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AHC B All Seems Lost All Is About To Begin Palm Sunday - Hebrew Catholics

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All Seems Lost: All is About to Begin

Palm Sunday Year B

A Hebrew Catholic Perspective

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St. Mark 15: 1 — 39

Into Thy hands…My God! In this awful hour You seem a long way off.
I seem forsaken. My whole soul is clouded by the dread mystery of
pain and death. I thought there would be a victory, a rescue for your
faithful child, and there is not. It looks almost as though You had
forsaken me, as though my ultimate trust was betrayed. Yet even so
I accept it. You and Your purposes matter, all is Yours, into Your
hands I commend my spirit…
                                                            From “The Light of Christ” by Evelyn Underhill

 

Introduction

At this time of the Christian Church calendar — the start of Holy Week which leads to Easter — it is traditional to read the long Gospel account of Jesus’ suffering, trial, and death. In our meditation we can only read a portion of this. Even so, our reading is 3 or 4 times the normal length. So on this occasion we will give more time to reading and a little less to commentary. The passage could be a “Good Friday” meditation for those who wish to spend some time in solitude, reflecting on this great event.

Click here for a printable copy of our text

 

Some Reflections On Our Text

Verse 1

As soon as morning came, the chief priests with the elders
and the scribes, that is, the whole Sanhedrin, held a council.
They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate.

The Roman business day started at dawn and the Sanhedrin had to be ready by then with their strategy. Pilate had a reputation for being tough and cruel, but he was not a “monster”. The Gospels raise the question: was He so very different from us?

Verse 2

Pilate questioned him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
He said to him in reply, “You say so.”

The first question addressed to Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” indicates the procurator had already read or heard the charges against Jesus. Pilate refers to the main offence: that Jesus claimed to be King. Actually, Jesus has claimed to be King of Israel (I.e. the Messiah) never King of the Jews. This was a political strategy of the Jewish authorities, and it labelled Jesus as a leader of resistance. Jesus does not say “Yes” but “You say so”.

Note the reservation in Jesus’ reply. His meaning of kingship did not correspond to the question. Pilate picked this up immediately and did not proceed with the sentence. Instead he tests the purposes of Jesus’ accusers.

Verses 3 — 5

The chief priests accused him of many things.

Again Pilate questioned him, “Have you no answer? See how
many things they accuse you of.”

Jesus gave him no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.

The authorities have a list of trumped up charges but their case is a shambles, as Pilate’s next question indicates. In response, Jesus remains silent in humble obedience. The presence and dignity of Jesus puzzle Pilate.

Verses 6 — 10

Now on the occasion of the feast he used to release to them
one prisoner whom they requested.

A man called Barabbas was then in prison along with the
rebels who had committed murder in a rebellion.

The crowd came forward and began to ask him to do for them
as he was accustomed.

Pilate answered, “Do you want me to release to you the king
of the Jews?”

For he knew that it was out of envy that the chief priests had
handed him over.

Pilate did not believe Jesus was guilty and tries to find a compromise.

It is quite obvious the authorities are using the situation to suit their hidden aims. Pilate is well aware that their fanatical abhorrence of Jesus’ alleged treason does not arise out of a loyalty to Rome. He sees this as an excellent opportunity for him to treat them with all the contempt he had for what he saw as obnoxious, and rebellious race. As usual, he underestimates their ability to out-manoeuvre him.

Verses 11 — 14

But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release
Barabbas for them instead.

Pilate again said to them in reply, “Then what (do you want)
me to do with (the man you call) the king of the Jews?”

They shouted again, “Crucify him.”

Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?” They only
shouted the louder, “Crucify him.”

The crowd despise his gibe about releasing the King of the Jews. They demand Barabbas and the crucifixion of Jesus.

Verses 15 — 19

So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas to
them and, after he had Jesus scourged, handed him over to be crucified

The soldiers led him away inside the palace, that is, the
praetorium, and assembled the whole cohort.

They clothed him in purple and, weaving a crown of thorns,
placed it on him.

