The Gospel: Mark (11:1-11)
When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples 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. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 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.
Old Testament: 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. It is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty?
The Response: Psalm (31:9-16)
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.”
The Epistle: 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.
The Passion: Mark (15:1-47)
Narrator The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to Mark 15:1-47.
As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. Pilate asked him,
Pilate “Are you the King of the Jews?”
Narrator He answered him,
Jesus “You say so.”
Narrator Then the chief priests accused him of many things. Pilate asked him again,
Pilate “Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.”
Narrator But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.
Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. Then he answered them,
Pilate “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?”
Narrator For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. Pilate spoke to them again,
Pilate “Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?”
Narrator They shouted back, “Crucify him!” Pilate asked them,
Pilate “Why, what evil has he done?”
Narrator But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.
Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.
They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.
It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!” In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.
When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice,
Jesus “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”
Narrator which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.
Silence may be kept.
And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said,
Roman Centurion “Truly this man was God’s Son!”
Narrator There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.
When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid.
by the Rev. Michael Kreutzer
All four of the gospels describe a dramatic and symbolically rich entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, shortly before the time of his death and resurrection; but each does it in its own unique way. Three of them end in a dramatic fashion. Matthew (21:11) paints of portrait of the crowds shouting with excitement, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” Luke (19:40) concludes with Jesus’ declaration, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” And John (12:19) portrays even Jesus’ enemies being forced to concede, “You see, you can do nothing. The world has gone after him!”
But then, there is Mark. By the end of the version that we heard today, the cheering of the crowds has apparently ended, and the people have gradually drifted away. Except for the twelve, Jesus is left pretty much alone. And even this much-diminished group is no longer the center of attention. They seem to have blended in with the thousands of other pilgrims who had come to Jerusalem for Passover. Jesus and his closest followers enter the city, go into the temple, look around a little, and then, as Mark puts it, “as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.”
What a let-down! We’re used to viewing the description of the entry into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday as one of the most electrifying parts of the gospel. So why would Mark begin with such a powerful scene, describing a glorious procession with Jesus’ followers shouting out with excitement, only to end it in such an undramatic, unexciting way?
There was such potential here. Jesus could have taken advantage of his followers’ enthusiasm to rally his supporters. He could have commanded not only their praise and acclamations but their loyalty as well. He might even have been able to leverage their support in order to launch his own bid to become king.
But instead, he returned to the mundane realities of life, to the commonplace actions of all the other visitors in town, to the utterly ordinary. What could he possibly accomplish in such an ordinary setting – the salvation of the world? Or isn’t that exactly what we are commemorating and celebrating again this week: God beginning the work of the new creation on a series of ordinary days, in ordinary places, and in the lives of ordinary people?
So what can we, as Jesus’ followers, hope to accomplish in the ordinary times and ordinary places of our mostly ordinary lives? Isn’t that the question that emerges this week as we prepare once again to renew our baptismal vows this Saturday evening when the church throughout the world celebrates Jesus’ resurrection?
It’s easy to convince ourselves that we are his faithful followers of Jesus on Christmas or Easter or when we envision him riding triumphantly toward the Holy City on Palm Sunday. But are we willing to make that same claim on the ordinary days of life, after all the acclamations have faded and he has returned to the apparently ordinary days: days that will lead to his death on the cross?