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In 2021, Palm Sunday is March 28.

This is the second and final Sunday in the brief season of Passiontide, just before Easter.

The readings for Year B as well as related posts on Palm Sunday and Lazarus Saturday can be found below:

Readings for Palm Sunday — Year B

There are three choices of Gospel readings for this day. I have chosen the second one from the Liturgy of the Palms (emphases in bold mine):

John 12:12-16

12:12 The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem.

12:13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord– the King of Israel!”

12:14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written:

12:15 “Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”

12:16 His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him.

Our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem took place before He asked His Father to glorify Him, last week’s reading: John 12:20-33.

Commentary for today’s exegesis comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

In order to add more context, these are the intervening verses between this week’s and last week’s readings — John 12:17-19:

17 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”

Before going into the triumphal entry of Jesus, let us look at what happened after He raised his good friend Lazarus from the dead. He shared dinner with the sisters of Lazarus, Mary and Martha (John 12:2-8):

So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. 3 Mary therefore took a pound[a] of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii[b] and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it[c] for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

Now on to today’s reading.

Millions of people were in and around Jerusalem for Passover, which would culminate later in the week.

Hundreds of people knew about Jesus resurrecting Lazarus from the dead in Bethany. He had been in his tomb for four days. This was the last major miracle in our Lord’s ministry. The last miracle was His healing of the centurion’s ear hours before His death.

Once those people learned that Jesus was going to Jerusalem from Bethany, they wanted to greet Him (verse 12).

John MacArthur says that Jesus allowed this to happen. In fact, MacArthur posits that He created this situation:

So understand this: Jesus creates a demonstration He creates all of this.  He sets this up.  He sets it up by healing Lazarus, raising him from the dead.  He comes to Bethany, the point of that miracle, days or maybe a few weeks earlier.  He lingers there.  He remains there to draw the crowd to see Him, to see Lazarus, to strengthen the testimony of that miracle power He deliberately sets Himself in a situation to draw the largest possible crowd of people, and a crowd comes on Sunday to Bethany and overruns that little village.  Then another crowd packs the city of Jerusalem

We’re talking hundreds of thousands of people in that city and this Passover season.  He wants to generate the enthusiasm of the masses.  He wants not only to be received for who He is, the King, even if it’s only a fickle reception But He also wants to exacerbate the fury of the leaders of Israel so that they will against their own plan wind up crucifying Him on the very day that God has ordained at the Passover He forces the Sanhedrin to change their plans with respect to His execution to harmonize with the purpose of God

The crowd brought palm branches, crying out ‘Hosanna!’ and hailed Him as King of Israel (verse 13).

Two crowds assembled to see Jesus: the huge numbers from Bethany (verse 17) and another enormous gathering from Jerusalem (verse 18).

John tells us that Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it (verse 14). John leaves out the detail here that the synoptic Gospels explore in more depth. MacArthur says:

As He begins His journey, He asks two of His disciples to do something.  He sends them to a nearby hamlet, and He says, “Go to this place, and you will find a post, and you will find a donkey and a donkey’s colt tied to the post.  I want you to bring those animals to Me.  Bring the donkey and bring the donkey’s colt.”  Now, when the disciples reached the village, they found the right home.  They saw exactly what Jesus said they would see; these two animals tied to a post.  They start to untie the animals to take the animals with them, and the owner comes out and says, “What are you doing?  Why are you taking these animals?”  You remember their answer?  Very cryptic, brief answer.  They said, “The Lord needs them.  The Lord needs them.” 

That should indicate to you that whoever was the owner of that house and those animals knew the Lord.  They don’t have to describe who they’re talking about.  “The Lord needs them.”  Plenty of reason to think that this may well have been a follower of Jesus who was eager to provide for Him whatever He asked for.  The disciples then, once they’d secured the animals, took off their outer cloaks, which they would be wearing in the morning up in the mountains where they were They threw the outer garments over the colt and over the mother of the colt and brought them to Jesus.

You remember the story.  Jesus chose the colt to ride and not the mother Why the two?  Jesus wanted to come into the city in humility He didn’t even ride the older more mature animal.  He rode the weaker, younger animal The mature animal was brought along to lead the young colt because the colt will always follow his mother This is the way Jesus could demonstrably express the humility that was going to come His way during that week.  As He approached the city and the crowd began to gather around Him, people spread their garments in front of Him, like throwing down the red carpet They spread their clothes in the path so that the little animal could walk along their garments, and then they would pick them up.

Palm branches were used in the ancient world by both Jew and Gentile in celebrations and as a means of bestowing honour upon someone important.

Matthew Henry explains:

The palm-tree has ever been an emblem of victory and triumph[;] Cicero calls one that had won many prizes plurimarum palmarum homo–a man of many palms. Christ was now by his death to conquer principalities and powers, and therefore it was fit that he should have the victor’s palm borne before him though he was but girding on the harness, yet he could boast as though he had put it off. But this was not all the carrying of palm-branches was part of the ceremony of the feast of tabernacles (Leviticus 23:40; Nehemiah 8:15), and their using this expression of joy in the welcome given to our Lord Jesus intimates that all the feasts pointed at his gospel, had their accomplishment in it, and particularly that of the feast of tabernacles, Zechariah 14:16.

