by: Fr. Scott Karnik
Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, March 25, 2018:
The hour has come. St. Mark’s gospel tells us that Jesus Christ enters Jerusalem. Jesus enters Jerusalem triumphantly. The people welcome Jesus as the Messiah who comes in the name of the Lord. Jesus is the king who will restore the kingdom of David. By the end of the week, many of these same people will reject Jesus, call for His Crucifixion, and accept a murderer and insurrectionist named Barabbas in Jesus’s place. Jesus will be betrayed and crucified and He knows it. Jesus’s entrance into Jerusalem is a mark of complete obedience to His Father. Jesus will suffer and die to enact the New Covenant God has promised. Jesus will be the source and summit of our salvation.
To do all of this, Jesus assumes the identity of a suffering servant. In Isaiah’s reading, God reassures His Suffering Servant that He will persevere and succeed in carrying out His Mission. So Jesus, the Suffering Servant, will persevere in adversity and betrayal, and ignore His own personal welfare. God will uphold Him. Jesus will be so abandoned, betrayed, and rejected that He will cry out from the Cross Psalm 22-“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” This psalm literally refers to Jesus Christ. No one else has suffered like Him. The outcome of Jesus’s suffering and death will be the universal salvation of Jew and Gentile alike. St. Paul writes that Jesus freely empties Himself of the rights and status He deserves as Son of God. Jesus assumes Adam’s state of corruption and slavery to sin. Jesus then humbles Himself all the more by undergoing a public, shameful, and wretched death, forsaken by everyone.
It is easy to say “Jesus suffered;” “Jesus died, nailed to the Cross;” “Jesus was abandoned;” and “Jesus was betrayed.” Jesus forgives everyone from His Cross: those who had plotted His death, those who abandoned Him for their own personal safety, and others who turned on Him after waving palms and laying cloaks before Him as He enters Jerusalem. Perhaps some of us have experienced some of that same betrayal and rejection in our lives. If so, you understand to a deeper degree Jesus’s suffering as a servant. That depth of forgiveness and mercy that we are called to transforms us in the same way that Jesus will be transformed on Easter Sunday, which is the culmination of Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem on this day, two thousand years ago.