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Palm Sunday

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who, of thy tender love towards mankind, hast sent thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility; Mercifully grant, that we may both follow the example of his patience, and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

see scriptures below: Philippians ii. 5. St. Matthew xxvii. 1.

Truly this was the Son of God.

The Passion story as told in today’s Gospel concludes with the Centurion who was responsible for supervising the crucifixions that day on Calvary confessing Jesus as the Son of God. In the Gospel of St. Luke the story is told a bit differently, ".. when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man."

The Centurion that day made the same confession that Peter did, that Jesus was the Son of God, but without the prompting of the Lord. When Peter had confessed Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God, "Jesus answered [Peter] and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jonah: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven." [Mt 16:16]. Although the Scripture does not say so, one must wonder if the Father had also revealed the nature of Jesus to the Centurion, after all, the Centurion did not know Jesus personally. He may have heard of him as a Jewish teacher and prophet, but we have no indication of prior knowledge or contact before the events of the Passion.

The Centurion at Calvary was the first Gentile to confess Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. Unlike the Centurion of Capernaum and Cornelius, there is no indication in the Scriptures that the Centurion of Calvary had any prior intimate contact with the Jewish community or support of its religion. The other two centurions are credited as being men who supported the synagogues and Jewish population. All we know of this Centurion was that he was a part of the Cohort that was in Jerusalem at the time of the feast of the Passover. It is possible that he was part of the regular occupation forces of the city, or perhaps had been called up from the surrounding area to come up to the city at the time of the Passover when so many pilgrims would have been in the city. His job at this time would have been to watch for disorder, large gatherings, and to quickly disperse crowds that might pose a threat to Pax Romana {Peace of Rome}. There were zealots who would have liked to have seen an uprising that would have resulted in Jewish independence. This in combination with a High Holy Day of the Temple celebrating the liberation of Israel from their Egyptian taskmasters made for a very volatile situation.

In the midst of this is Jesus, a man who has been performing miracles, who has preached about the coming of a new Kingdom, has spoken of a new freedom, has gathered a group of dedicated disciples and has thousands of followers who look to him as the Messiah who by prophesy would deliver Israel from her oppressors. However, his ministry does not threaten Rome directly, but does threaten the established and corrupt leaders of Israel: namely Herod, who feared Jesus as another John the Baptist who he beheaded, the Priests who would have their authority challenged by this Christ as he flaunted their religious rules. The Pharisees and Sadducees who were losing power over the people due to this rabbi who did not teach according to tradition.

The Centurion may have been in the presence of Pilate when Jesus was delivered that early Friday morning. If so he would have witnessed Pilate’s and Herod’s examinations. He certainly witnessed the public trial, the demands of the crowd to release Barabbas, the sentencing, flogging, mockery, and the long walk to the cross -- for we know that the Scriptures tell us that Pilate had the entire Cohort, some 600 men, to assemble on the pavement that morning.

One can but wonder if the Centurion experienced a rising sense of injustice in the whole affair. As a Roman citizen and experienced professional soldier he undoubtedly exercised justice within his command. Seeing such injustice must have caused him concern. At what point this concern became a conviction that Jesus was more than a man, indeed being who it was said that he was, is uncertain. He undoubtedly heard the words of Jesus from the cross, and witnessed his passion as no other human being had that day. What would touch the heart and soul of this Centurion to confess Jesus as Lord, even at his own peril? How did the Holy Spirit affect him that day?

Perhaps the answer lies in today’s Collect – "all mankind should follow his great humility." Could it have been the words of Christ from the cross? Perhaps it was the Grace of our Lord, when he forgave all those assembled before him even as he suffered death. Whatever it was, whether a single event, the culmination of all that had occurred that day, or a flash of inspiration from the Holy Spirit, the Centurion boldly proclaimed Christ’s divinity and righteousness. I look forward to the day when I shall meet this Centurion and hear his story first hand.

Let us pray:

Almighty God, who inspired the Centurion on Calvary to confess Jesus as the Son of God, so inspire your Church to witness your love and mercy to the world; through Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen


Philippians ii. 5.

LET this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

St. Matthew xxvii. 1.

WHEN the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death: and when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor. Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in. Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value; and gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me. And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest. And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing. Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee? And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly. Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would. And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas. Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ? For he knew that for envy they had delivered him. When he was set down on the judgment-seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him. But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas. Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified. And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified. When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head. And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him. And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross. And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull, they gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink. And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots. And sitting down they watched him there; and set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS. Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left. And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, and saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God. The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth. Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias. And straightway one of them ran, and took a spunge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him. Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.

Scripture from 1928 BCP

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