Jesus is the Son of God
This Sunday, called Palm or Passion Sunday, is the first day of Holy Week. Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday are called the Triduum—three days that are the highlight of the Church year. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus’ disciples are rarely models of faith and do little to invoke confidence in their capacity to continue his ministry after his death. They fare no better in Mark’s narrative of Jesus’ passion and death. At the Last Supper, the disciples insisted that none among them would betray Jesus. When Jesus predicted that their faith would be shaken in the events ahead, Peter and the other disciples protested vehemently. Yet in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus returned three times to find them sleeping. Jesus prayed in agony over his impending fate while his disciples slumbered through the night. Just as Jesus predicted, Peter denied Jesus, and the disciples were absent during Jesus’ passion and death. Only the women who had been followers of Jesus in Galilee are said to have been present at the Crucifixion, but they remained at a distance.
Throughout this Gospel, Mark challenges the reader to consider the claim with which the Gospel begins: Jesus is the Son of God. When we read Mark’s account of the passion, we begin to comprehend the deeper theological statement being made about Jesus’ death. In Mark’s telling of the passion narrative, Jesus understood his death to have been preordained, and he accepted this death in obedience to God’s will. Jewish Scripture is quoted only once, but there are several references to the fulfilment of the Scriptures. Jesus understood his anointing in Bethany as an anticipation of his burial, and he announced that this story would be told together with the Gospel throughout the world. Jesus predicted his betrayal by Judas as well as Peter’s denial. At his arrest, Jesus acknowledged that the preordained time had arrived. Jesus was both confident and silent before his accusers. After he was sentenced to death, Jesus did not speak again until his final cry from the cross. The bystanders misunderstood and believed that he was calling for Elijah. The Roman centurion, however, affirmed what Mark has presented throughout this Gospel: Jesus is the Son of God. Nowhere was this revealed more fully than in his death on the cross.
During Holy Week, we prayerfully remember the events of Jesus’ passion and death. As we meditate on the cross, we ask again and anew what it means to make the statement of faith that Jesus, in his obedient suffering and dying, revealed himself to us as God’s Son.