Rev. Deacon Tom Bates
March 4, 2018
LINK TO PDF VERSION (Good for saving or printing out)
Before we get into the solemnity of the Triduum, I’d like to share with you some actual 5th and 6th grader answers on Sunday school quizzes.
‘Ancient Egypt was old. It was inhabited by gypsies and mummies who all wrote in hydraulics. They lived in the Sarah Dessert. The climate of the Sarah is such that all the inhabitants have to live elsewhere.’
‘Moses led the Hebrew slaves to the Red Sea where they made unleavened bread, which is bread without any ingredients. Moses went up on Mount Cyanide to get the ten commandos. He died before he ever reached Canada but the commandos made it.’
‘Solomon had three hundred wives and seven hundred porcupines. He was an actual hysterical figure as well as being in the Bible. It sounds like he was sort of busy too.’
Today is the third Sunday in Lent. On the first Sunday in Lent, Father Paul talked about sacred time and sacred space asked what we do to live in sacred space and sacred time especially during Lent. In setting the stage for all preaching during Lent, he explained that Holy Week walks us through the whole of our faith. If we get Holy Week, we understand our faith.
Last Sunday, Father Paul covered the first four days of Holy Week – pointing out the tension between the joyful Palm Sunday entrance by Jesus and the sadness of realizing what was to happen later in the week. These are four days in which we sit in tension waiting for the Spirit of God to do its work.
Today, I will discuss the Triduum or the next three days. Next week, Father Paul will discuss the Triduum as one long day – one great Spiritual Journey.
Pastor Sarah will speak on Palm Sunday and explain some of our pious traditions, such as why we begin one of our services in the dark. And although the Triduum goes through Easter Sunday, the real preaching on the resurrection will be by Father Paul on Easter Sunday, not today by me.
I think Father Paul’s idea is to have you think about the events of Holy Week and as you do, think about what going on inside of you spiritually. Are you growing spiritually, is your faith being strengthened, is transformation taking place, are you getting a better understanding of the power of the gospel?
With that in mind, I will talk you briefly through the events from Maundy Thursday evening through Easter Sunday, the Triduum. Remember in Judaism, the day begins at sundown. For us the Triduum straddles the two liturgical seasons of Lent and Easter, however, in the Roman Catholic Church, the Triduum is a separate liturgical season and for many s considered the most solemn part of the liturgical year.
During the Triduum, there are at least 15 events in Mark’s gospel alone that are important to our understanding of Holy Week. It’s too much material for one sermon, so I’ll summarize, but I’ll also give you some time to think as we go through the events.
The events in chronological order are: 1. Jesus is anointed for burial at Bethany. 2. Judas agrees to betray Jesus. 3. Jesus eats the Passover Supper with his disciples. 4. Jesus predicts Peter’s denial of Him. 5. Jesus prays at Gethsemane. 6. Jesus is arrested. 7. Jesus goes on trial before the chief priests, elders and scribes. 8. Peter denies Jesus. 9. Jesus goes before Pilate. 10. Jesus is sentenced to death. 11. The soldiers mock Jesus. 12. Jesus is crucified. 13. He dies. 14. He is buried. And 15. He is raised from the dead.
We begin with the anointing of Jesus. Jesus is having a meal with Simon, the Leper, and an unidentified woman comes in, breaks an alabaster jar of nard and pours in on Jesus’ head. Nard comes from the nard plant in India and is used for burial. The value of the nard was 300 denarii, about a year’s wages for a laborer. The woman’s deed is seen as a sign of love and honor. In Luke and John the woman anoints Jesus’ feet. Kings had their heads anointed.
Next, Judas goes to the chief priests to betray Jesus, not they to him. Judas hands the chief priests the solution to their problem of how to kill Jesus without arousing the people. Judas knows where Jesus goes at night, when the crowds are not around. Money is Judas’ reward.
It’s still Thursday evening when Jesus and His disciples eat the Passover Meal. During the meal, Jesus explains that one of the twelve will betray Him, and He takes a piece of bread breaks it, gives a prayer of thanks to God and explains that the bread is His body and wine is His blood poured out for many to seal God’s covenant. In so doing, He interprets the bread and wine as symbols of his death.
After the Passover meal, they sing a hymn and then go to the Mount of Olives where Jesus explains that all the disciples will run away and leave Him. Peter responds that he will never leave Jesus even if all the others do. Jesus tells Peter that he will deny knowing Him three times before the rooster crows twice. Peter says “never.” And the other disciples say they will never leave Him.
