Signpost for Sunday 20 March, 2016 (Passion Sunday/Palm Sunday): Isaiah 50:4-9a; Philippians 2:5-11; Luke 22:14-23:56 or Luke 19:28-40
The Palm Sunday reading describes how Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey, receiving an exuberant welcome as the one who would redeem Israel. The Passion Sunday reading describes how, in a few days this all changed. From the point of view of some of the disciples, redemption changed to catastrophe.
Luke, of course, not as an eyewitness but as Christian and friend of the apostle Paul, would be looking back at the events with a knowledge of what happened a little later. He manages, however, to write in a way which gives a sense of darkness in the process: betrayal, denial, calls for crucifixion, a trial where a ‘Not Guilty’ verdict nevertheless carried a sentence of death, lamenting women and the crucifixion itself. There seems to be an inevitability in the course of the events, driven at least in part, by the fact that Jesus was accepting the will of the Father. Here the prayer in the garden is significant, in that Jesus was plainly not wishing to die by torture or to endure the separation which was part of the work he came to do.
Earlier, he had used the words which we often repeat: This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.
And: This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood (Luke 22:19).
The epistle contains what appears to be a liturgical expression of an attempt to understand what Christ did. It follows an exhortation Let the same mind be in you as was in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). Given the reading for Passion Sunday, this is not something to be undertaken lightly.