Follow the Way of the Cross

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April 14, 2019 – Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord - Luke 22:14-23:1-49

The gospels were gradually written based on oral traditions and memories of those who were witnesses to the life and death of Jesus. They recalled his words and deeds. Those who study how the gospels were written agree that the account of the passion and death of Jesus was probably the first part of the gospel to be put into writing.

That’s because the death and resurrection of Jesus are the central moments of the life of Jesus. In recalling these events, we are reminded that death is not the final moment of the life of Jesus and our lives. Rather, death is our entrance into eternal life with God. It is a gift from God. We were created not just to live and die, but to live again. That is God’s plan. Each year, as we celebrate Holy Week, we are reminded of this amazing truth.

When we hear the passion read each year on Palm Sunday and during Holy Week, we might pay special attention to a few key points. First, Jesus willingly underwent his terribly painful death because he wanted to. He desired to show how much he loved us. He consciously faced the evils of his time, especially that which existed in power-hungry religious and political leaders. Both expressions of power were responsible for his death.

He suffered the death of a common criminal who was not a Roman citizen. His death is described in the gospel in careful detail. It is the only account of a full day in the life of Jesus. All the details are meaningful and can be a source of prayer and meditation for us.

He entered Jerusalem to shouts of “Hosanna,” which is what was commonly said during the arrival of significant persons. He shared a Passover meal with his closest followers during which he first washed their feet (a sign of gracious hospitality and service) and then shared his body and blood (which meant his whole being) with them. He then deliberately walked to his execution. He experienced terrible torture before he was led to the hill on which he was crucified. At that time crucifixion was the most painful and humiliating death possible. And as we now say, he did this “for us and for our salvation.” No greater love has even been expressed. Again, we say that “he loved us to the end.”

Earlier during his life, he said that we are to take up our cross daily and follow him. Doing so contributes mightily to our sanctification and that of the whole world. Central to our faith is a belief that we are created by God and destined to share life with God forever. And our path to that life follows the steps taken by Jesus. This week we are reminded of how steep some of those steps are.

©David M Thomas, PhD