Palm Sunday, 2015
March 29
Saint Mark 11:1-11a; Isaiah 50:4-9a, Psalm 31:9-16, Philippians 2:5-11, Saint Mark 15:1-47

Recently, I’ve been reminded of a sign I saw on the television about twenty years ago. A man held a sign, and it said, “There is nothing worth dying for.” That takes some thinking about. If there is nothing without which living becomes impossible, then there is nothing worth living for, either.

That sign describes life in this modern time: we are dulled, or satisfied, or complacent enough to think that nothing is so important that we would die for it or that we would live for it. That may very well describe us. Certainly it describes Judas, Pilate, and the Crowd in Jesus’ Passion that we have just rendered dramatically.

But Jesus is willing to die. He is willing to die, I think, for two reasons. First, he’s willing to die because it is his Father’s will that he die. Secondly, he’s willing to die to be a ransom for many. And those are good reasons to die. They are two good reasons worth dying for.

The Agony in the Garden, the agony Jesus endures before he is betrayed, is the agony of conforming his will to his Father’s will: “Father,” Jesus prays, “all things are possible to thee; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what thou wilt.”[1] And his teaching, so moving, about servanthood is a teaching that he came to give his life as a payment for others. “For the Son of man,” Jesus says, “also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”[2]

Jesus has two good reasons worth dying for. But those who accuse him, those who acquiesce in his death, and those who want him removed have such weak reasons to see him die. Their reasons are like our reasons, not strong enough to die for and not strong enough to live for. Pilate, representing Rome, wants to rid himself of a nuisance, albeit a nuisance of whom he said, “Why, what evil has he done?”[3] The chief priests accuse Jesus of many things which are elaborated in the other Gospels, but in Saint Mark they go unmentioned. The crowd, well, the crowd wants Pilate to release Barabbas, a murderer, whom they may wish to give back after they get to know him. But crowds are that way. We have seen changeable and fickle crowds on the television and in surveys and polls. And we should not forget that the same people who shout “Hosanna” upon Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem are the same people who shout “Crucify him!” a few days later.

But what of us? What of our reasons for participating in Jesus’ Passion? Our reasons ideally should be strong enough to live for and strong enough to die for. They should be as strong as Jesus’ reasons. And I think they can be. We should participate in the Passion, and in the prayers, and in the sacraments of the church, because it is God’s will for us to be saved. The Passion, the prayers, and the sacraments are the means God has given us to that very worthy end. Salvation is worth living for, and salvation is worth dying for. Jesus acted so. Secondly, we should participate in the Passion, in the prayers, and in the sacraments, because we have been ransomed. Ransom is our inheritance. Being redeemed in Christ, we breathe the air of the Passion, the prayers, and the sacraments; they are food which nourishes the redeemed.

The salvation Christ has given us and promises us in eternity are both worth living for and worth dying for. When we think about it, we know it’s so. And when we live like we would die for our eternal inheritance, people will beat a path to our door.

[1] Saint Mark 14:36.

[2] Saint Mark 10:45.

[3] Saint Mark 15:14.