Palm Sunday (B) Homilies


The passion of our Lord Jesus Christ

Gospel:  Mark 14:1-15:47

  • The Passion story from the Gospel according to Mark shows Jesus to us as the suffering servant portrayed in the prophecy of Isaiah.
  • Mark places Jesus’ suffering and death in the context of the Passover meal which draws on Jewish theology.
  • In Mark’s account of the Passion, Jesus is alone with no one to comfort him as he approaches the ultimate sacrifice.
SOURCE: Content adapted from Our Sunday Visitor

Scripture in Context

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Visual Bible
by Stephen M. Miller


Introduction to the New Testament
by Raymond E. Brown

Commentary by Fr. Clement D. Thibodeau

The Passion story is always deeply moving for the Christian community. We always see ourselves in the events leading to Calvary. Popular piety has taught Christians that they, too, were in the crowd that shouted for Jesus’ crucifixion. That was not Mark’s intent. For Mark, disciples are always invited to identify with Jesus, not with the mobs. All too often, though, in Mark’s Gospel, the crowd, the Gentiles, the outcasts, the “little ones,” are the ones who hear the message of Jesus while the disciples misunderstand!

In the Passion according to Mark, the Church needs to see itself as ideally conformed to the example of Jesus. The Church needs to be faithful to the end. The Church needs to be obedient to God. The Church needs to surrender itself into God’s hands. The community of faith must strive to reproduce in its life the saving works of the Master.

We are not “the crowd.” Our suffering and dying have value for the glory of God because of our identification with Jesus Christ. The Church for which Mark wrote surely needed that message of affirmation. It was enduring much suffering, utter rejection, and even death in martyrdom.

Christ, the teacher and miracle worker, will reveal his true identity only in death on a cross of shame. “This man was truly the Son of God,” says the centurion as Jesus entered into his death. In the humiliation, rejection, and execution of Jesus, God reveals himself as loving us beyond all human measure.

Our response should not be particularly one of pity for Jesus. Rather, the Christian responds in awe to the unrelenting love that God has for his people. He would see his beloved Son in death so that all could be saved.

In Mark, we do not hear who cut the servant’s ear, nor are we told that Jesus heals it. There are two trials in this account. One takes place before the Jewish leaders and the other before Pontius Pilate, the Roman official. The charge is blasphemy in the Jewish trial. The charge is political sedition or revolt in the Roman trial. Even if it was proved that Jesus claimed to be Messiah, that was not a capital offense. So, Pilate had to be brought in.

©2020 Father Clement D. Thibodeau. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Commentary by Fr. Eamon Tobin

The suffering and death of Jesus is the centerpiece of Mark’s Gospel. Hints of the Passion are found already in chapters 1-2, and by chapter 3, a plot against Jesus is being planned. Halfway through the Gospel, Mark has Jesus predicting three times the details of his Passion. In chapter 11, Jesus arrives in Jerusalem for the events which this Sunday’s liturgy enacts ritually. Six of the 16 chapters of Mark are devoted exclusively to the last week of Jesus’ life. This has led scholars to call Mark’s Gospel a “Passion narrative with an extended introduction.” Two central themes to watch for in Mark’s Gospel are:

  • The contrast between Jesus’ fidelity to God and his mission no matter what the cost, and the infidelity of the disciples and crowds. Jesus has no desire to die. He prays three times that God would spare him, but if fidelity to God and his mission involves embracing the Cross and death, he is willing to do that. This fidelity is expressed in his wonderful prayer of surrender, “Not my will but your will be done.” In stark contrast, we notice weakness and infidelity in the disciples. They fall asleep when Jesus needs their support in the garden. Peter, the leader, denies Jesus. Judas betrays him. At the time of his arrest, they “all fled and left him.” At the time of his trial, the crowds who have previously sung his praises now chant “Crucify him! Crucify him!” But not all are unfaithful. A few women remain faithful. One anoints him; others keep watch as he dies on the Cross.
  • Mark’s Passion presents us with a very human picture of Jesus. In the garden, he begs the Father three times to free him from dying. We can feel Jesus’ disappointment when he finds his beloved disciples asleep not just once but three times. What must he have felt when all his disciples “fled and left him”? How painful it must have been for Jesus to hear the crowds call for the release of the criminal Barabbas and call for Jesus’ crucifixion. Then consider the scourging of his body, the crowning with thorns, the crucifixion and, most of all, the sense of his Father abandoning him: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This is a cry of one steeped in human agony. Jesus pays the ultimate price for fidelity to his call.

A Woman and a Betrayer

Mark’s Passion opens with a beautiful story of a woman showing tender love for Jesus. This story is sandwiched or bracketed by two ugly scenes: the chief priests looking for a way to arrest Jesus and Judas plotting with them for a way to hand Jesus over to his enemies. There is a strong contrast between the two scenes. The woman’s extravagant act of love anticipates Jesus’ extravagant act of love on the Cross.

Betrayal within the Eucharist.

Using his characteristic bracketing technique, Mark places a conversation about betrayal in between the Preparation for the Last Supper and the actual Last Supper. Jesus singing “songs of praise” the night before he was to die a criminal’s death is extraordinary. Perhaps it says to us that as we spend our lives for Jesus, we also should sing God’s praises.


After the Last Supper, Jesus goes out to Gethsemane with Peter, James and John. Peter has just said how he will stand by Jesus no matter what. Earlier in the Gospel, James and John assert that they can “drink the cup of suffering” with Jesus. Now we see the vast difference between words and actions. They fall asleep when Jesus most needs their support. Later, they will all flee and Peter will deny Jesus. In contrast, Jesus remains faithful to God but not without a struggle. He hopes against hope for a way other than the way of the Cross. In the end, he surrenders to God’s will (“Not my will but your will”). In John 4:34, the apostles offer Jesus food, to which he responds: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me.” In the Passion event, it is important for us to remember that God is not demanding that Jesus die a cruel death. Rather, he wants Jesus to be faithful to his mission even if it means a cruel death. It is the truth the sin of humanity that brought about Jesus’ suffering and death.

The Arrest of Jesus

In this scene, we witness further the abandonment of Jesus. We just read how Jesus is abandoned through the human weakness of Peter, James and John. Now, we have the betrayal of Jesus by Judas. He treats Jesus as a friend by kissing him and at the same time plants the kiss to point Jesus out to the authorities. Then Mark tells us, “All left him and fled.” The young man who runs away naked is symbolic of us who may, in a time of crisis and fear, run away from Jesus, leaving behind our baptismal identity. Jesus is now left alone with his enemies. Not one of his friends shows faithful discipleship. In contrast, Jesus shows himself to be fearless and speaks up with dignity to those who come to arrest him.

Peter’s Denial and the Trial of Jesus

The trial of Jesus is a farce. Trials are not allowed at night. False witnesses fail to agree with each other. During his trial, Jesus continues to show himself to be courageous and confident. When he declares himself to be the Christ, the Blessed One, he knows he is signing his own death sentence and yet he does it. Then follows the threefold denial of Peter. These two stories are another example of contrast so strong in Mark’s Passion. As two examples of behavior under pressure, Jesus shows us what to do and Peter shows us what not to do. Jesus exemplifies courage, Peter cowardice. Jesus, while losing his life through steadfast witness, ultimately saves it; Peter, trying to save himself, in fact, condemns himself. Readers are called to follow Jesus. We notice that during his trial, Jesus affirms that he is the “Christ, the Son of the Blessed One.”

Jesus before Pilate

Jesus is then brought before the Jewish and Roman authorities. Both share in the brutal humiliation of Jesus. Pilate believes Jesus to be innocent but he is too much of a crowd-pleaser to let him go free. He shows himself to be a coward just as Jesus shows himself to be fearless and strong, the innocent sufferer who identifies with all who are unjustly and falsely accused. The crowds also fail Jesus, choosing a criminal over him.

The Crucifixion

Jesus is led away to Golgotha to be crucified. A stranger named Simeon is forced to help Jesus carry his Cross. After Jesus is crucified, the bystanders mock and verbally abuse him. Darkness covers the land for three hours. In this time of darkness, Jesus even feels abandoned by God (“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”). Sind separates us from God. Having taken the weight of the sin of humanity upon his shoulders, Jesus experiences separation from God. “The veil of the temple is torn in two from top to bottom.” This is the veil that separates people from the Holy of Holies into which no one is allowed to enter except the High Priest. The veil is torn back and the way to God is now wide open to all and not just to the High Priest. Then a Gentile soldier, a most unlikely one, recognizes the true identity of Jesus: “Truly this man is the Son of God.” We notice the presence of the women who continue to follow Jesus after all his make disciples have fled.

The Burial

In the early days of Christianity, some may have claimed that Jesus never really died. So it is important for Mark to include an account of Jesus’ burial so that people will know that Jesus really died. Dying is an essential dimension of being a human person. Joseph of Arimathea, a devout Jew and a member of the Council, shows himself to be an admirer of Jesus by asking Pilate for his body so that he can give it a proper burial.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Commentary by Sr. Mary M. McGlone

The four narrations of the last days of Jesus’ life on earth are the most similar of all Gospel narratives even though each evangelist makes his own particular theological points. Those points often come out in subtle details. By paying attention to some of Mark’s details, we can appreciate what he is telling us about Jesus and how he is challenging us as disciples to take up our part in the Gospel.

When Jesus sent the disciples for the “colt,” he instructed the disciples to explain why they were going off with it by saying, “The Lord has need of it.” This is the only time Jesus refers to himself as “Lord” (kurios) and the only time he says he is in need of something. The subtle message is that a colt, according to Matthew a donkey or work-beast, is the only thing this Lord needs in order to appear in all his glory as a servant.

Mark tells us that they brought Jesus the colt and they put their own cloaks on it for him. Symbolically, like blind Bartimaeus who threw off his cloak to come to Jesus, they gave him their all, their cloak of protection and identity. For the moment, at least, they were fully with him.

At this point the people cry out “Hosanna!” which means “Save!” Some spread their cloaks on the road and others waved branches as in a triumphal procession. As he recorded this, Mark understood well the irony of the people’s cry and their acclamation of the one humbly riding a donkey as the Son of David. They shouted, “Blessed is the kingdom … that is to come,” but they had no idea of what they were saying.