They began to salute him with, “Hail, King of the Jews!”

and kept striking his head with a reed and spitting upon him.
They knelt before him in homage.

Pilate makes his mind up quickly to avoid any further disruption and danger to his own position. He convicts Jesus, and we know what would have been said: “Illum duci ad crucem placet.” “The sentence is that this man should be taken to a cross”. He also has Him scourged. A Roman scourging was a terrifying punishment. The victim was stripped, bound to a post or pillar, or sometimes simply thrown to the ground, and was beaten by a number of guards until his flesh hung in bleeding shreds. The instrument indicated in St. Mark’s text was the dreaded “Flagellum”, a scourge existing of leather thongs plaited with several pieces of bone or lead so as to form a chain. (Paragraph based on William Barclay.)

For a while Jesus becomes the plaything of the bored soldiers. They taunt Him: not, “Hail Caesar”, but “Hail King of the Jews”. Presumably He is naked, so they throw a faded scarlet cloak or a shabby purple rug over His body, and press down on His head a wreath plaitted from local palm spines. Not only do they mock Jesus, but they are extremely brutal.

Verses 20 and 21

And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the
purple cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him
out to crucify him.

They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon, a Cyrenian,
who was coming in from the country, the father of
Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.

So far Jesus has quietly suffered an unjust prosecution, a cruel scourging and the mocking of soldiers. Finally His clothes are put back on Him and He is led out to be crucified. Death by crucifixion was considered the most cruel and degrading form of punishment. Apparently it was used more commonly with Jews because of their refusal to accept Roman domination. Generally only slaves and the most despised criminals were executed in this way.

Jesus had been expected to carry His cross but was too weakened by all that had occurred. Simon, a Jew from Cyrene in Libya, then in Jerusalem for Passover, was ordered to help Jesus. His sons became members of the infant Church, and so we can see how Simon was never the same after this experience.

Verses 22 — 28

They brought him to the place of Golgotha (which is
translated Place of the Skull).

They gave him wine drugged with myrrh, but he did not take it.

Then they crucified him and divided his garments by casting
lots for them to see what each should take.

It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him.
The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King

of the Jews.”

With him they crucified two revolutionaries, one on his right
and one on his left.

Jesus is led out to the city dump where most executions took place. In an act of mercy He is offered drugged wine, but He declines it.

Then they crucify Jesus. Hardly a word is written about it. None was necessary. Everyone knew all the gruesome details. Jesus is stripped again, His outstretched arms nailed to the cross beam. Nailing rather than tying would have hastened exhaustion due to loss of blood.

As a final insult, He is placed between two robbers. But then, on reflection, He has always chosen to be among the needy!

Men were ordinarily crucified naked. It is possible that Roman practice sometimes gave in to Jewish sensitivities about nakedness. Even if Jesus was allowed a loin-cloth, this would still have been considered nakedness.

Verse 28 is considered by most scholars today, to have been inserted later. Note it is omitted in most modern versions, though there are also good grounds for leaving it in.

Verses 29 — 32

Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying,
“Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days,

save yourself by coming down from the cross.”

Likewise the chief priests, with the scribes, mocked him among
themselves and said, “He saved others; he cannot save himself.

Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down now from the
cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified
with him also kept abusing him.

The words of Jesus three years earlier are thrown back in His face. The only path by which to save others was to refuse to save Himself (Mk 8: 35). He practises now what He once preached.

Verses 33 — 39

At noon darkness came over the whole land until three in the
afternoon.

And at three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice,
“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which is translated,
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Some of the bystanders who heard it said, “Look, he is calling
Elijah.”

One of them ran, soaked a sponge with wine, put it on a reed,
and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see if Elijah
comes to take him down.”

Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.

The veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.

When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he
breathed his last he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

At midday it grew very dark. Even if this was caused by the Khamsin, a hot, dust-laden wind from the south, the precision timing was a miracle.

