“Commit to Renewal: Letting Our Time Together Be Our Prayer” by The Rev. Stephanie Kendell
We are so close to Holy Week! I hope the excitement and love that has accompanied you through this Lenten season is felt as much now as it was when we started this journey together.
This Sunday is Palm Sunday and I hope that you will join us as we study more deeply and hold more tenderly the last days of Jesus the Christ. Also be sure to join us for our Holy Week Services. Now, let’s read the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ from the Gospel of Matthew.
“11 [Jesus] was arraigned before Pontius Pilate, the governor, who questioned him. “Are you the King of the Jews?”
Jesus replied, “You say that I am.”
12 Yet when Jesus was accused by the chief priests and elders, he made no reply. 13 Pilate said to Jesus, “Surely you hear how many charges they bring against you?” 14 But Jesus did not answer Pilate on a single count, much to the governor’s surprise.
15 Now, on the occasion of a festival, the governor was accustomed to release one prisoner, whomever the crowd would designate. 16 At the time they were holding a notorious prisoner named Barabbas. 17 So when the crowd gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you wish me to release for you? Barabbas? Or Jesus, the so-called Messiah?” 18 Pilate knew, of course, that it was out of jealousy that they had handed Jesus over.
19 While Pilate was still presiding on the bench, his wife sent him a message: “Have nothing to do with that innocent man. I had a dream about him last night which has been troubling me all day long.”
20 But the chief priests and elders convinced the crowds “that they should ask for Barabbas, and have Jesus put to death. 21 So when the governor asked them, “Which one do you wish me to release for you?” they all cried, “Barabbas!”
22 Pilate said to them, “Then what am I to do with Jesus, the so-called Messiah?”
“Crucify him!” they all said.
23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” Pilate asked.
But they only shouted louder, “Crucify him!”
24 Pilate finally realized that he was getting nowhere with this—in fact, a riot was breaking out. Pilate called for water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, declaring as he did so, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours.” 25 The whole crowd said in reply, “Let his blood be on us and on our children.” 26 At that, Pilate released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus whipped with a cat-o’-nine-tails, then handed him over to be crucified.
27 The governor’s soldiers took Jesus inside the Praetorium and assembled the whole cohort around him. 28 They stripped off his clothes and wrapped him in a scarlet military cloak. 29 Weaving a crown out of thorns, they pressed it onto his head and stuck a reed in his right hand. Then they began to mock Jesus by dropping to their knees, saying, “All hail, King of the Jews!” 30 They also spat at him. Afterward they took hold of the reed and struck Jesus on the head. 31 Finally, when they had finished mocking him, they stripped him of the cloak, dressed him in his own clothes and led him off to crucifixion.
32 On their way out, they met a Cyrenian named Simon, whom they pressed into service to carry the cross. 33 Upon arriving at a site called Golgotha—which means Skull Place— 34 they gave Jesus a drink of wine mixed with a narcotic herb, which Jesus tasted but refused to drink.
35 Once they had nailed Jesus to the cross, they divided his clothes among them by olling dice; 36 then they sat down and kept watch over him. 37 Above his head, they put the charge against him in writing: “This is Jesus, King of the Jews.” 38 Two robbers were crucified along with Jesus, one at his right and one at his left.
39 People going by insulted Jesus, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “So you are the one who was going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days! Save yourself, why don’t you? Come down off that cross if you are God’s Own!”
41 The chief priests, the religious scholars and the elders also joined in the jeering: 42 “He saved others, but he cannot save himself! So, he’s the King of Israel! Let’s see him come down from that cross, and then we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God rescue him now, if God is happy with him! After all, he claimed to be God’s Own!” 44 The robbers who had been crucified with Jesus jeered at him in the same way.
45 At noon, a darkness fell over the whole land until about three in the afternoon. 46 At that hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” 47 This made some of the bystanders who heard it remark, “He is calling for Elijah!” 48 One of them hurried off and got a sponge. He soaked the sponge in cheap wine and, sticking it on a reed, tried to make Jesus drink. 49 The others said, “Leave him alone. Let’s see whether Elijah comes to his rescue.”
“50 Once again, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, then he gave up his spirit. 51 Suddenly, the curtain in front of the Holy of Holies was ripped in half from top to bottom. The earth quaked, boulders were split 52 and tombs were opened. Many bodies of holy ones who had fallen asleep were raised. 53 After Jesus’ resurrection, they came out of their tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many.
54 The centurion and his cohort, who were standing guard over Jesus’ body, were terror-stricken at seeing the earthquake and all that was happening, and said, “Clearly, this was God’s Own!”
55 A group of women were present, looking on from a distance. These were the same women who had followed Jesus from Galilee as ministers to him.” (Matthew 27:11-55)
I have a friend that when we are done speaking, she always asks that we hold our time and conversation together as a form of prayer. Friends, I ask that this week we let this scripture be our prayer with each other. May it inspire us to support and care for each other and may it bring us together in the grace and peace of Christ Jesus.
A quick prayer for your week: I breathe in Christ’s grace, and breathe out Christ’s love. Amen