Andrew McGowan and Ned Parker discuss community, sacrament, and suffering in Luke 22:14-23:56. The text is appointed for the Palm Sunday, the Liturgy of the Passion, in Year C of the Revised Common Lectionary.
Andrew McGowan and Ned Parker discuss community, sacrament, and suffering in Luke 22:14-23:56. The text is appointed for the Palm Sunday, the Liturgy of the Passion, in Year C of the Revised Common Lectionary.
This is one of those times where I wonder if the women are left out of the text.
This is Chapter, Verse, and Season: a lectionary podcast from Yale Bible Study. Each week, we pair two of our Yale Divinity School faculty and ask them to talk about an upcoming Bible passage appointed by the Revised Common Lectionary. I’m Helena Martin. Welcome back!
So, this Sunday is Palm Sunday and the final Sunday in Lent. That means Holy Week is coming up, and if you’re like me, you have a lot of preaching to prepare. We have special episodes coming out for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil, and Easter Day. Each episode will come out six days in advance.
For a lot of these days, the lectionary appoints large portions of the Bible to be read. That’s because this coming week, we’re telling the most important stories of the Christian year: Jesus’ last days alive, his crucifixion and death, and finally his resurrection on Easter.
On Chapter, Verse, and Season, we’re including the whole reading as appointed. This episode, that means we’ll hear almost two entire chapters of the gospel as Luke recounts Jesus’ passion. If you don’t want to hear the whole thing, you can skip right to the professors’ conversation around minute 18. But I encourage you to take the time to listen to the passage first. Let these episodes be a way to spend time dwelling in these texts that are so familiar but so important. I hope these Holy Week episodes can be a spiritual resource during this busy time of year in addition to an intellectual one.
This episode, we welcome Andrew McGowan, Dean and President of Berkeley Divinity School and McFaddin Professor of Anglican Studies and Pastoral Theology, and Ned Parker, Associate Dean for Institutional Advancement at Andover Newton Seminary at Yale Divinity School, and Lecturer in Homiletics.
They’re discussing Luke 22:14-23:56, which is appointed for the Liturgy of the Passion on Palm Sunday in Year C. The text is read for you by student Aidan Stoddart.
When the hour came, Jesus took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!” Then they began to ask one another, which one of them it could be who would do this.
A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.
“You are those who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
“Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” And he said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.”
He said to them, “When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “No, not a thing.” He said to them, “But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, `And he was counted among the lawless’; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.” They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” He replied, “It is enough.”
He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.”
While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him; but Jesus said to him, “Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?” When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, “Lord, should we strike with the sword?” Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple police, and the elders who had come for him, “Have you come out with swords and clubs as if I were a bandit? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness!”
Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house. But Peter was following at a distance. When they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. Then a servant-girl, seeing him in the firelight, stared at him and said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” A little later someone else, on seeing him, said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” Then about an hour later still another kept insisting, “Surely this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about!” At that moment, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
Now the men who were holding Jesus began to mock him and beat him; they also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” They kept heaping many other insults on him.
When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, gathered together, and they brought him to their council. They said, “If you are the Messiah, tell us.” He replied, “If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I question you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” All of them asked, “Are you, then, the Son of God?” He said to them, “You say that I am.” Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips!”
Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate. They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.” Then Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He answered, “You say so.” Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no basis for an accusation against this man.” But they were insistent and said, “He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.”
When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign. He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate. That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies.
Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death. I will therefore have him flogged and release him.”
Then they all shouted out together, “Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!” (This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.) Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.” But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished.
As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus. A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.” And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments.
On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.
Andrew, so here we are talking about the Last Supper in the context of Palm Sunday. And it makes me think about all of the Hosannas that have been cried over the past two years during this pandemic, all of the cries for help. And as I look at the story for the Last Supper, I think about those people crying for Hosanna, crying out Hosanna, because they can’t be present at Communion or the holy Eucharist, because the pandemic has prevented us from gathering in so many occasions and being able to do that together.
