A Reading from the Gospel according to 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.
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. Let them confront me. It is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty?
Psalm 31: 9-16
O Lord hear my pray’r, O Lord hear my pray’r
When I call, answer me.
O Lord hear my pray’r, O Lord hear my pray’r
Come and listen to 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.
The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to Mark (14:32-15:47)
They went to a place called Gethsemane; and [Jesus] said to his disciples,
Jesus “Sit here while I pray.”
Narrator He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. And he said to them,
Jesus “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.”
Narrator And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. He said,
Jesus “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.”
Narrator He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter,
Jesus “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Narrator And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him. He came a third time and said to them,
Jesus “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”
Narrator Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying,
Judas “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.”
Narrator So when he came, he went up to him at once and said,
Narrator and kissed him. Then they laid hands on him and arrested him. But one of those who stood near drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to them,
Jesus “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.”
Narrator All of them deserted him and fled.
A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.
They took Jesus to the high priest; and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes were assembled. Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the guards, warming himself at the fire. Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for testimony against Jesus to put him to death; but they found none. For many gave false testimony against him, and their testimony did not agree. Some stood up and gave false testimony against him, saying, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” But even on this point their testimony did not agree. Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus,
High Priest “Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?”
Narrator But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest asked him,
High Priest “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”
Narrator Jesus said,
Narrator “I am; and ‘you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power,’ and ‘coming with the clouds of heaven.’”
Narrator Then the high priest tore his clothes and said,
High Priest “Why do we still need witnesses? You have heard his blasphemy! What is your decision?”
Narrator All of them condemned him as deserving death. Some began to spit on him, to blindfold him, and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” The guards also took him over and beat him.
While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she stared at him and said,
Servant Girl “You also were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.”
Narrator But he denied it, saying,
Peter “I do not know or understand what you are talking about.”
Narrator And he went out into the forecourt. Then the cock crowed. And the servant-girl, on seeing him, began again to say to the bystanders,
Servant Girl “This man is one of them.”
Narrator But again he denied it. Then after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter,
Bystanders “Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.”
Narrator But he began to curse, and he swore an oath,
Peter “I do not know this man you are talking about.”
Narrator At that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him,
Jesus “Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.”
Narrator And he broke down and wept.
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.
[ Please stand.]
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
It’s important to celebrate the big occasions in life: a child’s 1st or 21st birthday, a couple’s 1st or 25th or 50th wedding anniversary, a birth, a graduation, a wedding, a retirement. These are all times to rejoice, to remember, to give thanks, to acknowledge milestones, and to look forward as well as backward. But, as important as they are, their greatest contribution to our lives comes in their giving perspective and clarity to the importance of the rest of our lives: to the seemingly ordinary days that pass by all too quickly; for it is those ordinary days that comprise the vast majority of the time that we have on earth. And it is those ordinary days that ultimately shape who we are and the quality of our lives far more than special celebrations ever can.
One of the struggles that clergy and other concerned people constantly face with couples who want to get married is getting them to focus on the marriage and not just on the wedding; the wedding will last just a day; the marriage (one hopes), for a lifetime. Similarly, what is most important in parents’ relationships with their children is not a special party on a particular birthday, but how they relate to each other on a day-by-day basis, year after year, after all the celebrating has ended.
As those who participate in our Adult Forum know, the four gospel accounts of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem vary significantly from one another. Three of them end on a note of excitement: Matthew has the crowds proclaiming, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee”; Luke concludes with Jesus’ declaration, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out”; and John has Jesus’ enemies conceding, “You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!” But then there is Mark’s version, the one we heard this morning.
By the time Mark’s account ends, so has the cheering of the crowds. They seem to have faded away, and Jesus is left alone with the twelve. He and they were no longer the center of anybody’s attention. They just blended in with the thousands of other pilgrims who had come to the city for Passover. And, as Mark describes it, they simply walked into Jerusalem, entered the temple, looked around briefly, and then, since it was getting late, quietly went back to Bethany for the night. What an anticlimactic ending to what we usually think of as one of the gospel’s most exciting stories!
Why would Mark tell the story this way? Why would he lift us up to see the extraordinary, but then lead us right back down and leave us in the ordinary? The great procession, the great celebration of Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem held such tremendous possibilities. Jesus could have used it to rally his supporters. He could have commanded, not only their praise and acclamations, but also their loyalty. He could have used the event to launch his own bid to become king.
But instead, he returned to the mundane realities of daily life. Why? What could he possibly accomplish there in the ordinary days of life — the salvation of the world? Oh, wait a minute – isn’t that exactly what we are about to commemorate again this week: God’s work in Jesus, bringing about the salvation of the world, after the shouting has ended, in these seemingly ordinary days?
As Jesus’ followers, what, with God’s help, can we accomplish in the ordinary days of our lives? Isn’t that the real question as we prepare this Saturday evening to renew our baptismal promises? It’s easy to celebrate a marriage during a big anniversary party; it’s a lot harder when you’re not feeling well and the two of you are having a difference of opinion and you’re both tired because it’s been an exhausting week at work and the kids are really getting on your nerves. It’s easy to pledge your commitment to equal treatment for all people when a crowd of thousands is marching arm-in-arm across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday”; it’s a lot harder when you’re facing the realities and tensions and uncertainties of life, and you’re just trying to keep your own head above water at home and at work, and when you’re tempted to put out of your mind the struggles of others on all those ordinary days. And it’s easy to proclaim our loyalty to Jesus when the crowds are enthusiastically cheering him as he rides a colt on the way to Jerusalem; it’s a lot harder when the cheering has stopped and his opponents have regained control and his very life is threatened. It’s easy to be a Christian for the great celebrations of the year, but it’s a lot harder to be a Christian day-in and day-out, on all the ordinary days of life, when life is not nearly so exciting or so simple.
We, too, can easily claim to be followers of Jesus when he is riding triumphantly toward the Holy City. But are we willing to do the same when he is walking as a condemned prisoner on his way to the cross?