A Reading from the Gospel according to Matthew (21:1-11)
When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2saying 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. 3If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” 4This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, 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.” 6The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9The 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!” 10When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” 11The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”
A Reading from the Book of Isaiah (50:4-9a)
The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens—wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting. The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me.
9 Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble; *
my eye is consumed with sorrow,
and also my throat and my belly.
10 For my life is wasted with grief,
and my years with sighing; *
my strength fails me because of affliction,
and my bones are consumed.
11 I have become a reproach to all my enemies
and even to my neighbors,
a dismay to those of my acquaintance; *
when they see me in the street they avoid me.
12 I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind; *
I am as useless as a broken pot.
13 For I have heard the whispering of the crowd;
fear is all around; *
they put their heads together against me;
they plot to take my life.
14 But as for me, I have trusted in you, O Lord. *
I have said, “You are my God.
15 My times are in your hand; *
rescue me from the hand of my enemies,
and from those who persecute me.
16 Make your face to shine upon your servant, *
and in your loving-kindness save me.”
A Reading from the Letter of Paul to the Philippians (2:5-11)
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Narrator The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to Matthew (27:11-66)
Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him,
Pilate “Are you the King of the Jews?”
Jesus “You say so.”
Narrator But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. Then Pilate said to him,
Pilate “Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?”
Narrator But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed. Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them,
Pilate “Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?”
Narrator For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him,
Pilate’s Wife “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.”
Narrator Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. The governor again said to them,
Pilate “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?”
Narrator And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them,
Pilate “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?”
Narrator All of them said, “Let him be crucified!”
Pilate “Why, what evil has he done?”
Narrator But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
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,
Pilate “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”
Narrator Then the people as a whole answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!”
So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 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,
Soldiers “Hail, King of the Jews!”
Narrator They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him. As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross.
And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots; then they sat down there and kept watch over him. Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” Then two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads 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.” In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying,
Scribes and Elders “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. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, ‘I am God’s Son.’”
Narrator The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way. From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice,
Jesus “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”
Narrator that is,
Jesus “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Narrator When some of the bystanders heard it, they said,
Bystanders “This man is calling for Elijah.”
Narrator 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. But the others said,
Bystanders “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.”
Narrator Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last.
(Pause for silence)
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. 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,
Soldiers “Truly this man was God’s Son!”
Narrator Many women were also there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him. Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth 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. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb. The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said,
Chief Priests “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 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.”
Pilate “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.”
Narrator So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.
by the Rev. Michael Kreutzer
St. Matthew exaggerates, but so do some of the other biblical writers. It seems to be an integral part of their culture – maybe of ours, too. If Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem had been as big an event as St. Matthew portrays it in the reading that we just heard, leaving “the whole city… in turmoil,” there would have been no Holy Week. The Roman soldiers would have immediately swept in and put Jesus and his followers to death on the spot. Resistance to Rome was quickly and brutally suppressed.
Jesus’ actual entry into Jerusalem was most probably a very small event, witnessed by only a handful of followers. The vast majority of people in the city would never have known that it had ever happened. But just because it was small doesn’t mean that it wasn’t important.
On the way home from a recent visit to my parents, Mark commented: “The simple things are very important, but the important things aren’t always simple.” I think he is on to something.
Often in life, small things make the most difference in the long run. The day by day love and attention to and care that parents give their children influence the course of their lives far more than large, expensive gifts that tend to receive all the attention. The day-to-day, routine work of dedicated men and women builds up a community and a country far more than most well-publicized events do. And the faithful, generous service of ordinary Christians builds up the kingdom of God in a way that grand programs and religious spectacles never can accomplish.
Folk singer Pete Seeger, who died earlier this year, liked to remind people of the power of the small, persistent efforts of those dedicated to changing society. He likened them to a seesaw with an enormous pile of rocks on one end and a large, but empty bucket on the other. Those working to make the world a better place for all people stand at the one end, using ordinary teaspoons to raise tiny scoops of sand and drop them into the bucket, one-by-one. People look on and scoff at the absurdity of their efforts. But hour by hour, day by day, that bucket gradually fills. And, at one glorious moment, one of them drops the critical teaspoon of sand into the bucket, and the enormous pile of rocks goes flying up into the air. What changes the world, he noted, is us and our teaspoons.
Acknowledging the critical importance of our seemingly small, everyday efforts in the building up of the kingdom of God is not just a statement of fact. It is a statement of faith. It is an affirmation of the power of God. It tells others and reminds us of the power of God, working through our regular, persistent, unglamorous, routine efforts, and of the way that God, through those efforts and through us, is slowly but surely transforming the world.
It is that transformation of the world through the efforts of one individual that this coming week is all about. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was most probably a very small, prophetic action; most people in and around the city would never have known that it had ever happened. And, as he died, he became just one of the countless tens of thousands of people whom the Roman Empire had killed in this cruel and vicious manner. Yet it was in him and in his seemingly ordinary actions that God was changing the world. And it is in us and in our seemingly ordinary actions that God still is.