Introduction & Welcome
Welcome to worship today, God’s gift to us because God is good! all the time! and all the time! God is good!
This week, the center of the church’s year, is one of striking contrasts: Jesus rides into Jerusalem surrounded by shouts of glory, only to be left alone to die on the cross, abandoned by even his closest friends. Mark’s gospel presents Jesus in his complete human vulnerability: agitated, grieved, scared, forsaken. Though we lament Christ’s suffering and all human suffering, we also expect God’s salvation: in the wine and bread, Jesus promises that his death will mark a new covenant with all people. We enter this holy week thirsty for the completion of God’s astonishing work.
Confession and Forgiveness
All may make the sign of the cross, the sign marked at baptism, as the presiding minister begins.
Blessed be the holy Trinity, ☩ one God,
the keeper of the covenant,
the source of steadfast love,
our rock and our redeemer.
God hears us when we cry and draws us close in Jesus Christ. Let us return to the one who is full of compassion.
Silence is kept for reflection.
Fountain of living water,
pour out your mercy over us.
Our sin is heavy, and we long to be free.
Rebuild what we have ruined and mend what we have torn.
Wash us in your cleansing flood.
Make us alive in the Spirit to follow in the way of Jesus,
as healers and restorers of the world you so love.
Beloved, God’s word never fails.
The promise rests on grace:
by the saving love of Jesus Christ,
the wisdom and power of God,
your sins are ☩ forgiven, and God remembers them no more.
Journey in the way of Jesus.
Prayer of the Day
O God of mercy and might, in the mystery of the passion of your Son you offer your infinite life to the world. Gather us around the cross of Christ, and preserve us until the resurrection, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Opening Gospel: John 12:12-16
Jesus enters Jerusalem
2The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting,
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord —
the King of Israel!”
14Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written:
15“Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion.
Look, your king is coming,
sitting on a donkey’s colt!”
16His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him.
Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit. (Ps. 31:5)
9Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble;
my eye is consumed with sorrow, and also my throat and my belly.
10For my life is wasted with grief, and my years with sighing;
my strength fails me because of affliction, and my bones are consumed.
11I am the scorn of all my enemies, a disgrace to my neighbors, a dismay to my acquaintances;
when they see me in the street they avoid me.
12Like the dead I am forgotten, out of mind;
I am as useless as a broken pot.
13For I have heard the whispering of the crowd; fear is all around;
they put their heads together against me; they plot to take my life.
14But as for me, I have trusted in you, O Lord.
I have said, “You are my God.
15My times are in your hand;
rescue me from the hand of my enemies, and from those who persecute me.
16Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in your steadfast love.”
Christ humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above ev’ry name. (Phil. 2:8-9)
Gospel: Mark 15:1-39 [40-47]
The passion story in Mark’s gospel presents Jesus as one who dies abandoned by all. He shows himself to be the true Son of God by giving his life for those who have forsaken him.
15:1As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. 2Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” He answered him, “You say so.” 3Then the chief priests accused him of many things. 4Pilate asked him again, “Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.” 5But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.
6Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. 7Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. 8So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. 9Then he answered them, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 10For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. 11But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. 12Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13They shouted back, “Crucify him!” 14Pilate asked them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” 15So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.
16Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. 17And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. 18And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. 20After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.
21They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. 22Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). 23And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. 24And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.
25It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. 26The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” 27And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. 29Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.
33When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” 36And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. 38And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”
40There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.
42When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, 43Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. 45When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. 46Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. 47Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid.
Meditation by David O’Brien
Lord, we thank you for the gift of your Word and as we think on these things, open our hearts and our minds to hear you. Amen.
There’s a whole lot to unpack in today’s Gospel. Lets start with the Sanhedrin and why they took Jesus to Pilate rather than just execute him themselves. The fact was that the Jews did not have the legal authority to execute Criminals, not that it would stop them in other cases. But they knew that Jesus was a popular figure and they didn’t want to be held responsible by the multitudes for the death of a popular Rabbi. They knew that Pilate was a cruel man and felt assured that he would execute Jesus for them, if given the right argument. They could have accused Him of claiming to be God, but the Roman Governor, being used to a pantheon of gods probably wouldn’t have thought much about that. Instead, they hung their cruel hopes on the notion that Christ claimed to be the King of the Jews, in political opposition To Cesar. It’s interesting to note that in making this accusation, they claimed that Jesus was doing something that he had previously refused to do, take a political stand against Rome. Of course today we recognize that Jesus was and is the King of the Jews, but not in a political sense, as the Sanhedrin tried to paint Him to Pilate. When Pilate attempted to examine Him in regard to this charge, all Jesus would say is “it is as you say”. In Matthew, He is quoted as saying “you say so”. Then Jesus said nothing further in His own defense of the accusation made by the Sanhedrin. Seems Jesus was leaving His response open for Pilate to interpret.
