A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Upcoming Sunday Scripture Commentary - March 29 (Palm Sunday)

Philippians 2:5-11

The Apostle Paul wrote this letter to the Christians in Philippi while he was in prison for his faith. Philippi, located in northern Greece wast the first place in Europe to hear the good news that through his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus is the true King of all creation. This church had a special place in Paul's heart. It gave him the most joy. One of the reasons he wrote this letter was to thank them for a gift they had given him.

The generosity of the Philippians to provide Paul with a  gift was significant. Even though they were separated by many miles, someone from their church was willing to make the dangerous journey to deliver this gift to Paul while he was in prison.

This passage is really an early Christian poem that Paul includes. It's a poem that offers a radically different picture of how the true King (Jesus) is vastly different from the present power and authority of the Roman empire.

Verse 7 speaks of how Christ emptied himself. God became human to show us who God is. God is loving and self-giving. This is made most evident through the cross.

Verse 9 - Jesus did what Israel and we have not been able to do - to fully give ourselves in love and humility for the sake of the world.

This passage helps us to see who God is. God is self-giving and loving. Is this the picture that people in our culture have about who God is?

Mark 11:1-11

The Jewish festival of Passover was a time of great celebration. People traveled from all over to the beautiful city of Jerusalem to gather with family and friends. It was a great big holiday.

Passover is the Jewish national day of independence. It was a time to remember how God rescued the Israelites centuries earlier from slavery in Egypt and led them through the wilderness to the Promised Land.

This is the context for when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. There was already a spirit of joy in the air. Jesus' entry into the city fed off of this spirit of celebration.

The crowd spread their robes on the pathway for Jesus as he rode into the city. This was something you would only do for royalty. They saw Jesus as an emerging king for their people. This was the same thing that was done 200 years earlier when a Jew named Judas Maccabaeus came into the city to begin a royal dynasty that briefly ended foreign rule over the people of Israel.

The word, "hosanna" has the meaning of offering praise to God with the hope that God will save the people right away. This fanfare is risky business because there is a strong sense that Jesus is riding into Jerusalem to become the King. The Roman Empire will not take kindly to such a challenge and neither will Israel's own religious leaders.

Yes, Palm Sunday is a day of celebration and excitement, but things will quickly unravel to the point where Jesus will be crucified on a cross just a few days later. Jesus will be ascend to his throne, but his throne will be a cross. Thankfully, the cross will lead to an empty tomb and resurrection.

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