OT: Is 50:4-7
Epistle: Phil 2:6-11
Gospel: Mark 14:1-15:47
Today we read through the Passion of our Lord, according to Mark’s account this year. During this Holy Week, we are brought face to face with the cost of discipleship, and we start with the Palm Sunday readings. We read before the Processional hymn of Jesus’ entrance to Jerusalem amid the Hosannas and the waving palm fronds. Ten minutes later we are hearing him taken away by the high priest’s soldiers, and his Passion is under way.
The reading from Isaiah and from Paul’s letter to the Church in Phillipi describe the characteristics of the Lamb of God, the one who was sacrificed for our sins. It is inescapably obedience. Isaiah prophetically describes Jesus: a man with “a well-trained tongue,” given to him for a purpose: “that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them.” In our own less powerful lives, we are given skills for a purpose — for God’s purpose. Isaiah intimates our free will, our freedom to say ‘no’ to God, as he says “Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back.” God speaks to us. He leaves it to us whether to listen. Elsewhere in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus says, “Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.” [Mk. 4:9] We choose to rebel or not. We choose to walk with God or turn back. Our act of obedience to God’s will is our act of Love, since God is love. Co-operating with God’s will, we can offer ourselves in love to everyone, even our enemies. Isaiah says the good man gave his back to those who beat him. Perhaps more jarring to our modern ears is the claim he “did not shield from buffets and spitting.” Our popular culture seems to take more offense at “disrespecting” than at something truly awful. The obedient servant is strengthened to the point of being able to endure our time’s greatest sufferings.
Paul reminds us that Jesus was able to endure his time’s greatest suffering: death on a cross. Somehow his deep obedience became a source of strength. Like the prophesy by Isaiah, Jesus did not retaliate when he was beaten. He too offered his back. His obedience was the perfect sacrifice. His obedience glorified him such that at his name every knee shall bend. Because of his submission to the Father’s will, every tongue shall confess Jesus as Lord of all.
In my own broken life, perhaps I can seek to be just a little more obedient to my heavenly Father’s will. It is a form of slight suffering for me when I demur from my usual stance of equating myself with God. But is is possible, and I can receive, as Isaiah and Jesus did, strength through my suffering because my suffering suddenly has a purpose. My little Passion (the root word is suffering) can in a small way be a holy sacrifice. It is my choice. I do not have to turn back from Him.
In the Passion we see the people of this world mock Jesus and his weakness. They taunt him, daring him to call on his angels or come down from the Cross under his own power. They think they know what power is, but they are blind to the ultimate power. Jesus preaches through his actions, or more precisely his inactions, on the Cross. He is meek, he is weak, he endures indignity for obeying his heavenly father. He commends himself into his Father’s hands.
May God give me the strength to be weak and in so doing glorify Him.