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Worship, prayer and bible study resources

Palm Sunday of Lent - Year B

Liturgical Colour - Red


Palm SundayIntroduction

Palm Sunday reminds us of how fickle we can all be as human beings. We see the crowd shouting Hosanna, suddenly calling for the death of Jesus. Pontius Pilate is governed by political expediency, Judas betrays Jesus for the prospect of a cash reward. Yet even the best disciples move away from Jesus at his time of need and leave him standing alone before the Jewish authorities. Jesus is abandoned. Time for us then so stand up and be counted, to be prepared to own our faith and acknowledge Jesus.


Yet there is another lesson for us all. Jesus forgives, he shows compassion and understanding for the weakness of those around him. Are we prepared to follow his example of compassion and forgiveness. Are we willing to keep the faith and also be understanding toward those who are weak and find the going difficult ?
 

View a Palm Sunday Service


Opening Verses of Scripture Matthew 21:9

Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!

Collect Prayer for the Day — Before we read we pray

Almighty and everlasting God, who in your tender love towards the human race sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ to take upon him our flesh and to suffer death upon the cross: grant that we may follow the example of his patience and humility, and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. CW

True and humble king, hailed by the crowd as Messiah: grant us the faith to know you and love you, that we may be found beside you on the way of the cross, which is the path of glory. CW

First Bible Reading Isaiah 50:4-9a

The servant of the LORD said:

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 GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backwards. 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? All of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up. NRSV

Second Reading Philippians 2:5-11

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. NRSV

Gospel Reading Mark 14:1-15:47

It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him; for they said, ‘Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.’

While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, ‘Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.’ And they scolded her. But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.’

Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.

On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, “The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.’ So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.

When it was evening, he came with the twelve. And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.’ They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, ‘Surely, not I?’ He said to them, ‘It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me. For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.’

While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’

When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. And Jesus said to them, ‘You will all become deserters; for it is written,
“I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.”
But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.’ Peter said to him, ‘Even though all become deserters, I will not.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ But he said vehemently, ‘Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.’ And all of them said the same.

They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. And said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.’ And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. He said, ‘Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.’ He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him. He came a third time and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.’

Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.’ So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him. Then they laid hands on him and arrested him. But one of those who stood near drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.’ All of them deserted him and fled.

A certain young man was following Jesus, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.

They took Jesus to the high priest; and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes were assembled. Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the guards, warming himself at the fire. Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for testimony against Jesus to put him to death; but they found none. For many gave false testimony against him, and their testimony did not agree. Some stood up and gave false testimony against him, saying, ‘We heard him say, “I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.”’ But even on this point their testimony did not agree. Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, ‘Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?’ But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’ Jesus said,‘I am; and “you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power,” and “coming with the clouds of heaven.”’ Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘Why do we still need witnesses? You have heard his blasphemy! What is your decision?’ All of them condemned him as deserving death. Some began to spit on him, to blindfold him, and to strike him, saying to him, ‘Prophesy!’ The guards also took him over and beat him.

While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she stared at him and said, ‘You also were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.’ But he denied it, saying, ‘I do not know or understand what you are talking about.’ And he went out into the forecourt. Then the cock crowed. And the servant-girl, on seeing him, began again to say to the bystanders, ‘This man is one of them.’ But again he denied it. Then after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, ‘Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.’ But he began to curse, and he swore an oath, ‘I do not know this man you are talking about.’ At that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ And he broke down and wept.

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

Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. Then he answered them, ‘Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?’ For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. Pilate spoke to them again, ‘Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?’ They shouted back, ‘Crucify him!’ Pilate asked them, ‘Why, what evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Crucify him!’ So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. And they began saluting him, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. 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.

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. Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.

It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. The inscription of the charge against him read, ‘The King of the Jews.’ And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!’ 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. 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.

When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 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?’ When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, ‘Listen, he is calling for Elijah.’ 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.’ Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 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!’

There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.

