A week from now we will be celebrating Easter. But before we reach that feast, we must recall the suffering and death of the Lord, both today and on Good Friday.
+ In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
O God of eternal glory, you anointed Jesus, your servant, to bear our sins, to encourage the weary, to raise up and restore the fallen. Keep before our eyes the splendour of the paschal mystery of Christ, and, by our sharing in the passion and resurrection, seal our lives with the victorious sign of his obedience and exaltation. We ask this through Christ, our Savior, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, holy and mighty God for ever and ever. Amen.
“Israel: Jerusalem: Palm Sunday Parade” – AP
A Reading from the Old Testament: Isaiah 50:4-7 (NLT)
[Describes someone under attack… applied to the sufferings of Jesus.]
The Sovereign Lord has given me his words of wisdom, so that I know how to comfort the weary. Morning by morning he wakens me and opens my understanding to his will. The Sovereign Lord has spoken to me, and I have listened. I have not rebelled or turned away. I offered my back to those who beat me and my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard. I did not hide my face from mockery and spitting.
Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will not be put to shame.
Psalm: “My God, My God, Why (Psalm 22)” – The Psalm Project
A Reading from the Letters: Philippians 2:6-11 (NLT)
[An ancient hymn to Christ, reminding us that Jesus achieved glory through suffering.]
Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
A Reading from the Gospels: Luke 23:1-49 (NLT)
[ In Luke’s account of the passion, we view the sufferings of Jesus through the eyes of Peter, and Simon of Cyrene, and the good thief.]
Jesus’ Trial before Pilate
Then the entire council took Jesus to Pilate, the Roman governor. They began to state their case: “This man has been leading our people astray by telling them not to pay their taxes to the Roman government and by claiming he is the Messiah, a king.”
So Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
Jesus replied, “You have said it.”
Pilate turned to the leading priests and to the crowd and said, “I find nothing wrong with this man!”
Then they became insistent. “But he is causing riots by his teaching wherever he goes—all over Judea, from Galilee to Jerusalem!”
“Oh, is he a Galilean?” Pilate asked. When they said that he was, Pilate sent him to Herod Antipas, because Galilee was under Herod’s jurisdiction, and Herod happened to be in Jerusalem at the time.
Herod was delighted at the opportunity to see Jesus, because he had heard about him and had been hoping for a long time to see him perform a miracle. He asked Jesus question after question, but Jesus refused to answer. Meanwhile, the leading priests and the teachers of religious law stood there shouting their accusations. Then Herod and his soldiers began mocking and ridiculing Jesus. Finally, they put a royal robe on him and sent him back to Pilate. (Herod and Pilate, who had been enemies before, became friends that day.)
Then Pilate called together the leading priests and other religious leaders, along with the people, and he announced his verdict. “You brought this man to me, accusing him of leading a revolt. I have examined him thoroughly on this point in your presence and find him innocent. Herod came to the same conclusion and sent him back to us. Nothing this man has done calls for the death penalty. So I will have him flogged, and then I will release him.”
Then a mighty roar rose from the crowd, and with one voice they shouted, “Kill him, and release Barabbas to us!” (Barabbas was in prison for taking part in an insurrection in Jerusalem against the government, and for murder.) Pilate argued with them, because he wanted to release Jesus. But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
For the third time he demanded, “Why? What crime has he committed? I have found no reason to sentence him to death. So I will have him flogged, and then I will release him.”
But the mob shouted louder and louder, demanding that Jesus be crucified, and their voices prevailed. So Pilate sentenced Jesus to die as they demanded. As they had requested, he released Barabbas, the man in prison for insurrection and murder. But he turned Jesus over to them to do as they wished.
As they led Jesus away, a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, happened to be coming in from the countryside. The soldiers seized him and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. A large crowd trailed behind, including many grief-stricken women. But Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are coming when they will say, ‘Fortunate indeed are the women who are childless, the wombs that have not borne a child and the breasts that have never nursed.’ People will beg the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and plead with the hills, ‘Bury us.’ For if these things are done when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left.
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.
The crowd watched and the leaders scoffed. “He saved others,” they said, “let him save himself if he is really God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” The soldiers mocked him, too, by offering him a drink of sour wine. They called out to him, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” A sign was fastened above him with these words: “This is the King of the Jews.”
One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!”
But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”
And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
The Death of Jesus
By this time it was about noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle. Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last.
When the Roman officer overseeing the execution saw what had happened, he worshiped God and said, “Surely this man was innocent.” And when all the crowd that came to see the crucifixion saw what had happened, they went home in deep sorrow. But Jesus’ friends, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance watching.
Hymn: “Beneath the Cross” – Keith and Kristyn Getty
Gracious God, our strength and our salvation, make haste to help us.
+ That all Christians may mark Holy Week with deep faith and awesome wonder…. Lord, hear us.
+ That the Jewish people, our brothers and sisters, may continue in faith and love…. Lord, hear us.
+ That the city of Jerusalem may become a place of peace and reconciliation…. Lord, hear us.
+ That those who suffer for Christ, may be inspired by him…. Lord, hear us.
+ That the dispossessed from the Middle East may find safe havens while waiting to return home…. Lord, hear us.
+ That all who suffer, at home or in hospital, may feel your presence close to them…. Lord, hear us.
+ That all those who have gone before us in faith, may journey through the valley of death to resurrection…. Lord, hear us.
God of compassion, in the death and resurrection of Jesus you show your love for us: hear our petitions, and grant them, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Hymn: “At the cross (love ran red)” – Chris Tomlin
For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.” (Romans 8:16-18)
+ In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen