Some Lessons From the Passion of Jesus Christ the Servant King

Palm Sunday, Year A.
Isaiah 50:4-7 – Philippians 2:6-11 – Matthew 26:14-27:66

Today we follow Our Lord Jesus Christ as He sets out on the journey through the paschal mystery of His Passion and Resurrection. Having listened to the Passion narrative, our focus during Holy Week is not so much on the suffering of Jesus but rather on the love of Jesus that speaks to us through His suffering. It is not so much about the pain involved in the suffering but rather about the boundless love which moved Him to undergo His Passion.

The Passion experience speaks to us in three ways:

 it is a sign of love, since it is the fulfilment of these words of Jesus Christ, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

it is a revelation about love. It reveals to us that genuine love entails suffering. Here, suffering is the act of giving up something precious to oneself (in this case, one’s life) for the sake of others.

it is an invitation to love others as Christ loves us. Jesus said, “Love one another, just as I have loved you” (John 15:12). Jesus invites each one of us to do for others what He did for us all – to give up something precious for the good and the well-being and the salvation of as many people around us as possible.

Jesus’ Passion is paradoxical. It is the story of a suffering servant who is at the same time a royal figure – a story of both servanthood and Kingship. Each of us stands individually before Christ in our encounter with Christ the servant king. Like Judas, Caiaphas, Pilate, Pilate’s wife, Simon of Cyrene, the Roman centurion, and all the others who had a role in the drama of the Passion and death of Jesus (including the man in whose house the Last Supper took place, the apostles who served, prayed and were with Jesus, and the Jews who accused Him, and so on), each one of us must declare by our attitude exactly where we stand before Him. We do that when we evaluate our faithfulness to every one of Christ’s commands. Our take on Christian principles – principles of justice, of peace, of Christian family, of human life and of love – must admit of no exceptions or diminishment of full acceptance. We ask ourselves: ‘who am I in the whole story of the Lord’s Passion?’ ‘Do I find myself playing the part of any of the characters mentioned in the Passion narrative?’ ‘Am I going to be a new character in the story of the Lord’s Passion? If so, what role do I want to play?’ ‘Do I want to help Jesus, defend Him, love Him, care for Him, and support Him – or not?’ ‘Who am I when I come in front of Jesus, the servant king who laid down his life for me, and what do I want to become in the light of the encounter?’

In the disloyalty of the crowd, who at one time cheered Him on to glory and at another time jeered Him on to crucifixion, we pick up a clue regarding our inbuilt devious tendencies towards betrayal and duplicity that are part of the package of our being human. We find ourselves making promises to God, only to renege on them shortly afterwards. How can we set about remedying this craven attitude that afflicts us? Well, we can resolve  to try our utmost to maintain a permanent stand for goodness, truth, justice, right, love and the support of one another. Yes, I believe we can boost and firm up these our attitudes with practice and become better witnesses to Christ today.

Because He is God, Jesus knew exactly what was going to happen to Him. He knew how He was going to be betrayed, and He was fully aware of the depth of anguish, pain and sorrow that He was going to have to endure for our sake. He didn’t flinch: Jesus faced and went through His Passion and death out of love for us. From His example,  we understand that we have to muster the courage to go through rather than round the hard experiences of life in our own time. The first reading communicated the prophecy of the courage and resolve of the servant of God in the face of evil and opposition. That servant of God is Jesus who, though He is God, became man (a servant) for us, and overcame death by going through it Himself for us. You and I, who are the children of God in our world today, might find ourselves facing persecution, suffering and even death because of our devotion and adherence to Christ. Be courageous, my dear brothers and sisters. Never forget that the Passion and death of the Lord didn’t end in the grave!

Let us journey on, then, toward the glorious Resurrection which is our hope. Amen. God bless you.