March 28, 2021, Palm Sunday (Cycle B)
The tie in between today’s readings: Eye on the Prize.
Despite the fact that this is Palm Sunday, our readings focus entirely on our Lord’s Passion on Good Friday. Today’s scriptures pull back the curtain just a little bit and gives us a glimpse into the mysterious black box event of our Savior’s sufferings as God reconciled the world to Himself in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:19). Let us examine, meditate, and learn from these snippets of Jesus’ thoughts and motivation during His time of trial. Because…if we think like Him, we may become more like Him also.
First, His assignment, which is laid out for us in today’s reading from Philippians 2:6-11:
”6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name, which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
At first blush, you’d think that there was going to be this big payoff for Christ after His “mission accomplished.” Well, not really. Jesus is God. He’s at the top already. Every knee was going to bow to Him without Him even lifting a finger. So, why do it? In my meditation, I’ve come to believe that Our Lord reveals aspects of Himself through action. God is a creator, so He creates. God is Almighty, so the impossible is no challenge. Here in our reading, when Christ became our Savior, we find out that God is humble. How else would we ever know that? In the garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus drinks the cup, we get the rare insight that our God is courageous. The biggest revelation of all: God is love. It was God’s love for mankind that motivated Him to redeem us. It was the Son’s love for the Father that led Him to take on the task and most definitely, it was Christ’s love for us that kept Him on the cross, not the nails. Servant. Hero. Lover. In getting a better understanding of who God is, we gain a deeper worshiping love for Him and the inspiration to go and do likewise. How does this passage speak to you?
Our reading in Mark 14:1-15:47 lays out the events of Holy Thursday and Good Friday. It is always good to go over this account yearly at this time. It not only refamiliarizes us with the story but, like rewatching a favorite movie, you may pick up something new in the process. In contrast to the eye witnessed account of Mark’s gospel, our other two readings insert themselves into the unseen mind of Christ during His crucifixion. Now, that’s something worth paying attention to. Our Old Testament reading in Isaiah 50:4-7 connects to Christ’ beating in Mark 15:16-20. Here, I see His devotion to God that will withstand anything. We can apply this to our earthly situations. Be they financial problems, health issues, or attacks from others, the believer is blessed because he knows that the Almighty has his back. He can look ahead in his sufferings with eyes of faith knowing that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord. And if I die before I wake? As Jesus embraced His cross in Mark 15:27-39, Psalm 22:8-9;17-24 shows the total trust He had that the Father would resurrect Him. We too can put our faith in the fact that even in death we are not abandoned. The Bible tells us that, when we are absent from the body, we will be present with the Lord. These two insights are the bookends of true faith in the heart of the believer: live for God in this world and anticipate the joy in the next. As you go through today’s readings the Holy Spirit may lead you to discover entirely different insights than mine in your meditation. That’s good! There are many ways to see the sparkle from God’s diamond of scriptural truth. The important thing is to make them real in your life and be a blessing. But allow me one last thought.
Today’s readings seemingly ends with tragedy, sorrow, and bewilderment as a dead Jesus is taken off the cross and sealed in the tomb. We may be going through our own time of trial and hopelessness. The Apostle Paul, who had more than his own share of troubles, encourages us when he asks:
”35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”
Don’t despair. Be strong. Stay faithful. We call this day Good Friday and can rejoice because we know this one important thing…Sunday’s coming!