Today, having heard the Passion narrative there is no real necessity to retrace in great detail the events there described. But it is well to bear in mind that Christ was no stranger to hardship, privation and suffering, long before the day of his crucifixion. Despite his compassion for all who came to him, he met with hatred and rejection, in particular from Pharisees and priests, who planned to have him killed.
Each of the four Evangelists give an account of the Passion, but each tells the story with his own particular style and emphasis. The account read this year is from the Gospel of St Mark, and it shows the stark human abandonment of Jesus.
There is great hostility in the story we have just heard; all of it directed against Jesus. There is the hostility of the chief priests, of the Roman soldiers, of those who passed by and jeered as he hung from the cross. Then there is the failure of those who had been closest to him. His disciples all deserted him and fled; Judas betrayed him and Peter denied him publicly. Yet, there were a few people who responded to Jesus faithfully and nobly in that dark hour.
There was the anonymous woman who in an extravagant gesture of love and respect anointed the head of Jesus. Then there was the Roman centurion, who exclaimed, ‘this man was a son of God’. Joseph of Arimathea ensured Jesus had a dignified burial. The women disciples who looked on from a distance noted where Jesus was buried and went away to prepare spices to anoint his body at the earliest opportunity. All of these men and women saw Jesus with eyes of faith and love.
We are invited to identify with those who saw Jesus with the eyes of faith and love, who recognized the light of God in the darkness of Jesus’ passion and death.
When we look upon the passion and death of Jesus with such eyes, we see a divine love that is stronger than sin, a divine light that shines in all our darkness, a divine power that brings new life out of all our deaths, a divine poverty that enriches us at the deepest level of our being.
Today Jesus is entering the city. At first it seems a moment of triumph. But we know that this quickly turns into a time of opposition, of ridicule, of antagonism, of arrest, torture and death.
This Holy Week, the church invites us to enter into that journey with the eyes of the anointing woman, the centurion, Joseph of Arimathea and the group of faithful women. We look beneath the surface of what is happening, we listen deeply to all that is taking place, so as to recognize the Son of God, who laid down his life for us all, so that we might have life and have it to the full.
Today, Jesus enters our city. He comes into our secular world. His is a transforming presence. We sense and see the victory of Christ in his entry into the city. Our calling is to sing 'Hosanna'. Our task is to raise our voices and to rejoice in all human goodness. Praise to you O Christ. You are the king of eternal glory.
Bishop Leslie Tomlinson