No Greater Love
21 Mar 2021
Today, on this Passion Sunday, many Christians will begin a two-week period of somber reflection and are drawn to the events that took place in Jerusalem circa 29AD. From today, through Palm Sunday, which we will celebrate next week, to Easter, the following Sunday, the followers of the Lord Jesus, will hear the “Word of God” concerning His Passion and will be called upon to exercise the spiritual pillars of prayer and fasting, in walking the “Way of the Cross” with Jesus at this most holy time.
Our Church, as well as many other Christian denominations, which include those of the Western or Rome Rite to the Orthodox, or the Eastern Rite, as well as the Anglican and Lutheran churches, and other denominations, to different degrees will mark this Passion Sunday with the covering of crosses and statues as well as altars in purple, calling upon congregants to be penitent and examine their relationship with Jesus.
The Liturgy for us, as well as for others, will see changes this Passion Sunday. The Entrance Hymn is no longer intoned or said as: “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,” with the response “As it was in the beginning is now and ever more shall be, world without end” but is replaced with“Lord, for us Your wounds were suffered” with the response: “O Christ Jesus, have mercy on us.” Until Easter, no “Alleluias” are said and the “Alleluia verse” is replace with a Lenten “Tract,” which is read prior to the reading of the Gospel of our Lord.
PASSION OF OUR LORD
The word “Passion” stems from the Latin word “pati” which means to “suffer.” Webster defines “Passion” as "a strong feeling, especially those of anger, love or desire." “Passion” is further defined among Christians as " the sufferings of Christ between the night of the last supper and His crucifixion."
In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, each Evangelist tells us that Jesus predicted His own suffering and death in some of the following passages:
- In the Gospel of Matthew: Matt.16:21-23, Matt.17:22-23; Matt. 20:17-19.
- In the Gospel of Mark: Mark 8:31-33; Mark 9:30-32; Mark 10:32-34.
- In the Gospel of Luke: Luke 9:21-22; Luke 9:43-45; Luke 18:31-34.
- In the Gospel of John: 8:28-30; 12:20-33.
For example, in Luke 9:21-22, we read: “He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone, saying, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
My brothers and sisters: The Passion of Christ was first of all, a most severe physical ordeal for Jesus. He was to be beaten and crucified. But His Passion was to also be a mental ordeal where He was rejected by those whom He came to save. How painful it must have been for Him, having His unconditional love not only denied, but thrown back at Him with so much hatred. In Luke, we read, that not only Pilate but even King Herod tried to save Jesus from death, but many of the religious leaders screamed for his death. In Luke 23:15,Herod states that “ I see nothing that this man has done that calls for the death penalty." In Luke 23:16,Herod says to the crowd, "So I will have Him flogged, but then I will release Him." And inLuke 23:18, we read: "Then a mighty roar rose from the crowd, and with one voice they shouted, kill Him, and release Barabbas to us!"
When we talk of the Passion of our Lord, we also recall the mental and emotional pain that He endured prior to his arrest.Luke 22:44 talks about the pain that Jesus went through in the Garden of Gethsemane. "He [Jesus] prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.” Having seen others being crucified, Jesus knew of the pain and suffering He would soon experience. But His death was His mission. And as Jesus prayed to the Father, in the Garden of Gethsemane, that the cup (his ordeal and passion) be taken away, in the end, He ended His prayer with: “Not as I will but Yours be done.” That is the intense part of the Passion of Jesus; that He chose to die for my sins.
The Passion of Jesus should bring to all of our minds and hearts today, that not only was there a “passion” of suffering, but Jesus, who was crucified and hung on the cross of wood for six (6) hours, from 9 am till 3 pm, showed another “passion,” deeper and more intense than that of His own sufferings; it was a “passion” of love; that He did all this, as an atonement for our sins. He taught us, through His Passion one of the greatest lesson of love as found in John 15:13: “Greater love no man has this, than to die for ones friends.”