The crowd’s cry of ‘Hosanna’ was also significant, as Henry tells us:

That they cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God (Revelation 7:10) so did these here, they shouted before him, as is usual in popular welcomes, Hosanna, blessed is the king of Israel, that comes in the name of the Lord and hosanna signifies salvation. It is quoted from Psalm 118:25,26. See how well acquainted these common people were with the scripture, and how pertinently they apply it to the Messiah. High thoughts of Christ will be best expressed in scripture-words. Now in their acclamations, [1.] They acknowledge our Lord Jesus to be the king of Israel, that comes in the name of the Lord. Though he went now in poverty and disgrace, yet, contrary to the notions their scribes had given them of the Messiah, they own him to be a king, which bespeaks both his dignity and honour, which we must adore and his dominion and power, to which we must submit. They own him to be, First, A rightful king, coming in the name of the Lord (Psalm 2:6), sent of God, not only as a prophet, but as a king. Secondly, The promised and long-expected king, Messiah the prince, for he is king of Israel. According to the light they had, they proclaimed him king of Israel in the streets of Jerusalem and, they themselves being Israelites, hereby they avouched him for their king. [2.] They heartily wish well to his kingdom, which is the meaning of hosanna let the king of Israel prosper, as when Solomon was crowned they cried, God save king Solomon, 1 Kings 1:39. In crying hosanna they prayed for three things:–First, That his kingdom might come, in the light and knowledge of it, and in the power and efficacy of it. God speed the gospel plough. Secondly, That it might conquer, and be victorious over all opposition, Revelation 6:2. Thirdly, That it might continue. Hosanna is, Let the king live for ever though his kingdom may be disturbed, let it never be destroyed, Psalm 72:17. [3.] They bid him welcome into Jerusalem: “Welcome is he that cometh we are heartily glad to see him come in thou blessed of the Lord and well may we attend with our blessings him who meets us with his.” This welcome is like that (Psalm 24:7-9), Lift up your heads, O ye gates. Thus we must every one of us bid Christ welcome into our hearts, that is, we must praise him, and be well pleased in him. As we should be highly pleased with the being and attributes of God, and his relation to us, so we should be with the person and offices of the Lord Jesus, and his meditation between us and God. Faith saith, Blessed is he that cometh.

Returning to the young donkey, our Lord’s use of it was a fulfilment of Scripture (verse 15), Zechariah 9:9:

The Coming King of Zion

9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
    Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
    righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

John admits that he and the other Apostles did not understand the full significance of these events until much later (verse 16). They must have spent a lot of time recalling various prophecies from the Old Testament and all of what Christ had told them of Himself. They knew He was the Son of God but there was so much proof.

MacArthur explains why this was so:

Verse 16, “These things His disciples did not understand at the first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things to Him.”

They didn’t get it when it was happening.  I just have to say it this way: they were ignorant actors in the drama, but don’t be surprised.  They had been ignorant for a long time They didn’t get most things.  They did not understand most things They did not certainly understand why He was talking about dying They even tried to rebuke Him for that in the words of Peter.  They didn’t understand why He was humbling Himself and washing their feet He said, “I have to do this.  I have to do this.  This is part of my humiliation.”  When He said, “I’m going away,” they panicked and Philip says, “Where are you going to go?  We don’t know where you’re going.  We don’t know how to get there.” 

Even in chapter 1 of Acts, they were still lingering in the dark about the kingdom “Are you going to bring the kingdom now?  Is it coming now?”  It was all very confusing to them until He was glorified Why?  Then it all began to make sense.  Why?  Because previous to His glorification, what had He done?  He had gone back to the Old Testament and taught them the Old Testament, all the things in the Old Testament about Himself Remember, on the road to Emmaus, Luke 24?  And then in the Upper Room in the night of His resurrection, He explained Old Testament prophecies that He had fulfilled in His death and resurrection, and it began to make sense Then in Acts 2, right after His glorification, right after He ascends into heaven, the Holy Spirit comes and with the Old Testament course that He gave them after His resurrection, and the arrival of the Holy Spirit Then they remembered that these things were written of Him  

I’ve been telling you over the last number of months that when you now open the book of Acts after chapter 1 begins, they start to make sense out of the Old Testament.  Then when the Spirit comes, it really explodes.  John is looking back as he writes this, and he’s saying of himself and the rest, we didn’t understand what was going on We didn’t understand it.  In other words, we were caught up with the crowd We were caught up with the enthusiasm We were caught up with the messianic fever We never did understand until we looked back after His glorification and begun to make sense of what He had said. 

All the way along, all week long, they’re going to be confused Thursday night in the Upper Room, they’re very confused, very confused.  So even His own beloved followers show perplexity. 

What about the crowd who hailed Jesus then turned against Him less than a week later?

The crowd?  Well, they’re described in verse 17 and 18.  They’re there as we read earlier.  They’re curious.  They’re fascinated.  Why are they there?  Are they there because they’re interested in Jesus’ theology?  No.  They heard that He had performed this sign They’re attracted by the supernatural, false followers, thrill seekers, who by Friday choose Barabbas, a well-known criminal to be released; Jesus to be held prisoner, and then screamed for Him to be crucified.  Fickle crowd.

The entry of Jesus into Jerusalem surrounded by crowds of well-wishers made the Pharisees angry:

If the crowd is fickle, the Pharisees are angry, verse 19.  So the Pharisees said to one another, you see that you are not doing any good.  What you’re trying to stop is not working.  You’re not having any effect.  “The world has gone after Him.”  That’s such an important statement

MacArthur concludes:

That shows you the massive impact of Jesus on a superficial level to people who were only looking for supernatural experiences and events The same people screamed for His crucifixion a few days later.  It’s really a testimony to the far-reaching reality of superficial faith.

If this happened today, one could well imagine the Twitter trends every day of Holy Week, complete with videos.

Readings for Holy Week continue with John’s Gospel. More to come on Monday.

Below are the Gospel readings for Palm Sunday, April 5, 2020.

These are for Year A in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

I am posting only the Gospels, as the other readings are the same regardless of Lectionary year. They are in this post:

Readings for Palm Sunday — Year C

Here are my past posts on Palm Sunday:

The greatest reality story of all time begins on Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday and the Jesus watchers

Palm Sunday: Why palms?

Palm Sunday: Why a donkey?

