Sunday, 5 April 2009

Palm Sunday, Year B

St Mark’s account, that we have just heard, is the most minimal of the 4 Gospel accounts, it gives little commentary. Yet, the meaning of the events is clear enough.

St Mark records the very dramatic words Jesus that spoke from the Cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
The man who had calmly predicted His death, three times (as St Mark records), and said that His death was to be “a ransom for many”(Mk 10:45),
The man who had foreseen His death when He referred to the woman who anointed Him as having anointed Him for His burial,
This same man, who had claimed to not just be a man but to be God,
This same man, when He was not just talking about His death but was Himself about to die,
This same man uttered what might seem like words of despair: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

I know that many people have heard these words read, and thought that Jesus despaired on the Cross, but this isn’t so.
It’s true that Jesus embraced ALL our suffering on the Cross, it’s true that He who was and is God allowed Himself to enter into the depths of our darkest emotions so that He could cry out as many of us do in darkness, “My God, why have you forsaken me?”

But to understand these words, we need to hear them as a First Century Jew would have heard them, we need to imagine them uttered as a First Century Jew would utter them.
It was common practice to utter the first words of a Psalm of the Bible when referring to the whole of the Psalm, just as if a Catholic was to say “Our Father” or “Hail Mary” we would expect them to be referring to the whole prayer.

These words that Jesus spoke were not just any words, they were the first words of Psalm 22, so to understand what Jesus meant and felt saying them we need to know the rest of the psalm.

This psalm was first said as a unknown martyr’s prayer, but it alludes also to things that Jesus was witnessing in front of His very eyes:
“They divide my clothing among them,
They cast lots for my robe”(Ps 22:18-19)
Which is what Jesus saw the Roman soldiers do to his own garments.
The psalm says, “all who see me jeer at me”(22:7), the soldiers, the high priests, and even the thief on His left did.
The psalm even says that they mock Him for His trust in God: “he relied on the Lord, let the Lord save him, if he is his friend”(22:8), which is also what the crowds said.

But, most importantly, the psalm is a prayer of trust in God, and of praise of His greatness.
“in you our fathers put their trust, they trusted and you rescued them”(22:4), “I shall proclaim your name to my brethren, praise you in the full assembly”(22:22).

These words of the Lord Jesus are His final interpretative words on all that is happening to Him. He said that this would happen, it was horrible to endure, but it had a purpose, to be a “ransom for many”(Mk 10:45).
His final words that declare that He knows what He is about, and He knows what His heavenly father is about. He is suffering, He is dying, but this will not be the end.

No comments: