Lent 6

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March 24, 2002

Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, you sent your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, to take our flesh upon him and to suffer death on the cross. Grant that we may share in his obedience to your will an in the glorious victory of his resurrection; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Matthew 21:1-11 Processional Gospel
{1} When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, {2} saying to them, "Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. {3} If anyone says anything to you, just say this, 'The Lord needs them.' And he will send them immediately." {4} This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, {5} "Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey." {6} The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; {7} they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. {8} A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. {9} The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!" {10} When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, "Who is this?" {11} The crowds were saying, "This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee."

1. Bethphage: A village on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho; the name means "House of early figs."
2. the village ahead of you: Probably Bethany (Matthew 21:17).
a donkey: According to Pirke Eliezer xxxi the Messiah will ride the same ass ridden by Moses when he came to Egypt. [1]
and a colt with her: Matthew’s listing of two animals reflects a misunderstanding of the quotation of Zechariah 9:9 in verse 5, where "a donkey" and "a colt, the foal of a donkey" are not two animals, but in poetic parallelism with each other indicating the same animal.
5: Unlike Mark and Luke, Matthew explicitly quotes the prophecy from Zechariah 9:9. In Zechariah the one who comes riding on a donkey "shall command peace to the nations." Also, the Lord of hosts will protect Judah and Ephraim and set the prisoners free. The first part of the quotation, "Tell the daughter of Zion…coming to you," is from Isaiah 62:11.
7. he sat on them: The image of Jesus riding both the donkey and the foal is the result of the misunderstanding of the parallelism in Zechariah 9:9.
9. Hosanna to the Son of David…: A quotation from Psalm 118:24-25. Albright and Mann translate, "Hosanna, O Son of David." "Hosanna" is a plea for mercy, so the ejaculation is a cry to the anointed king for deliverance." [2]
11. This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee: The mob acclaims him "Prophet," an ascription of honor, perhaps hoping for prophecies of deliverance and victory like those of Isaiah 62. They did not materialize and the crowds soon denounce him, and repudiate his honor.

Isaiah 50:4-9a
The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens-- wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. {5} The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. {6} I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting. {7} The Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; {8} he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. {9} It is the Lord GOD who helps me; who will declare me guilty?

1. the tongue of a teacher: RSV "the tongue of those who are taught;" this is the better translation. However, the one who is taught becomes a teacher, sustaining the weary. "What the servant learned was not information, but to accept the experience of suffering and shame." [3]
6. I gave my back to those who struck me…: "Verse 6 recounts the full scope of his oppression: he was beaten, insulted, and he submitted to the vilest outrages of physical humiliation." [4] Jesus’ advice to one who is oppressed in Matthew 5:39-44 reflects the submissive behavior of the servant as well as Jesus’ own behavior.
7-9: The servant declares his/her confidence that Yahweh helps him/her, and that no one can contend with him/her.

Psalm 31:9-16
{9} Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eye wastes away from grief, my soul and body also. {10} For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my misery, and my bones waste away. {11} I am the scorn of all my adversaries, a horror to my neighbors, an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me. {12} I have passed out of mind like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel. {13} For I hear the whispering of many—terror all around!—as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life. {14} But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, "You are my God." {15} My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors. {16} Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.

9-10: In distress the singer prays for Yahweh’s gracious protection. (S)he is sick because of the persecution (s)he faces.
11-13. my adversaries…they plot to take my life: The singer is persecuted by adversaries who are engaged in a plot against his/her life.
a horror to my neighbors, an object of dread to my acquaintances…flee from me. I have passed out of mind like one who is dead: To the psalmist’s neighbors it is as if (s)he is already dead. They must know of the plot against him/her, and who is doing the plotting, and they are convinced that they will succeed.
14-16: Like the servant in the first lesson the singer has put his/her trust in Yahweh and prays confidently that the Lord will save him/her from his/her enemies.

Philippians 5:9-11
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, {6} who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, {7} but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, {8} he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death-- even death on a cross. {9} Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, {10} so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, {11} and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

     The Carmen Christi, Philippians 2:6-11, is a pre-Pauline Christian hymn. Its focus is the kenosis, the emptying by Jesus of his divinity, and having humbled himself, he is exalted by God. The Philippian Christians are called to have that same "mind," or spirit.
     "Christ-hymns…are a very special form of liturgy. They proclaim the essentials of the faith in a high, exalted tone, appropriate for any gathering around Word and Sacrament…. Paul himself was so confident of this that it appears that he even constructed whole letters on the sure foundation of the Christ-hymn. Philippians 2:6-11 will serve once again as an example. The entire letter flows out of the word of Christ’s pre-existence, his humiliation and death, and final exaltation. The proclamation, teaching, and exhortations that make up major portions of the letter find their source in the lines of the hymn which Paul may have sung shoulder to shoulder with his converts at Philippi." [5]

