Palm Sunday Gospel Reading
11:1 When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples 11:2 and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. 11:3 If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.'”
11:4 They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, 11:5 some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?”
11:6 They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it.
11:7 Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it.
11:8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. 11:9 Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! 11:10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
11:11 Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
Passion Sunday Gospel Reading
Mark 15:1-39, (40-47)
15:1 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.
15:2 Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” He answered him, “You say so.”
15:3 Then the chief priests accused him of many things. 15:4 Pilate asked him again, “Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.” 15:5 But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.
15:6 Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. 15:7 Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. 15:8 So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom.
15:9 Then he answered them, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 15:10 For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over.
15:11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead.
15:12 Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 15:13 They shouted back, “Crucify him!” 15:14 Pilate asked them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” 15:15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.
15:16 Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. 15:17 And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. 15:18 And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!”
15:19 They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. 15:20 After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.
15:21 They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. 15:22 Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). 15:23 And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it.
15:24 And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take. 15:25 It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. 15:26 The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.”
15:27 And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. 15:29 Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, 15:30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!”
15:31 In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 15:32 Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.
15:33 When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.
15:34 At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 15:35 When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” 15:36 And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 15:37 Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.
15:38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.
15:39 Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”
How do we explain Holy Week? based on a reflection by Karoline Lewis (Professor and the Marbury E. Anderson Chair of Biblical Preaching, Luther Seminary, Saint Paul, Minnesota)
It’s hard to reflect on Palm/Passion Sunday. And maybe, we shouldn’t delve too deeply?
Have you thought about letting the texts speak for themselves? Let this story simply be? Letting Holy Week do what it does and work as it should? Anything further on our part may very well be overkill — every pun intended. We can try too hard to cover every detail of Holy Week, try to pack it all in, because we assume that most of us won’t be back until Easter Sunday. That’s why we have Palm/Passion to begin with, right? Most people won’t come to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, so let’s cover all the bases. Let’s cover Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil before the women get to the empty tomb.
Don’t try this at home. Not only is it not possible. It’s not necessary.
Karoline suggests that we pick a verse from the passage and reflect on this for all its worth. Because the hard thing about Palm/Passion Sunday is that there is just too much text. Or as Salieri says to Mozart, just too many notes. What else is there to say?
Maybe don’t try. And admit that we can’t.
This Holy Week is an opportunity for witness. It is a chance for us to put ourself in the story and say this is what I see, what I feel and then ask, what about other people? What do they see, feel? Where are they moved? Any attempt to interpret or explain this week will be swamped in detail.
So why not just experience the story and let it do what it intends to do. Let the story be what it has to be. Let the story work on you. No one answer will work. No one interpretation will meet all needs. Articulate your personal point of entry and then invite others to imagine their own.
Because if the default is to make Passion Sunday and Holy Week doable, then we will end up reducing wonder to want. Amazement to acceptance. Resistance to recourse. Disbelief to discussion. And then everything we hope for on this Sunday is rather a pedantic roadmap to traverse the week that plots and plods rather than one that invites new routes of discovery.
Let the story of Palm/Passion/Holy Week do its work. And then let go. The biblical witnesses suggest that this is no place for statements of certainty. Rather, it is a space for ambiguity. Disappointment. Fear. Contemplation. Anger. Dejection. And there are not enough spaces in our lives that invite such real, visceral, embodied, unchecked, uncensored emotions and reactions to the events of faith.
Be honest with yourself. Be bewildered. Be willing to invite questions rather than provide answers. For your willingness to be confused allows the mystery and depth of Holy Week to inform your faith.
And so in your confession, this can be what you say. “I don’t know what to do with all of this. But God does. I don’t get it but I don’t have to because God does. I don’t want to figure this out. That’s OK. God has.”
And then we let Holy Week be.