Palm Sunday A
Today we see the suffering of Jesus from Matthew’s Gospel. Each Gospel is a little different. Today we follow Matthew. The full Gospel story can be found in Matthew 26:14 – 27:66. Focus on one thing: the story is about Jesus giving. Jesus giving, why? He loves us. A person shows love by giving.
Jesus copies his Father in heaven. God the Father gives too. Use your imagination:
God the Father looks down at the world, all the people in the world, and maybe God feels sad. A beautiful world, but all messed up. Beautiful human persons, but so many hurting each other, how? Hating each other, anger, fighting, so much sin; all the bad things in the world are like a very high wall that blocks; on one side is our human world suffering so much, on the other side are people happy, joyful, peaceful. God wants that wall to tear it down, why? He wants for all of us joy, peace, happiness. God wants to pull down that wall, how? God uses His most powerful strength, what? Love.
So God Father does what? He gives; gives his perfect gift of love to go against that wall of hate, sin, anger, war, rejection. God gives his perfect gift of love, what? God’s perfect image, God’s perfect picture–his Son. God the Father sends his Son against that wall of hatred, violence, sin.
So the Son of God, Jesus, tries to push against the wall, how? Teaching God’s way, healing people, helping people reject hate, anger, sin, helping all people come together again. He pushes against that wall by his most precious gift of love.
So begins today’s Gospel, how? Jesus comes together with his friends, for a special meal, Passover. The Passover meal remembered God’s gift of freedom, freedom from slavery in Egypt The Jewish people remembered God’s plan for them to be free fully; and their journey to full freedom, happiness, joy it began with this special meal.
With Jesus at the meal is one man, named Judas. Jesus knows Judas is against him. Jesus does what? Rejects him, throws him out? No. Jesus gives Judas a piece of bread, a sign of love and friendship. Jesus wants to break down the wall for Judas, the wall of hate, selfishness, greed. Judas wants to keep the wall; and Judas goes out into the dark.
Jesus is now with his closest friends. Again for the wall to come down, to bring all closer to him, Jesus gives a gift of love, what? Jesus gives his body and blood. He takes bread, praises God his Father and says “Take and eat, what? This is my body.” Then Jesus takes the cup of wine; Jesus gives thanks and says, “Drink, what? This is my blood for a new covenant.”(It means a new relationship of joy, peace, forgiveness, friendship with Jesus and with God his Father) Now the wall of sin is torn down, how? The blood of Jesus, he gives “for the forgiveness of sin.”
Then Jesus goes out to a garden, a quiet place. There Jesus is afraid, worried, fearful; he knows suffering is coming. He knows that strong wall of jealousy, hatred, anger is coming against him and Jesus must go against that wall. Jesus knows hatred is coming to overwhelm him, and Jesus is afraid. But he knows he is the Son of God his Father; he is God’s love here on earth, he must face the wall of hatred, sin. So Jesus accepts, “Father, Your will, I accept.”
Judas leads Jesus’s enemies; the soldiers come, grab him and tie his hands. His friends want to fight. Jesus forbids fighting why? Jesus overcomes hatred and sin only by accepting the suffering fully, accepting with love. His friends do not understand; they all run away. Jesus is alone with the soldiers angry, hating him. The soldiers lead Jesus to trial. Jesus stands before all the men who hate him, want to destroy him; but Jesus is calm, always with love for his enemies. Alone Jesus must face all the hatred. Witnesses come; they lie about Jesus, his words and his acts. They prove nothing wrong about Jesus. Then the high priest asks Jesus for the truth, “Are you Messiah? Savior? Son of Man?” (It means the man from heaven come with the power of God’s love to change the world.) Jesus answers with love; he answers with truth, “Yes, I am.” Jesus came to destroy all evil, all sin in the world. The leaders reject the power of his love and say, “Jesus insults God, makes himself equal to God.” All agree Jesus must die. Jesus’s love is against their wall of hatred, jealousy, evil.
To kill Jesus, they need the Roman governor to agree; the governor’s name is Pontius Pilate. So they force Jesus to go before government power. Roman power meant oppression, slavery. Jesus alone with the power of love comes before evil human power.
Pontius Pilate heard about Jesus; he knew Jesus did many wonderful things, healed the sick and blind and crippled. Big crowds came to Jesus and the Romans didn’t want crowds following one man; Jesus might become too popular and lead a rebellion to overthrow Rome. But Pilate knows Jeus led armies of soldiers? No. He led poor people, weak people, confused people. So Jesus was not a real problem for Roman power. Pilate thinks “This is a waste of time.” But the crowd of people hates Jesus and Pilate is afraid of them, the crowd screaming they want to kill Jesus. Pilate wants to finish this.
So Pilate remembers a custom that every year during Passover he frees one prisoner. There is a man in prison, named Barabbas (he killed someone). Pilate says “People, choose which one to free?” The people shout, “We want Barabbas.” “What to do with Jesus?” “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Jesus faces dark hatred only by the power of love, God’s love. Jesus seems so weak. Pilate accepts the people’s decision and lets the soldiers take Jesus.
The soldiers are hard, mean; they don’t care; they whip Jesus, rip off his skin, insult Jesus, put a crown of thorns on his head, put a dirty red coat on him, kneel in front of Jesus, call him “King, King.” Hatred, evil seems to overcome Jesus. But against it Jesus only uses God’s love.
The soldiers lead Jesus away, force him to carry the cross. They come to the place called Calvary; they rip off his clothes. Jesus is naked; they nail him to the cross. From the cross Jesus feels the strong hatred of his enemies. But Jesus answers with love, forgiveness; he prays with love: “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing; forgive them.” He throws love against their wall of hatred.
Jesus hangs there three hours. Then he says “It Is finished. Father, into your hands I give my spirit, my life. All my love I have given to them. Now my life I give to you.” Jesus did all he could do and now his work is finished; he gives his life into his Father’s hands with trust that his love will bring healing, peace, joy to the people, and he dies.
God his Father accepted Jesus’ gift and three days later on Easter Sunday Jesus rose to new life, glorious life. Easter showed that Jesus’s gift of his love accomplished all he wanted; sin was destroyed. New life is given to everyone; now a life of peace, holiness, joy, happiness can happen for everyone. Jesus’s love pulled down the wall of hatred, evil, sin and now all people, all of us, can have a new relationship of love with God our Father and Jesus his Son.