There are two liturgies on Palm Sunday: one of the Palms and one of Christ’s Passion, as designated below. Emphases mine.

Gospel — Liturgy of the Palms

Matthew 21:1-11

21:1 When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples,

21:2 saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me.

21:3 If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.”

21:4 This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,

21:5 “Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

21:6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them;

21:7 they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them.

21:8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.

21:9 The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

21:10 When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?”

21:11 The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Gospel — Liturgy of the Passion

There are two options for this particular liturgy: Matthew 26:14-27-66 or Matthew 27:11-54. Note that only one blood sacrifice — Jesus’s death on the Cross — was sufficient to redeem our sins and reconcile us to God. See Hebrews 9:16-23 and Hebrews 10:1-3.

Matthew 26:14-27:66

26:14 Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests

26:15 and said, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver.

26:16 And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.

26:17 On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

26:18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.'”

26:19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal.

26:20 When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve;

26:21 and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

26:22 And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?”

26:23 He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me.

26:24 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.”

26:25 Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” He replied, “You have said so.”

26:26 While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”

26:27 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you;

26:28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

26:29 I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

26:30 When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

26:31 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters because of me this night; for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’

26:32 But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.”

26:33 Peter said to him, “Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you.”

26:34 Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.”

26:35 Peter said to him, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And so said all the disciples.

26:36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”

26:37 He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated.

26:38 Then he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.”

26:39 And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.”

26:40 Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour?

26:41 Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

26:42 Again he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”

26:43 Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy.

26:44 So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words.

26:45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

26:46: Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”

26:47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people.

26:48 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.”

26:49 At once he came up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.

26:50 Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you are here to do.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him.

26:51 Suddenly, one of those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it, and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

26:52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.

26:53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?

26:54 But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled, which say it must happen in this way?”

26:55 At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me.

26:56 But all this has taken place, so that the scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

26:57 Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, in whose house the scribes and the elders had gathered.

26:58 But Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest; and going inside, he sat with the guards in order to see how this would end.

26:59 Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for false testimony against Jesus so that they might put him to death,

26:60 but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward

26: 61 and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.'”

26:62 The high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?”

26:63 But Jesus was silent. Then the high priest said to him, “I put you under oath before the living God, tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”

26:64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, From now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

26:65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy.

26:66 What is your verdict?” They answered, “He deserves death.”

26:67 Then they spat in his face and struck him; and some slapped him,

26:68 saying, “Prophesy to us, you Messiah! Who is it that struck you?”

26:69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant-girl came to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.”

26:70 But he denied it before all of them, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.”

26:71 When he went out to the porch, another servant-girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.”

26:72 Again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.”

26:73 After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.”

26:74 Then he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know the man!” At that moment the cock crowed.

26:75 Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

27:1 When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus in order to bring about his death.

27:2 They bound him, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate the governor.

27:3 When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders.

27:4 He said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.”

27:5 Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself.

27:6 But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since they are blood money.”

27:7 After conferring together, they used them to buy the potter’s field as a place to bury foreigners.

27:8 For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day.

27:9 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one on whom a price had been set, on whom some of the people of Israel had set a price,

27:10 and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”

27:11 Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You say so.”

27:12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer.

27:13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?”

27:14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

27:15 Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted.

27:16 At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas.

27:17 So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?”

27:18 For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over.

27:19 While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.”

27:20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed.

27:21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.”

27:22 Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” All of them said, “Let him be crucified!”

27:23 Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”

27:24 So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”

27:25 Then the people as a whole answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!”

27:26 So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

27:27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him.

27:28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him,

27:29 and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”

27:30 They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head.

27:31 After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

27:32 As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross.

27:33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull),

27:34 they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it.

27:35 And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots;

27:36 then they sat down there and kept watch over him.

27:37 Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”

27:38 Then two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.

27:39 Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads

27:40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”

27:41 In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying,

27:42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him.

27:43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, ‘I am God’s Son.'”

27:44 The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way.

27:45 From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.

27:46 And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

27:47 When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.”

27:48 At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink.

27:49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.”

27:50 Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last.

27:51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split.

27:52 The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised.

27:53 After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many.

27:54 Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

27:55 Many women were also there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him.

27:56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

27:57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus.

27:58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him.

27:59 So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth

27:60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away.

27:61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

27:62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate

27:63 and said, “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’

27:64 Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.”

27:65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.”

27:66 So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.

——————————————————————–

A few days ago, I learned something new about Palm Sunday.

At the same time as Jesus was entering Jerusalem, Pontius Pilate entered the city from the opposite side.

Dr Chris Perry has an excellent post on Palm Sunday, ‘Two Processions — Thoughts on Palm Sunday’, worth reading in full. I’ve never read anything like it, and it will give a new perspective on this bittersweet day in the earthly life of Jesus. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

On the entries of Jesus and of Pilate he writes:

Jesus entered the city from the east, riding down from the Mount of Olives out of Bethany (which is exactly how the Messiah was supposed to come, from the east and the Mount of Olives and into the city). But, on the western side of the city Pontius Pilate rode into the city in full procession, riding a horse at the head of Roman imperial cavalry and soldiers. Pilate entered the city proclaiming the power of the Empire. Jesus’ procession proclaimed the Kingdom of God. Pilate’s military procession was a demonstration of both Roman imperial power and imperial theology. It was the standard practice of the Roman governors of Judea to be in Jerusalem during major festivals, not because they cared about their Jewish subjects, but to handle business in case of trouble. Pilate normally lived in Caesarea Maritima (Caesarea on the Sea) but he had brought his soldiers in to reinforce the Fortress Antonia.