Three hours later, Jesus calls out “Eloi, Eloi”. He begins to recite Psalm 22 in His own homely Aramaic. But He is not despairing. The whole psalm is in His heart, in particular the last third. When some bystanders thought He was calling on Elijah, they were not ridiculing Him. The din would have been terrible, and their error an honest one.

With a loud cry Jesus “breathed out” His life (literally). Let us remember, no one took Jesus’ life from Him: of His own free will He laid it down (John 10: 18).

The Centurion, a hardened man, had seen many die, but never one like this. Jesus demonstrated perfect submission, yet complete control, until the end. This Gentile becomes the first human to confess that Jesus is the Son of God. The death of Jesus is the climax of the whole gospel. Yet at that very moment, a Roman soldier’s utterance points to a whole new era about to unfold. All seems lost. All is about to begin.

 

Shalom!

 

 

Further Reading

For those who would like a detailed study resource
on the readings for Sunday, please visit:

Agape Bible Study — Palm Sunday ― Year B

If you require only the section on the Gospel reading,
just scroll down the page.

To view all the material on the Agape website please visit:

www.agapebiblestudy.com

This website is highly recommended:

 

“Proclaim the Gospel to Every Creature”

(Mark 16: 15)

Let us remember God’s Teaching, contained in His Word and in doing so, remain
close to Him. The following are only examples illustrating how you can note the
gems the Holy Spirit highlights for your on-going reflection.

All Seems Lost: All is About to Begin

Palm Sunday      Year B                     St. Mark 15: 1 — 39

 

Some Reflections On the Crucifixion of Jesus

Preamble

If someone asked us the question: “What do you notice about Jesus’ behaviour in this account?” we would easily praise Him for His self control, His humility, His determination, His trust in God, His refusal to deaden the pain with a drugged drink, and other impressive achievements. One of His strengths which may not be so obvious is His ability to remain silent, even when greatly provoked. In all of the trial and subsequent actions Jesus speaks only 3 times. We will focus our attention on these briefly as our meditation material especially as His overall silence makes them stand out as very significant moments.

1. First Time Jesus Spoke.

Our Gospel account shows that Jesus is handed over to Pilate “as soon as morning came”. When Pilate is ready to see Him, Jesus is brought in and interrogated. Pilate goes straight to the point: “Are you the King of the Jews?” To this Jesus replies, “You say so”, in other words, “Well, you’re the one saying it.” The onlookers are quick to call out their charges against Jesus. “For goodness sake” implies Pilate, “Can’t you hear all the things they are laying against you! I know just as well as you that the charges are fabricated. But if you don’t say anything, I have no choice but to convict you.” Mark notes in Verse 5, “Jesus gave no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed”.

2. Second Time Jesus Spoke.

Recall that Jesus was crucified at the 3rd hour (9 am). At the 6th hour (12 noon), darkness covered Judea. At the 9th hour (i.e. 3pm) we hear Jesus speak the second time in a loud voice. His words were the opening of psalm 22 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me”? We do not know if he recited only that line. The early church tended to hold that he was reciting interiorly the whole psalm — or at least had it in mind. It would therefore pay us to read it, noting that while it reflects the deepest desolation, it climaxes in an exciting expression of confidence and hope. (Read Ps 22 or part up to V 21, then 22 to end.) Let’s remember Jesus has survived a brutal scourging which often left the victim dead or near death. Yet he was able to speak out Psalm 22 “in a loud voice.”

3. Third Time Jesus Spoke.

A few moments later Jesus speaks for the last time; or rather, He gives a loud cry, and breathes His last. Note again, it was in a loud voice. This is unique at a crucifixion. Despite all the taunts, He is in complete control until the end. What we must remember is that no one took Jesus’ life from Him. He gave it of His own free will. The text means more than “He died”. It means “He breathed out His life”, or as is sometimes translated, He gave up His spirit. The infant church was quick to see in this the sign of something even greater yet to come. In less than 48 to 50 hours He will breathe out His life into His disciples. Of all people, it is a rough, tough, hardened pagan centurion soldier, who is the first person to acknowledge Jesus publicly for what he was — a title which St. Mark used to open his Gospel in
Verse 1; a title we continue to use today: Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Conclusion

It has become commonplace today for Christians to take all of this for granted, and hardly give any real attention to it — even as Easter approaches. This begs the question, why have we become so complacent and careless? What is it about modern Christianity that has lost its zeal for studying, meditating on, and putting into practice the lessons in the Gospels?

