March 20, 2016
PALM SUNDAY OF THE LORD’S PASSION
The Procession With Palms
The Third Servant Song
Ps 22:8-9, 17-20, 23-24
My God, Why have you abandoned me?
The Kenosis Hymn: He emptied himself
Luke’s Passion Account
We come to Passion Sunday and Holy Week. This year we hear the Passion story according to Luke. Here are seven things (among many) to listen for in Luke’s account that do not appear in the other gospels.
- At the Supper, we hear about two cups. This has generated a degree of confusion, and much reworking of the account, in past ages. However, if you look closely at the parallel lines in the passage, you will discover that there are two moments, each with a cup. The first involves the Passover meal and a cup (22:15-18). This is about Jesus fasting until the coming of the kingdom of God. It looks backward to the story that is coming to an end, Jesus’ own story. The second is what he is setting up for the church for the future (22:19-20). This involves breaking the bread of his body and sharing the cup of the New Covenant in his blood, done in remembrance. This we share today.
- Again at the Supper, Jesus delegates authority to the Apostles, despite their obvious unreadiness. They are arguing over who is the first, but he offers them an authority that is based on service. He speaks as one serving at table. Their authority is not that of the Gentiles, those who lord over others, but like those who serve.
- At the arrest of Jesus in the garden, Luke is the one who tells about the healing of the guard’s severed ear. This is not only consistent with the portrait of Jesus as healer, but it also dramatizes the nonviolence of Jesus. The very opposite of violence, which aims to injure, is the healing act. Healing reverses the injury. Violence coerces, when used as a threat. The same can scarcely be said of healing.
- Notice in the scene of Peter’s denial in the courtyard of the high priest, Luke has a special moment not recorded in the other accounts. In this version, Jesus is still in the courtyard himself, not yet having been brought inside. When the rooster crows, signaling the moment of Peter’s denial, Jesus looks at him, and they lock eyes. We know that at this moment each knows that the other knows.
- Only in this story do we hear about Herod examining Jesus. This is not Herod the Great, who died in 4 B.C., but rather his son, Herod Antipas. When the father died, the son was given the territory of Galilee, which he ruled throughout the lifetime of Jesus. He was also responsible for the death of John the Baptist, a story not recorded by Luke. Perhaps this episode in the Passion makes up for that.
- In Luke’s account we hear about the women who mourn and lament him. This leads to Jesus’ address to the “Daughters of Jerusalem.” His rather ironic “beatitude”—“Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and breasts that never sucked.” It looks ahead to difficult times for the city. Compare other beatitudes involving women, such as Luke 11:278-28, or even that of Elizabeth, Luke 1:42.
- Only in Luke do we hear about the Good Thief. This dramatic episode comes at the end of a series of mocking moments involving temple authorities, Roman soldiers, rulers in Jerusalem, and finally the other criminal. It all leads up to the testimony of the Good Thief. He stands at the end of a line of other prominent examples of repentance, stories found only in Luke—Peter (5:8), the Repentant Woman (7:47), the Prodigal Son (15:20), and Zacchaeus (19:8-9). Repentance is a major theme in this gospel.
For reflection: What do you think Luke’s purpose might be in any one of these instances?
Father Beck is professor emeritus of religious studies at Loras College, Dubuque.