After the procession with palms, we will hear the passion story according to Mark. In contrast to the scene with a crowd who processed with Jesus acclaiming him as the successor to David, our Gospel opens simply with Jesus at table in a home. A woman enters the scene and pours oil over his head. In Jeremiah 31:22 we hear that as the Lord is creating something new, the woman is solicitous for the man; here, we see a woman anointing Jesus the way a prophet would anoint a king. In response to her critics, Jesus tells them that the anointing is preparation for his death — which we can interpret as a reference to his burial but also to the inscription over his head which publicly identified him as king of the Jews.

There’s a parallel to the entry into Jerusalem when, in Chapter 14, the disciples ask Jesus about where they should prepare the Passover meal for him. Again, Mark tells the story with subtle irony. First, they ask where they should prepare it only to discover that he has everything prepared — he knows where the room is and how they shall find it; they need but do what he tells them and carry through with the details. Secondly, Mark makes the point that they ask “Where do you want us to … prepare for you to eat the Passover.” He answered with the where, but specified that he would eat this Passover “with my disciples,” indicating that the coming Passover was not his alone; they, too, would be part of fulfilling the covenant it signified, even though they may not have understood it. Mark emphasizes that a second time, as he describes Jesus blessing the cup. He says that Jesus “took a cup and gave thanks and gave it to them, and they all drank from it.” Only after they had shared in his cup did he explain, “This is my blood of the covenant which will be shed for many.”

The distinction between preparing the Passover for him or for all of them and their communion with him in the cup of his self-giving, even before they knew what it implied, are keys to understanding Mark’s sense of what it means to be a disciple of Christ. In saying they would prepare the Passover for Jesus, they were ready for him to be their kingly Messiah, one who would do everything for them. Instead, this Passover was for all of them and when they gave him their cloaks and drank from his cup, they expressed their willingness to be disciples in spite of the pettiness, weakness and ignorance that would continue to plague them.

The rest of the drama will play out showing how the disciples were both willing and weak. When Jesus died on the cross, according to Mark the only disciples on the scene were some women who did all they could by simply standing by him.

The entire story invites us to see where we stand and where we wish we would stand. The good news is that, in the end, an angel tells the women to send the disciples back to Galilee. They can start all over again, this time more ready to remain in solidarity with their humble Lord.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. 2017 Reflections,  2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.
Feasting on the Word

Street theater & political satire

Preachers need to take seriously the fact that only a few verses in Mark (vv. 8–11a) actually recount Jesus’ entry into the city. Most of the story (vv. 1–7) relates the care with which Jesus has made the arrangements for this event. These verses give evidence that Jesus has planned the entire occasion in advance. He has arranged for the colt and even provided signals for the disciples to use with the people watching the colt. Jesus knows exactly what he is doing. He is carefully orchestrating a piece of “street theater.”

In his street theater, Jesus enacts a carnivalesque parody of kingship. He begins at the Mount of Olives (v. 1), the traditional location from which people expected the final battle for Jerusalem’s liberation would begin. From this traditional location, Jesus begins his “final campaign.” When he sends out for provisions, however, the situation becomes rather strange. The provisions he seeks are not the weapons of war, but simply a colt (not even a full-grown donkey in Mark!). Jesus goes to take possession of Jerusalem unarmed and riding on a colt.
When Jesus does finally enter the city, he enjoys all the trappings of a great military procession for a triumphant national hero. The people participating in the event do everything a victorious military leader would expect. In actions that would have been considered treasonous by the empire, the crowd spreads branches and cloaks before Jesus as a symbol of honor. They praise him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” “God saves.” “Long live the King!” And Jesus rides through the midst of the adoring crowds.
The whole time, however, Jesus is turning imperial notions of power and rule on their head. His theater is a humorous piece of political satire. In his “triumphal entry” Jesus lampoons the “powers that be” and their pretensions to glory and dominion, and he enacts an alternative to their way of domination. Riding on the colt, his feet possibly dragging on the ground, Jesus comes not as one who lords his authority over others, but as one who humbly rejects domination. He comes not with pomp and wealth, but as one identified with the poor. He comes not as a mighty warrior, but as one who is vulnerable and refuses to rely on violence. Jesus here takes the role of a jester, who enacts in a humorous, disorienting way a totally different understanding of “rule” and invites people to see and live in the world in a new way. The event takes on the air of a carnival—think of a procession by a New Orleans jazz band—where those on the bottom of society festively unmask and challenge the dominant social order.

SOURCE: Content taken from FEASTING ON THE WORD, YEAR B (12 Volume Set); David L. Bartlett (Editor); Copyright © 2011. Westminster John Knox Press. All rights reserved.
Christ-Centered Exposition

Jesus’ entry different from Mohammad’s

In no other manner are the differences between Muslims and Christians more sharply contrasted than in the difference between the characters and legacies of their prophets. Perhaps the contrast is best symbolized by the way Mohammad entered Mecca and Jesus entered Jerusalem. Mohammad rode into Mecca on a warhorse, surrounded by 400 mounted men and 10,000 foot soldiers. Those who greeted him were absorbed into his movement; those who resisted him were vanquished, killed, or enslaved. Mohammad conquered Mecca, and took control as its new religious, political, and military leader. Today, in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkey, Mohammad’s purported sword is proudly on display. . . .

Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey, accompanied by his 12 disciples. He was welcomed and greeted by people waving palm fronds—a traditional sign of peace. Jesus wept over Jerusalem because the Jews mistook him for an earthly, secular king who was to free them from the yoke of Rome, whereas, Jesus came to establish a much different, heavenly kingdom. Jesus came by invitation and not by force.

SOURCE: Content taken from CHRIST-CENTERED EXPOSITION COMMENTARY (32 Volumes); David Platt, Daniel L. Akin, and Tony Merida (Editors); Copyright © 2013-16. Holman Reference. All rights reserved.
The Biblical Imagination

Jesus’ choice of a donkey colt

The choice of a donkey’s colt was symbolic of a king coming in peace. If, when a city was conquered, the victorious monarch approached riding a white warhorse, the inhabitants knew he was coming to judge and destroy the city. If he approached on a donkey’s colt, they knew he was coming in peace (see Zech 9:9). A later rabbinic tradition said that when the Messiah returned, if Israel was not ready, he would ride a donkey’s colt. If Israel was ready, he would ride a white horse. The book of Revelation pictures Jesus’ return on a white horse (Rev 6:2; 19:11)!

SOURCE: Content taken from THE BIBLICAL IMAGINATION (4 Volume Series); Michael Card; Copyright © 2011-14. IVP Books. All rights reserved.
God's Justice Bible

No more concealment

Mark 11:9–10 There is no more attempt to conceal Jesus’ identity as Messiah. The long-awaited time has come. The echoes of Isaiah are here: the prophet of justice and the just king come together in the person of Jesus.

SOURCE: Content taken from GOD'S JUSTICE BIBLE: The flourishing of Creation & the Destruction of Evil notes by Tim Stafford; Copyright © 2016. Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Life Recovery Bible

God does not offer instant cures

Mark 11:1-10 As we suffer the pain of our addiction, we often look for instant relief. We wish someone would come and sweep all our problems away. The Judeans were expecting the same kind of deliverance from their Messiah. They wanted a glorious political king on a warhorse to ride into Jerusalem and sweep the Romans out of power. Instead, Jesus came riding on a lowly donkey, in peace. God does not offer instant cures; he works our recovery through a process of personal growth, from the inside out. He helps us recognize our sins and our need for help, and he gives us the strength to take the necessary steps toward recovery

SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

From “Hosanna” to “Crucify Him!”

Mark 11:9, 10 The people exclaimed “Hosanna” (meaning, “Save!”), because they recognized that Jesus was fulfilling the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9. (See also Psalm 24:7–10; 118:26.) They spoke of David’s kingdom because of God’s words to David in 2 Samuel 7:12–14. The crowd correctly saw Jesus as the fulfillment of these prophecies, but they did not understand where Jesus’ kingship would lead him. This same crowd cried out “Crucify him!” when Jesus stood on trial only a few days later.

Mark 11:10 Like those who witnessed Jesus’ victory parade into Jerusalem, we have expectations for what we think God should do to make life better, safer, and more enjoyable. Like excited spectators, we can’t wait to see suffering stopped, injustice corrected, and prosperity begun. Like the people on the road to Jerusalem that day, we have much to learn about Jesus’ death and resurrection. We must not let our personal desires catch us up in the celebration and shouting lest we miss the meaning of true discipleship. In our excitement and celebration, we must remember that following Christ involves hardships. It may include suffering, even death.

SOURCE: Content taken from LIFE APPLICATION STUDY BIBLE NOTES, Copyright © 2019. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

Sermon Writer



MARK 11:7-10. HOSANNA!


SOURCE: Richard Niell Donavan, a Disciples of Christ clergyman, published SermonWriter from 1997 until his death in 2020. His wife Dale has graciously kept his website online. A subscription is no longer required.


Palm Sunday (B) Homilies

CATHOLIC Bible Study

The Messiah’s Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem

by Michal Hunt (Agape Bible Study)

At the beginning of Holy Week, the celebration of Jesus’ triumphal entrance into Jerusalem and the remembrance of His unjust execution will lead us to our Easter celebration of Christ’s glorious resurrection from the grave. In the Passion, we relive Jesus’ last hours that ended with His betrayal and agony on the Cross. Crowned with thorns, He died the “King of the Jews” (Mk 15:18; Jn 19:19-22) Jesus is the Davidic Messiah-King who fulfills the eternal covenant God made with His ancestor David (2 Sam 7:16, 29; 23:5; 2 Chr 13:5; Ps 89:2-5; Sir 45:25) and whose coming God’s holy prophets prophesied. However, as we make our journey through the days of this week to Good Friday, we must remember that Jesus accepted this unspeakable suffering and violence out of love for us.

Fulfillment of the prophets

In Mark 11:1-10, Jesus prepared to enter the holy city.  He sent two disciples to bring Him an ass and her colt from the village of Bethpage on the Mount of Olives, due east of Jerusalem, on the road to Bethany (also see Mt 21:1; Lk 19:29).  This was to fulfill the prophecies of the prophets concerning the restoration of Israel:

  • See, the LORD proclaims to the ends of the earth “Say to daughter Zion, your Savior comes!” (Is 62:11).
  • Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem!  See [Behold], you king shall come to you; a just savior is he, meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass (Zech 9:9).

Daughter of Zion

The words “daughter Zion” refers to the holy city of Jerusalem and the covenant people as a whole.  According to the prophecies, the Messiah will come not like a conquering king or military leader.  He will come humbly as a Savior to His people.

