Palm Sunday

Scripture Reading

Jesus stood before the governor, Pontius Pilate, who questioned him,
“Are you the king of the Jews?”
Jesus said, “You say so.”
And when he was accused by the chief priests and elders,
he made no answer.
Then Pilate said to him,
“Do you not hear how many things they are testifying against you?”
But he did not answer him one word,
so that the governor was greatly amazed.

Now on the occasion of the feast
the governor was accustomed to release to the crowd
one prisoner whom they wished.
And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas.
So when they had assembled, Pilate said to them,
“Which one do you want me to release to you,
Barabbas, or Jesus called Christ?”
For he knew that it was out of envy
that they had handed him over.
While he was still seated on the bench,
his wife sent him a message,
“Have nothing to do with that righteous man.
I suffered much in a dream today because of him.”
The chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds
to ask for Barabbas but to destroy Jesus.
The governor said to them in reply,
“Which of the two do you want me to release to you?”
They answered, “Barabbas!”
Pilate said to them,
“Then what shall I do with Jesus called Christ?”
They all said,
“Let him be crucified!”
But he said,
“Why? What evil has he done?”
They only shouted the louder,
“Let him be crucified!”
When Pilate saw that he was not succeeding at all,
but that a riot was breaking out instead,
he took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd,
saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood.
Look to it yourselves.”
And the whole people said in reply,
“His blood be upon us and upon our children.”
Then he released Barabbas to them,
but after he had Jesus scourged,
he handed him over to be crucified.

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus inside the praetorium
and gathered the whole cohort around him.
They stripped off his clothes
and threw a scarlet military cloak about him.
Weaving a crown out of thorns, they placed it on his head,
and a reed in his right hand.
And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying,
“Hail, King of the Jews!”
They spat upon him and took the reed
and kept striking him on the head.
And when they had mocked him,
they stripped him of the cloak,
dressed him in his own clothes,
and led him off to crucify him.

As they were going out, they met a Cyrenian named Simon;
this man they pressed into service
to carry his cross.

And when they came to a place called Golgotha
— which means Place of the Skull —,
they gave Jesus wine to drink mixed with gall.
But when he had tasted it, he refused to drink.
After they had crucified him,
they divided his garments by casting lots;
then they sat down and kept watch over him there.
And they placed over his head the written charge against him:
This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.
Two revolutionaries were crucified with him,
one on his right and the other on his left.
Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying,
“You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days,
save yourself, if you are the Son of God,
and come down from the cross!”
Likewise the chief priests with the scribes and elders mocked him and said,
“He saved others; he cannot save himself.
So he is the king of Israel!
Let him come down from the cross now,
and we will believe in him.
He trusted in God;
let him deliver him now if he wants him.
For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.'”
The revolutionaries who were crucified with him
also kept abusing him in the same way.

From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land
until three in the afternoon.
And about three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice,
“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”
which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Some of the bystanders who heard it said,
“This one is calling for Elijah.”
Immediately one of them ran to get a sponge;
he soaked it in wine, and putting it on a reed,
gave it to him to drink.
But the rest said,
‘Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to save him.”
But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice,
and gave up his spirit.

And behold, the veil of the sanctuary
was torn in two from top to bottom.
The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened,
and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised.
And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection,
they entered the holy city and appeared to many.
The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus
feared greatly when they saw the earthquake
and all that was happening, and they said,
“Truly, this was the Son of God!”
(Matthew 27:11-54)

Scripture Study

27:11 King of the Jews?: The Jerusalem leaders give Jesus a title with obvious political overtones. The concern is whether Jesus represents a challenge to the authority of Rome; if so, Pilate would have legal cause to execute him for sedition.

27:19 a dream: Matthew alone records this episode with Pilate’s wife. As in the Infancy Narratives, dreams are channels for divine warning and instruction (1:20; 2:12–13, 22).

27:24 a riot: The same word is translated “tumult” (Gk. thorybos) in Mt 26:5. The Jerusalem leaders originally hoped to avoid a public upheaval but now instigate one to their own advantage. washed his hands: Pilate’s vain gesture to excuse himself from the responsibility of Jesus’ death.

27:25 His blood be on us: An oath formula (cf. Josh 2:17–19). The Jerusalem mob invokes a curse upon itself, staking their lives to their decision.

