Introduction to the Readings for Palm Passion Sunday, April 5, 2020
Traditionally, Palm Sunday is celebrated with the waving of palm branches in commemoration of our scripture texts describing Jesus’ triumphal entry into the Holy City.
In more recent years, many churches have also included the reading of sacred texts setting the tone and the scene for Jesus’ betrayal, suffering, and death.
For those of us familiar with these Christian traditions and related texts, we know there are two crowds gathering-one standing for and with all that Jesus brings and one standing for and with the status quo enforced by the occupied territory and instructions from Rome.
Reading from the New Standard Revised Version of Scripture hear these words from the Prophet Isaiah.
Reading from Chapter 50, verses 4-9a The Suffering Servant struck and insulted
“The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens-wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught.
The Lord Go has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.
The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. It is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty?”
This week there are two texts from the good news to inform our understanding. Reading from the New International Version, we begin with Matthew 21: 1-11:
As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”
This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
“Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”
The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brough the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees an spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Here ends the first reading depicting the triumphant arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem. Listen with care to the governor’s interrogation of Jesus.
Matthew 27: 11-56 Introducing The Passion of Jesus beginning with Pilate’s interrogation and decision
Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“You have said so,” Jesus replied.
When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony that they are bringing against you?” But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge-to the great amazement of the governor.
Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. At that time, they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus Barabbas. So when the crowed had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you? Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.
While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”
But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.
“Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.
“Barabbas,” they answered.
“What shall I do then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.
They all answered: “Crucify him!”
“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”
All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”
Then he released Barabbas to them.
But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
Here ends the text for this holy day. Thanks be to God. be to God amen.