The day after Jesus’ dinner with Lazarus’ family

The Gospel of John identifies this event as occurring on the day after Jesus’ dinner with Lazarus’ family (Jn 12:1-2, 12-19).  John 12:1 identifies the dinner as six days (as the ancients counted with no zero place value) before the Passover sacrifice, commanded by the Law to take place on the 14th of Nisan (Lev 23:4-5; Num 28:16).  Therefore, Jesus had a Sabbath Saturday dinner with friends in Bethany.  Six days from Saturday, with Saturday counting as day #1, makes the day of the Passover sacrifice Thursday of Jesus’ last week, Nisan the 14th.  Therefore, the day He rode into Jerusalem was the first day of the week that we call Sunday.  That the Passover sacrifice took place on Thursday and the sacred meal that night after sundown agrees with over 2,000 years of Christian tradition.  Jesus was crucified the next day on Friday that was “preparation day” for the Saturday Sabbath (Jn 19:31).

A young donkey that had never been ridden

The disciples followed Jesus’ instructions and brought a young donkey that had never been ridden.  They laid garments on the animal and Jesus sat on the garments on the colt.  Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on the colt of an ass was a planned and highly symbolic act.  Jesus’ symbolic act fulfilled the prophecy of the covenant with David that his throne would endure forever with a Davidic heir upon his throne (2 Sam 7:12-16; 23:5).

The people were reminded of the ride of King David’s son Solomon into Jerusalem on his coronation day (1 Kng 1:38-40) and recognized Jesus’ symbolic act: Those preceding him as well as those following kept crying out: “Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come!  Hosanna in the highest!” (Mk 11:9-10), and “Hosanna!  Blessed is he who is coming in the name of the Lord, the king of Israel” (Jn 12:13).

Jesus as the new Joshua

John’s identification of the Saturday dinner as six days before the 14th makes Saturday the 9th of Nisan.  Therefore, Sunday was the 10th.  The 10th was the day the Passover victims were chosen in the first Passover event in Egypt, and it was the day Joshua led the children of Israel across the Jordan River in the conquest of the Promised Land (Ex 12:3; Josh 4:19).  Jesus is the true Passover victim that all other Passover lambs and kids only prefigured.  He is the new Joshua (who had the same name as Jesus in Hebrew).  In His entry into Jerusalem, He is beginning His conquest that will result in opening the true Promised Land of heaven to the faithful through His death and Resurrection.


Seeing Jesus, the crowd shouted acclamations from the Messianic Psalms 118:25-26 (NJB) ~ We beg you Yahweh, save us [hosanna], we beg you Yahweh, give us victory!  Blessed in the name of Yahweh is he who is coming!  As mentioned, “Hosanna” is a word of Hebrew origin (hosi-a-na) that is composed of two words literally meaning “save now” or “save (we) pray” (i.e., 2 Sam 14:4; Ps 106:47; Is 25:9; 37:20; Jer 2:27; etc.).  “Hosanna” was used in the same way the English might shout out “God save the king,” and this was the way the crowd shouted “Hosanna” as an acclamation of praise to the one greeted as the Messianic son and heir of King David.

Psalms 113-118 is known as the great Hallel (praise God) psalms.  It was also called the Egyptian Psalms since Psalms 113-117 and retells the story of the Exodus while Psalm 118 promises another liberator: an anointed one” or “messiah” coming to save the people.

The parousia of a king

The four Gospels describe Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as the triumphal arrival of a king or military ruler.  Such a visit to the people by a ruler was in Greek a parousia, meaning “coming,” “arrival,” or “being present among the people.”  In the New Testament, the word gives expression to the Christian belief and expectation that Jesus will return to His people in the future (Second Advent of Christ).  It is the same term Christians used for the “presence” of Jesus Christ in the Eucharistic Banquet.   The Old Testament describes the parousia of a king in the Greek O.T. translation in:

  • 1 Kings 1:32-40 ~ King Solomon of Israel on his coronation day
  • Zechariah 9:9 ~ The prophesied arrival of the eschatological Messiah
  • 1 Maccabees 5:45-54 ~ Arrival of Judas Maccabee
  • 1 Maccabees 13:43-53 ~ Arrival of Simon Maccabee
  • 2 Maccabees 4:21-22 ~ Arrival of Antiochus IV [Epiphanes]

As already mentioned, the connection between Jesus’ symbolic entrance and the entrance of King David’s son Solomon into Jerusalem on the day of his coronation in the 10th century BC was certainly not missed on the crowds.  Jesus received the same acclamation, with the people even referring to Him as “the son of David,” quoting from Psalm 118 the passages referring to the promised Messianic king (Mk 11:10).  St. John records that the crowd quoted from the Messianic Psalms 118:26 ~ Blessed is he who is coming in the name of the Lord  (Jn 12:13; also see 1 Kng 2:38-40; Ps 118:25-27, Jn 12:13).  Jesus told His disciples that the day would come when they would not see Him again until they said this verse (Mt 23:39).  These are the same words we repeat in the celebration of the Mass just prior to the Eucharistic procession.

Application for us today

The question of some in the crowd as to Jesus’ identity on the day of His triumphal entry is the question facing each of us on this day of commemoration.  True disciples recognize Jesus as God’s prophet, priest, and king come to redeem His people and to raise them from death to life (CCC 788).  Can you profess with conviction that Jesus not only came on that day in history to begin the completion of His earthly mission but that He has personally come for you and has raised you from death to life in the Sacrament of Baptism so you might hear His voice in your heart and obey Mother Church on your journey to eternal salvation?

The Passion of Jesus Christ

The Conspiracy Against Jesus

The Conspiracy Against Jesus

Mark 14:1-2 ~ Jesus had been upsetting the religious leaders by teaching at the Temple in Jerusalem every day since His entry into the city.  They decided that Jesus must die, but they knew they could not arrest him when the crowds of pilgrims who believe in Him were present without causing a riot.  In this passage, St. Mark sets the countdown to the day of the Passover sacrifice.  It is two days away (also see the agreement in Mt 226:1-5).  As the ancients counted without the concept of a zero place value, counting the first day as day #1, it is Wednesday.  The next day will be the Passover sacrifice, which St. John identified as the sixth day from the day Jesus had dinner with His friends in Bethany on Saturday, the day before He rode in triumph into the holy city on Sunday.  Counting six days from the Saturday Sabbath dinner with the family of Lazarus as the ancients counted makes the day of the Passover sacrifice a Thursday.  The Gospels, therefore, agree that the Passover sacrifice was on Thursday of that week.

Dinner at Bethany and Jesus' Third Anointing

Dinner at Bethany and Jesus’ Third Anointing

Mark 14:3-9 ~The dinner on Saturday in John 12:1 was at the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus.  The dinner on Wednesday, Jesus last day teaching in Jerusalem, was at the home of a man named Simon, a former leper who Jesus had probably healed.  Lepers could not keep company with healthy people and had to remain isolated from the population (Lev 13:45-46).  The guests “reclined” at table, indicating that this was a formal banquet.  Reclining at a banquet table was a privilege of free men.  Slaves stood to eat.  At this banquet honoring Jesus, an unnamed woman anoints Jesus.  This is Jesus’ third anointing by a woman during His ministry.

Since Jesus and His Apostles spent every night either in Bethany or on the Mount of Olives (Mt 21:17; Mk 11:11), Jesus’ good friends in Bethany probably took turns hosting dinners for Him and the Apostles.  When Jesus ate dinner at the home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus on Saturday, it was Mary who anointed Jesus’ feet (Jn 12:3).  That was Jesus’ second anointing.  His first anointing was early in His ministry in Luke 7:36-38 by an unnamed sinful woman in the home of a Pharisee.  There is a controversy among Bible scholars over how many times Jesus was anointed and the apparent discrepancy over what day St. John recorded Jesus’ dinner in Bethany as opposed to the Synoptic Gospels. The accounts agree if there were two different dinners at Bethany the last week of Jesus’ life and two different anointings that week, for a total of three different anointings during the course of Jesus’ ministry by three or possibly two different women (Mary of Bethany may have anointed Christ twice: once on Saturday and a second time on Wednesday of His last week in Jerusalem).  Each anointing of Christ symbolized the three holy offices He fulfilled as God’s supreme Prophet, High Priest, and Davidic King (CCC 436):

  • Anointing # 1: Early in Jesus’ ministry an unnamed sinful woman anointed His feet with ointment and wiped His feet with her hair at the home of Simon, a wealthy Pharisee who did not respect Jesus (Lk 7:36-38).
  • Anointing #2: Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus’ feet and wiped His feet with her hair on Saturday, Nisan the 9th.  The next day Jesus rode into Jerusalem (Jn 12:1-12).
  • Anointing #3: An unnamed woman anointed Jesus’ head at the home of Simon the Leper in Bethany two days before the Passover.  As the ancients counted this is Wednesday, Nisan the 13th (Mt 26:1-16: Mk 14:1-11).

At the time of Jesus’ anointing by Mary of Bethany on Saturday, Judas Iscariot complained about the waste of the ointment that could have been sold and the wages given to the poor (Jn 12:3-5).  St. John records that Judas complained not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions (Jn 12:6).  At the anointing on Wednesday, others repeat Judas’ complaint (verse 4).  In the anointing on Saturday, Mary anointed Jesus’ feet, but on Wednesday the woman anointed His head (see Jn 12:3, Mt 26:7 and Mk 14:4).

There are many similarities between the two accounts of Jesus’ anointing during His last week in Jerusalem in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark during the Wednesday dinner at Bethany two days before the Passover sacrifice.  The similarities indicate that Matthew and Mark are recording the same event.  However, there are many differences when comparing the events in Matthew and Mark with the Gospel of John’s account of the dinner at Bethany six days before the Passover in John 12:1-13 (see chart in handout 3 from the study on the Gospel of Mark Lesson #9).

All three accounts of Jesus’ anointings use the same Greek word, muron, to describe the ointment, and the accounts in the Gospels of John and Mark identify the cost of the bottle as 300 denarii.  This information seems to suggest that the jar of ointment used on Saturday was the same jar used on Wednesday.  Also note the difference between Jesus’ command to the woman “to keep it for the day of my burial” when Mary of Bethany anointed His feet in the Gospel of John on Saturday and His statement “she did it to prepare for the day of my burial” on Wednesday in St. Matthew’s Gospel.  Jesus told the disciples that she “has anointed my body beforehand for its burial” in St. Mark’s Gospel on Wednesday when the unnamed woman anointed His head in both accounts in Matthew and Mark’s Gospels as opposed to His feet at the Saturday dinner.

