In the Shadow of the Cross: Embracing Our Shared Humanity-Palm Sunday

In the Shadow of the Cross: Embracing Our Shared Humanity-Palm Sunday

Year B, Palm Sunday
March 24, 2024

Year B: Isaiah 50:4-9a, 14-25; Psalm 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11; Mark 14:1-15:47

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Today, we begin observing Holy Week, following the ancient narratives of Christ’s Passion and death. 

If we study our service and liturgy closely, we can identify our world and ourselves in the sacred story we hear. We know how it ends, but the power of the story lies in how we identify with Jesus, Herod, Pilate, the disciples, and the crowds in Jerusalem two thousand years ago. That’s one of the reasons I asked all of us to read the parts of today’s Gospel, the Passion, other than Jesus and the Narrator, in unison. We are all part of the story in every way. 

Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion happened against a march larger backdrop and probably without much fanfare. What was happening to Jesus involved a dozen or more people. The main preoccupation of the day was the impending Passover celebration. Jerusalem was a pilgrimage city; people went to Jerusalem to pray and to draw close to the people and places of their faith. 

I imagine these events happened like events do in any large city. In New York City, the United Nations does its work, and Wall Street operates at the heart of world financial markets. Do they notice or care what’s been happening here in the Shenandoah Valley this week as we’ve worried and will continue to worry about wildfires in our midst. 

Yet, for Jesus and his followers, the interruption of their lives was devastating. The panic and fear of Jesus’ arrest scattered the close circle of friends. Peter denied knowing Jesus. Most of the others went into hiding or stayed well out of the way. 

The story of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion has always touched the hearts of Christians. From the earliest centuries, Christians traveled to Jerusalem to relive the events, to see, feel, and smell the sights and places Christ might have experienced that last day. Because such a trip was fraught with dangers and expensive, the early Franciscans developed the Stations of the Cross so that faithful people could walk with Jesus on those last terrible steps in their own communities and homes.  

Today, we have the Stations of the Cross mounted at Emmanuel Church. They were a gift to Emmanuel from Saint Paul’s on the Hill when they closed. There are many variations of Stations of the Cross – there is one in the Book of Occasional Services. There is also one that has been developed by Food for the Poor. 

In the Stations of the Cross journey, we walk alongside Christ through the most challenging moments of his death. Each station, from Jesus being condemned to death to his burial, invites us to reflect on suffering, sacrifice, and redemption deeply. This sacred path encourages us to contemplate not just the physical agony of Christ but the spiritual perseverance, the boundless love, and the profound humility that he demonstrated with each step toward Golgotha. If you’re called to meditate on these stations, you’ll be reminded of the call to carry our crosses with grace, find strength in our falls, and seek solace in the knowledge that our journey, like Christ’s, is imbued with purpose. The Stations of the Cross challenge us to see beyond our suffering, embrace our faith journey, and recognize the transformative power of God’s love in our lives. 

In the Stations of the Cross, we can see how the story is lived out even today. Many recognize themselves in the onlookers, the indifferent ones, those preoccupied or too busy to do anything for Jesus, unaware of what he was doing for them. Some see the innocent suffering of Jesus played out in the innocent suffering of children: children starving in America, the wealthiest country on earth; children suffering in war-torn countries like Gaza and Ukraine; children who are the innocent victims of rampant AIDS in Africa. 

The road to Golgotha is lined by human tragedy, and our liturgy today and the devotion to the Way of the Cross are ways for us to open ourselves to this story in our lives.  

What happens to you when you reframe human suffering as Jesus’ suffering? What difference do you imagine that it makes to millions of people suffering in places of persecution, war, violence, and degradation around the world as they gather today to hear this story? How might their suffering be our suffering today?  

Where is this story in your life? What do you know of confusion, of your world turned upside down while no one seems to care? How do you think about and pray about the burdens you carry? Do you pray to Christ for help? Does Jesus’ way of the Cross help you enter the story of God’s extravagant love for every human being? 

Finally, have we trusted in you, O Lord? Have we said and believed, “You are my God.”1 



Berge, Clark. “Walking the Way of the Cross, Palm Sunday (B) – 2000.” April 16, 2000. Episcopal Church. Accessed [Accessed March 23, 2024.] 

1 cf. Psalm 31:14, Book of Common Prayer, 1979 ed. (New York: Church Publishing Incorporated, 1979).