RCL Year B Palm Sunday
Saint Mark 11:1-11
Isaiah 50:4-9a, Psalm 31:9-16, Philippians 2:5-11, Saint Mark 15:1-47

What we have imperfectly enacted just now shows you exactly how it is that human justice contains flaws and fails to match divine justice. False charges, leveled against an innocent man and delivered with guile and malice exceptional for their purity and intensity; a political animal, cornered, taking unto himself the separate and conflicting roles of prosecutor, judge, and jury, and guided by a keenly accurate perception of consensus and the preponderate momentum of twisting and spiraling emotions and anxieties; and, finally, a mob enraged beyond its level of competence by fear and a thirst for blood and suffering, and ignorant of any reasonable idea of fairness or justice. These three flawed and crippled agents combine to secure an outcome so unworthy and so degraded from even their shortsighted understanding of what justice requires that we are forced to face how low the lowest common denominator can really be.

With the chief priests, Pilate, and the mob, a lot is going on. Those goings on are the usual content of Palm Sunday sermons. But, today, think, if you will, about what is going on with the disciples. They are in the background, but they are observers of all that transpires among the chief priests, Pilate, and the mob. Think about how these events dash the hopes of the disciples. They had hoped that Jesus would restore the kingdom of David and, in so doing, remove the Romans and the others holding them back. Never mind that they had heard three times from Jesus’ own lips how he “must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.”[1] Never mind that they wanted not this outcome. And the outcome of suffering and death he predicted thrice is happening before their very eyes. Think how disappointed they must be.

Later in Saint Mark’s Gospel, after the resurrection, when Mary Magdalene tells the disciples while they are mourning and weeping that Jesus had appeared to her, Saint Mark tells us, “they would not believe it.”[2] Stubborn minds are hard to change. The truth, Jesus himself, had stood right in front of them and told them three times that these things must take place. And when the last of those things takes place, and Mary Magdalene tells them of it, still, “they would not believe it.”

The celebration again this year of the Eucharist of the Passion gives us again this year the opportunity to do what the disciples could not do. It gives us the opportunity to believe him, to believe that he is alive, and to believe that he will do in fact what he has told his followers he will do.

On Palm Sunday, when we have the Liturgy of the Palms, the Prayer Book allows us to omit the Nicene Creed and the Confession. And we are going to omit them today. But what we are not permitted to omit at any time are to believe in him and to confess our sins. We are never permitted to omit to do these things, because he will do, like no one else we have ever known, exactly what he said he will do. “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.”[3]

[1] Saint Mark 8:31.

[2] Saint Mark 16:11.

[3] BCP, page 359.