St. Mark includes a significant detail in Jesus’ third anointing on Wednesday: She broke the alabaster jar and poured it on his head (Mk 14:3b).  It is reasonable to assume that Mary, in obedience to Jesus’ command on Saturday (Jn 12:7), kept the half-used jar of ointment and on Wednesday, knowing that Jesus has prophesied His death, she broke open the bottle to get the last of the ointment to anoint His head (Mk 14:3).  The Gospels of Matthew and Mark both record that the Wednesday dinner was after Jesus rode into Jerusalem and “Jesus’ hour had come.”  However, St. John’s Gospel account of the dinner in 12:1-11 occurs before Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, and there is no mention of His “hour” or Judas’ betrayal until John 12:23, 27.  What is ironic about the woman disciple’s action at the Wednesday dinner as opposed to the attitude of the men is that she believes the prophecy of His coming death and takes action.   The men, however, do not seem to understand and even protest her loving act.

There is another significant detail that indicates there were two dinners at Bethany: one on Saturday (Jn 12:1-11) before Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the other on Wednesday that is Jesus’ last teaching day in Jerusalem.  It is Judas’ betrayal of Jesus in his first meeting with the chief priests (Mt 26:14-16 and Mk 14:3-9).  There is no betrayal to the chief priests recorded in John’s Gospel after the Saturday dinner.  However, both the Gospels of Matthew and Mark record Judas’ visit to the chief priests to betray Jesus after the Wednesday dinner (Mk 14:10-11) and before the Last Supper on Thursday.  Luke also records Judas’ betrayal just before the Last Supper (Lk 22:1-6).  It is the Gentiles coming to hear Jesus’ Gospel message of salvation on Wednesday in John 12:20-23 followed by Jesus’ betrayal that signals the “hour has come” for the Messiah’s death and glorification.

It is obvious that there are two different anointings during Jesus’ last week in Jerusalem, but they may have been carried out by the same woman, Jesus’ faithful disciple, Mary of Bethany.  In the earlier anointing on Saturday, Jesus defended Mary and said, referring to the jar of ointment: “Let her keep this for the day of my burial…” (Jn 12:7).  That day has come and it is probably Mary who has broken open the jar to get the last of the nard to anoint Jesus’ feet in preparation for His Passion.

Jesus is Betrayed

Jesus is Betrayed

Mark 14:10-11 ~ Judas has walked away from the “Light” that is Christ into the darkness of sin.  He loved money more than he loved Jesus.  He followed Jesus, but he did not believe in Him.  There is no way to defend his actions.  He stands in contrast to the faith and purity of soul of the other Apostles and serves as a warning that in the Church there will be wolves among the sheep.  We know of Judas’ failings from John 8:44 and John 12:6 that describe him as a thief and a murderer.  We are told that he was the treasurer of the group, but he stole from the money collected for the poor.  When people complain about abuses committed by priests and sinners within the Church, we need to remember Judas.  Would you have left Jesus because of Judas?  Nor should one entertain thoughts of leaving the Church when bad actions unveil a modern-day Judas.

The Preparations for the Sacred Meal of the Passover Sacrifice

The Preparations for the Sacred Meal of the Passover Sacrifice

Mark 14:12-16 ~ St. Mark identifies the day: On the first day of the Unleavened Bread, when they kill the Passover, his disciples said to him, “Where do you desire that going we may prepare that you may eat the Passover?” (Mk 14:12; literal Greek translation IBGE, vol. IV, page 140).  The Passover and the week-long celebration of Unleavened Bread are listed as two separate feasts in the Old Testament (i.e. Ex 12 -13; Lev 23:4-8; Num 28:16-25) and Unleavened Bread is listed as a pilgrim feast (Ex 23:14-17; 34:18-23; Dt 16:5-17; 2 Chr 8:13).  However, in Jesus time (30 AD) the names of the two feasts were used interchangeably to refer to the entire 8 holy days.

The Jewish priest-historian Flavius Josephus (37-100 AD) records that in his time the term “Passover” came to mean the celebration of both feasts as one festival event: “As this happened at the time when the feast of Unleavened Bread was celebrated, which we call the Passover …   (Antiquities of the Jews 14.2.1; also see 17.9.3; Jewish Wars, 5.3.1).  Like Josephus, St. John refers to the two feasts as “Passover,” as Jews still do today.  Actually, modern Jews do not keep the Passover.  They keep the feast of Unleavened Bread from the 15th-21st because there is no Temple or sacrificial altar where the Passover victims can be offered.

Please note that in the Hebrew and Greek texts of the Old and New Testament, the victim is never referred to as the Passover “lamb” as it is in many English translations.  The animal could be a lamb or a goat-kid.  The instructions for the selection of the victim in the first Passover in Egypt required the people to select:  A flock-animal, a perfect one, a male, a yearling shall be to you.  You shall take from the sheep or from the goats.  And it shall be for you to keep until the fourteenth day of this month.  And all the assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it between the evenings [twilights] (literal translation, Ex 12:5-6, IBHE, vol. I, page 170).  Between the “twilights” is between dawn and dusk = high noon.

St. Luke tells us Peter and John Zebedee were the two disciples sent to prepare the room (Lk 22:8).  It was the practice of the residents of Jerusalem to generously open their homes to Jewish pilgrims during the Passover/Feast of Unleavened Bread.  They also provided rooms for the sacred meal of the Passover victim, a meal that had to be eaten within the walls of the holy city on the first night after the Passover sacrifice.  Sundown the day of the sacrifice was the beginning of the next day, Nisan the 15th, the first day of the seven-day pilgrim Feast of Unleavened Bread.  The owner of the banquet chamber must have already secured the Passover goat-kid or lamb for Jesus.

When Peter and John arrived at the house, they discovered that an upper room had already been arranged with the banquet tables and the couches for reclining at the meal (Mk 14:15a). However, as Jesus told them, Peter and John still needed to make certain necessary preparations (Mt 26:19).  They needed to be certain that there was an adequate supply of red wine for the banquet’s four ritual communal cups and the additional wine that the guests were to consume during the meal (Mishnah: Pesahim, 10:1C).  They needed to insure that there were stone vessels filled with enough water for the three ritual hand washings during the meal.  They needed to provide the other necessary foods for the women to prepare for the meal, and if it was not already prepared, they needed to set up a roasting pit and spit of pomegranate wood to roast the Passover sacrifice (Mishnah: Pesahim, 7:1B).

In addition to all those arrangements, Peter and John also had to personally inspect the premises to be certain that all leaven, a sign of sin, had been removed (Ex 13:7).   According to the Law, before noontime on the day before the beginning of Unleavened Bread (the day of the Passover sacrifice) it was necessary for the covenant people to do a thorough search of the rooms of their houses in Jerusalem to be certain that all leaven had been removed for the seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Ex 13:6-7; Mishnah: Pesahim, 1:3-1:4).

The covenant people were also required to begin a fast at noon: “On the eve of Passover [meal] from just before the afternoon’s daily whole offering, a person should not eat, until it gets dark” (Mishnah: Pesahim, 10:1A).  The “afternoon’s daily whole offering” is the afternoon liturgical worship service and sacrifice of the Tamid, an unblemished male lamb, and the “eve of Passover” refers to the evening Passover meal eaten on the first night of Unleavened Bread (the Mishnah and the writings of the Rabbis only refer to the entire eight days as “Passover,” as does the Gospel of John).  The preparations are ready, and Apostles are about to begin a journey that will reveal the fulfillment of the three times Jesus gave them the prophecy concerning His Passion and Resurrection in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke (e.g., Mk 8:31-33; 9:30-32; 10:32-34).

The Feast of Unleavened Bread and Jesus Announces His Betrayer

The Feast of Unleavened Bread and Jesus Announces His Betrayer

Mark 14:17-21 ~ The date of the Feast of Unleavened Bread on the 15th of Nisan was always set by the Temple hierarchy according to the lunar calendar on the night of the first full moon of the spring equinox (Ex 12:8; Lev 23:5; Num 28:16; Mishnah: Pesahim, 1:1; Philo, Special Laws, II, 151, 155 ).

And as they reclined at table and were eating…
What were they eating?  They were eating the traditional meal of the feast of Unleavened Bread: unleavened bread, bitter herbs, the roasted meat of the Passover victim and the meat of the voluntary festival offering if there was one (see Ex 12:8).  It was also permissible to have a mixture of fruit and wine that represented the red clay of Egypt and the sweetness of redemption called charoset.

To share a meal was the greatest sign of communion among friends and also communion with the Lord God (Gen 26:30; 31:54; 1 Sam 9:24 and Ex 24:9-11; Lev 7:11-21; Dt 12:4-7, 11, 26-27).  At the sacred meal on the first night of Unleavened Bread, Jesus made an announcement.  The joyous gathering must have become solemn as Jesus announced His betrayal by one of the Twelve.  His prediction fulfills a psalm attributed to His ancestor, David, in Psalm 41:10 ~ Even the friend who had my trust, who shared my table, has scorned [lifted his heel against me] me.  The words in the brackets are the literal translation; it is a Semitic expression for “to do violence” (also see the same words used by Jesus at the Last Supper in John 13:18 where Jesus, speaking of His betrayal said: “I am not speaking of all of you.  I know those whom I have chosen.  But so that the Scripture might be fulfilled, ‘The one who ate my food has raised his heel against me.'”  Also see comments on such a betrayal in Sirach 37:1-2.

The words from Psalm 41:10 recall God’s judgment against the Serpent in Genesis 3:15 concerning his relationship with the “seed of the woman” that is the future Redeemer-Messiah:  I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed; He will crush your head while you strike at His heel (literal translation in Gen 3:15; the pronoun “He will crush” can be read in the Hebrew as either masculine or feminine and therefore can refer to both Christ and His mother).  The Serpent’s identity is given in Revelation 12:9; he is Satan.  God told the Serpent (who is Satan) that the “seed of the woman,” who is Jesus Christ, will “crush” his head, or destroy him while the Serpent is only able to do violence to Jesus.  In the film, “The Passion of the Christ,” the opening scene dramatizes this prophecy very effectively and recalls what St. John wrote in 1 John 3:8b ~ The son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the devil.