When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid. NRSV

 

Post Communion Sentence

Lord Jesus Christ, you humbled yourself in taking the form of a servant, and in obedience died on the cross for our salvation: give us the mind to follow you and to proclaim you as Lord and King, to the glory of God the Father. CW

 


 

Commentary

Dominus Flevit

The photo was taken from the window of a Christian church which we visited on the way down the Mount of Olives, the Sanctuary of the Dominus Flevit (Jesus Wept). No picture can really do justice to the view which is experienced by pilgrims approaching the magnificent city of Jerusalem from this hillside. It would have been exhilarating for the disciples as together with Jesus they approached the place where they believed God dwelt and where they could offer sacrifice and find forgiveness of their sins. They were in the company of the one they believed to be the Messiah and we can understand that feelings were high.

Remember this was Passover the time when the Jews celebrated the liberation of the people from the power of Pharaoh, a foreign oppressor. Now they were a conquered people again, under Roman rule. Imagine how this oppressed people would have felt celebrating Passover, which reminded them of how their God had helped them conquer their mighty enemy, Egypt. The people were used to seeing processions entering the city. No doubt many Roman troops had come for Passover when the population of Jerusalem would swell greatly. The Roman army entering the city would have been a frightening and an imposing sight for the people. Roman generals on horses, colourful standards flying and the , the Roman eagle held high, polished swords and armour and the terrifying sound so the pounding of marching boots. The procession was designed to be a display of Roman imperial power which would remind conquered people of their subjugation. Under the weight of Roman rule, it was to this people that Jesus gave hope of another mighty release which God had in store for his people through his Messiah..

Jerusalem is such an important city for Jesus and whilst Matthew, Mark and Luke give the impression that this was Jesus first visit, we know from John’s Gospel that this was not the case. (Jn 2:13, 5:1, 7:10). Jesus regularly attended the great feasts. We also know of his special relationship with Martha, Mary and Lazarus at Bethany. Bethany (House of Dates). Bethany was so close that it was a lodging place for pilgrims when Jerusalem was full. We should not be surprised that Jesus has been able to arrange for a donkey to be ready to be supplied to his disciples for him using the coded words ‘The Lord needs it’

The action of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey is significant. It recalls the passage from Zechariah 9:9.

‘Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion. Shout aloud O daughter of Jerusalem.
Lo, your king comes to you, triumphant and victorious is he, riding on an ass and upon a colt the foal of an ass.’

The message is clear, Jesus is a king, but he is a king riding triumphantly in peace, unlike the Roman procession. The crowds spread their clothes on the road as they had done when Jehu was anointed King (2 Kings 9:13). Jesus was clealry seen as royalty, but Jesus was not a king who would inspire bloodshed like Jehu. Eventually this would cause disappointment from the crowds for they wanted a king who would go to war against Rome.

When they see Jesus the crowds shout

Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"
"Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!" "Hosanna in the highest

The cry ‘Hosanna’, is an expression which we see in Psalm 118:25. It could be translated ’God save us, now we pray.’ This is a Messianic greeting from a Psalm which might have commemorated the entry of a conqueror like Judas Maccabeus two hundred years earlier when he had led a rebellion against the forces of the Syrian king Antiocheius and purified and rededicated the temple. The same words were used in 2 Samuel 14:4 and 2 Kings 6:26 by crowds seeking help for protection.

Jesus hears the shouts of Hosanna but we know in his own mind he is thinking of his last meal when he will kneel down like a servant to wash his friends’ feet. He can hear Hosanna but he knows that soon the same crowd will become angry and shout instead “Crucify him!” The crowds see Jesus as their Messiah and the visual dramatic actions of Jesus are guaranteed to encourage this. However the crowds do not understand the paradox of his kingship. Jesus came not as a warrior upon a stallion but as a king ready to die. He was not there to fulfil the narrow nationalistic ideals of the Jews oppressed by Rome, Jesus has in mind a much greater task, to make known the salvation of God which was for all creation. Charles Royden