Another important point is that the Roman emperor was deemed to be the son of (the) god (Apollo). Jesus is the Son of God. This produced tension and mockery at Jesus’s trial because they both made the same claims:

Other than Imperial power, Pilate was also making a show of Imperial theology. The emperor was not just viewed as the ruler of Rome, but also declared to be the son of god. It began with Augustus who ruled from 31 BC to 14 AD. His father was said to be the god Apollo. Inscriptions refer to him as son of god, lord, savior, and one who had “brought peace on earth.” His successors had continued to take on the divine titles

This procession was one of the primary pieces of evidence used against Jesus later in the week which forced Pilate to crucify Jesus. Without the procession, without the obvious references to kingship Jesus intentionally undertook, Pilate might not have gone through with it. Jesus chose the cross and maneuvered all of the pieces necessary to get him there. Jesus’ procession deliberately countered what was happening on the other side of the city. Pilate’s procession embodied the power, glory, and violence of the empire that ruled the world. Jesus brought an alternate vision of the Kingdom of God.

The people who cheered Jesus as He entered Jerusalem expected that He would be an earthly King of Israel who would save them from Roman rule. Jesus knew the people misunderstood the role of the Messiah:

Jesus knew everyone was completely missing the point. That’s why Luke 19:41-44 records Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. Here they have their Messiah in front of them, but they don’t recognize him for who he truly is.

Hence, the crowds turned on Him only a few days later and demanded that He be crucified.

Are we any better? We are Christians, however …

How often does God appear to us, speak to us, lead us, but we ignore it or turn away from him because it’s not what we want or expect God to do. We’re no better than the people of Jerusalem that day. God calls us to one thing but we want to do another and we get mad when God doesn’t act the way we want.

Finally, a note on the religious and political system in place in Jerusalem during that time. It was antithetical to God’s kingdom. Jesus came to prepare His fellow Jews to return to a sincere love and worship of God, but they refused to see it:

Jesus’ passion was not a protest against the Temple or animal sacrifice. Rather, his protest was against a domination system legitimated in the name of God, a system radically different from what the already present and coming Kingdom of God would be like. The domination system set up by the Temple priests and the Roman governors meant that rule was by a few, economic exploitation was commonplace, and there was religious legitimating of the system, basically saying if you’re against this you’re against God. So, it was not Jesus against Judaism, or vice-versa. It was a Jewish voice about what loyalty to God truly meant. And, as the Messiah, his is the decisive voice.

Most of us will be unable to attend church tomorrow because of coronavirus lockdowns around the world. I hope that Dr Perry’s historical insights help to explain the mystery of why so many people cheered Jesus on Sunday only to violently shout for His death on Friday.

May God bless everyone during Holy Week. As most of us are at home, let’s use the time wisely in contemplating our Lord’s Passion and death for our sins and our redemption.

What follows are two selections of readings for Palm Sunday, April 14, 2019.

Both are for Year C in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

The first set of readings is for the Liturgy of the Palms.

The second is for the Liturgy of the Passion.

Churches will use one or the other but not both.

Emphases below are mine.

Before proceeding to the readings, it is worth noting that the day before Palm Sunday is Lazarus Saturday, when Jesus raised Mary and Martha’s brother from the dead:

Holy Week begins tomorrow – today is Lazarus Saturday

Liturgy of the Palms

Psalm

The Psalm used is the same for all three Lectionary years. It is thought that David wrote this Psalm of thanksgiving after he became king. Our Lord cited verses 22 and 23 in reference to Himself (Matthew 21:42). The joy expressed here ties in well with that of the people who greeted Jesus upon His entry to Jerusalem.

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

118:1 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!

118:2 Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”

118:19 Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD.

118:20 This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it.

118:21 I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.

118:22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.

118:23 This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.

118:24 This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

118:25 Save us, we beseech you, O LORD! O LORD, we beseech you, give us success!

118:26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD. We bless you from the house of the LORD.

118:27 The LORD is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar.

118:28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you.

118:29 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Gospel

Luke’s version of Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem follows (colt instead of donkey). These posts on the significance of this event might be useful:

The greatest reality story of all time begins on Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday and the Jesus watchers

Palm Sunday: Why palms?

Palm Sunday: Why a donkey?

Luke 19:28-40

19:28 After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

19:29 When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples,

19:30 saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here.

19:31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.'”

19:32 So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them.

19:33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”

19:34 They said, “The Lord needs it.”

19:35 Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it.

19:36 As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road.

19:37 As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen,

19:38 saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”

19:39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.”

19:40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

Liturgy of the Passion

The first two readings and the Psalm are the same for all three Lectionary years.

First reading

This reading from Isaiah alludes to Christ’s humiliation and suffering to come.

Isaiah 50:4-9a

50:4 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.

50:5 The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward.

50:6 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.

50:7 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;

50:8 he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me.

50:9a It is the Lord GOD who helps me; who will declare me guilty?

Psalm

The Psalm further reflects the themes of suffering and desperation at the hands of mankind, when only the Lord is faithful.

Psalm 31:9-16

31:9 Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eye wastes away from grief, my soul and body also.

31:10 For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my misery, and my bones waste away.

31:11 I am the scorn of all my adversaries, a horror to my neighbors, an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me.

31:12 I have passed out of mind like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel.

31:13 For I hear the whispering of many– terror all around!– as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life.

31:14 But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.”

31:15 My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.

31:16 Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.

Epistle

Paul explains the redemptive purpose of Jesus’s human likeness.

Philippians 2:5-11

2:5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

2:6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,

2:7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form,

2:8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death– even death on a cross.

2:9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,

2:10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

2:11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Gospel

What follows is Luke’s account of the Last Supper, the betrayal of Jesus, the violent humiliation of the Crucifixion and His burial.

One of the two readings will be used.

Option One

Luke 22:14-23:56

22:14 When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him.

22:15 He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer;

22:16 for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”

22:17 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves;

22:18 for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

22:19 Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

22:20 And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

22:21 But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table.