There are the two reasons Jesus makes this announcement without revealing the name of His betrayer.  One reason lies in the response of the disciples.  First, it causes His disciples to search their hearts in an examination of conscience as they recall Jesus’ prophecy of His Passion, death, and resurrection.  They must ask themselves will they remain loyal or will they betray their Lord.  Second, it gives Judas the opportunity to confess, to repent his evil intentions, and seek forgiveness.

20 He said to them, “One of the Twelve, the one who dips with me into the dish.  21 For the Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed.  It would be better for that man if he had never been born.”
They were eating from a communal dish into which they had all dipped their hands, so they did not know which one was the betrayer.  The Scripture Jesus refers to that foretells His death is probably Isaiah 52:13-53:12.   In betraying the Son of God, Judas will condemn himself to eternal damnation.  But, just as Jesus opened the opportunity for Judas to confess and be forgiven by His warning, Judas rejects the offer.  That Judas’ actions fulfilled prophetic Scripture does not mean that he did not have free will in his decision.  Judas took full responsibility for the wicked path he took.  God’s divine plan anticipates human actions but does not cause them.

Jesus came to the feast dressed in the seamless linen tunic of a priest (Jn 19:23).  The manner of His dress identifies the Last Supper as a liturgical service.  The sacred meal opened with a traditional blessing of the food by the father or host of the feast.  All the food they ate that night was symbolic of the first Passover liberation from death.  It was a story that Jesus, as the host of the meal, retold for the assembled guests according to the traditions of the meal.  In addition to the roasted lamb or goat-kid that represented the first Passover victims, they ate:

  • unleavened bread
  • a mixture of chopped fruit with a little red wine and cinnamon that represented the red clay of Egypt
  • two kinds of bitter herbs that represented both the bitterness of the Israelites’ slavery in Egypt and the bitterness and suffering that is the result of sin
  • they were drinking red wine from individual cups and from four communal cups mixed with a little water that represented the blood of the sacrificed animal (Mishnah: Pesahim, 9:3F; 10:1-10:5).

They was also three ritual hand washings during the meal.  At one of those ritual hand washings (probably at the beginning), Jesus washed the feet of the Apostles to teach them the importance of humility in service to the Kingdom of the Christ (Jn 13:4-17). They also sang the Hallel Psalms, also called the Egyptian Psalms, (Ps 113-118) during the meal.

Some scholars have suggested that Jesus and His disciples celebrated the Last Supper a day or two earlier than the designated feast day.  They suggest He used a solar calendar instead of the liturgically required lunar calendar and thereby rejecting the date set by the Temple hierarchy.  Other scholars have suggested that no sacrificed lamb or kid was present at the meal and that the Last Supper only consisted of the bread and wine transformed into Jesus’ Body and Blood, ignoring the testimony of Matthew 26:26, Mark 14:22; Luke 22:15 and John 13:26, 30 that they were eating before Jesus took up the bread He identified as His Body.  It also ignores the testimony that there was a cup of wine passed before the Precious Blood in Luke 22:17-18 before passing the Bread of His Body and the Cup of His Blood.  The cup in Luke 22:17-18 was probably the second of the four ritual cups of the feast.

It is unthinkable that Jesus did not celebrate this feast at its liturgically designated time and according to the obligations of the covenant.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus supported every aspect of the Old Covenant Law saying: Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them.  For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.  Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Mt 5:17-19).  Jesus’ work to fulfill the Old Covenant was not accomplished until He pronounced the words It is finished (it is fulfilled/accomplished) from the Cross (Jn 19:30).  Until that pivotal moment in salvation history, obedience to the Law as it was intended to be fulfilled in the true meaning and expression of the commands, prohibitions and rituals God established for His people at Mount Sinai was supported by Jesus as the “way of life” (Dt 30:15-20).

Jesus fully supported the authority of the priesthood in fulfilling the rites and rituals of the Sinai Covenant, which certainly included appointing the dates of the designated feast days.  On His last day of teaching at the Temple in Jerusalem, Jesus addressed the issue of the authority of the Temple hierarchy: Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you…” (Mt 23:1-3; emphasis added).  Jesus would not have told the people to obey the hierarchy of the Church one day and then do the exact opposite by celebrating the Passover on a day other than what was designated according to the liturgical calendar on the next day.

The theory that Jesus and His disciples used another calendar and celebrated their meal earlier on Thursday instead of Friday comes from a misunderstanding of John 19:28.  After the members of the Sanhedrin took Jesus to the Roman governor, they refused to enter the Roman Praetorium and insisted on remaining in the courtyard of Pilot’s residence: And they themselves did not enter to Praetorium, in order not to be defiled so that they could eat the Passover.  In St. John’s Gospel, the entire 8-day feast is called “Passover” and “eat the Passover” referred to in this verse must refer to the Sacred Assembly at the Temple required that morning at 9 AM where the people brought their festival communion sacrifices (hagigah) that were eaten each day in a festive meal (Mishnah: Pesahim, 6:4A).  They had to remain ritually pure in order to attend the Sacred Assembly and take part in the communion meal (Lev 7:19b-21).  This verse could not be referring to the Passover sacrifice and meal for three reasons:

  1. It was not required that everyone attend the Passover sacrifices.
  2. If one became ritually unclean, one only had to ritually bathe in a mikveh (ritual purity pool) or be sprinkled with purification water and ritual purity would be restored at sundown (Lev 15:10-11; 22:5-7; Mishnah: Pesahim, 6:2).  The sacred meal of the Passover victim took place after sundown so there would be more than enough time for them to become cleansed and returned to ritual purity to attend the sacred meal of the Passover victim on the first night of Unleavened Bread.
  3. Jesus would not have used another calendar for the feast.  The religious leadership set all the days of the annual feasts including the sacred meal of the Passover victim according to the lunar calendar.  Jesus declared their authority in religious matters on His last teaching day at the Temple when He said:  “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.  Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example” (Mt 23:2-3).  He also said that all the Old Law would remain in place until “all things” had been accomplished (Mt 5:18).  He would have been as much a hypocrite as the Pharisees and scribes He condemned if He said this and then celebrated the feast on a day that was not authorized by the religious hierarchy.

The motivation of some to say the Passover sacrifice took place on Friday instead of Thursday is to reconcile their misunderstanding of how days were counted in John 12:1, their misunderstanding of what was said in John 18:28, and the difference between Jewish and Roman time in John 19:14.  They also want make Jesus’ death take place at the very hour the Passover lambs and kids were being sacrificed.  They apparently do not realize if Passover fell on a Friday the sacrifices began earlier at one-thirty (Mishnah: Pesahim, 5:1B-D).  They also do not realize that there was a sacrifice that perfectly coincides with Jesus’ Passion.  It was not the many thousands of Passover lambs and goat kids but the single sacrifice of an unblemished male Lamb known as the Tamid sacrifice.  The Tamid was the covenant’s most important sacrifice.  It was the single sacrifice of two lambs, ritually sacrificed and the blood of the first lamb poured out against the altar in a morning liturgy at 9 AM (the third hour) and again for the second lamb in the afternoon at 3 PM (the ninth hour) for the atonement and sanctification of the covenant people and the hoped for salvation of the entire human race (Ex 29:38-42; Num 28:3-8; see the entire section of the Mishnah:Tamid; Philo, Special Laws, I.35 [169]).

It is also ludicrous to suggest that only bread and wine were served at the meal Jesus hosted.  This theory completely contradicts all the Gospel accounts that clearly refute the theory that Jesus and His disciples did not eat the required Passover meal under the Law of the Sinai Covenant prior to the gift of the Eucharist. In addition to Mark 14:17, 20 see:

  • Matthew 26:20-21 ~ When it was evening, he reclined at table with the Twelve.  And while they were eating, he said, “Amen, I say to you one of you will betray me.”   Deeply distressed at this, they began to say to him one after another, “Surely it is not I, Lord?”  He said in reply, “He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is the one who will betray me.”  They did not know from this because everyone had dipped into the communal dish to eat.  Jesus’ Body and Blood was not distributed in a communal dish.
  •   Luke 22:14-20 ~ When the hour came, he took his place at table with the Apostles.  He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for, I tell you, I shall not eat it again until there is fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”  Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; for I tell you that from this time on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”  Then he took the bread …. And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.”  Notice that there are two cups in this passage.  The first is probably the second communal cup, the Cup of Forgiveness, and the cup of His blood is probably the third, the Cup of Blessing identified by Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:16.
  • John 13:25-26 ~ He leaned back against Jesus’ chest and said to him, “Master, who is it?”  Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it.”  So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot.  Jesus handed the “sop” mixture of the fruit and bitter herb with unleavened bread to Judas.  Notice that St. John and Jesus shared a couch.

The eating of this sacrificial meal in the middle of the lunar month of Nisan at the time of the full moon was the last legitimate sacrificial meal of the Old Covenant.  It was a sacred meal that Jesus transformed and fulfilled in the Last Supper that became the first Eucharistic (“thanksgiving”) banquet of the New Covenant people of God.  It was absolutely necessary for the faithful remnant of Jews who became the restored Israel of the New Covenant to participate in this last Old Covenant ritual.  It was necessary for them to be able to comprehend its transformation and fulfillment as a true sacrificial meal in the offering of Christ the Lamb of God in the Eucharistic banquet a New Covenant liturgy.

If the Last Supper did not take place during the legitimately designated meal of the Passover victim on the first night of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, then the Jews present at the meal could not have understood Jesus’ offering of the unleavened bread and red wine as His Body and Blood to be a continuing sacrificial meal and not just a symbolic gesture.  The suggestion that Jesus celebrated the Last Supper on a night other than the prescribed Passover feast erodes the belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and that the Eucharist is indeed a true sacrificial meal.

The Last Supper and the Institution of the Eucharist

The Last Supper and the Institution of the Eucharist

Mark 14:22-26 ~ Notice that Jesus did not offer His disciples the sacred meal of the New Covenant until after they were already eating (verse 22; also see Mt 26:26; Lk 22:14-20).  He offered the gift of the first Eucharistic banquet after the ceremonial passing of the first two communal cups of wine, after the unleavened bread that was dipped into the fruit mixture and bitter herb in the communal dish (Jn 13:26), after the boiled meat of the hagigah festival offering was eaten, and finally after the roasted flesh of the Passover sacrifice.  After consuming the Passover sacrifice, no other food was to be consumed, and only the last two of the communal cups of wine were to be offered to the guests: the third cup, called the Cup of Blessing or Redemption and the fourth cup that concluded the meal called the Cup of Consecration that concluded the meal.  However, for the second time Jesus broke with the ritual tradition of the meal; the first time was the washing of the Apostles’ feet at the beginning of the meal (Jn 13:4-10).

he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.”  The Greek verb translated “gave thanks” is euchristeo.  It is the origin of the Church’s name for the Sacrament of the Eucharist which commemorates the Last Supper.  Thanksgiving, “eucharistia” is also the Greek for the Hebrew Toda, the sacred communion meal of peace with God (Lev 7:11-21).

