Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Passion Sunday - Liturgy of the Palms - March 20, 2016

Saint Dominic contemplating the Scriptures

Saint Dominic
contemplating the Scriptures

Comments have been prepared by Chris Haslam using reputable commentaries, and checked for accuracy by the Venerable Alan T Perry, of the Anglican Diocese of Edmonton. While not intended to be exhaustive, they are an aid to reading the Scriptures with greater understanding.

Comments are best read with the lessons.

Feedback to is always welcome.

Lessons for this week from the Vanderbilt University web site

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Symbol of St Luke


Three gospels in the New Testament offer similar portraits of the life of Jesus; Luke is the third of them. Its author, traditionally Luke the physician who accompanied Paul on some of his missionary journeys, draws on three sources: Mark (via Matthew), a collection of sayings (known as Q for Quelle, German for source) and his own source. It is a gospel that emphasizes God's love for the poor, the disadvantaged, minorities, outcasts, sinners and lepers. Women play a more prominent part than in the other gospels. Luke never uses Semitic words; this is one argument for thinking that he wrote primarily for Gentiles.

Luke 19:28-40

In Luke, Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem begins in Galilee. In 9:51, we read “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem”. Jesus has gone “through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem” ( 13:22). This journey nears its end.

Now Jesus approaches Jerusalem from the east. “Bethphage and Bethany” (v. 29) are villages on the slope of “the Mount of Olives” opposite the Temple Mount. It is likely that the colt is owned by followers of Jesus. That he is able to ride a colt that has “never been ridden” (v. 30) suggests that even the animal realizes that Jesus comes in peace. In Zechariah 9:9 we find the prophecy that the ideal, future king, “triumphant and victorious” will come “humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt”. (Normally triumphant kings rode war-horses.)

Perhaps poor people spread “their cloaks on the road” (v. 36) being their most valuable possession, and/or this recalls the acknowledgement given Jehu when he was anointed King of Israel, for he restored worship of God to the nation (see 2 Kings 9:12-13). V. 38a is a quotation from Psalm 118:26, a psalm of praise sung on major festivals. V. 38b is like the song the angels sing at Jesus’ birth ( 2:14). “The stones would shout out” (v. 40) is a quotation from Habakkuk 2:11, a book that tries to understand why godly people suffer injustice. Or perhaps Jesus speaks of the destruction of the city. The events described in vv. 43-44 did occur when the Romans razed the city in 70 AD. They did so in the midst of a civil war.


Psalms is a collection of collections. The psalms were written over many centuries, stretching from the days of Solomon's temple (about 950 BC) to after the Exile (about 350 BC.) Psalms are of five types: hymns of praise, laments, thanksgiving psalms, royal psalms, and wisdom psalms. Within the book, there are five "books"; there is a doxology ("Blessed be ... Amen and Amen") at the end of each book.

Psalm 118:1-2,19-29

Vv. 1-2 are a call to thanksgiving: God’s mercy, his “steadfast love”, is everlasting. May “Israel” (v. 2) (and) “those who fear the Lord” (v. 4) proclaim this! Vv. 5-13 say that, when the psalmist (possibly the king) was in distress, he “called on the Lord”, who heard him. With God on his side, there is nothing to fear; trusting in God is better than trusting in humans. Surrounded by his enemies, “in the name of the Lord I cut them off” (v. 11), with God’s help. V. 15 recalls Exodus 15:2a, part of Israel’s classic victory song sung by Moses and the Israelites after crossing the Reed (Red) Sea. The “glad songs” are heard in the Temple, the community of the faithful. The psalmist expects to live to old age (v. 17); he will proclaim God’s acts of power. He has suffered greatly at God’s hands, as a discipline, but God has preserved his life. He seeks entrance to the Temple (“gates of righteousness”, v. 19) to give thanks; only the godly may enter therein (v. 20). V. 22, possibly based on an ancient proverb, may speak of the king’s rise to power or his victory. On this day (v. 24) God has either saved his people or punished the ungodly – or both. This is a time for rejoicing. In v. 26, all proclaim he who was “rejected” (v. 22), but is now God’s chosen ruler. Note the progression in vv. 26-29: “festal procession”, “extol” (raise up), everlasting love.

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