Palm Sunday – 2017

Palm Sunday – 2017

PalmA.  Isaiah 50:4-7.  Here Isaiah prefigures Jesus.  “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.  The Lord God is my help.”  We speak of Jesus’ Passion because he was passive to the abuse and horrors others poured out on him for the sake of offering himself up as a sacrifice to redeem us from our sins.  It was God the Father’s will that he did this.  There is no shame in pleasing God.

Matthew 26:14 – 27:66.  Judas Iscariot, chosen by Jesus to be an Apostle, sells Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.  Jesus could have stopped this treachery easily but instead freely delivers himself to be offered as a once-and-for-all oblation for our redemption.  At the celebration of the Passover meal with his apostles, he offers himself up liturgically as a ritual sacrifice, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”  He gave the cup to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is the blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.”  Even though he himself was standing there, it was his  very own body and blood for the sacrifice for our redemption.  How is bread and wine his body and blood?  It is so because he, God, said so!

Rather they put gall in my food, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. (Psalm 69:22)  At the Last Supper, Jesus says, “I tell you, from now on I shall not drink this fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it with you new in the kingdom of my Father.” (Matthew 26: 29)  The cup of wine at the Last Supper is a cup of Jesus’ life and love for us.  The wine mixed with gall given Jesus on the cross is the wine of hatred and envy.  The cup of Jesus’ prayer in his agony in the garden is a cup of pain and extreme sorrow.  “Withdrawing a second time, he prayed again, ‘My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done.’” (Matthew 26:42)  The very reason for Jesus’ coming into this world was our redemption through his passion and death.  Jesus in his humanity, recoiling at the approaching excruciating horror that he was to suffer, had made his prayer but was always willing to submit himself to his Father’s will .  Because of his own humanness, he recognized the reason for the Apostles’ failure to stay awake, by previously saying, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”(Matthew 26:41b)

There is a something of a parallel between Peter and Judas, in that both betray Jesus out of a faith in themselves and not God.  The difference is that, when Judas recognized that he had betrayed innocent blood, he despaired and hung himself because he, who was the basis of his own life, had failed and he did not have a spiritual life by which he could turn to God for forgiveness.  Peter, weeping bitterly, was open to having a merciful God that enabled him to find his way back to that same God.

The Jewish authorities first needed to convict him by their own law.  Jesus, saying, “From now on you will see ‘the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power’ and ‘coming on the clouds of heaven,’” offers them ample evidence of his claim to divinity and so they convict him of blasphemy.  However, at the same time they reject ample evidence of his claim to divinity in the multitude of miracles he worked and for which they tried to convict him by working some of those miracles on a Sabbath.

The Jewish authorities handed Jesus over to Pilate the governor, appointed by Rome to rule over the Jewish people of Jerusalem because the Romans had taken away from the Jewish authorities the power to execute anyone.  Pilate, knowing that his authority from Rome rested on his ability to keep the peace, “seeing that a riot was breaking out,” handed him over to be crucified by the Roman soldiers.  The soldiers tortured and belittled Jesus, taking great sadistic pleasure seeing him suffer at their hands.  Likewise, everyone who came by Jesus on the cross reviled and mocked him, acting as though he were helpless; when in reality he was willing offering himself up as a sacrifice.

Philippians 2:6-11.  The footnotes from The New American Bible, With Revised New Testament(1987), p1340, states: “Perhaps an early Christian hymn quoted here by Paul.  The short rhythmic lines fall into two parts, vv6-8 where the subject of every verb is Christ, and vv9-11 where the subject is God.  The general pattern is thus of Christ’s humiliation and then exaltation.” The footnote on v6 states: “Either a reference to Christ’s preexistence and those aspects of divinity that he was willing to give up in order to serve in human form, or to what the man Jesus refused to grasp at to attain divinity.”  The rest of the notes are worth consulting, especially that of v10 (”every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth”): “a reference to the three levels  in the universe, according to ancient thought, heaven, earth, under the earth.”