24 He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.
The phrase “blood of the covenant” is the same phrase used in the ratification of the Sinai Covenant (Ex 24:8).  The Last Supper is not only the New Covenant sacred meal.  It is also a covenant ratification ceremony in the presence of God the Son in the same way the representatives of the covenant people ate in the presence of God at Mount Sinai (Ex 24:9-11).

But take a moment to reflect that His statement is absolutely shocking.  Not only does it suggest His violent death in the shedding of His blood, but He asks them to violate a prohibition of the Sinai Covenant.  It is as shocking as His statement in the Bread of Life Discourse that caused many of Jesus’ disciples to walk away from Him (Jn 6:60, 66) when we said: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day (Jn 6:54).

This statement made remaining in the Old Sinai Covenant impossible (see Gen 9:4; Lev 3:17; 7:26; 17:10-12, 14; 19:26; Dt 12:16, 23-28; 15:23). The blood of a living creature was the means God provided for the atonement of mankind’s sins; therefore consuming blood was a prohibition for the people of God and the punishment for the violation of this prohibition was excommunication.  How then could Jesus ask His disciples to do what was forbidden by the Law of the covenant?  See 2 Peter 1:4 that tells us to drink the blood of animals would be base and demeaning, but to drink the blood of the Son of God is to be elevated to a share in His own divine life.

Notice the oath did Jesus swore in verse 25.  He swore that He would not drink wine again until the day when He would drink it new in the kingdom of God.  Drinking wine is a symbol of joy, festivity, abundance, and covenant union (Ps 4:8; 23:5b; Is 62:9; Mt 27:27-28; Lk 22:20).  The oath Jesus swore means He could not have passed the fourth communal cup that official concluded the sacred meal.  It was called the Cup of Consecration, and it symbolically sealed and confirmed God’s covenant with Israel for another year.  In offering those gathered what He identifies as His Body and His Blood, Jesus fulfills what He promised in the Bread of Life Discourse in John 6:35-56.  He gave them the living bread that came down from heaven with the promise that whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world (Jn 6:51). Jesus’ gift of Himself carries the promise: Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him (Jn 6:54-56; see CCC 610-11).

Peter's Denial Foretold

Peter’s Denial Foretold

Mark 14:27-31 ~ Jesus quotes from the prophecy of Zechariah 13:7 ~ Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is my associate [chosen], says the LORD of hosts.  Strike the shepherd that the sheep may be dispersed [scattered]…   How bitterly Peter and the others must have remembered their boasts as the tragic events of Jesus’ Passion and death began to unfold.  Jesus predicted that before the double trumpet signal of the “cockcrow” at 3 AM that Peter would betray Him three times.  There were indeed two trumpet signals at 3 AM: one from the Levitical guards of the Night Watch at the Temple and the other from the Roman Night Watch at the Antonia Fortress.  See Jesus’ identification of the names of the four night watches in Mark 13:35: Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning [dawn]. 

Jesus' Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane

Jesus’ Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane

Mark 14:32-42 ~ It was probably about midnight when Jesus and His disciples departed from the house of the Last Supper, exiting the city of Jerusalem and crossing the Kidron Valley to the Mount of Olives.  They went to a place called Gethsemane (oil press) that St. John describes as a garden; it was a place where Jesus often met with His disciples (Jn 18:1-2).  It is in this garden that Jesus will face His covenant ordeal.  A covenant ordeal is a test of obedience to God that often involves personal sacrifice.  Abraham’s covenant ordeal was his test concerning God’s command that he offer his only “beloved son,” Isaac, in sacrifice (Gen 22:1-2).  In Jesus’ covenant ordeal, God the Father is asking His “beloved Son” (Mk 1:11) to offer Himself in sacrifice, but Jesus in His humanity must submit of His own free will.  Remember that the first man faced a covenant ordeal in a decision to either remain obedient to the will of God for his life or to make his own destiny.  Adam’s test was similar to Jesus’ test (Gen 2:8, 16-17; 3:6-7) since both Adam and Jesus faced a covenant ordeal of obedience in a garden.

33 He took with him Peter, James, and John, and began to be troubled and distressed.   34 Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death.  Remain here and keep watch.”
Jesus took the same three Apostles aside that He took with Him in the healing of the Synagogue official’s daughter (Mk 5:37) and in the Transfiguration experience (Mk 9:2).

35 He advanced a little and fell to the ground and prayed that if it were possible the hour might pass by him; 36 he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you.  Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.” 37 When he returned he found them asleep.  He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep?  Could you not keep watch for one hour? 

What is the “hour” (see Jn 12:27).   And what is the “cup”?  For the significance of the “cup” see the chart on the symbolic significance of the reoccurring images of the Old Testament Prophets.  Remember, Jesus has already judged the Temple, the religious hierarchy and the people of Jerusalem and found all guilty of covenant failure. In the images of the prophets, the “cup of God’s wrath” symbolized divine judgment for rebellion against God in the failure of obedience to His covenant commands.

The “hour” refers to the coming Passion of the Christ.  This passage reminds us that Jesus is fully human and His humanity shudders at what He must face in offering Himself up in atonement for the sins of humanity.  St. Luke tells us that He was in such agony that His sweat fell like drops of blood (Lk 22:44).  But, of His own free will, Jesus submits Himself to God’s divine plan for Him and for the salvation of the world.  This is the cup of His Passion that He told James and John Zebedee that they would surely drink in Mark 10:39.  It is the “cup” of the full force of God’s judgment on sin, which he now willingly accepts (Mk 14:36) and fulfills the prophecy in Isaiah 51:17 and Jeremiah 25:16-18,

The key word is Jesus’ command to “keep watch” (verses 33 and 37). It is a command He first gave in His discourse on the coming tribulation in Mark 13:9 and repeats now.  It is a warning for disciples in all generations in every age of man.

The Arrest

The Arrest

Mark 14:43-52 ~ Again St. Mark announces that Jesus’ betrayal is by one of His own, one of the Twelve.  The chief priests, scribes and elders are the three groups that make up Judea’s governing civil body, the Sanhedrin, for whom the reigning High Priest serves as the president.  Judas’ prearranged signal, of a greeting and kiss that are normally acts of respect and affection have become acts of betrayal that illustrate the depth of Judas’ contempt for Jesus.  When Judas, of his own free will, refused Jesus’ invitation to repent but still received Jesus’ offer of the sop at the meal of the Last Supper, he closed his heart to Jesus and gave over his soul to Satan (Jn 13:26-27).

St. John’s Gospel relays the information that it was Peter who attempted to protect Jesus by attacking the high priest’s servant and cutting off his ear (Jn 18:10).  Jesus offers one last sign of His divine authority by healing the servant’s ear (Lk 22:51).  Jesus protests that they are treating Him like a robber, but acknowledges this is so “the Scriptures may be fulfilled,”  probably a reference to the “Suffering Servant” passages in Isaiah 52:13-53:12 and to the suffering of all God’s holy prophets for carrying out God’s commission (see Jer 37:13-16).

All the Apostles ran away, including a young man clothed only in a linen cloth; not a tunic but a toga, Greek style garment.  The incident with the young man is only included in Mark’s Gospel.   Many of the Church Fathers believed the youth was Mark himself.  Mark was the son of the Jewess, Mary of Jerusalem and a Roman father; his name is Latin.  Linen was the cloth of the wealthy and the young man is not wearing the tasseled cloak of an adult member of the covenant.  His escape in his naked condition recalls the words of the prophet Amos: the most stouthearted of warriors shall flee naked on that day, says the LORD (Amos 2:16).

Jesus is tried by the Sanhedrin

Jesus is tried by the Sanhedrin

Mark 14:53-59 ~ Mark places the narrative of Peter’s covenant ordeal at either end of Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin.  He contrasts Peter’s cowardliness with Jesus’ acceptance of the cup of suffering and His courage and resolve.  The way the civil and religious leaders conduct the trial shows their hypocrisy and the contempt they have for the law.  The entire trial was a travesty of justice:

  1. The council met in the darkness and in secret at the High Priest’s palace instead of in the daylight at the normal meeting room within the Temple precincts.
  2. The council members knew the witnesses were lying because their testimony did not agree, and they ignored the law concerning the agreement of at least two witnesses.
  3. No witnesses were called to defend Jesus.
  4. They had already decided that Jesus must die (Mk 3:6; 11:18; 14:1).
  5. The false witnesses who testify against Jesus recall Psalm 35:11-12 and 72:12.

The council clearly disregarded the Law concerning giving false statements.  Bearing false witness was forbidden in the Ten Commandments and the penalty according to the Law was death (see Ex 20:16; Dt 5:20; 19:16-18).  For this outrage against justice, the unjust sentence with which they condemned Jesus became a judgment on their own dark souls.

When it was morning [dawn] all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death.  They bound him, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate, the governor.
Matthew 27:1-2

Jewish theologian Philo of Alexandria (c. 25 BC – AD 50) on the Tamid sacrifice: Accordingly, it is commanded that every day the priests should offer up two lambs, one at the dawn of the day, and the other in the evening; each of them being a sacrifice of thanksgiving; the one for the kindnesses which have been bestowed during the day, and the other for the mercies which have been vouchsafed in the night, which God is incessantly and uninterruptedly pouring upon the race of men.
The Works of Philo, Special Laws, I.35 [169] Note that the Jewish “evening” is our afternoon.  The Jewish “evening” began after high noon.

At dawn in the Temple, the morning Tamid lamb was led out from the Lamb Office and was inspected by the High Priest or his representative.  If it was judged “without fault,” it was tied near the altar where it remained until the hour of sacrifice.  The same procedure was followed for the afternoon Tamid that was brought out at noon (Mishnah: Tamid). The single sacrifice of the Tamid Lamb in two worship services is intimately tied to the Passion of the Christ (see the chart).

Jesus' Trial by the Roman Governor

Jesus’ Trial by the Roman Governor

Mark 15:1-15 ~ The Sanhedrin condemned Jesus to die at dawn.  In the Temple, the first Tamid lamb was led out to the altar at dawn where it was inspected by the High Priest or his representative.  It was declared “without fault” and condemned to die in the morning worship service that was also a Sacred Assembly for the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Num 28:17-18).  Both the Tamid lamb and Jesus were selected by the religious hierarchy to die for the sake of the people (Jn 11:49-50).

