Lydia Cristini

WORD MADE FLESH

Palm Sunday – March 29, 2015
Mark 11.1-10 | Isaiah 50.4-7 | Psalm 22 | Philippians 2. 6-11 | Mark 14.1-15.47
March 23, 2015

We all know the story. We hear it every year during Holy Week, twice. Jesus eats supper with his disciples, is betrayed, captured, falsely accused, wrongfully sentenced, brutally tortured, cruelly mocked and then is murdered on the cross.

As with all stories we hear over and over, we can become too familiar with it. We can forget the scandal it is. The utter and complete failure it demonstrates.

Jesus' mission was to help people hear and understand the Good News while he was on earth. But no one "got it." Not the people who followed him to hear him speak, not the lepers he cured, nor the lame people who walked, not even the 12 apostles, who spent day and night with him.

We all know the story. We hear it every year during Holy Week, twice. Jesus eats supper with his disciples, is betrayed, captured, falsely accused, wrongfully sentenced, brutally tortured, cruelly mocked and then is murdered on the cross.

He humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross. – Philippians 2.8

'He humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.'

Philippians 2.8

As with all stories we hear over and over, we can become too familiar with it. We can forget the scandal it is. The utter and complete failure it demonstrates.

Jesus' mission was to help people hear and understand the Good News while he was on earth. But no one "got it." Not the people who followed him to hear him speak, not the lepers he cured, nor the lame people who walked, not even the 12 apostles, who spent day and night with him.

Yes, there were brief moments of insight ("You are the messiah," says Peter), often surrounded by total blunders ("Get behind me, Satan," Jesus says to Peter a verse or two later); and yes, Mary probably understood it best.

However, as several theologians have pointed out, for all intents and purposes, Jesus failed in his mission.

Everyone was expecting a messiah who would lead the Jewish people to triumph in military or political terms. A messiah who would deliver the Hebrews from foreign occupation and unite them in an earthly victory.

Jesus turned all these expectations on their heads. Instead of bringing death to his oppressors, Jesus' victory was over death itself.

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul reminds us Jesus' victory was reached not through glorious battles, but through emptying himself on the cross, through humility and obedience.

God's glory was shown to us, Christ's mission was accomplished, through the transformative power of grace.

For us Christians, this same grace can be made manifest in our own lives, if we allow it. This grace can turn our suffering into strength; it can turn our grief into joy; it can turn our despair into hope.

GLORY AND POWER

To me, this is a – maybe the – central and sublime characteristic of our faith. God took the most horrible and hopeless failure: the humiliating death of his Son, and shattered all human ideas about it, making it the source of our eternal salvation – his glory and power made manifest.

I am grateful to enter into this Holy Week, and to watch the familiar (and scandalous) story of our messiah going from fame and palm waving to being abandoned by almost everyone he loves, enduring extreme suffering only to be killed by the people he came to save.

I am reminded once again of the depth of his love for us, the transformative, logic-defying grace of his salvation.

This same Christ, the Lord, to whom "every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth" (Philippians 2.10), offers this grace to each one of us, through a living, personal relationship. What will it mean to me, to us, this time?