Gospel Reflection for March 24, Palm/Passion Sunday

 “Father into your hands I commend my spirit.”  After Jesus said this, he died.

Luke 23.46

How can a man who is crucified be God’s messiah who comes to save people and bring them new life?  Jesus, who dies the death of a criminal, isn’t even powerful enough to save himself.  The first Christian preachers had to face mockers’ questions: How can Jesus be the king of the Jews, the messiah of God, God’s chosen one?  If he is, he would have the power to save himself or God would save him.

What are your questions about the Jesus’ crucifixion?

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2 thoughts on “Gospel Reflection for March 24, Palm/Passion Sunday

  1. It would be interesting to know WHEN Jesus’ death meant our salvation. Jesus did not say that he was sent to die for sins. That came later. Jesus did say that he came so that we could live more abundantly. Jesus did go to the cross willingly. However, if this God is a God of Love, beyond anything any human can understand, it just doesn’t make sense that there is this horrible price to pay for salvation. Humans understand, more now than in previous centuries, that punishment does not bring forth love – it bring obedience, but not love. Love encourages love. I would like to hear your response to this.

    1. The gospels are full of metaphors drawn from the Old Testament that attempting to express what Jesus’ death and resurrection mean for us. In Mark 10.45, Jesus says that “the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” This is the ransom or rescue metaphor. Often the scriptures use the blood of the Passover lamb as a comparison with Jesus. In Mark 14.23, Jesus raises the cup and says it is “blood of the covenant which will be shed for many.” Here the metaphor is the ancient way people made an oath, they sprinkled blood on both parties to signify that the parties made the agreement on their lives. May my blood be spilled if I fail to keep this covenant. The stone rejected by the builder has become the cornerstone.

      These comparisons all have scriptural roots. I like the covenant one best. Jesus does stand by his teaching and his message of love of God, neighbor, oneself, enemies unto death. He gives his wholehearted all. He goes to the cross if he has to, so willingly as you say. He certainly reveals the power of love over violence. I agree love encourages love. That’s the message. He gives his life as his ministry plays out but he doesn’t come as a disignated victim.

      St. Anselm in the 1400s got atonement/victim theology going–that someone had to pay the price for our sins the way one would have to satisfy a feudal lord. This makes God an abusive father who sends his son to die for our sins. This is an inadequate theological metaphor but one many embrace.

      There are many metaphors and many theologies that reflect on the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection for us. Jesus died for our sins has gotten to be a short formula for the meaning of his death and resurrection and for the acceptance of Christian faith. It’s far from the only way to talk about it.

      When did Jesus’ death mean our salvation? By hindsight in the light of the resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is the heart of Christian faith. Luke especially stresses that all that happened to Jesus happened according to the scriptures. Luke looks especially at the suffering servant songs from the prophet Second Isaiah, who wrote them about the whole people of Israel in exile, for example Isaiah 53. On the other hand In John’s gospel, 10.10, as you mention in your comment, Jesus says that he come that we might have life and have it more abundantly.

      What is salvation? I like to think wholeness, all we can become in an evolutionary sense. In eras that have emphasized sin and people have suffered oppression, plague, persecution, they experience the need for rescue and can identify with Jesus’ suffering. That is not our current experience in the USA. We are blessed. John 10.10 speaks more to us. I have heard people testify about identifying with the suffering Jesus in their journeys out of depression or abuse. They needed salvation and rescue.

      A good question like yours is an invitation to study more. I like Elizabeth Johnson’s Consider Jesus or Quest for the Living God. John Shelby Spong is another author helpful to many people.

      Joan Mitchell, CSJ

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