Matthew [26:14-27:10] 27:11-54 [5-66]
{11} Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus said, "You say so." {12} But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. {13} Then Pilate said to him, "Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?" {14} But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed. {15} Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. {16} At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. {17} So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, "Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?" {18} For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. {19} While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, "Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him." {20} Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. {21} The governor again said to them, "Which of the two do you want me to release for you?" And they said, "Barabbas." {22} Pilate said to them, "Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?" All of them said, "Let him be crucified!" {23} Then he asked, "Why, what evil has he done?" But they shouted all the more, "Let him be crucified!" {24} So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves." {25} Then the people as a whole answered, "His blood be on us and on our children!" {26} So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified. {27} Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor's headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. {28} They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, {29} and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" {30} They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. {31} After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him. {32} As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross. {33} And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), {34} they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. {35} And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots; {36} then they sat down there and kept watch over him. {37} Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews." {38} Then two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. {39} Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads {40} and saying, "You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross." {41} In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, {42} "He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. {43} He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, 'I am God's Son.'" {44} The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way. {45} From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. {46} And about three o'clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" that is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" {47} When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, "This man is calling for Elijah." {48} At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. {49} But the others said, "Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him." {50} Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. {51} At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. {52} The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. {53} After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. {54} Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, "Truly this man was God's Son!"

[17: The first day of Unleavened Bread is the day of Passover, but the Passover is still two days in the future (26:2). This reflects a different chronology according to which the Last Supper was a Passover meal. 26:2 and 27:62 indicate that Jesus died on the day of Preparation.
31: The quotation is from Zechariah 13:7, where God will punish his shepherd (the prophets), and scatter the sheep (the people), leaving only a third alive to be refined to be his people.
57: Caiaphas was High Priest from 18 to 36 A.D.
61: The Synoptic Gospels do not record such a saying. It may either be "false witness" or possibly a misremembering of what John records in 2:19: Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. John editorializes the saying, …he spoke of the temple of his body, and refers it to the resurrection. Gospel of Thomas 71: Jesus said, "I shall destroy [this] house, and no one will be able to rebuild it."
69-75: The fulfillment of Jesus’ statement that Peter would deny him three times.
27:8: According to Acts 1:19, the potter’s field was called "Field of Blood" because Judas died there, not as here because it was purchased with blood money.
9: There is no such passage in Jeremiah. Zechariah 11:13 has some of the components of the quotation in Matthew.]
11. King of the Jews: The Magi were looking for the "King of the Jews" (Matthew 2:2). Here it is intended as a dishonorable title. It is the title given to Herod the Great by the Roman emperor, the title of the political monarch of a client state, in contrast to the title, "King of Israel," in verse 42. In the end Jesus is convicted of usurpation of the emperor’s puppet.
25. His blood be on us and on our children: This is an expression of human arrogance. Paul’s assessment is better theology, the rulers of this age…crucified the Lord of glory 1 Corinthians 2:8).
27-31: The purpose of the pre-crucifixion torture was to shorten the length of time the victim lived.
30. …spat…struck…mock[ing]: See Isaiah 50:6.
32: Simon of Cyrene was the father of Alexander and Rufus, according to Mark 15:21. See Romans 16:13.
42. King of Israel: A title of honor. It is used sarcastically.
He saved others; he cannot save himself: The chief priests, scribes and elders state the truth. Jesus cannot save both others and himself. If he saved himself from physical suffering and death, the others would perish eternally.
45: There was darkness for three hours: Luke says that the sun eklipontos, "eclipsed." Since the crucifixion took place before Passover, at the time of the full moon, a solar eclipse would be impossible! Humphreys and Waddington, British astronomers, assume that a lunar eclipse was intended, and arrive at April 3, 33 ad as the date of the crucifixion. [6] This was Nisan 14, the day the lambs were killed (Exodus 12:6). See 27:62. There may be a parallel between the three hours of darkness and the three days of darkness prior to the first Passover (Exodus 10:22).
46. Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani: Aramaic words written in Greek letters. A quotation of Psalm 22:1. It is called "the cry of desolation," but it could be an expression of hope because the Psalm ends in confidence: he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him.
: The image is of the uncreating of the world-order. The Temple is the center of the world, and it is fundamentally damaged. Earthquake presages the collapse of the creation. Even the tombs open and the dead walk; the power of death, a created order, has been weakened. The resurrection of Jesus is followed by the resurrection of the dead.
54. …the centurion and those with him…were terrified and said, "Truly this man was God's Son": Note the temptation narrative, If you are the Son of God, the mocking of those who passed by in 27:40, If you are the Son of God, and the accusation in 27:43, …he said, ‘I am God’s Son.’ The centurion and his subordinates ascribe to Jesus on the cross, the honor the devil and others have denied him.
[56: Three Mary’s are witness to the crucifixion: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph (the identity of this Mary is unknown), and the mother of the sons of Zebedee, who is called Mary in Mark 15:40.
57. a rich man of Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus: Mark identifies him as "a respected member of the Council" (15:43). In John, Joseph and Nicodemus, take the body, wrap it and place it in a tomb (19:38-42).
60: According to Matthew the tomb Jesus’ body was placed in belonged to Joseph. There is an implicit reference to Isaiah 53:9, They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Perhaps the reference was not made explicit to avoid having to deal with the notion that Joseph was a wicked man. The wicked could be interpreted as either human beings in general, or specifically the robbers.
61: Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were present when Jesus was entombed. After the Sabbath they went to the tomb where they received the angel’s announcement, and were met by Jesus (28:1-20).
62. The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation: Mark identifies the "next day" as the Sabbath.]