From the Mount of Olives, they go to Gethsemane to pray. For Jesus, night at Gethsemane was a dark time. According to Mark, distress and anguish came over Him, and he said to his disciples, “The sorrow in my heart is so great that it almost crushes me. Stay here and keep watch.” We spend Maundy Thursday night in the church during the Easter Watch because of this passage.
While at Gethsemane, Jesus throws himself to the ground and prays that, if possible he not have to go through that time of suffering. Notice that He does not kneel to pray, but throws himself on the ground. Father, he prays, my Father, All things are possible for you. Take this cup of suffering away from. Yet not what I want, but what you want – not my will, but your will be done.
It’s at Gethsemane, that Judas arrives with an armed crowd sent by the chief priests, elders and scribes. Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss and the crowd arrests Him. While Jesus is being arrested, his disciples are fleeing for fear of arrest.
From Gethsemane, the arrested Jesus is taken to the house of the Chief Priest where all of the chief priests, elders and scribes are gathered. Peter follows at a distance and goes into the courtyard of the High Priest’s house. It’s a kangaroo court, and Jesus does not respond to the lies told about Him, but when the High Priest asks, “Are you the Messiah, the son of the blessed God?” Jesus answers, “I am”.
The High Priest reacts by tearing his robes and says, “We don’t need any more witnesses! You heard his blasphemy! What is your decision?” The chief priests, elders and scribes all vote against Him; He was guilty and should be put to death!
Outside, Peter denies knowing Jesus for the third time, a rooster crows for the second time and Peter remembers Jesus’ words.
Early Friday morning, the Sanhedrin, a council of chief priests, elders and scribes, hand Jesus over to Pilate. Pilate questions Jesus about the allegations against Him, but Jesus refuses to say a word in His defense and Pilate is amazed.
Pilate realizes that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests have handed Jesus over to him and he attempts to free Jesus with a Passover custom that permits the setting free of any one prisoner asked for by the people. The chief priests incite the crowd to call for the release of Barabbas, a murderer, instead. Pilate wants to please the crowd so he sets Barabbas free. Then probably knowing that Jesus was innocent, has him whipped and handed over to be crucified.
“The soldiers take Jesus inside the courtyard of the Governor’s palace and call together the rest of the company. They put a purple robe on him, make a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They beat Him over the head with a stick, spit on Him and mocked him. When they finished making fun of Him, they put his own clothes back on Him and lead Him away to be crucified.
Jesus is too weak to carry the cross all the way so the soldiers force Simon of Cyrene to carry Jesus’ cross for Him. He’s offered wine with myrrh, which He refuses to drink. They throw dice to see who gets His clothes. It is nine o’clock in the morning when they crucify Him. The notice of accusation against Him says: “King of the Jews.” They also crucify two bandits with Jesus, one on His right and one on His left.
At noon, the whole county is covered with darkness, which lasts for three hours. At three o’clock, Jesus cries out with a loud shout, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why did you abandon me?” And He dies.
The curtain hanging in the temple is torn in two, from top to bottom. The army officer who was standing there in front of the cross saw how Jesus had died. “This man was really the son of God,” he said. Many women who had come to Jerusalem with Him were there looking on from a distance.
It was toward evening on Friday when Joseph of Arimathea arrives. He is a respected member of the Sanhedrin, who is waiting for the kingdom of God. Joseph goes boldly to Pilate and asks him for the body of Jesus. After making sure that Jesus is dead, Pilate gives him the body. Joseph wraps the body in linen and places it in a tomb that had been dug out of solid rock. Nicodemus, another member of the Sanhedrin arrives with 100 pounds of myrrh and aloes and helps with the burial preparation. Then a large stone is rolled across the entrance. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph watch and see where the body is placed. Remember that the Jewish Sabbath is Saturday so Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had to do the burial before sundown.
What happens Saturday, the gospels don’t say. But after the Sabbath is over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome bring spices to and anoint the body of Jesus. Very early on Sunday morning, at sunrise, they go to the tomb. On the way, they say to one another, “who will roll away the stone from the entrance”. They look up and the stone had been rolled away. So they enter the tomb and are told “Jesus is not here, he is risen!” Amen.
A footnote: Early Christian Literature contains a number of stories relating to Joseph of Arimathea. Remember that all stories are true, some actually happened. He was said to have been imprisoned by angry Jews, but rescued by the resurrected Jesus and is described as caring for Mary the mother of Jesus for the rest of her life. Medieval legends relate that Joseph was sent to England to establish Christianity and he brought the Holy Grail there.