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Passion According to St. Luke


Preacher: The Rev. Raisin Horn

Palm Sunday, Year C     March 20, 2016     Passion According to St. Luke

Imagine that you are in the crowd waiting for Jesus to ride into Jerusalem.  People near you wave palm branches.  It’s hard to see over them.  Up ahead, some remove their cloaks, spreading them on the ground.  Jesus is coming.

What you see as Jesus rides into the crowd is different than what those ahead of you might see.  They hear words that are long gone by the time Jesus passes the place where you stand.

So it was for the gospel writers, each interpreting events in their own manner.

Within the liturgy and lessons appointed for Palm Sunday we find tremendous contrast of emotion.  The disciples and the crowd shout festive greetings as Jesus rides into Jerusalem:

“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!  Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”  In the gospel stories Jesus walks everywhere, telling his disciples to follow.  They travel on foot.  They travel lightly.  Then we arrive at this day, when Jesus travels not on foot, but rides on a donkey.

Jesus rides into Jerusalem to fulfill the words from the prophet Zechariah:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you;
triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
   (Zech. 9:9, NRSV)

Then, this joyful witness turns dark as the city becomes the scene for Jesus’ trial and arrest; his last words and crucifixion.

As in Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem, the gospel writers give us differing details. In St. Luke’s account, the name “The Skull” is used, while other writers use “Golgotha.”

When Peter denies knowing Jesus, it’s only in Luke that the Lord turns to look at Peter.  Can you imagine Peter, having spoken painful words of denial, feeling the weight of the Lord’s gaze upon him?

The women wail as the cross is laid upon Jesus, but he tells them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.”  Jesus speaks words of prophesy here about the fate of Jerusalem.

The criminals who are hanged with Jesus engage in conversation.  “Are you not the Messiah” one asks.  “Save yourself and us!”  The second one asks, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” The conversation between Jesus and the criminals is unique to Luke’s gospel.  One criminal gets more than he asks: he will be with Jesus in Paradise.

Pilate declares three times that there is no basis for accusation against Jesus.  Pilate sends Jesus to Herod, also unique in Luke.  Jesus refuses to give Herod a sign, so is sent back to Pilate who once more tries to release him.  Jesus’ innocence is reinforced.

Luke’s account of the passion ends with Joseph of Arimathea appearing as one who, as a member of the council, did not agree to the council’s action.  Luke describes Joseph’s preparation and wrapping of the body in linen cloth.

Joseph, Luke tells us, “was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God.”  Jesus comes as a different kind of king.  He brings the spirit of justice and mercy, of hope and love.  He comes as King of Peace – no weapons or shield, clashing with the earthly kingdom marked by domination, deadly force, and power.

How do we move forward on this day so full of contrast – one that starts with a triumphant entry into Jerusalem and ends with Jesus’ body laid in a tomb?

In his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul “quotes an early Christian hymn…that affirms faith in Christ Jesus as the incarnation of God.”[1] Paul writes, “let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,” presenting us with a challenge to take on the humility and obedience of Christ; to empty ourselves of the pride and arrogance that accompany human intolerance.

Luke’s account of the Passion emphasizes the political danger Jesus causes, as the assembly before Pilate says,” We found this man perverting our nation.”

In this presidential election year, I think Jesus would weep at the unparalleled level of intolerance and hatred shown by both supporters and protesters at rallies, each in their own ways perverting our nation.  We are witnessing a time when animosity toward one another makes it hard to believe we are called to put on the mind of Christ, to be grounded in Christ. But as Jesus followers, that is what we are to do.

Last week, the House of Bishops unanimously approved a Word to the Church as they met together in Texas.  Upon his return, Iowa’s Bishop Scarfe sent this Word out to church leaders around the diocese.  If you have not seen the statement, you can find it posted in the Trinity Chimes as well as on both the Trinity and Episcopal Diocese of Iowa Facebook pages.

The bishops wrote, in part, “…we are troubled by the violent forces being released by this season’s political rhetoric.  Americans are turning against their neighbors, particularly those on the margins of society…There is legitimate reason to fear where this rhetoric and the actions arising from it might take us…

We reject the idolatrous notion that we can ensure the safety of some by sacrificing the hopes of others.  No matter where we fall on the political spectrum, we must respect the dignity of every human being and we must seek the common good above all else.” [endquote]

In our imperfect human effort to put on the mind of Christ, we look to the prayers that Jesus speaks from the cross near the hour of his death.

“Father, forgive them,” Jesus prays, “for they do not know what they are doing.”  We, too, may not ever know the full consequence of our sin, nor the reason why we fell into temptation’s trap at one moment, but avoided it on another.  Only through God’s continual grace are we redeemed – every time we fall short and repent.

“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit,” Jesus prays, as he offers his life into God’s hands.  Jesus lived and died obediently and humbly.  He showed no interest in a kingdom of power over others.

Luke’s Jesus teaches forgiveness – in this Holy Week now before us we might examine the places where we most need to forgive others, and with humility receive forgiveness.

May we be grounded in the humility, love, and peace of God as we journey together through the dramatic events of the coming week, and be guided by these words from Archbishop Justin Welby:

“There is every possible reason for optimism about the future of Christian faith in our world and in this country… [but] there can be no final justice, or security, or love, or hope in our society if it is not finally based on rootedness in Christ.”  (NYT, 3/22/2013; Sec. A13)




[1] Sundays and Seasons: Preaching, Year C, 2016 (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2015), 110.

Date Posted Title Listen Download
Mar 20, 2016 Passion According to St. Luke Listen Download