Gospel: Mark 14:1-15:47 or John 12:20-43
Epistle: Phillipians 2:5-11
Lesson: Zechariah 9:9-12
Psalm: Psalm 31:1-5, 9-16 or Psalm 118:19-29
CLB Commentary on the Gospel Text by Rev. Bill Helland
(Originally published in 2012)
The Passion Narrative, of this week’s text, is rich with material for preaching, but overwhelming if one were to try preach on the whole text. Perhaps in one’s introduction a preacher could call attention to the larger text and show how it serves as a context for the sermon to follow, which would then focus on a much smaller portion.
Mark 14:1-11 is a nice sized text whereby one could contrast the difference between the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet and Judas, who was carrying out his plan to betray Jesus.
Verses 12-26 are an appropriate text for those who have communion on this first Sunday of the month, as it is the account of the Lord’s Supper.
Verses 27-31 could be coupled with verses 66-72 and thus be the basis for a sermon about how we make all these well intentioned promises to Christ, but then break those promises. It is a text that beautifully shows through law and grace how impossible it is for us to be good enough for salvation and how wonderful Christ’s grace and forgiveness is. It might be helpful to also bring 16:7 into the message as well, which shows that Christ was particularly concerned about Peter. John’s gospel has even more material about this in 21:15-19, but that is really a sermon text all in itself.
The Gethsemane scene, in Mark 14:32-52, is another sermon text. There is such powerful imagery in this text about what Jesus was feeling, the discouragement of the disciples, and their inability to fully grasp the urgency of the hour until it was too late, and then fear set in. It is a text about all of us tending to fall asleep at the mission God has given us, for do we really grasp the urgency of His mission on earth?
The Sanhedrin passage, in verses 53-65, is a text that will certainly preach as we consider the false testimony that is made about Christ yet today and all the different things that people say to discredit Him, Christianity in general, individual Christians, and the Christian church as a whole. It is a good opportunity to talk about the importance of absolute truth, what it is, and how to defend it in the face of opposition (or maybe even in the face of our own doubts which the devil attempts to place in our hearts and heads).
I’ve never understood why any of this text is placed on Palm Sunday, unless a church is not going to have another service before Easter morning, but I think the material in chapter 15 can be left for a Maundy Thursday or Good Friday service.
Again, this text is too large to do justice to, unless one’s intent is to do a quick overview of our Lord’s Passion because there won’t be another opportunity before Easter morning.
May God’s Spirit guide you as you prayerfully consider what part of this large text to proclaim to your people on this Palm Sunday. Just a gentle reminder, which I always have to ask myself each week, “am I keeping Law and Grace in balance?” God’s good Spirit will help us to do so.
We must take together then (a) John’s presumed first-century situation; (b) his purpose in writing this Gospel for his people, expressed in 20:31; (c) the relation of this text to the “sign” at the wedding in Cana; (d) its relation to the conversation Jesus has at the Samaritan well; and (e) the significance John sees in the incident from Numbers 21.
With all of that in the mixing bowl, we now ask ourselves, How does all this relate to Lent, and more importantly, how does it relate to our church, our denomination, our local congregation? Are we “out of wine”? Are we so steeped in what we teach that we cannot see the Truth? Do we need fresh eyes to help us see, even if they are the eyes of people we wouldn’t normally associate with? Does God’s purpose in sending the Son (3:17) clash with our view of the “end-times,” for example? If we bring into this picture the astounding contrast between the Lion of Judah and the Slaughtered Lamb of God (Revelation 4–5), how does that fill us with new wine? What is God’s mission in the world? What is he calling us to do as part of it? Good Friday comes before Easter.