22:22 For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!

22:23 Then they began to ask one another, which one of them it could be who would do this.

22:24 A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest.

22:25 But he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors.

22:26 But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves.

22:27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

22:28 “You are those who have stood by me in my trials;

22:29 and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom,

22:30 so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

22:31 “Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat,

22:32 but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

22:33 And he said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!”

22:34 Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.”

22:35 He said to them, “When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “No, not a thing.”

22:36 He said to them, “But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one.

22:37 For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was counted among the lawless’; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.”

22:38 They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” He replied, “It is enough.”

22:39 He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him.

22:40 When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.”

22:41 Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed,

22:42 “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.”

22:43 Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength.

22:44 In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.

22:45 When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief,

22:46 and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.”

22:47 While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him;

22:48 but Jesus said to him, “Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?”

22:49 When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, “Lord, should we strike with the sword?”

22:50 Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear.

22:51 But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him.

22:52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple police, and the elders who had come for him, “Have you come out with swords and clubs as if I were a bandit?

22:53 When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness!”

22:54 Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house. But Peter was following at a distance.

22:55 When they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them.

22:56 Then a servant-girl, seeing him in the firelight, stared at him and said, “This man also was with him.”

22:57 But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.”

22:58 A little later someone else, on seeing him, said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!”

22:59 Then about an hour later still another kept insisting, “Surely this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean.”

22:60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about!” At that moment, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed.

22:61 The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.”

22:62 And he went out and wept bitterly.

22:63 Now the men who were holding Jesus began to mock him and beat him;

22:64 they also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?”

22:65 They kept heaping many other insults on him.

22:66 When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, gathered together, and they brought him to their council.

22:67 They said, “If you are the Messiah, tell us.” He replied, “If I tell you, you will not believe;

22:68 and if I question you, you will not answer.

22:69 But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.”

22:70 All of them asked, “Are you, then, the Son of God?” He said to them, “You say that I am.”

22:71 Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips!”

23:1 Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate.

23:2 They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.”

23:3 Then Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He answered, “You say so.”

23:4 Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no basis for an accusation against this man.”

23:5 But they were insistent and said, “He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.”

23:6 When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean.

23:7 And when he learned that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time.

23:8 When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign.

23:9 He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer.

23:10 The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him.

23:11 Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate.

23:12 That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies.

23:13 Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people,

23:14 and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him.

23:15 Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death.

23:16 I will therefore have him flogged and release him.”

23:18 Then they all shouted out together, “Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!”

23:19 (This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.)

23:20 Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again;

23:21 but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!”

23:22 A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.”

23:23 But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed.

23:24 So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted.

23:25 He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished.

23:26 As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus.

23:27 A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him.

23:28 But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.

23:29 For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’

23:30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’

23:31 For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

23:32 Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him.

23:33 When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.

23:34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing.

23:35 And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!”

23:36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine,

23:37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”

23:38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

23:39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

23:40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?

23:41 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.”

23:42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

23:43 He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

23:44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon,

23:45 while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two.

23:46 Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.

23:47 When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.”

23:48 And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts.

23:49 But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

23:50 Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council,

23:51 had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God.

23:52 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.

23:53 Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid.

23:54 It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning.

23:55 The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid.

23:56 Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

Option Two

The second Gospel option is Luke 23:1-49 (see verses above).

———————————————————————————————–

We are now in Passiontide, as Holy Week begins.

May we meditate in the days ahead on our Lord’s betrayal and suffering for our collective sinful sake.

Forbidden Bible Verses will return after Easter.

What follows are the readings for Palm Sunday in Year B of the three-year Lectionary used in public worship. The Vanderbilt Lectionary Library is a useful resource for Sunday readings.

Liturgy planners have a choice of readings for Palm Sunday following either the Liturgy of the Palms or Liturgy of the Passion.

Readers might find these posts of interest:

Holy Week begins  (Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday)

Holy Week begins tomorrow – today is Lazarus Saturday

Psalm 118, Christ’s Passion and Eastertide

The greatest reality story of all time begins on Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday and the Jesus watchers

Palm Sunday: Why palms?

Palm Sunday: Why a donkey?

If this is the first time you have received palms

Liturgy of the Palms

Interestingly, the Palms liturgy does not specify an Old Testament or an Epistle, only a Psalm and two Gospel choices.

The Psalm emphasises rejoicing, and might well have been in the minds of those greeting Jesus on the donkey during His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Emphases mine below:

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

118:1 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!

118:2 Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”

118:19 Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD.

118:20 This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it.

118:21 I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.

118:22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.

118:23 This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.

118:24 This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

118:25 Save us, we beseech you, O LORD! O LORD, we beseech you, give us success!

118:26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD. We bless you from the house of the LORD.

118:27 The LORD is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar.

118:28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you.

118:29 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.

One of the two Gospel passages is read, either:

Mark 11:1-11

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.

Or:

John 12:12-16

12:12 The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem.

12:13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord– the King of Israel!”

12:14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written:

12:15 “Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”

12:16 His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him.

Liturgy of the Passion

The Old Testament reading sets the tone for our Lord’s Passion:

Isaiah 50:4-9a

50:4 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.

50:5 The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward.

50:6 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.

50:7 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;

50:8 he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me.

50:9a It is the Lord GOD who helps me; who will declare me guilty?

The Psalm is one of profound suffering, yet with steadfast faith in God:

Psalm 31:9-16

31:9 Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eye wastes away from grief, my soul and body also.

31:10 For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my misery, and my bones waste away.

31:11 I am the scorn of all my adversaries, a horror to my neighbors, an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me.

31:12 I have passed out of mind like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel.

31:13 For I hear the whispering of many– terror all around!– as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life.

31:14 But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.”

31:15 My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.

