(Also known as Passion Sunday)
This is the day on which many churches have traditionally turned their thoughts to the suffering of Jesus. The word ‘passion’ comes from a Latin word meaning to suffer. If you are ‘compassionate’, you suffer alongside (with) someone. We remember the torture of Jesus during the trial process, the beatings the scourging, the crown of thorns pushed down on his head, the nailing to the cross, and his death in the agony of the cross. We remember the anguish of his prayer in the garden of Gethsemane shortly before his arrest when he prayed ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.’ (Luke 22:42). He accepted God’s will and Jesus, the ‘man without sin’, was willing to die the death of a common criminal.
In the Lutheran Church there was a custom to retell the narrative of the Passion in music – notable in the settings by JS Bach. Handel used Isaiah’s prophecy (chapter 53) as the basis of one of the high moments of his oratorio ‘The Messiah’:
He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account. Surely, he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Many are those who have followed Christ’s example and have died as martyrs for their faith.
O God, who by the passion of your blessed Son have made the instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life and peace: Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ that we may gladly suffer shame and loss; for the sake of the same thy Son our Lord. Amen.