Meditation

Historians tell us that each year over many thousands people went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover at the time of Christ, swelling the population by as much as 10 or 20 times the normal. The place would be heaving, and into all this excitement and fervour Jesus rides slowly into Jerusalem on a donkey. And amid all these thronging people Jesus rides into town and Jerusalem is literally to be shaken to its foundations. There's going to be a spiritual showdown with the Jewish authorities and a political showdown with the Romans. Jesus' Galilean ministry is at an end, and shortly the journey to Jerusalem will be complete. The Messiah, the servant King of Isaiah, rides into town. Jesus, a man of supreme holiness, the perfect Israelite, the one who has come to set all people free has come to fulfil His calling. He knows His time has come. But Jesus died when he did, not because of the Romans and their insistence on crucifixion for a person who they thought was claiming to be the King of the Jews. He died not because the Jewish authorities charged him with blasphemy and condemned him to death. He died because God had decided that it was time for his Messiah Son to be revealed. Ultimately it didn’t matter what any earthly authorities thought they had the power and mandate to do, because God was, and is, and always will be, in loving control over his creation and it was he who made the decision.
 

Hymns

  1. All glory, laud and honour
  2. Make way, make way
  3. Crown Him with many crowns
  4. O worship the King
  5. Ride on, ride on in Majesty

 

 

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

Prayer encouragement in the Christian life

Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian,
if it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected, it will wither and die

Heavenly Father, You gave your Son, Jesus Christ to show us the Way of justice, truth and peace. Help us hold his example before our eyes, in the way that leads to a better world on earth and eternal life in the Heaven. Amen

As we journey this week with Christ and celebrate the paschal mystery of his death and resurrection, let us earnestly pray to God for those following the way of the cross and for all peoples everywhere. Blessed are you, Lord our God, who sent your Son among us to bear the pain and grief of humankind. Receive the prayers we offer this day for all those in need in every place and as we near the holy mountain grant us strength on our journey. Glory to you for ever. Amen

O Lord, whose way is perfect, help us always to trust in your goodness, to walk in the way of faith, and to follow in the path of simplicity. Teach us to cast our cares on your providence, that we may possess a quiet mind and a contented spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Holy Father, you have shown us that the brave bearing of the cross is the beginning of wearing your crown: help us by your grace to bear patiently our pains and disappointments, as your beloved Son bore His; and to offer them to you as the pure gift of our faithfulness to our crucified Lord. Amen

As on this day we keep the special memory of our Redeemer's entry into the city, so grant O Lord than now and ever, He may triumph in our hearts. Let the King of Glory enter in, and let us lay ourselves and all we are in full and joyful homage before Him, through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen Bishop Moule, 1841-1920

Father God, During Lent we have been preparing for the celebration of our Lord's Paschal mystery. On this day Jesus Christ entered the holy city of Jerusalem in triumph. The people welcomed Him with palms and shouts of praise, but the path before Him led to self-giving, suffering and death. Today we greet Him as our king, although we know His crown is thorns and His throne a cross. We follow Him this week from the glory of the palms to the glory of the resurrection by the dark road of suffering and death. Unite us with Him in His suffering on the cross; may we share His resurrection and new life. Amen

May Christ crucified draw you to himself, to find in him a sure ground for faith, a firm support for hope, and the assurance of sins forgiven; and may the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen

Prayer Liturgy for Palm Sunday

For forgiveness for the many times we have denied Jesus,
let us pray to the Lord.
All Lord, have mercy.

For grace to seek out those habits of sin
which mean spiritual death,
and by prayer and self-discipline to overcome them,
let us pray to the Lord.
All Lord, have mercy.

For Christian people,
that through the suffering of disunity
there may grow a rich union in Christ,
let us pray to the Lord.
All Lord, have mercy.

For those who make laws, interpret them,
and administer them,
that our common life may be ordered in justice and mercy,
let us pray to the Lord.
All Lord, have mercy.

For those who still make Jerusalem a battleground,
let us pray to the Lord.
All Lord, have mercy.

