April 9, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 22:14-23 (NRSV)
When the hour for the Passover meal came, Jesus took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!” Then they began to ask one another, which one of them it could be who would do this.
Jesus defeated Caesar’s power, but not by anything so obvious as sending an army against him. He defeated Caesar’s power by defeating the power of death that stood behind Caesar and every dictator before or since.
Yesterday, on the eve of Palm Sunday, we thought about the triumphal aspects of Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem at the beginning of Holy Week. Today, on Palm Sunday itself, we lean into pondering the aspect of this day that has led it to be called “Palm/Passion Sunday.”
In my Episcopal tradition and in many others, worship begins on this day with all the celebrations you might expect—singing, waving of palm branches, triumphant processions, the reading of a Scripture passage describing how Jesus rode into Jerusalem in triumph.
But the mood soon changes as the service moves on. In my church we read the entire Passion narrative from either Matthew, Mark, or Luke—beginning with the Last Supper and continuing through prayer, betrayal, arrest, trial, crucifixion, and at last the laying of Jesus’s body in the tomb. Why, you might ask? (Especially since on Maundy Thursday we read the account of the Last Supper again, and on Good Friday we generally read the whole story from Jesus’s arrest through burial from the Gospel of John.) Are we just humoring people who won’t show up to church again until Easter Sunday?
While there is an aspect of making sure all of the people in church on Palm Sunday hear all of the story, it’s also true that the Passion aspects of this day are interwoven inextricably with the Palm aspects. As prophesied in the Old Testament (see Zechariah 9:9), Jesus entered Jerusalem as a king, but not as a military hero on a great war horse arriving to wrest obvious physical, governmental power from Caesar. He arrived as a king who had come to die. Jesus defeated Caesar’s power, but not by anything so obvious as sending an army against him. He defeated Caesar’s power by defeating the power of death that stood behind Caesar and every dictator before or since.
In one of the Eucharistic prayers of my tradition, which it is my great privilege to say when I celebrate that holy meal instituted so many years ago during that first Holy Week, the liturgy reminds us intensely of Christ’s death-destroying power:
Father, you loved the world so much that in the fullness of time you sent your only Son to be our Savior. Incarnate by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, he lived as one of us, yet without sin. To the poor he proclaimed the good news of salvation; to prisoners, freedom; to the sorrowful, joy. To fulfill your purpose he gave himself up to death; and, rising from the grave, destroyed death, and made the whole creation new.
It may not seem like it now, and it may not seem like it from here, but all powers that are not the Risen Lord’s power will someday fail and fall. Ride on, King Jesus.
Where are you hemmed in by the powers of this world?
How can you help others who are hemmed in by the powers of this world?
Again—does Jesus rule over your life? All of it?
A very different song from yesterday’s, but one that also speaks of King Jesus’s ultimate triumph is the 19th-century hymn “Ride on, Ride on in Majesty.” Again, listen, contemplate, and ask Jesus to be Lord of all of your life and to show you how to advance his kingdom in the world.
King Jesus, let me never hinder you. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Please Lord, Save Us!
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Jennifer Woodruff Tait (PhD, Duke University) is the editor of and frequent contributor to Life for Leaders. She is also the managing editor of Christian History magazine and web editor for the Theology of Work Project, and a priest in the Episcopal Church. She has written a book of poetry, Histories of Us. Jennifer lives in Berea, Kentucky, with her husband, Edwin, and their two daughters.
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