Scripture Introductions

Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday April 5. 2009 Scripture Introductions by Stewart Clarke
May I offer possible introductions for the suggested readings for Sunday?[1] You have choices or readings of passages so familiar to many that it could be tempting to just launch into them. But there are some points that might be worth mentioning. You will, of course, edit, correct, and so on. (You may want to omit material in parentheses, or footnotes.) In our presentation of these passages, may we honour the interest and intelligence of our congregations, as well as the Bible and Jesus' story.
Liturgy of the Palms
Mark gives us a detailed account of Jesus on his way to Jerusalem. The city is filling with people gathering to celebrate the Passover on holy ground. It is a strategic time for Jesus to present himself. Jesus and his followers approach the Mount of Olives, North-East of Jerusalem, across the Valley of Kidron, well away from the bustle of the city, but readily accessible[2]. Bethphage[3] is mentioned, though its location has not been identified. Bethany[4] is named, where Jesus' friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus lived, and Jesus visited from time to time. There the Palm Sunday parade begins, as Jesus gives his disciples the password to procure a young donkey, echoing the message of Zechariah, ("Lo, your king comes to you.riding on an ass.." Zech. 9:9) (In a radio drama broadcast on BBC during World War II, Dorothy L. Sayers, presented the donkey as a conscious choice on Jesus' part. Barabbas, a guerrilla leader, came by night to tell Jesus that his men were poised to strike and take Jersalem by force, but Jesus' presence, as figurehead, was essential. Barabbas would have some of his followers waiting at a certain spot with a magnificent horse and a humble donkey at Jesus' disposal. He whispered the password to Jesus, with instructions: take the horse, and there would be instant insurrection. If, on the other hand, he really believed those things he taught about love and forgiveness, he could take the donkey and a wonderful opportunity to overthrow the Roman occupying Legions would be lost.) Let's listen as the story unfolds in: Mark 11:1-11 We may add something like: " May we be alert to the promise of Jesus' parade and praise, and see ourselves in that picture."
The Gospel of John tells of Jesus entry to Jerusalem under waving palm branches, and sitting on a young ass, fulfilling he prophesy of Zechariah (9:9) with portrait of the triumphant humble king. Let us listen John 12:12-16
The Psalm picks up the symbolic branch waving, with the sense of praise and the entry into the holy city. Let us.... Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 (VU p.837)
Liturgy of the Passion
We will read from the prophesy of Isaiah, the prophet of the Exile. He has spoken before of the Servant of the Lord ("Adonai" for YHWH), but introduces the concept of suffering. Originally intended to encourage the people in exile, it is an evocative picture of Jesus' passion. Let us listen, and reflect on: Isaiah 50:4-9a We may say something like: "God help us to understand the message of pain and promise."
The Psalm also speaks of elements we find in the story of Jesus. Let us:::: Psalm 31:9-16 (VU p.758)
Paul writes to the church at Philippi, not so much about the sacrifice, but the attitude of "Christ Jesus" who appeared as servant. Let us listen, as Paul explains and exhorts, in Philippians 2:5-11 We might follow the reading with something like: "May God help us to understand and appreciate Jesus' servant way".
Mark takes us, step by step, from the Last Supper to the Cross and burial of Jesus' body. Let us rise to honour Jesus' Passion, as it is told in: (Or: Let us listen with reverence, to the story of Jesus' Passion as it is told in: ) Mark 14:1-15:47 Perhaps: " Thank God for the Passion of Jesus, and our hearing of his story. " or Mark 15:1-39, (40-47) We follow the events leading to Easter: from Jesus being anointed, to the Last Supper, the arrest, trial, crucifixion, and burial. It is appropriate to follow the readings with thanks and praise.
  1. With thanks to CAM and EMC.
  2. Jesus apparently went to the Mount of Olives on occasion, in the evening when folk would normally go home. He would return there, to the Garden of Gethsemane!
  3. "House of unripe figs!"
  4. "House of poverty"
(Comments to Stew at