     The approach to this Sunday on the part of the present lectionary is to give passing attention to the Palm Sunday entrance in Jerusalem and then to focus on the Passion because the two supposed to be incompatible. However it is only in the juxtaposition of the Triumphal Entry and the Passion that we face the unpredictable nature of human life, and the supreme irony in which God is sacrificed by those to whom he came to give life. It may be easier to deal only with the crucifixion, but that is dealt with alone on Good Friday. This Sunday reminds us that strength is concealed in humility, pain is hidden in triumph, victory, in defeat, life, in death, God, in human form. Oddly, it was a Roman centurion saw God’s plan more clearly than the people for whom Jesus came.
     The theme is established by the first lesson The servant is disciplined by suffering so he may bring strength and refreshment to the oppressed, but there are those who oppose him. Willingly he submits to those who torture and humiliate him. But God is his helper, so he is not disgraced or shamed. God vindicates him, no one can convict him.
     The servant willingly suffers humiliation at the hands of his adversaries. He is not disgraced or put to shame because Yahweh vindicates him and helps him; no one can declare him guilty.
     The servant of the Lord is opposed (Isaiah), is obedient to death (Philippians). He is betrayed, tortured and crucified by those who should have listened to him, and is recognized as Son of God by a centurion (Matthew). He will be vindicated (Isaiah), exalted by God (Philippians), and honored by the unexpected (Matthew). "Jesus Christ is Lord."

Hymns [7]
With One Voice (e.g. 762v), Hymnal Supplement 1991 (e.g. 725s) and LBW (e.g. 32).
E=Entrance; D=Hymn of the Day; I=First Lesson, P=Psalm; II=Second Lesson; G=Gospel

121 --E--Ride On, Ride
105 --D--A Lamb Goes
799s --D--When Jesus Left
20 --II--Christ Jesus, Being
179 --II--At the Name

94 --G--My Song Is
661v --G--My Song Is
     108, 258, 116/7, 719s,
     740v/740s, 631v, 668v

Prayers of the People [8]
P or A: You lead us to Jerusalem and we pray for the needs of all before your cross, saying, "Hear us, O God," and responding, "Your mercy is great."
A: For pastors and worship leaders, called to lead us in the way of the cross, hear us, O God, Your mercy is great.
A: That the nations would see the example of Christ, emptying himself for the sake of others, for our sake as well. That we might have the mind of Christ, hear us, O God, Your mercy is great.
A: That your flock may not be scattered but united under our Shepherd, working and longing for the day when all will be one and Christ will be all in all, hear us, O God, Your mercy is great.
A: That Jesus who offered himself for the sake of others, may be the hope and healing of any in sickness or despair, especially we remember _______, hear us, O God, Your mercy is great.
A: That your Son was willing to accept death for us reveals the depth and mystery of your love. May Jesus' tears soothe our grief and his body and blood, given for us, nourish us on our journey. Hear us, O God, Your mercy is great.
P: May your blessing be with us and the passion of your Son strengthen our weakness. Hear our prayers according to your loving kindness in Jesus Christ. Amen.

Or [9]

Presider or deacon
As we journey this week with Christ and celebrate the paschal mystery of his death and resurrection, let us earnestly pray to God for those following the way of the cross and for all peoples everywhere.
Deacon or other leader
For the holy catholic church throughout the world, sharing the death and resurrection of Christ.
For N our bishop, for presbyters and deacons and all who minister in Christ, and for all the holy people of God.
For NN our catechumen(s) and NN their sponsors(s).
For all nations, peoples, tribes, clans, and families.
For justice, mercy, and peace in all the world.
For all who are tempted, oppressed, afflicted, or in need.
For the dying and the dead, and for those who mourn.
For our families, friends, and companions, and for all those we love.
Blessed are you, Lord our God, who sent your Son among us to bear the pain and grief of humankind. Receive the prayers we offer this day for all those in need in every placeand as we near the holy mountain grant us strength on our journey. Glory to you for ever.

The Scripture quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U. S. A. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[1] E.R. Goodenough, Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period (Edited and abridged by Jacob Neusner). Princeton University Press, 1988, p. 93, note 62.
[2] W. F. Albright and C. S. Mann, Matthew: Introduction, Translation, and Notes. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1971, p. 252.
[3] Brevard S. Childs, Isaiah. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001, p. 394.
[4] Ibid., p. 395.
[5] Charles Mountain, “The New Testament Christ-Hymn,” The Hymn, 44(1993)27.
[6] Colin J. Humphreys and W.G. Waddington, “The Jewish Calendar, A Lunar Eclipse and the Date of Christ’s Crucifixion,” Tyndale Bulletin 43(1992)131-151.
[7]  http://www.worship.on.ca/text/rcla9899.txt
[8]  http://www.worship.on.ca/text/inter_a2.txt
[9] http://members.home.com/oplater/prayer.htm