For those who have the courage and honesty
to work openly for justice and peace,
let us pray to the Lord.
All Lord, have mercy.

For those in the darkness and agony of isolation,
that they may find support and encouragement,
let us pray to the Lord.
All Lord, have mercy.

For those who, weighed down with hardship,
failure, or sorrow,
feel that God is far from them,
let us pray to the Lord.
All Lord, have mercy.

For those who are tempted to give up the way of the cross,
let us pray to the Lord.
All Lord, have mercy.

That we, with those who have died in faith,
may find mercy in the day of Christ,
let us pray to the Lord.
All Lord, have mercy.

 

Additional Material

 

Commentary

Jesus’ passion was the outcome of His obedient delivery of the message of the kingdom, despite His people’s rejection. The passion story in the gospel reading starts with Jesus riding into Jerusalem amid the crowds, everybody, it seemed, has turned up for the occasion of the Passover and many were there waving the palm fronds as Jesus rode in. The disciples were very impressed, and even the Pharisees and the Sadducees were beginning to realise that perhaps they had underestimated this simple Galilean teacher as word of His teaching and miracles reached them. And just as Solomon had ridden into Jerusalem as a King and gone to the Temple he had build, so Jesus rides in and goes to the Temple, the very centre of the Jewish faith, and began to teach and preach. It was an up and down ride. As Jesus rode into town people sang His praises. Many looked on in admiration as He turned over the tables of the money changers in the Temple. But it all changed. A few short days later He was betrayed and arrested, and on Friday He was hung him on a cross and killed. Today the palms - tomorrow the passion. The Romans wanted Him out of the way because He represented a political threat and undermined the concept as Caesar being King and a god. The Jews wanted Him out of the way because of the disruption He was causing in religious circles and His claim to be the Messiah. Both parties disliked Him because He criticised their duplicity and errant ways. But both were most afraid of the power that He seemed to wield, however gently. Power over the growing crowds of followers who seemed to hang on His every word and deed. Power over sickness as He healed the many sick and infirm who came to Him. Power over creation itself, as he calmed the wind and the waves. Whilst they may have not recognised Him as the Messiah, they could clearly see that Jesus was no ordinary person and things had to be stopped before they got seriously out of hand.

In our Lent course this year we have been looking at the teaching, parable, miracles and passion of Jesus. All are inextricably linked to the Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection. Jesus lived out what He taught, challenged the Jews and the Jewish authorities with many parables, especially the parable of the vineyard. He confirmed that he was the Messiah through the miracles He performed and His acknowledgement of the role God had given Him, all of which led Him to enter Jerusalem when He did in the manner in which He did. Jesus Himself was the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecy which focused on the coming Messiah. His entry into Jerusalem echoes one of the Psalms which was used at every Passover, Psalm 118, where loud Hosannas are cried. Matthew quotes the passage from Zechariah, ‘See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey…’ But when Jesus rode into Jerusalem living and acting out these ancient prophecies, many did not recognise Him as the Messiah they longed for. He was no ordinary person that was for sure. The crowds asked who it was that had such an impact as He rode into the city. What they were witnessing was not some war lord riding into battle to smash the opposition and take it captive but a radically subverted model of power, exercised in gentleness and compassion which would challenge the systems and structures of the political and religious world, and continue to do so throughout history. They were confused. Jesus proclaimed peace, not war; set people free rather than taking them captive; and restored rather than plundered. It’s this subversive, radical power that Christ unleashes on the world through the events of the coming week, and continues through the imperfect, but forgiven and redeemed band of people called the Church. Jesus was the last emissary from God, bringing with him God’s final and decisive word to his people and we are called to be His disciples. As He was led out to crucifixion His followers must have wondered what was happening. Kings and Messiahs don’t get crucified; they conquer and rule, smashing the powers of sin and darkness on the way. And in His own way, Jesus did just that. It would take some time before the world would come to realise that the humiliated artisan from Nazareth who was crucified truly had changed lives, nations and world history. As we look to Easter it’s important that we too sing His praises and wave our palm fronds of adoration. It’s important that we marvel at His words, His parables and His teaching. It’s important that we open ourselves to the miracle of the resurrection in our own lives and the power of His Spirit to lead and guide us day by day. We know that sometimes we’ll let Christ down; we’ll deny and disown Him, as did the disciples. We’ll do the things we don’t want to do which are counter to God’s ways. The events of Easter week are a microcosm of our own lives, our up and our downs, the times of great happiness and the times of deepest sadness and despair, the things we can be proud of and the things for which we are deeply sorry and ashamed. As the time of Lent comes to a close and Easter comes upon us we are visibly reminded that whatever might happen, God is in control. Through the sacrifice of the cross and the glory of resurrection, God shows His love for the world and all His creation by reconciling all things to Himself, He demonstrates His ultimate victorious power over all the forces that oppose His will, and He invites us to share in the risen life of His Son. Sam Cappleman