I think the Sanhedrin were trying to play Pilate so that he’d do their dirty work. Pilate wasn’t quite so naive as they had thought though. He knew that the Sanhedrin were jealous of Christ’s popularity and he knew that Jesus was an innocent man. So he proposed to the crowd outside his palace to release Jesus to them as part of a festival. But the crowd choose Barabbas instead. But who was in that crowd? Mostly it would have been the Jews from Jerusalem, who were heavily influenced by the Sanhedrin, and not the visiting pilgrims there for the Passover, who had followed Jesus triumphantly into the city a few days earlier and who were likely outside the city and had not yet awakened. So the people of Jerusalem, who had to live with the Roman Governor on a daily basis and disliked him intensely, to say the least, were given a choice. The release of a prisoner that Pilate wanted to release, and their leaders wanted to be executed, or the release of a man they knew Pilate wanted to execute. They choose to thumb their noses at Pilate and call for the release of Barabbas. It probably has as much to do with political defiance of a Roman authority figure as with the Sanhedrin manipulation. I sometimes wonder about how Barabbas felt. In a very real sense, he knew that an innocent man was paying the price for his crimes. Seems an interesting parallel to how Christ, the only innocent man to ever walk the Earth, paid the price for all of our sins.
From there, Christ was mocked and humiliated by the Romans. The soldiers were probably in a tense situation most of the time. They were occupiers in a hostile, foreign land were riots were likely, especially during the Passover season. It seems they made have taken out their frustrations by making sport of a tired and wounded man. When they hung Him on the Cross, they continued to mock Him, with the Sanhedrin and other Jews joining in. But that was probably the least of His concerns. Crucifixion was probably one of the most painful ways to be killed imaginable. Especially the way the Romans did it. If you want to know more about it, there are plenty of resources available that can give you a detailed description, but I’ll leave that to your discretion. As Christs suffering reached it’s climax and he was about to die, the ski darkened as if the whole of creation was suffering with Him. During His life, Christ had known pain & suffering, but never the complete separation from the Father as he did upon His death. It’s understandable how He could feel forsaken. John tells us that at the point of death, Jesus cried “it is finished”. This was translated from the Greek word, tetelestai. The ancient Greek word tetelestai translates as “paid in full”. Was this a victory cry from Jesus, saying that He had won our redemption and paid for our sins in full? That sounds right to me.
And that’s where we’re left until next week. For the disciples it must have been an extremely depressing few days. But we all know the end of the story! To be continued…..
Prayers of Intercession
Relying on the promises of God, we pray boldly for the church, the world, and all in need.
A brief silence.
In Jesus you came among us as a suffering servant. Give your church humility. Redeem your people from pride and the certainty that we always know your will. Strengthen your servants Daniel and Elizabeth, our bishops, and Howard, our pastor, and all who call on your name. Heal us and empower us to confess Christ crucified. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
In creation, life springs from death. Redeem your creation awaiting resurrection: restore lost habitats and endangered species. Create new possibilities for areas affected by climate change, grant relief from natural disasters, and nurture new growth. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
Jesus was handed over to the powers of this world. In all nations, instruct the powerful, that they would not exploit their power but maintain justice. Sustain soldiers, and guide those who command them, that they serve those in greatest need. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
On the cross Jesus joined all who feel forsaken. Abide with those who are condemned to death. Defend those who are falsely accused. Console and strengthen those who are mocked or bullied. Accompany all who suffer especially those on our prayer list; grant respite and renewal. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
You called followers to tend Jesus’ body in death. Sustain hospice workers and funeral directors. Bless this congregation’s ministries at times of death: those who plan and lead funerals, those who prepare meals, all who offer support in grief. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
You inspired the centurion to confess Jesus as your Son. We praise you for the faith you have given to people of all places and times. Give us also such faith to trust the promises of baptism and, with them, to look for the resurrection of the dead. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
We entrust ourselves and all our prayers to you, O faithful God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
And now, as our Savior, Christ is teaching us, we boldly pray:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
You are what God made you to be:
created in Christ Jesus for good works,
chosen as holy and beloved,
freed to serve your neighbor.
God bless you ☩ that you may be a blessing,
in the name of the holy and life-giving Trinity.
Go into the world with assurance, hope and promise:
the love of the Source of life, God the Father, embrace you;
the grace of the Word of life, God the Son, rest upon you;
and the transforming power of the Breath of life, God the Holy Spirit,
help, strengthen and surprise you, this day and all your days. Amen.