Palm / Passion Sunday

The Liturgy of the Palms that remind us of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem—Matthew 21:1-11 / Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 – You’ll want to balance the psalm readings over against the Gospel selection for the day. Here, the words from Psalm 118 are chanted by the crowd as Jesus enters Jerusalem (which corresponds, for example, with Matthew 21:9): “Blessed is he comes in the name of the Lord!.”

Matthew 21:1-11 – Arranging for a donkey and colt, Jesus enters Jerusalem on this occasion in a heavy-handed irony of kingship. (Matthew, always with and eye for fulfillment interprets the Zechariah prophecy literally and thus Jesus enters Jerusalem straddling two animals.) The crowd apparently senses the imminent possibility of deliverance through this savior, for they draw from the song of pilgrimage quoted about from Psalm 118, but adding an additional, “Hosanna to the Son of David.”

The Liturgy of the Passion that suggest the suffering of Christ—Isaiah 50:4-9a / Psalm 31:9-16 / Psalm 22

Isaiah 50:4-9a is a servant song selected because it roughly parallels Christ’s humiliation and shame. As one reads Isaiah 50: 5-9, it is nearly impossible but to overhear the suffering of another Servant. While the Revised Common Lectionary limits the lesson to the suffering servant, the Episcopal and RC lectionaries augment the reading with verses 21-25—texts which emphasize the triumph and victory of the servant in terms not unlike that of Philippians 2.

Psalm 31:9-16 also moves the worshiper toward the shame and suffering aspect of holy week: “I am in distress . . . my eye wastes away from grief . . . I am the scorn of all my adversaries, a horror to my neighbors . . .”

Psalm 22 (RC and Episcopal lectionary) is also a lament that points the worshiper like the others toward the alienation and desolation and suffering of holy week. (click here for a commentary on Psalm 22 )


Philippians 2:5-11—An Example of Humility

Here we have the beautiful poetic story of Christ in the hymn found in Philippians 2. Of interest during this Sunday is how this poetry can be read into the actual experience of the historical Jesus around ACE 30 in Jerusalem. The hymn begins in general pre-history (pre-creation ?) and becomes particularized in the person of Jesus Christ. The movement is poignant and provides the larger theological landscape than just what the palm/passion week can portray.

Matthew 26:14-27:66 / Matthew 27:11-54

Matthew 26 and 26 shadows Mark’s account of the passion. In this passage the following episodes are included:

The Passover / last supper
The prediction of a 100% desertion rate
The prayer gathering at Olivet
The betrayal by one of the Twelve
The trial before a Jewish court
Denial fulfillment: Peter’s denial
The suicide (Judas)
The releases (Barrabas)
The crucifixion
Matthew’s (unique): natural phenomena (45-53)


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