27:27 praetorium: The residence of a Roman official (Pilate) in Jerusalem.

27:28 a scarlet robe: The military cloak of a Roman soldier.

27:29 King of the Jews!: A title suggested by the Sanhedrin and used mockingly by the soldiers (Lk 23:2). It is also the transcription on Jesus’ Cross (27:37). The wise men are the only figures in Matthew to use the title in a positive and honorable way (2:2). ● Allegorically: the title and articles used to slander Jesus signify his kingship and triumph over sin. The scarlet robe (27:28) represents Jesus’ defeat of Satan through his shed blood; the crown of thorns (27:29) points to the crown of glory that adorns Jesus at his Ascension; the reed (27:29) signifies the scepter of his heavenly kingdom. Through these images, Christ’s victory is paradoxically announced in the midst of his apparent defeat.

27:33 Golgotha: An Aramaic term meaning “skull”. The Vulgate translation of this word (Lat. Calvariae) is the source of the modern term “Calvary”. Golgotha lies outside Jerusalem’s walls (Jn 19:20) and probably acquired its name as a site commonly used for executing criminals.

27:34 gall: A mixture of herbs and myrrh used as a narcotic (cf. Mk 15:23). Jesus’ refusal of painkillers signifies his total acceptance of the Father’s will and the extent of his sacrificial love (cf. Jn 10:17–18; Rom 5:8).

27:35 crucified him: Crucifixion was designed to facilitate a slow and torturous death. Victims died from a combination of blood loss and asphyxiation. divided his garments: An allusion to Ps 22:18. This psalm is quoted by Jesus before his death (Mt 27:46; cf. Jn 19:24).

27:45 sixth hour … ninth hour: i.e., from noon until 3 p.m.

27:46 Eli, Eli: A mixed Hebrew and Aramaic quotation of Ps 22:1. ● Ps 22 depicts the plight of a righteous sufferer. Although innocent, he is mocked and abused by the ungodly. He thus turns to God in his distress and petitions God for deliverance. By citing the psalm’s opening line, Jesus expresses his agony as he experiences the full brunt of rejection. This evokes the entire plot of Ps 22, where the sufferer’s humiliation gives way to his vindication. Thus Jesus does not consider his Passion meaningless or a mark of failure; still less does he succumb to a sin of despair. Rather, he “trusts in God” (27:43) and surrenders his spirit to the Father (Lk 23:46). Like the innocent sufferer of Ps 22, he is confident that God will turn his misery into victory (cf. Lk 23:43).

27:51 curtain of the temple: Hung between the Temple’s two holiest chambers, the holy place and the most holy place (Ex 26:31–34). The veil was a sign that God’s infinite holiness could not be approached by sinners (cf. Heb 9:8). With Jesus’ saving death, forgiveness is secured for man, and access to heaven is reopened (Eph 2:18; Heb 10:19–22). This is announced by God himself, who tears the veil from top to bottom.

27:52 saints … were raised: Apart from Matthew’s Gospel, history is silent regarding this event and the OT personalities involved. No indication is given as to who was raised, how long they remained, or what kind of body these saints possessed; yet there would be no reason for Matthew to record it, except that witnesses from Jerusalem verified the facts (27:53). Theologically, it is essential to note that these OT saints were raised after (27:53) Easter morning, since Jesus was the first to be resurrected in glory (Col 1:18).

Scripture Reflection

Friends on this Palm Sunday we are privileged to become immersed in Matthew’s great Gospel of the Passion. There are so many ways that we could illumine this text. I will choose just one. Jesus is presented as the divine presence that has journeyed into sin in order to save us. Accordingly, all forms of human dysfunction are on display in the passion narrative. During those terrible hours, Jesus’ mission came to its fulfillment. What commenced at Bethlehem and continued at the Jordan River now comes to completion.

In contrast to the rock-hard attitude of Jesus, conforming himself to the will of his Father, we find almost all the ways that we flee the will of God. Betrayal, indifference, spiritual sloth, violence, cowardice, untruth, scapegoating, self-destruction, abuse of authority, wanton cruelty. No wonder that “darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.” At the beginning of creation, God said, “Let there be light.” But his world had become darkened in every way through sin.

But what is the simple and powerful good news? That Jesus associates with all of us sinners, in all of our dysfunction. He entered into the darkness in all of its power in order to bring the light.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.