31:16 Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.

In the Epistle, Paul tells the Philippians of the nature of Christ and how they (and we) should imitate His holy example:

Philippians 2:5-11

2:5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

2:6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,

2:7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form,

2:8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death– even death on a cross.

2:9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,

2:10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

2:11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The Gospel choices are lengthy. Mark 14:1-15:47 has the full story of Jesus’s Passion, from the days leading to His arrest through to His burial.

The second choice provides a shorter version, including only the events that we remember on Good Friday:

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!”

15:40 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.

15:41 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.

15:42 When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath,

15:43 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.

15:44 Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time.

15:45 When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph.

15:46 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.

15:47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid.

No matter how many times I have heard and read the harrowing story of the Crucifixion, I continue to be moved by what Jesus did for our sakes.

The number of hard-hearted people in this world is appalling. I pray more come to believe in Him, especially during Passiontide and Eastertide.

We now start the holiest week in the Church calendar, the days between Palm Sunday and Easter.

Lazarus Saturday

The Saturday before Palm Sunday is known by the Eastern Orthodox Church and Eastern Catholic Churches (Byzantine Rite) as Lazarus Saturday, recalling Jesus’s last healing miracle when he raised his friend from the dead (John 11:1-45, ESV). Read more about the story and the traditions behind it:

Holy Week begins tomorrow – today is Lazarus Saturday

Our Church of England parish had John 11:1-45 as last Sunday’s Gospel reading (April 2, 2017). Our priest’s sermon centred around God directing events in His own time, not ours. Jesus’s timed his response to Lazarus’s death in obedience to His Father.

Lazarus was Martha and Mary’s brother. The three, who lived in Bethany, were good friends of Jesus. When Lazarus fell ill, Martha and Mary sent word to Him:

But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus[a] was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Then, He told the disciples that Lazarus had fallen asleep and He would go to awaken him. The disciples thought that He spoke of normal sleeping:

14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

When they reached the outskirts of Bethany, two miles from Jerusalem, they discovered that Lazarus had been buried for four days. Mary was in the house, as many people were paying their respects. Martha left to greet Jesus, and showed that she understood Jesus and His Father, although she was not expecting what was to come (emphases mine):

21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”

What followed is one of the most beautiful exchanges in the New Testament:

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[d] Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

Martha went home to fetch Mary, saying that the Teacher wanted to see her. Of course, the mourners also followed. Note the varied reactions:

32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved[e] in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

They walked to the tomb. The King James Version of verse 39 is more striking than any other:

39 Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto Him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.

Returning to the ESV for the rest of the story:

40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”

It is important to note that God wanted Jesus to raise Lazarus from the dead in front of others, not just Martha and Mary, who already believed in Him. Observe that the first thing Jesus did was to thank His Father for giving Him this opportunity to foreshadow His own Resurrection:

41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him,

However, others went to report the resurrection to the Pharisees. Our Lord’s raising Lazarus from the dead was the final straw. Look at their thought process:

47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

Caiaphas, the high priest, responded saying that it was better that one man die rather than a whole nation perish. John points out:

51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.

John MacArthur says that this was not a holy prophecy, yet God put the words into Caiaphas’s mouth:

He said what he said.  It just so happened that God ordered every word and gave it a completely different meaning, but every word was correct.  This is a backdoor into understanding verbal inspiration, verbal inspiration …

Do you know what this man did, this autocratic, self-exalting, dictatorial, brutal, sly, corrupt man?  He gave a clear statement on the substitutionary atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  He talks about substitutionary atonement.  He has no idea what he’s saying.  Not surprising … He meant one thing, but God meant something different.

Consequently:

53 So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.

Jesus knew what was coming, so He and the disciples left Bethany for Ephraim — Ephron — away from the crowds.

MacArthur says that Lazarus was probably raised from the dead on the Wednesday preceding Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, which we know as Palm Sunday.

Palm Sunday

By the time Jesus was ready to enter Jerusalem the next day, news of His raising Lazarus back to life had spread like wildfire.

The Jews were headed for Jerusalem for purification rituals prior to Passover. They wondered if He would show up or remain in hiding.

John 12 tells the story of our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem:

12 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”

 palm-sunday-donkey-landysadventures_com.jpgJesus fulfilled a prophecy from Zechariah (Zechariah 9:9), which John calls our attention to:

15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion;
behold, your king is coming,
sitting on a donkey’s colt!

When I last heard a sermon on the donkey in my Anglican parish several years ago, the priest mentioned no prophecy being fulfilled. Yet, that is highly important to this event. John tells us:

16 His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.

John has the crowds — and the Pharisees’ — reaction:

17 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”

Of course, John was not the only Gospel writer to document this event. Luke 19:28-40 tells us more about the donkey, as do Matthew 21:1-12 and Mark 11:1-11. In 2011, I wrote:

Palm Sunday: Why a donkey?

Then there is the controversy over whether people laid cloaks (Luke’s version) or palms (John’s) before Jesus. Matthew’s and Mark’s say that they had both. However, I read a post several years ago wherein a layman wrote that palms were unbiblical, which is why I made the above highlight in purple.

Another post from 2011 explains why people used palms historically and on that particular day:

Palm Sunday: Why palms?

palms-mexconnectcom.jpgOn that subject, it seems these days that most palms have already been made into crosses. However, if you are fortunate enough to receive plain palm fronds, this post tells you how you can preserve them the rest of the year:

If this is the first time you have received palms

Two other posts describe the human frailty and sinfulness on display in the days ahead. The crowds were fickle, the religious hierarchy devilish:

The greatest reality story of all time begins on Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday and the Jesus watchers

Our Lord knew that only too well.

palm-sundayPalm Sunday falls on March 29 this year and marks the beginning of Holy Week.

