Palm Sunday A

April 07, 2014

  • The Lectionary Gospel +

    Matthew 26:14 - 27:66

    Author: Scott Hoezee

  • Old Testament Lectionary

    Isaiah 50:4-9a

    Author: Scott Hoezee

    Comments and Observations

    I can still remember the day in Systematic Theology class when my professor Neal Plantinga asked a question I had never heard in all the years during which I grew up in the church: Why is it in the Bible that God’s action of Creation was so much easier than God’s act of Redemption?  Why was Creation a snap for God but Redemption required so much more?  In Creation God spoke, and it was.  Poof!   In Redemption . . . the story is so much longer and it does not end until the Son of God speaks a question borne of dereliction: “My God, my God, WHY!?”

    Why is that?   Why couldn’t Jesus, as God’s all-powerful Son, simply wave his hand and say, “All is forgiven! All is renewed”? Why wouldn’t that have been enough? Why wasn’t something like the Sermon on the Mount sufficient to set us all on a better, more God-glorifying course of life? Why does Isaiah predict that this world’s ugliness had to be laid on the Servant/Christ as the only way to make things right again? In short, how does Jesus’ suffering connect to you and me?

    In asking these questions, we enter a realm fraught with mystery.  There is much here that is arresting.  The Bible confesses that somehow, way down at the deep core of the universe, way down in murky regions that go well beyond our meager abilities to grasp, the Son of God’s taking to himself the brokenness of life reversed the course of everything that ever contributed to this fractured reality in the first place.

    Make no mistake: we enter here either a realm so profound as to constitute the most basic truth about everything or we here traffic in ideas that constitute the most ridiculous notion anyone ever came up with. As C.S. Lewis would point out, there is no middle ground. This business about the atonement is either absolutely correct, or it is absolutely false. Please don’t look at Jesus, and above all at his cross, and say that it’s maybe partly right, or that if it “works” for you, if it turns your spiritual crank, then that’s fine and dandy for you but there are other equally legitimate ways of redeeming reality. No, we have to believe this was the only way. We have to believe that this way alone works, and it works precisely because ours is a world of undeniable suffering that needs to be met head on.

    We suffer because this world derailed long ago. And there’s something about the nature of our suffering that requires God not to stand back at a distance but he must enter it. So a car bomb explodes and, as the smoke clears, a father sees one piece of his child here, another over there. God must know this agony and he must suffer it so that he can heal it from the inside. When one you love shrinks down daily from disease, when the one who once played catch with the grandkids in the back yard can now no longer raise a spoon to his own lips, God must know how much that hurts you, how much that humiliates the sick person, so that he can enter it and reverse it from a position of knowing compassion.

    God hates it all: the pain that tears at minds God fashioned in his own image, the cancers that eat away at the flesh God himself so lovingly created, the death that is the exact opposite of the flourishing of life God intended when he decided to share his life with a whole universe of creatures–God despises it all. Speaking for myself, when I see something I hate, when I catch wind of something that cuts against the grain of who I am, I usually look away, run away, change the channel. Sometimes we may learn about some awful disease that we’d never before heard about. When we do, we may say something like, “Well, I’ll be sure to add that to my growing list of things I’d just as soon avoid!”

    We look at what we dislike, what we despise, what we fear, and we recoil, we go the other way, we pray that nothing like this will ever befall us. We may even call that a “natural” reaction. And perhaps it is. But maybe that is also why it took a supernatural reaction to save us. God did the unnatural, yet supernatural, thing of surveying the sum total of all that was fractured in this cosmos but then said, “All that must happen to me, too, and I am going to rush headlong into it in order, in the deep mysteries of my being, to triumph over it.” God knew that were he to remain aloof from our sorrows, then his raw power would not be enough to deal with the brutal facts of our lives. We are not saved by power but weakness. That, my friends, is the heartbeat of the gospel.

    Illustration Idea

    The scene is the last day of school before the Christmas holiday. The boys and girls of an elementary school had just finished their Christmas program for the parents and now it was time to go home for the two-week vacation. One set of parents was waiting for Bobby, their Kindergartner who, along with all the other five- and six-year-olds, was carrying home a special project–the Christmas gift for Mom and Dad that the kids had been working on for weeks.

    With great exuberance Bobby raced toward his folks trying to put on his coat and keep his backpack on his shoulder all the while. But Bobby tripped, and the special gift flew out of his hands, landing with a sickening ceramic crash. For a moment there was silence, and then Bobby wailed. His father quickly strode over and strongly said, “It’s OK, Bob, it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter.” But his mother was wiser about such things and so she threw herself to the ground, embraced the tyke tightly and said, “Oh but it does matter, it matters a great deal indeed!” And she wept with her Bobby, she wept.

    Who has understood our pain? Who knows to the depths our sorrows and the sufferings that sin has brought to every last person on this sad planet? God only knows that when it comes right down to it, you cannot erase this world’s pain by waving it off and claiming it doesn’t matter. It does matter. It matters a great deal indeed. And because our God in Christ knows that, he has mysteriously and profoundly made it possible one day to wipe away every tear from our eyes.

  • The Lectionary Psalms +

    Psalm 118: 1-2, 14-24

    Author: Doug Bratt

  • Lectionary Epistle +

    Philippians 2:5-11

    Author: Stan Mast