The Sanhedrin did not have the power to condemn Jesus to death.  In the Roman provinces, only the Roman government had the power over life and death (Jn 18:31). Therefore, they took Jesus to Pontius Pilate who had come to Jerusalem from the governor’s residence in Caesarea Maritima on the coast.  The Gospel of John records that it was “about the 6th hour” Roman time, which according to our time would be between dawn and 7 AM when Pilate sat in judgment over Jesus (Jn 19:14).  St. John only uses Roman time and Roman geographic terms in his Gospel written from the Roman city of Ephesus for a Gentile audience (e.g., he refers to the Sea of Galilee as the Sea of Tiberius).  All the Gospels agree Jesus was taken to Pilate at dawn and record that Jesus was not intimidated by the High Priest, nor was He intimidated by the Roman governor.  Jesus was in charge of His destiny.

Jewish nationalism was always a problem during the annual feasts, and therefore there was usually an additional Roman presence during the festivals to ensure the peace.   Pilate had served as the governor of Judea since 26 AD.  All the Gospels record that Pilate was reluctant to condemn Jesus.  In the Gospel of John, Pilate declares Jesus “without fault” three times (Jn 18:38; 19:4, 6). Pilate realized the Jewish leaders condemned him because of their jealousy (Mt 27:18; Mk 15:10), and he continued to bait them by referring to Jesus as “king of the Jews.”  Pilate knew it was the title by which the crowds acclaimed Jesus on His ride into Jerusalem.

The crowd came forward and began to ask him to do for them as he was accustomed.
One wonders where this crowd came from in the early morning hours when most righteous Jews who had attended the sacred meal were either just getting up or preparing for the required liturgical Sacred Assembly at the Temple that began at 9 AM with the offering of the first Tamid lamb (Lev 23:7; Num 28:18).  Were these people cut from the same cloth as the false witnesses who were recruited by the religious leaders?

11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead.
It was ironic that the crowd demand for Pilate to release Barabbas instead of Jesus  The name bar Abbas in Aramaic means “son of the father.” They preferred to have a robber/revolutionary and a murderer released to them instead of the peaceful and innocent Jesus.  Jesus was the true “Son of the Father” who was the Son of God while Barabbas was the son of a human father.

13 They shouted again, “Crucify him.”
Crucifixion is the most horrific form of capital punishment.  The Romans only used this form of execution for non-Roman citizens who were accused of heinous crimes including treason against Rome (St. Peter was crucified but St. Paul, a Roman citizen, was beheaded).  Jesus’ crime was treason: fostering insurrection against Rome by claiming to the king of the Jews and the son of God, both titles of the Roman emperor.  The religious authorities wanted to have Jesus crucified by the Romans.  They wanted Jesus discredited as a common criminal and as one who was cursed by God by being “hung on a tree” who therefore could not possible be the Messiah (see Dt 21:22-23).  Having the Romans execute Jesus also protected them from the crowds of Jews who believed Jesus was the Messiah.

They did not understand that Jesus was taking upon Himself the curses they deserved for disobedience to God and His covenant.  St. Paul wrote, Christ ransomed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who hands on a tree,” that the blessing of Abraham might be extended to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith (Gal 3:13-14 quoting from Dt 21:22-23).

Christ the King is Crowned with Thorns

Christ the King is Crowned with Thorns

Mark 15:16-20 ~ Jesus’ silence before Pilate and Herod (Lk 23:9) and the ridicule Jesus endured at the hands of the Roman soldiers fulfills Isaiah’s prophecies of Yahweh’s Suffering Servant:

  • I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting (Is 50:6).  Spitting was an act of contempt in the ancient world (Dt 25:9; Job 30:10).
  • Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth.  Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away, and who would have thought any more of his destiny? (Is 53:7-8).
The Way of the Cross and the Crucifixion

The Way of the Cross and the Crucifixion

Mark 15:21-32 ~ A pilgrim to the feast, Simon of Cyrene, is forces to carry Jesus' cross when Jesus becomes too weak (Mt 27:32-33; Lk 23:26; Jn 19:17).  That Mark names the sons of Simon suggests that they were known within the Christian community.  The place of execution was called "Place of the Skull," Golgotha in Hebrew/Aramaic, not because the hill looked like a skull but because it was a burial site; it was located outside the city walls according to the Law since nothing "unclean" like a dead body could remain with the holy city of Jerusalem (Lev 24:14; Num 15:35; Jn 19:20).

As the Tamid lamb awaited its sacrifice, it was given a last drink from a golden cup.  Jesus was also offered a drink.  It was wine mixed with a narcotic to dull the pain, but He refused it.  It was probably a custom based on Proverbs 31:6-7 in which a condemned criminal was offered a drug.  Jesus refused to drink the wine because He vowed He would not drink wine again until He came into His kingdom (see Mk 14:25).

24 Then they crucified him and divided his garments by casting lots for them to see what each should take.  What we know of the horrors of crucifixion and the information that the soldiers cast lots for Jesus' clothing evokes Davidic Psalm 22.  The entire psalm is a description of a crucifixion victim centuries before the Persians invented this form of torture and death: As dry as a potsherd is my throat; my tongue sticks to my palate; you lay me in the dust of death.  Many dogs surround me; a pack of evildoers closes in on me.  So wasted are my hands and feet that I can count all my bones.  They stare at me and gloat; they divide my garments among them; for my clothing they cast lots (Ps 22:16-18).

25 It was nine o'clock in the morning [the third hour] when they crucified him.
Mark is the only Gospel writer to record the exact time of Jesus' crucifixion.  The Gospels of Matthew and Luke only mention the darkness of a total eclipse that began at noon after Jesus had been on the cross for some time, as does Mark in 15:33.  The darkness, a symbol for evil and sin in Scripture, engulfed the world.  The eclipse occurred:

  • After Jesus' first statements from the Cross (Lk 23:34).
  • After the soldiers cast lots for His garments (Mt 27:35; Lk 23:34).
  • After the men crucified with Him kept reviling Him, and after Jesus promised salvation to the condemned man to His right who professed his belief (Mt 27:44; Lk 23:40-43).
  • After the jeering and taunting of the crowd (Mt 27:39; Lk 23:35-38).
  • After "seeing" (it could not have been dark at this time) His mother, asked the beloved disciple (believed to be St. John Zebedee) to care for His mother like a son (Jn 19:26-27)

St. Mark writes that they crucified Jesus at the third hour (9 AM, see Mk 15:25) and the darkness came over the entire earth beginning in the sixth hour (noon, see Mk 15:33a).  The darkness lasted from noon until the ninth hour which is three in the afternoon our time (Mk 15:33; Mt 27:45; Lk 23:44).  It is contrary to the laws of nature for a total eclipse of the sun to occur during the full moon cycle of the spring equinox or to last for several hours.  Even secular writers recorded the strange event.  Julius Africanus quoted a Roman scholar named Phlegon who wrote a history in which he commented on the rare phenomenon of a solar eclipse during a full moon cycle at the time of Christ's crucifixion: "During the time of Tiberius Caesar an eclipse of the sun occurred during the full moon" (Julius Africanus, Chronography, 18.1 quoting from Phlegon's Chronicles).

The chief priests perfectly planned their attack against Jesus.  That morning all Jews who faithfully observed the covenant, including Jesus' followers, were at the Temple for the required Sacred Assembly that began when the Temple gates opened at the third hour (our 9 AM).  By the time the liturgical service was over, with its many Unleavened Bread communal sacrifices and personal communion offerings, Jesus was dead (Num 28:18-23).

At the Temple, the High Priest or his officiating priest sacrificed the first Tamid lamb as the Temple gates opened for the liturgical worship service of the Sacred Assembly at the third hour Jewish time (9 AM).  At noon, the sixth hour Jewish time, the second Tamid lamb was brought out to the altar.  At the ninth hour Jewish time (3 PM) the priest sacrificed the second Tamid lamb for the atonement and sanctification of the covenant people.

In the first Passover, the blood of the sacrificial victim that was smeared with a hyssop branch from the threshold to the doorposts and lintels of the houses represented the safe entry and protection of those under the "sign" of the blood (Ex 12:22-24).1  It was also a "sign" that visually illustrated the price of redemption and salvation, symbolically pointing forward in salvation history to the sacrificial death of Jesus, the Lamb of God (see 1 Pt 1:2; Rom 5:8-9; Heb 9:13-14; 13:12).  In His crucifixion, Jesus' precious blood was smeared on the cross beams and upright support of the Cross, becoming a "sign" of salvation and redemption.  His smeared blood was a "sign" just as the blood of the first Passover victims was smeared on the doorposts and lintels of the Israelite houses as a "sign" of salvation and redemption from the tenth plague.  The entire event of the first Passover and the salvation of the Israelites prefigured the Passover of our Lord and the salvation of humanity from slavery to sin and physical death.

26 The inscription of the charge against him read, "The King of the Jews."
Despite the protests of the chief priests that the plaque should read "He said he was King of the Jews," Pilate ordered that the plaque that normally listed the crime for which the condemned man was being executed to read "The King of the Jews" in three languages: Aramaic, Greek, and Latin (Jn 19:19-22).  The irony is that it was the truth.

The Death of Jesus

The Death of Jesus

Mark 15:33-41 ~ The daily Tamid sacrifice was the most important of all the blood sacrifrices of the Old Covenant.  According to the Law, all other sacrifice could only be offered “in addition” to the Tamid (ordained 15 times in Num 28-29).  According to Flavius Josephus, who was himself a chief priest in the first century AD, the afternoon Tamid was sacrificed at the ninth hour, our three in the afternoon (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 14.4.3 [65]).  Despite the darkness, the liturgy of the afternoon Tamid continued at the Temple by the light of the altar fire. But what is the connection between Jesus and the Tamid sacrifice?  It was a single sacrifice of two lambs offered to God in perpetuity until the destruction of the Temple and the end of the Sinai Covenant (Ex 29:38-42; Num 28:3-8; Dan 11:31): one in the morning at 9 AM and the second in the afternoon at 3 PM with each sacrifice accompanied by a red wine libation and unleavened bread.