Readers might be interested in the following posts in recalling our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an occasion of elation which would not last the week.

The day before Palm Sunday is known in some Catholic quarters and by the Eastern Orthodox as Lazarus Saturday, when Jesus raised Mary and Martha’s brother from the dead (John 11:1-45).

Palm Sunday remembers the juxtaposition of the joy of the crowds and the plotting by the Jewish hierarchy to get rid of Jesus.

Palm Sunday donkey landysadventures_comJesus entered the city not held aloft by the Apostles nor sitting upon a horse — which symbolised power and battle — but on a humble donkey. This explanation gives us more information.

Another post explains why we receive palms. If you receive palm fronds instead of a palm cross, here are ideas for plaiting them as soon as possible so that they will last for another year.

This year, my Anglican parish’s Palm Sunday reading included Psalm 118 but omitted the middle verses.

Some clergy think that ‘too much Bible’ bores the congregation. I disagree. This psalm is a case in point.

This is what we heard for the first reading:

1 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
   for his steadfast love endures forever!

 2 Let Israel say,
   “His steadfast love endures forever.”
3 Let the house of Aaron say,
   “His steadfast love endures forever.”
4 Let those who fear the LORD say,
   “His steadfast love endures forever.”

 5 Out of my distress I called on the LORD;
   the LORD answered me and set me free.
6 The LORD is on my side; I will not fear.
   What can man do to me?

19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,
   that I may enter through them
   and give thanks to the LORD.
20This is the gate of the LORD;
    the righteous shall enter through it.
21I thank you that you have answered me
    and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected
   has become the cornerstone.
23This is the LORD’s doing;
   it is marvelous in our eyes.
24This is the day that the LORD has made;
   let us rejoice and be glad in it.

 25Save us, we pray, O LORD!
   O LORD, we pray, give us success!

 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!
   We bless you from the house of the LORD.
27The LORD is God,
   and he has made his light to shine upon us.
Bind the festal sacrifice with cords,
   up to the horns of the altar!

 28You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
   you are my God; I will extol you.
29 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
   for his steadfast love endures forever!

What follows is what was omitted. One wonders how many people opened their pew Bibles to read these verses (emphases mine below):

7 The LORD is on my side as my helper;
   I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.

 8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD
    than to trust in man.
9It is better to take refuge in the LORD
    than to trust in princes.

 10 All nations surrounded me;
   in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
11They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side;
   in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
12 They surrounded me like bees;
   they went out like a fire among thorns;
   in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
13I was pushed hard, so that I was falling,
   but the LORD helped me.

 14The LORD is my strength and my song;
    he has become my salvation.
15Glad songs of salvation
   are in the tents of the righteous:
“The right hand of the LORD does valiantly,
 16the right hand of the LORD exalts,
   the right hand of the LORD does valiantly!”

 17 I shall not die, but I shall live,
   and recount the deeds of the LORD.
18The LORD has disciplined me severely,
   but he has not given me over to death.

Bible scholars generally agree that David wrote this psalm after fully gaining the kingdom which God intended for him.

Matthew Henry notes that it could have been sung when the Ark of the Covenant was installed in David’s royal city and was sung thereafter during the Feast of the Tabernacles.

Henry explains, citing the King James Version of his time:

He preserves an account of God’s gracious dealings with him in particular, which he communicates to others, that they might thence fetch both songs of praise and supports of faith, and both ways God would have the glory. David had, in his time, waded through a great deal of difficulty, which gave him great experience of God’s goodness

There are many who, when they are lifted up, care not for hearing or speaking of their former depressions but David takes all occasions to remember his own low estateAll the nations adjacent to Israel set themselves to give disturbance to David, when he had newly come to the throne, Philistines, Moabites, Syrians, Ammonites, &c. We read of his enemies round about they were confederate against him, and thought to cut off all succours from him. This endeavour of his enemies to surround him is repeated (Psalm 118:11): They compassed me about, yea, they compassed me about, which intimates that they were virulent and violent, and, for a time, prevalent, in their attempts against him, and when put into disorder they rallied again and pushed on their design … Two ways David was brought into trouble:– (1.) By the injuries that men did him (Psalm 118:13): Thou (O enemy!) hast thrust sore at me, with many a desperate push, that I might fall into sin and into ruin. Thrusting thou hast thrust at me (so the word is), so that I was ready to fall. Satan is the great enemy that thrusts sorely at us by his temptations, to cast us down from our excellency, that we may fall from our God and from our comfort in him and, if God had not upheld us by his grace, his thrusts would have been fatal to us. (2.) By the afflictions which God laid upon him (Psalm 118:18): The Lord has chastened me sore. Men thrust at him for his destruction God chastened him for his instruction. They thrust at him with the malice of enemies God chastened him with the love and tenderness of a Father. Perhaps he refers to the same trouble which God, the author of it, designed for his profit, that by it he might partake of his holiness (Hebrews 12:10) howbeit, men, who were the instruments of it, meant not so, neither did their heart think so, but it was in their heart to cut off and destroy, Isaiah 10:7. What men intend for the greatest mischief God intends for the greatest good, and it is easy to say whose counsel shall stand. God will sanctify the trouble to his people, as it is his chastening, and secure the good he designs and he will guard them against the trouble, as it is the enemies’ thrusting, and secure them from the evil they design, and then we need not fear.

It takes profound faith to believe that God will preserve us through our greatest, most violent trials and tribulations. God used David’s enemies’ attacks to strengthen his love for Him. As Henry says at the beginning of his commentary for Psalm 118:

It appears here, as often as elsewhere, that David had his heart full of the goodness of God. He loved to think of it, loved to speak of it, and was very solicitous that God might have the praise of it and others the comfort of it. The more our hearts are impressed with a sense of God’s goodness the more they will be enlarged in all manner of obedience.

