luke 9
The very act of their argument reveals their betrayal by misunderstanding and misrepresenting Jesus - they have learned nothing in the last 13 chapters
Servitude- again calls back to Luke 9, “the least among you is the greatest”
connection with John 13 - BUT NO FOOT WASHING
Prayer in the Garden
Not my will but yours be done
“One of you will betray me” - “Surely Not I?”
John 18 and John 19 or Luke 23:1-49
The story of Good Friday
Tell the story Christmas Pageant style? Or do we stick to one Gospel?
Luke or John?
Luke - political
Jesus is innocent by both Herod, Pilate, bandits, the Centurion -everyone can see Jesus’ innocence except those whom we would expect
Even in his death Jesus is reconciling enemies (Luke 23:12)
no historical evidence of a Passover pardon
Possibly a word play showing how much the crowd either did not know who Jesus was or how much they actually wanted Jesus released and not Barabbas
Bar’Abbas = “Son of the Father”
Who should be released? Jesus, Son of the Father or Jesus King of the Jews?
INRI - J(I)esus of Nazareth, King(Rex) of the J(I)ews
Temple of the Curtain - revealing God to the people
“All his acquaintances including the women… stood at a distance, watching these things”
Possible to prove the viability of this account
The sin of passivity
Even the Centurion makes a faithful declaration when Jesus’ followers won’t
Very similar to Luke
No visit to Herod
No trial before Caiaphas/High Priest (but Annas instead)
Dies on the passover - Jesus is the Paschal Lamb whose life is given so the people might be saved
Interaction between Mary and Jesu from the cross for them to care for one another
Focus on the law - the leaders want Jesus killed but want someone else to do it
They use Rome to get what they want and Rome acquiesces
Traditionally a pre-Vatican Catholic service of Lamentations and Psalm readings, Antiphons and the extinguishing of Candles
Modern - readings of the Passion narrative and the extinguishing of candles to symbolize the encroaching darkness leading to Jesus’ death and the desertion of the disciples.
Is it enough to tell the story?
Not necessarily- can lead to anti-Semitism
Passion plays like the Passion of the Christ (by Mel Gibson) often lead to vandalism and attacks against synagogues and Jews.
Tension: invite people into the drama (into the story) but also provide a hermeneutic lens that gets at one of the central questions of faith: Why did Jesus die?
Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com,@pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Miserlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and Bryan Odeen for our closing music.