Why do so many people avoid even just looking at an image of our Crucified Lord — let alone meditating on it? Might this be one of the reasons Christians have grown weary of facing a world that is not interested in listening to their message? Might it be one of the reasons they are unsure themselves about what the real message of Christianity is?

We can reverse this trend by giving some of our “prime-time” to the things of the Lord. The better we know Him, the more we will love Him. And the more we love Him, the more unstoppable will be our witness of this to all around us.

Blessed be God in His Angels and in His Saints.

 

Shalom!

 Click here for a printable copy of this reflection

Mark 15: 1 — 39

Palm Sunday     Year B

NEW AMERICAN BIBLE

1      As soon as morning came, the chief priests with the elders and
        the scribes, that is, the whole Sanhedrin, held a council. 1 They
        bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate.

2      Pilate questioned him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” 2 He said
        to him in reply, “You say so.”

3      The chief priests accused him of many things.

4      Again Pilate questioned him, “Have you no answer? See how
        many things they accuse you of.”

5      Jesus gave him no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.

6      3 Now on the occasion of the feast he used to release to them
        one prisoner whom they requested.

7      A man called Barabbas 4 was then in prison along with the
        rebels who had committed murder in a rebellion.

8      The crowd came forward and began to ask him to do for them
        as he was accustomed.

9      Pilate answered, “Do you want me to release to you the king
        of the Jews?”

10    For he knew that it was out of envy that the chief priests had
        handed him over.

11    But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release
        Barabbas for them instead.

12    Pilate again said to them in reply, “Then what (do you want)
        me to do with (the man you call) the king of the Jews?”

13    5 They shouted again, “Crucify him.”

14    Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?” They only
        shouted the louder, “Crucify him.”

15    6 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas to
        them and, after he had Jesus scourged, handed him over to be
        crucified

16    7 The soldiers led him away inside the palace, that is, the
        praetorium, and assembled the whole cohort.

17    They clothed him in purple and, weaving a crown of thorns,
        placed it on him.

18    They began to salute him with, “Hail, King of the Jews!”

19     and kept striking his head with a reed and spitting upon him.
         They knelt before him in homage.

20     And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the
         purple cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him
         out to crucify him.

21     They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon, a Cyrenian,
         8 who was coming in from the country, the father of
         Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.

22     They brought him to the place of Golgotha (which is
         translated Place of the Skull).

23     They gave him wine drugged with myrrh, but he did not take it.

24     9 Then they crucified him and divided his garments by casting
         lots for them to see what each should take.

25     It was nine o’clock in the morning 10 when they crucified him.

26     11 The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King
         of the Jews.”

27     With him they crucified two revolutionaries, one on his right and
         one on his left.

28     12

29     13 Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying,
         “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three
         days,

30     save yourself by coming down from the cross.”

31     Likewise the chief priests, with the scribes, mocked him among
         themselves and said, “He saved others; he cannot save himself.

32     Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down now from the
         cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified
         with him also kept abusing him.

33     At noon darkness came over the whole land until three in the
         afternoon.

34     And at three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi,
         lema sabachthani?” 14 which is translated, “My God, my God,
         why have you forsaken me?”

35     15 Some of the bystanders who heard it said, “Look, he is calling
         Elijah.”

36     One of them ran, soaked a sponge with wine, put it on a reed,
         and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see if Elijah
         comes to take him down.”

37     Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.

38     16 The veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.

