Sunday of the Palms and Passion
The Commentaries Summarised
As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.
This Sunday's Commentary
The Gospel of Mark has been called a Passion Narrative with a long introduction. The very structure of the Gospel from the beginning points to this long and detailed story. John the Baptist in his ‘handing over’ and death prefigured what is to happen to Jesus. Not only does Jesus three times explicitly predict his violent death, he alludes to it in various ways throughout his preaching. In his suffering and death, the ‘strong man’ will finally and definitely confront Satan and bind him, thereby freeing from the power of evil all, who embrace their own crosses. But first, his confrontation is terrifying.
Of all Gospel narratives Mark’s is the most stark and brutal. Jesus is abandoned not only by his disciples but also, it seems, by God. Three times he pleads with his disciples to be ‘with him’ in the Garden. Three times he pleads with his Father to allow this cup to pass. As he dies, three different groups mock him: the crowd, the authorities and even the criminal crucified with him. As he dies on the cross, even nature goes dark. When he cries to God in abandonment it is not longer to ‘Abba, Father,’ but simply to ‘God’.
The forces ranged against him seem overwhelming. One of his own disciples betrays him, the Jewish authorities collude for his downfall, Pilate is weak, the people are turned into a murderous crowd, and the Roman soldiers indulge in gratuitous brutality as sport. Yet out of that very sinful group comes the one who gives the declaration that is the central point of this Gospel. The brutal centurion who supervised his torture and execution recognises: ‘In truth, this man was the Son of God.’
Mark has no extraordinary resurrection scene – no bright lights, no glory. Rather the overcoming of sin in the midst of life is Mark’s view of resurrection. When the angels give the order for the disciples to return to Galilee, there to meet Jesus, they give us also the order to enter into our lives, difficult and ordinary as they may be, and met the Strong One, who has overcome sin and evil.