Commentary

Our Gospel reading this week recounts Christ’s entry into Jerusalem at the beginning of the last week of His earthly life. His whole ministry thus far had been one of teaching and healing as He had travelled the surrounding countryside. Over the past weeks we have seen how Jesus had been determined to go to Jerusalem and to be there in time for the feast of the Passover. From our recent readings from the gospels we realise that Jesus was fully aware of the fate that was to befall Him; He had explained this to His disciples many times, although it is doubtful if they fully understood. Why should they? Had not Peter declared that Jesus was indeed the Messiah and their understanding of such a person was that he would have had the power to overrule the machinations of evil-thinking people even if they were high priests.


This week’s reading from Isaiah highlights the dangers of being a prophet. Called by God to be a messenger, he does not shirk from proclaiming the message of repentance and a return to the ways of a God-fearing nation, even though this subjects him to personal abuse and physical attacks. There is an interesting comment in verse 6 of chapter 50, where the prophet states that ‘he gave his cheeks to those who pulled out the beard’. To pull hairs from a persons beard was considered to be a great insult in those days, (it was also quite painful too, I imagine). The whole passage shows that the prophet did not shirk from his duty but put all his trust in God to see him through.

Would this passage have been in Jesus’ mind as He made His way toward Jerusalem? By the end of the week Jesus had received plenty of verbal and physical abuse for His words and actions. Could we have faced such treatment? We may be laughed at occasionally for our beliefs but I doubt if we have ever had to face that sort of behaviour.

The story of ‘Palm Sunday’ or the ride into Jerusalem from Bethphage, is a very familiar one. The cheering from the large and noisy crowds, the quiet and gentle plodding of the donkey, the cloaks and branches thrown onto the stony path in an attempt to carpet the way to make it fit for a royal person. But what was really going through Jesus’ mind as He looked at the crowds on both sides of the road? Did He recognise any one in the sea of faces? Was there someone or something familiar to Him? All we are told, in Luke’s gospel, is that as Jesus ascended the slope into Jerusalem he wept.
When we survey the state of the world around us, both near and far, how does it make us feel? Do we weep for the state of the people around us or for our own inability to do anything about it?   Mr Alan Davis

 

Prayers


Be with us, Lord, to defend us; within us to refresh us; around us to protect us; before us to guide us; behind us to encourage us and above us to bless us; for your own name's sake. Amen Celtic, 10th century

Christ crucified draw you to himself, to find in him a sure ground for faith, a firm support for hope, and the assurance of sins forgiven; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those things which last for ever; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

O God our dance, in whom we live and move and have our being: so direct our strength and inspire our weakness that we may enter with power into the movement of you whole creation, through our partner Jesus Christ. Amen

O God, you are my rock, my rescue, and my refuge, I leave it all quietly to you. Amen. George Appleton (1902-93)

Lord may I prefer the truth and right by which I might seem to lose, to the falsehood and wrong by which I might seem to gain. Amen.