Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday

Liturgy of the Palms (March 20, 2016)

  • Psalm
    • Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
  • Gospel
    • Luke 19:28-40


Liturgy of the Passion (March 20, 2016)

  • First reading
    • Isaiah 50:4-9a
  • Psalm
    • Psalm 31:9-16
  • Second reading
    • Philippians 2:5-11
  • Gospel
    • Luke 22:14-23:56 or Luke 23:1-49


For this week’s post we will begin with the Palm Sunday narrative:

Luke 19:28-40 | New Living Translation (NLT)

After telling this story, Jesus went on toward Jerusalem, walking ahead of his disciples. As he came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives, he sent two disciples ahead. “Go into that village over there,” he told them. “As you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks, ‘Why are you untying that colt?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”

So they went and found the colt, just as Jesus had said. And sure enough, as they were untying it, the owners asked them, “Why are you untying that colt?”

And the disciples simply replied, “The Lord needs it.” So they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their garments over it for him to ride on.

As he rode along, the crowds spread out their garments on the road ahead of him. When he reached the place where the road started down the Mount of Olives, all of his followers began to shout and sing as they walked along, praising God for all the wonderful miracles they had seen.

“Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the Lord!
    Peace in heaven, and glory in highest heaven!”

But some of the Pharisees among the crowd said, “Teacher, rebuke your followers for saying things like that!”

He replied, “If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!”

So this story begins Holy Week.  This week beginning on Sunday we recall the events in Jesus life leading up to his crucifixion, burial and ultimately culminates in His resurrection.  Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday.  It’s interesting because we often call this the triumphal entry of Jesus – it really was far from it.  I believe the biblical accounts, but I want you to think with me for a moment….This gospel writer (Luke) does not use the words that are recorded in Matthew and Mark, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” or “Hosanna in the highest.”  We often think of the word “hosanna” as being a word of praise or shout, of acclamation, but the word hosanna means save, rescue or savior.  The word is used in Psalm 118:25 in the original Hebrew.

Please, Lord, please save us.
    Please, Lord, please give us success.
Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
    We bless you from the house of the Lord.

I want to focus in on the first phrase – Please, Lord, please save us!  Really that’s what the people were shouting in Jerusalem on that Sunday.  I believe that some of Jesus closest followers were beginning to understand who this Jesus was…They knew that Jesus was the hope.  Remember…for 400 years before Jesus arrived on the scene, Israel had been waiting for a savior – many who were alive at the time, didn’t realize that Jesus was this one.  He was the Savior – he was the one who would save them from their sins – he was the one who ultimately would rescue them.  The reality is that those who were on the road leading into Jerusalem thought Jesus was about to usher in the new kingdom – and he was – but not the way they expected it.   Jesus came to save us.  Jesus is our rescue.  As I was doing some research I came across this.  We often talk about singing hosanna, when in fact, we should be crying hosanna.  Crying out for God to save us.  This is the same word that is used for the people in Israel during the exodus and during other times of oppression – they would cry out to God, crying “God save us!”

With that in mind let us look at the text for Passion Sunday.  It come from Philippians 2:5-11:

Philippians 2:5-11 | New Living Translation (NLT)

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
    he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
    and gave him the name above all other names,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

Paul is writing to the church at Philippi.  It is a missionary letter and here he quotes an ancient hymn of the church.  The church at Philippi would have been familiar with this hymn.  It is a Christological hymn – that means it describes Christ.

Paul is saying that if we want to be like Christ, then we should model his characteristics.  We are reminded that Christ was and is God – the second person of the Trinity – Jesus came to earth – Jesus was God in the flesh – John describes that God became flesh and dwelt among us.  We call that the incarnation.  How amazing is that?  This man Jesus, who was and is and always will be God, would come down to earth for us.  He gave up his divine rights as God and was born as his own creation.  That is pretty amazing to me.  That Christ would love us so much that He would give up everything – all his rights – to save us.  How many of us would be willing to do that?  Jesus knew that He was God and yet, he did not think that equality was something that he needed to cling to.

We are told via this hymn that Jesus gave up his divine privileges of God and became a slave to the human body (that’s my emphasis) – and he was born in human form — I remember holding our grandson Robert right after he was born.  He was so helpless.  Think about Jesus – the creator of the universe having to be cared for by his own creation.  Talk about humbling yourself – and Jesus did it willingly.  Not only did Jesus humble himself to his creation, but he humbled himself to God.  These are characteristics that we should be asking for God to reveal in us.

Jesus was completely obedient to God – to the point of dying for us.  And it was not just any type of death – it was the worst type of death that humankind could come up with – hanging on a cross – without a stitch of clothing on – being humiliated – and literally suffocating to death – that after being beaten within an inch of his life.  It was an excruciating death.

But…God…here is the important part.  When Jesus laid down his life, God exalted him – to the highest place – God restored Christ and gave him the highest honor.  Here is the point…We must humble ourselves…we must be like Jesus…That is our part…We don’t need to worry about the exalting part…God will take care of that.

Let’s pick up the words right before Paul quotes this ancient hymn:

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

This is what Christ desires in his people.  During this week, we will be following the journey of Jesus to the cross – we’ve already looked at the people crying, “Save us — be our Savior — rescue us.” Think about what Christ requires of you as we remember what Christ did for us.



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