This is why it is so important for us to pray for more faith, especially when things are going well so that we can draw on it during times when it seems as if everything and everyone are working against us. Bible study will also help build our understanding of God’s purpose for us.

However, there is an even greater prophecy here which is why this psalm is chosen as a reading from Palm Sunday through the Easter season. It speaks of Jesus and Jesus himself cites it in referring to Himself.

Matthew 21 begins with His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on what we call Palm Sunday. This is the final week of His public ministry. Longtime subscribers of this blog will have followed my Forbidden Bible Verses series which recount the constant verbal assaults on Jesus not only by the Jewish Sanhedrin but also by ordinary people.

Palm Sunday was a brief moment of happiness in our Lord’s ministry on earth. The next few days, which we commemorate during Holy Week, turned so dark and treacherous that He suffered death on the Cross for our sins on Good Friday.

As Henry says of Psalm 118:

In singing this psalm we must glorify God for his goodness, his goodness to us, and especially his goodness to us in Jesus Christ.

Matthew 21 tells us that after riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, He went to the temple and toppled the tables of the money-changers. He then returned to Bethany, where He had been previously with Mary, Martha and Lazarus, whom He resurrected the day before.

Jesus returned to Jerusalem the following day. On His way there, He became hungry and cursed the barren fig tree when he found it had leaves but no fruit. That episode is analagous to those who do not bear fruits of faith; they will die eternally, never seeing God.

At the end of Matthew 21, Jesus had yet another confrontation with the Jewish leaders. He gave them two parables: those of the two sons and the talents. The chapter closes with His citation of Psalm 118:22-23:

22 The stone that the builders rejected
   has become the cornerstone.
23This is the LORD’s doing;
   it is marvelous in our eyes.

Matthew tells us that Jesus went on to warn of condemnation for unbelief:

43Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. 44And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

The chapter ends with this:

45When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. 46And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet.

Henry tells us that the last ten verses of Psalm 118 relate specifically to Jesus Christ. Of the gate in verses 19 and 20, he says:

Some by this gate understand Christ, by whom we are taken into fellowship with God and our praises are accepted he is the way there is no coming to the Father but by him (John 14:6), he is the door of the sheep (John 10:9) he is the gate of the temple, by whom, and by whom only, the righteous, and they only, shall enter, and come into God’s righteousness, as the expression is, Psalm 69:27. The psalmist triumphs in the discovery that the gate of righteousness, which had been so long shut, and so long knocked at, was now at length opened. 3. He promises to give thanks to God for this favour (Psalm 118:21): I will praise thee. Those that saw Christ’s day at so great a distance saw cause to praise God for the prospect for in him they saw that God had heard them, had heard the prayers of the Old-Testament saints for the coming of the Messiah, and would be their salvation.

And Peter says the same when the Jewish leaders confronted him and John after they healed a lame man at the temple in Acts 3. They later arrested and held both apostles overnight in custody for speaking of the resurrected Christ to the public. The next day the hierarchy questioned the apostles. This was Peter’s reply (Acts 4:8-12):

8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” 

Psalm 118 tells us that, just as God saved David from death, so He also saved His only begotten Son.

We celebrate His Resurrection on Easter Sunday. He lives forevermore.

May we share the psalmist’s joy on Easter:

24This is the day that the LORD has made;
   let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Palms mexconnectcomAs Holy Week is nearly here, newer subscribers might be interested in reading the following posts from my back catalogue.

Today is Lazarus Saturday:

when Jesus raised Mary and Martha’s brother from the dead (John 11:1-45).  Nowadays, this is commemorated as a feast principally in the Eastern Orthodox Church and Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite.

The link provides more information about our Lord’s last healing miracle in His ministry and its significance from the earliest days of the Church to the present.

Tomorrow is Palm Sunday, which recalls Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The following posts explain more:

The greatest reality story of all time begins on Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday and the Jesus watchers

Palm Sunday: Why palms?

Palm Sunday: Why a donkey?

I highly recommend the last two. The Revd P G Mathew of Grace Valley Christian Center in Davis, California, provides the theological answers.

Finally, if you receive a sheaf of two or three palm leaves at church, this post explains how to plait them to better preserve them during the coming year.

Forbidden Bible Verses returns after Easter.

Palms mexconnectcomHoly Week is about to begin.

Today is Lazarus Saturday in some Eastern Christian traditions. It is the day when Jesus raised his good friend Lazarus — Martha and Mary’s brother — from the dead in Bethany. This was His last major healing miracle.

Palm Sunday this year falls on March 24. Read more about the events of this bittersweet day:

The greatest reality story of all time begins on Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday and the Jesus watchers

Palm Sunday: Why palms?

Palm Sunday: Why a donkey?

For those who are receiving loose palm fronds, this post offers ideas on plaiting them.

Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday, the bittersweet day when Jesus is greeted with enthusiastic cries of ‘Hosanna!’ as He enters Jerusalem riding on a humble donkey, indicating that He came in peace, not in combat against the Romans.

However, before that, he performed His last earthly miracle, that of raising His good friend Lazarus — brother of Martha and Mary — from the dead.

For this reason, the Saturday before Palm Sunday is known in some Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions as Lazarus Saturday.

Palm Sunday has a very joyous yet troubling dynamic about it as Good Friday looms ever nearer.

Find out more about the Palm Sunday story and its traditions in these posts:

The greatest reality story of all time begins on Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday and the Jesus watchers

Palm Sunday: Why palms?

Palm Sunday: Why a donkey?

If this is the first time you have received palms (you can make yours look like the one in the photo)

For those commemorating Holy Week, I wish you one full of prayer, Scripture and insight.

I’ll feature more as we move onward to the sorrow of the Crucifixion and to the desolation of Holy Saturday, when all seemed lost to Jesus’s disciples.

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