The Hebrew word “Tamid” means “standing” as in continual or perpetual.  It is significant how St. John described Jesus in his vision in Revelation 5:6.  Jesus is the true Lamb of God which every Tamid lamb down through the centuries only prefigured.  St. John saw Jesus as the “Lamb Standing” (Arion Hesketos) before the throne of God, continually offering up His perfect, unblemished sacrifice.  Jesus’ sacrifice, like the Tamid, was a single sacrifice of His humanity (morning Tamid) and His divinity (afternoon Tamid).  His sacrifice is continually (the meaning of the word tamid) made present on the altar of the New Covenant people of God with unleavened bread that becomes His glorified Body and a red wine libation that becomes His precious Blood.  For more information concerning Christ’s fulfillment of the Tamid Sacrifice see the e-book “Jesus and the Mystery of the Tamid Sacrifice.”

Jesus, the unblemished Lamb of God, fulfilled all the different classes of the blood sacrifices of the Old Covenant.  However, the Passover blood sacrifice of the thousands of unblemished male lambs and goat-kids, the Tamid sacrifice of the single sacrifice of two unblemished male lambs offered for the expiation and sanctification of the covenant people (one in a liturgical worship service every morning and another in the afternoon), and the sacrifice of an unblemished male lamb on the day of the Feast of Firstfruits on the first day after the Sabbath of the Holy Week of Unleavened Bread were sacrifices that were uniquely fulfilled in Christ’s Passion and Resurrection:

  1. Jesus fulfilled the sacrifice of the Passover in the Last Supper when Jesus began His walk to the altar of the Cross.
  2. Jesus fulfilled the sacrifice of the unblemished Tamid lambs, a single sacrifice offered in a morning and afternoon liturgical service, in His Passion and sacrificial death on the altar of the Cross, offering the single sacrifice of His humanity and divinity.
  3. The Feast of Firstfruits was celebrated on the day after the Sabbath during the Holy Week of Unleavened Bread.  The Law required the sacrifice was a single, unblemished, male lamb (Lev 23:10-12).  Resurrection Sunday was the Feast of Firstfruits when Jesus became the “firstfruits” of the resurrected dead (1 Cor 15:20-23).

34 And at three o’clock [the ninth hour] Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
According to the Gospels, Jesus made seven statements from the altar of the Cross:

Jesus’ Last Seven Statements from the Cross Scripture
1. “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” Lk 23:34
2. “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Lk 23:42
3. “Woman, behold, your son”… “Behold, your mother.” Jn 19:26-27
4. “Eli, Eli lema sabachthani,” “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” = Hebrew

“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani,” “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” = Aramaic*

Mt 27:46 (*Ps 22:1a quoted in Hebrew)

Mk 15:34 (Jesus quoted from Ps 22:1/2a in Aramaic)

5. “I thirst.” Jn 19:28
6. “It is fulfilled.”+ Jn 19:30
7. “Father, into your hands I commend my Spirit.”+ Lk 23:46 (Ps 31:5/6 quoted)
Michal E. Hunt © copyright 2012


*Jesus has alluded to Psalm 22 in Mt 27:35, 39 and 43.  +It is hard to know which of these two statements are His last words from the Cross.  Also see the document on the Crucifixion.

35 Some of the bystanders who heard it said, “Look, he is calling Elijah.”  36 One of them ran, soaked a sponge with wine, put it on a reed, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to take him down.”  37 Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.
Some in the crowd were confused by His words, thinking Jesus was calling on the prophet Elijah.  St. John records that the “reed” upon which the drink of wine was offered was a hyssop branch.  Jesus drank the wine and then cried out, “It is finished” before He took His last breath and gave up His spirit (Jn 19:29).

It is significant that the reed was a hyssop branch and that Jesus drank this wine while He had refused the wine earlier because of His vow not to drink wine until He came into His Kingdom (Lk 22:17).  In the first Passover in Egypt, the people used a hyssop branch to smear the atoning blood of the first Passover victim around the doors of the houses of the children of Israel as a “sign” of redemption and salvation (see Ex 12:22).  It is fitting in Jesus’ crucifixion that the soldier uses a hyssop branch to give Jesus the wine that symbolized the “wine of God’s wrath” in divine judgment (Is 51:17-22; Jer 25:15; Rev 16:19) that Jesus takes upon Himself as God accepts His sacrifice and He enters into His Kingdom.

As Jesus prepared to enter into His divine Kingdom, the wine He drank was also symbolic of the 4th Cup of the sacred Passover meal that He could not offer at the end of the meal.  When the host offers the last cup, the host of the meal says “It is finished” (can also be translated “It is fulfilled”), announcing the fulfillment of the obligation for another year and the people are again consecrated to the covenant with Yahweh.  What is “finished/fulfilled” that Jesus announces is the Old Covenant (see Mt 5:18; Heb 8:6, 13).  His words announce that there is now a new Passover sacrifice whose blood has been offered for the purification of sins (Heb 9:22, 27-28) and a new sacred meal that will mark the continuation of a New Covenant in the blood of Christ.

38 The veil of the Sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.
The curtain that was torn from top to bottom covered the entrance to the Temple’s most sacred space where God’s Presence dwelled in the midst of His people, the Holy of Holies.  Jewish priest-historian Flavius Josephus wrote that the thickness of the curtain was the width of a man’s hand (Antiquities of the Jews, 3.7.7).  The tearing of the veil that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies was not a natural event.  The ripping open of the curtain signifies that the way into God’s Divine Presence in the heavenly Sanctuary, closed since the Fall of our original parents, is now opened and ready to receive the souls of the just.  God the Father has accepted His Son’s atoning sacrifice (see CCC 536 and 1026).

39 When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he breathed his last he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” 
The Roman officer is the first to proclaim Jesus the Son of God after the Crucifixion.  It is a foreshadowing of the coming of the Gentiles into the New Covenant Kingdom.

The Burial of Jesus

The Burial of Jesus

Mark 15:42-47 ~ The Jewish “evening” is our afternoon since the next day began at sundown.  Mark 15:42 and John 19:31 establish Jesus’ crucified on Friday, which is called “preparation day” for the Saturday Sabbath.  Pilate was surprised that Jesus had died because it was not uncommon for a crucifixion victim to last for three days.

It was necessary for Jesus’ friends to get custody of His body as soon as possible on Friday afternoon. At sundown the Sabbath would begin, and if they want to bury Him according to the Law and traditions of the Jews, He must be in the tomb before sundown.  If they hadn’t acted as soon as possible, the Romans would have cremated the body according to Roman customs.  The tomb was a new tomb (not previously used) that belonged to Joseph of Arimathea who was one of Jesus’ disciples (Mt 27:57-60).  The Gospel accounts do not mention Jesus’ body being washed in the usually way of a person who died naturally because the blood of a person who died a violent death had to remain with the body.   That the shroud was made of linen means it was very expensive.  The women disciples watched to mark the place so they would be able to return and continue the customary mourning after the Sabbath on the first day of the week.

SOURCE: content taken from Michal E. Hunt at Agape Bible Study; used with permission. Section divisions and titles added.


Palm Sunday (B) Homilies

Paul Schlachter

Truly this man was the Son of God

Points to consider

Since the first Gospel is that of Mark, it would be the closest in time to the events that it interprets, including the Passion.  That alone makes it a precious witness to ‘what really happened,’ regardless of its perceived literary quality.

We usually divide this lengthy reading among various people, though in many ways a single motivated and prepared lector can send a better focused and more effective message to the assembly than three or four ministers who do not coordinate their efforts.

If I were the sole narrator and speaker of dialog, I would of course keep track of the faith that drove the first Christians to retell this traumatic story over and over.  As I pass from scene to scene I discover the details that shed light on the purpose of it all, and its meaning for us today.  In this respect Mark and Matthew are in general agreement.

In the narrative of Mark, though, I hear many sharp, vivid details that the later evangelists have smoothed out or deleted.  For example, here the woman doesn’t just come with an alabaster jar of costly perfumed oil.  We also learn that it was made of costly genuine spikenard, and that she broke the alabaster jar.  Another example: the disciples are not going to see a certain man about their ‘Cenacle,’ but according to Mark a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water.  Follow him to his master who will show you a large upper room furnished and ready.

One of the most poignant scenes in the narration comes in Gethsemane, where Mark alone puts the Aramaic plea into Jesus’ mouth: AbbaFatherall things are possible to you.

Mark presents Jesus as someone well aware of all that would happen to him, conscious of convergence with the ancient Scriptures, and ready to bear it all freely.  I do not hear elaborations contained in the other evangelists’ later additions: the suicide of Judas, the dream of Pilate’s wife, the conversion of the crucified thief, the parting words to his mother and the beloved disciple, or the appearance of the dead in the city.  Mark’s version, the original version, is an unadorned, stark view of what Jesus suffered.  I note the trumped-up charges; even the witnesses who agreed with each other took the stand and testified falsely against him.

Of the four Passion narratives, Mark’s carries the least troublesome baggage concerning Christians and Jews.  The Sanhedrin held a council and handed him over to Pilate who in his turn handed him over to be crucified.

Key elements

Climax: a centurion declares Truly this man was the Son of God!

Message for our assembly: remember through all the gory details, more deeply than ever on this Passion Sunday, that Jesus died for us and that he died freely.

I will challenge myself: Not to get in the way of the narrative, but to declare it soberly as it was declared among Mark’s disciples, Jews and Gentiles alike.

Word to Eucharist

Word to Eucharist: We sing the Taize round "Jesus, remember me."  Now we should sing silently "Jesus, may we remember you."  Is it "Final Four Sunday" or Palm Sunday?

SOURCE: Paul J. Schlachter at LectorWorks.org; Used with permission
Greg Warnusz

The Passion text online

Fom Saint Didacus Church, Sylmar, California, USA:

The passion needs no introduction.

SOURCE: Greg Warnusz at LectorPrep.org


Palm Sunday (B) Homilies

Catholic Productions
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Jesus’ Hour

Jesus speaks about his hour all throughout the Gospel of John. What is it that he is speaking of, and why is it when some Gentiles seek after him that he finally states that his hour has come? Check out this video with Dr. Brant Pitre to learn more about this topic.

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Bishop Barron on Palm Sunday

Another part of a video series from Wordonfire.org. Father Barron will be commenting on subjects from modern day culture.

Ascension Presents
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Jesus, Palm Sunday, and the New Covenant

In this week's Encountering the Word video for Palm Sunday (Year B), Jeff Cavins shows us how Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem was the beginning of his entering into a new covenant with humanity.

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