Gospel                Luke 19:28–40 (Liturgy of the Palms)

Gospel                Luke 22:14 – 23:56 (Liturgy of the Passion)

There are always difficulties using readings from the Hebrew scriptures during Holy Week, given the tragic history of anti–Judaism and anti–Semitism in the history of the Christian church, as well as the sensitivity with which one must approach the whole issue about reading the life of Christ back into the Hebrew scriptures, as it were. Accordingly, I have intentionally chosen only passages from the gospels for Holy Week, letting the story speak for itself. The next question is, of course, which gospel? The choice is extremely arbitrary.

I have defaulted to Luke for this first reading of the passion narrative, finding in it less of the anti-Semitism of John, the proof-texting (and inherent anti-Semitism) of Matthew, and yet also finding it a bit richer and fuller than Mark. Whichever one chooses, however, it is vital to remember that we are dealing here with story. We can get too hung up on the precision of the vessel that contains the story (in other words, the particulars of the text) that we lose the story itself. The conflict of the powers, the challenge to political and religious authority, the turning of the crowds, the willingness of Jesus to stop at nothing to demonstrate God’s love, the power of forgiveness, the testimony of the women, the agony of Christ’s suffering and death are only a few pieces that are present here.

The reading for the Palm liturgy is also from Luke, largely for continuity’s sake (although in so doing we also avoid Matthew’s confusing inclusion of two donkeys) and also includes the wonderful connection with the created world in Jesus’ admonition that, were the crowds to be silenced, the stones themselves would shout.

Amongst all of the various aspects of “who do we blame” for the death of Jesus, Bruce Chilton makes an intriguing point in his biography of Jesus.

Time and again, the Gospels reveal the tendency of the first Christians to shift the blame for Jesus’ death away from Pilate and onto the Sanhedrin. Yet when it comes to taking on the weighty responsibility of burying Jesus, we find members of that same council taking the lead, while most of Jesus’ disciples had beaten a hasty and ignominious retreat. Joseph’s and Nicodemus’ public act cost them: they donated mortuary dressing and ointment as well as use of the cave. They also contracted uncleanness for seven days after the burial.[1]

As there is no room in Creation Spirituality for any exclusion, there is especially no room for anti-Semitism; any opportunities that the scriptures provide to challenge the anti-Semitism that we may find (or that some may search for, to support their own biases) should be taken.

[1] Bruce Chilton, Rabbi Jesus: an Intimate Biography, (New York: Doubleday, 2000), p. 270.

copyright © 2006, 2009 Donald Schmidt “Taken from Emerging Word: a Creational Spirituality Lectionary by Donald Schmidt. Copies are available from him.”

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