Today is Palm Sunday, the last Sunday in Lent. As we move into Holy Week, it is helpful to remember that every Sunday is a “mini-Easter,” a celebration of the Resurrection. Even in the darkest of weeks, we can know that Sunday is coming.
The reading from Isaiah is the first of several this week. The Book of Isaiah contains four sections that have become known as the Servant Poems or the Songs of the Suffering Servant. Today’s reading from Isaiah 50:4-9a is the third of these songs in which God’s servant is pictured as suffering torment and abuse, but is faithful to God and is ultimately vindicated. Christians have long identified Jesus as the servant who suffers for God’s purposes, and does so with faithfulness. We can never lose sight of the difficulty of this mission.
Pain accompanies this mission, so what may be done with it? The 31st Psalm we read from today is one of the great “psalms of complaint.” From the depths of extreme agony and fear, the heart of the Psalmist is poured out before God. Even in complaint, there is faith that turning towards God is the appropriate response. God invites even our darkest moments to be laid before Him.
In the reading from Philippians, we are again reminded that the mind we are called to have is one of humility. Although we live in a culture that promotes personal pride and assertion of one’s own greatness, the example of Christ points to a different way of being human. The mind of Christ turns away from the self and towards the needs of others. Jesus walks this path in faithfulness to God. It is the path down which we are called to follow Him.
The Gospel passage is Mark’s full account of Jesus’ final two days. It is a long passage, but reading it in one sitting is our best method for feeling something of the awful weight borne by Jesus. Many readers are surprised at the distress and humanity Jesus displays in Mark’s account. His task is not easy. He is repeatedly betrayed, abandoned, attacked, scorned, and neglected. And yet, Jesus walks this path in faith and obedience.