Palm Sunday of Lent - Gospel Meditations and Prayers for Lent
Saturday April 12th, 2014
Palm Sunday of Lent
Matthew 26:14 - 27:66
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life... When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, "Surely he was the Son of God!"
Today, surprisingly to some, the lectionary calls for a lengthy reading from the passion story according the St. Matthew. (The verses quoted above are only a small portion of today's prescribed reading.)
I take it on good authority that, at least in some quarters,the early church on this day read an even longer portion: all of Matthew chapters 26-28, which includes Jesus' glorious resurrection as well as his throne speech in which he gave his disciples--us included--the exhilarating commission to make disciples (28:16-20). Reading Matthew's gospel to the end like this gave the early church a joyous Easter window (as well as an inspiring missionary mandate) through which to read the sober, costly and redemptive story of Jesus' death for our sins. Matthew would likely have been pleased, for the suffering, death, resurrection and commissioning are all parts of the one "Easter Feast."
Although the "passion" of Jesus is an old-fashioned word for "suffering," Christians can nonetheless be passionate in the modern sense about what Jesus accomplished. It is the best news imaginable: by his agony and death Jesus conquered our sin and our death; by his resurrection, Jesus proved to us the possibility (indeed gave us concrete assurance) of our own future resurrection (and that of our loved ones in Christ); and by his Great Commission Jesus offers us today a meaningful purpose in life.
Lessons abound in today's reading. For one, given how very clearly God foreordained the events that transpired--indeed Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 seem like the script for the passion narrative recorded centuries in advance--events in our lives that seem random, including those done to us with evil intent, are also part of a plan by God for our good. (Recall from the passage considered a few weeks ago that in tempting Jesus, Satan meant harm, but the Holy Spirit fore-ordained it to happen in order to train Jesus for his Passion, including needing refreshment ["I thirst"], being challenged with identical words to "come down" from the pinnacle of sacrifice "if you are the son of God", etc. Compare Romans 8:28.). For another, given how much Jesus suffered, even died, voluntarily on our behalf, who today can doubt Christ's love for them? And finally, Jesus intends us to walk the same humble path of service as He did. Dare we walk a less humble path this Holy Week?
Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for your voluntary suffering and death on our behalf. Help us to receive your love, accept your atoning sacrifice for us, and walk in servant-like fashion by the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Rev. Dr. Glen Taylor
Glen Taylor earned his PhD from Yale University. He teaches Old Testament and Semitic Languages at both Wycliffe and at the School of Graduate Studies at the U of T. His recent writings include a commentary on the archaeological and historical background to the book of Hosea and an article on how recent scholarship supports Jesus Christ being "prophesied" by the Book of Psalms. He has recently agreed to being Wycliffe's faculty resource on Global Christianity, having taught so far in West Africa, mainland China, Baffin Island, Colombia and Trinidad. He is married to Professor Marion Taylor and they have two sons and a daughter, all in their 20s. Glen was ordained as an Anglican priest in 2003 and serves a summer parish north of the Muskoka Lakes.