Sunday, March 29, 2015

Reflection for Sunday, March 29, 2015

Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion
MK 11: 1-10
IS 50: 4-7
PS 22: 8-9, 17-18, 19-20. 23-24
PHIL 2: 6-11
MK 14: 1 - 15: 47

Today’s reading of Jesus’s entrance into Jerusalem for the Passover, and of Mark’s recounting of the Passion and death of Jesus has always struck me as a jarring juxtaposition.  We begin as Jesus is greeted as a heroic figure, the redeemer of the people of Israel.  By the end of the gospel Jesus has been executed in a deliberate attempt to destroy him and what he stood for.  It is easy for me, living in the 21st century, to ignore this tension because I know that Jesus doesn’t stay dead.  I know and believe in the resurrection so it is all too easy for me to also believe that Jesus never really died. Today, we just stopped the story before getting to the good part.  And recognizing that is instructive.

It challenges me to try and live in that moment when Jesus did die and to reflect on his life from that perspective. The way our readings end, either Jesus is not the messiah come to deliver the people of Israel, or the messiah and deliverance do not look like what we expect them to. Rather than allowing my ideas of what kingship looks like to influence what I believe about Jesus, I must allow this story to influence what I think kingship looks like.  

The first and second reading both reinforce this. Isaiah speaks of the suffering servant, “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 letter to the Philippians identifies humility and obedience as the qualities that Jesus is exalted for.  Neither of these are what I associate with kingship and with the figures being alluded to in the story of Jesus entering Jerusalem.  Kings Solomon and David are known for their military victories and making Israel a regional political power.  they are also the archetype for divine kingship on the minds of every person celebrating as Jesus enters Jerusalem.  This time it ends differently, in a tomb instead of a palace.

This is not how it was supposed to go. The Messiah – The Son of David was supposed to restore the good-ole days. Yet God is not bound by our expectations and rules.  I re-encounter this fact every Sunday, and especially during Easter when so many of our stories are contain this theme. The Son of David washing the disciples’ feet.  Peter denying Jesus and going on to become the rock the Church is built on. The multiple renditions of Jesus’s death on the cross as a convicted criminal.  The challenge is not to figure out how God is going to act, but being present to and recognizing God's Grace at work in our lives.

John Burke is the Campus Minister for Faith and Justice.

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