39     17 When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he
         breathed his last he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

 

1 [1] Held a council: the verb here, poieo, can mean either “convene a council” or “take counsel.” This reading is preferred to a variant “reached a decision” (cf ⇒ Mark 3:6), which ⇒ Mark 14:64 describes as having happened at the night trial; see the note on ⇒ Matthew 27:1-2. Handed him over to Pilate: lacking authority to execute their sentence of condemnation (⇒ Mark 14:64), the Sanhedrin had recourse to Pilate to have Jesus tried and put to death (⇒ Mark 15:15); cf ⇒ John 18:31.

2 [2] The king of the Jews: in the accounts of the evangelists a certain irony surrounds the use of this title as an accusation against Jesus (see the note on ⇒ Mark 15:26). While Pilate uses this term (⇒ Mark 15:2, 9, ⇒ 12), he is aware of the evil motivation of the chief priests who handed Jesus over for trial and condemnation (⇒ Mark 15:10; ⇒ Luke 23:14-16, ⇒ 20; ⇒ Matthew 27:18, ⇒ 24; ⇒ John 18:38; ⇒ 19:4, 6, ⇒ 12).

3 [6-15] See the note on ⇒ Matthew 27:15-26.

4 [7] Barabbas: see the note on ⇒ Matthew 27:16-17.

5 [13] Crucify him: see the note on ⇒ Matthew 27:22.

6 [15] See the note on ⇒ Matthew 27:26.

7 [16] Praetorium: see the note on ⇒ Matthew 27:27.

8 [21] They pressed into service . . . Simon, a Cyrenian: a condemned person was constrained to bear his own instrument of torture, at least the crossbeam. The precise naming of Simon and his sons is probably due to their being known among early Christian believers to whom Mark addressed his gospel. See also the notes on ⇒ Matthew 27:32; ⇒ Luke 23:26-32.

9 [24] See the notes on ⇒ Matthew 27:35 and ⇒ John 19:23-25a.

10 [25] It was nine o’clock in the morning: literally, “the third hour,” thus between 9 a.m. and 12 noon. Cf ⇒ Mark 15:33, ⇒ 34, ⇒ 42 for Mark’s chronological sequence, which may reflect liturgical or catechetical considerations rather than the precise historical sequence of events; contrast the different chronologies in the other gospels, especially ⇒ John 19:14.

11 [26] The inscription . . . the King of the Jews: the political reason for the death penalty falsely charged by the enemies of Jesus. See further the notes on ⇒ Matthew 27:37 and ⇒ John 19:19.

12 [28] This verse, “And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “And he was counted among the wicked,’ ” is omitted in the earliest and best manuscripts. It contains a citation from ⇒ Isaiah 53:12 and was probably introduced from ⇒ Luke 22:37.

13 [29] See the note on ⇒ Matthew 27:39-40.

14 [34] An Aramaic rendering of ⇒ Psalm 22:2. See also the note on ⇒ Matthew 27:46.

15 [35] Elijah: a verbal link with Eloi (⇒ Mark 15:34). See the note on ⇒ Mark 9:9-13; cf ⇒ Malachi 3:23-24. See also the note on ⇒ Matthew 27:47.

16 [38] See the note on ⇒ Matthew 27:51-53.

17 [39] The closing portion of Mark’s gospel returns to the theme of its beginning in the Gentile centurion’s climactic declaration of belief that Jesus was the Son of God. It indicates the fulfillment of the good news announced in the prologue (⇒ Mark 1:1) and may be regarded as the firstfruit of the passion and death of Jesus.

14 [34] An Aramaic rendering of ⇒ Psalm 22:2. See also the note on ⇒ Matthew 27:46.

15 [35] Elijah: a verbal link with Eloi (⇒ Mark 15:34). See the note on ⇒ Mark 9:9-13; cf ⇒ Malachi 3:23-24. See also the note on ⇒ Matthew 27:47.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised
edition (c)
2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine,
Washington D.C.
and are used by permission of the copyright owner.
All Rights Reserved. No part of
the New American Bible may be reproduced
in any form without permission in
writing from the copyright owner.

 

 

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