And as I think gathering together, particularly around the table, I think about who was present in that moment. And looking at it through that lens of, “there were 5,000 gathered, not including women and children.” And I know that the, the women, the Mary’s, perhaps Martha, were certainly present in Jerusalem before the Last Supper, certainly present following the Last Supper. And this is one of those times where I wonder if the women are left out of the text, and thinking about that and just wondering if you have any thoughts about that?
In context, it makes such a huge difference, doesn’t it?
It does, yeah.
I have read that, if you follow the Lucan narrative, not just forward, the way we’re being asked to today, from the Last Supper through to the Passion, but if we follow it back and then come through to Jerusalem, the implication is that, in fact, the group of people with Jesus included women, and there’s no point at which somebody says, “And at that point, the women left them. They’re not actually here anymore.” So, in fact, I think that while we might wish they were highlighted, I think it’s quite legitimate to imagine that they’re still understood to be part of the gaggle of people who come with Jesus to Jerusalem and are a part of the Hosanna scene.
And at what point are they suddenly erased from this picture? Do we think the text is erasing them? Or is that more a question of the assumptions that we bring to the story? Just because we somehow conjure up this picture of 13 guys that all are getting around to one side of the table to have their photo taken a la Leonardo, and so on.
So, context makes a difference to that, doesn’t it? That we could perhaps imagine a more diverse set of participants at the Supper than historical imagination has sometimes given us. When I was reading this–and by the way, Ned, yay us for getting the longest reading in the whole lectionary. I just think you should realize that.
It obviously reflects a great deal of trust and respect offered to us by our friends, but in all seriousness, I was also reading this in sort of contextual terms as well. In other words, not just by what’s in these particular verses, but by what’s around them. And the things that struck me most, which I think are still relevant to your observation, was actually what happens when we read forward from the story. And we’re so familiar with his story. We bring all sorts of assumptions to it, who’s there, who’s not there. And of course, in my denominational tradition, in Episcopal churches, a chunk of something very like this gets read constantly in the middle of our Eucharistic prayers and similarly, I’m sure, in yours, when, the Supper or the Communion is celebrated.
But putting it back in the context of this Passion narrative is really the thing that struck me in two ways. Of course, one is that it–I know this is stating the obvious–but the fact that this is happening just in the immediate foreground of Jesus’ trial, Passion, and death. That’s sort of a whole lot of statements which, again, seem obvious, but I think we can remove the story from this context. What difference does that make to the context?
But the thing that actually struck me most reading at this time was part of the immediate context in Luke’s version, where Luke goes on from the passage that we think of as the institution of the Eucharist to a dispute among the disciples about who’s the greatest. And similar passages appear in different narrative contexts in the Gospels. But in this case, what strikes me is, Jesus more or less says, “So, here’s this meal that I’m sharing with you, and it has this significance, and the immediate significance of it is something like, ‘Stop arguing about who among you is the greatest, because I’m here at the table with you, and I’m one who serves.’” And he makes the connection with the meal very specific: “For which is the greater, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves?”
Now, I also drew another sort of parallel with this, not just in the context of Luke’s narrative, but the earliest written version of this story that we have is actually in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. And Paul doesn’t really have a lot to say about Jesus or the Gospels (interestingly, and surprisingly enough to some people), but this is one of the stories that he does actually bring out. And when Paul writes to the Corinthians, he actually uses the story in a very similar way to the way I think Luke’s narrative presents it. That is to say, Paul is taking the Corinthians to task for the fact that they have this unequal liturgical celebration, that some people are going hungry and other people are getting full, and some people are getting drunk and it’s this colossal, messy bunfight. And he quotes the story of the Last Supper to them. Not in order–I say this mournfully as an Anglican, of course–not in order to get them to use their prayer books more carefully, but rather in order to tell them that there is a particular ethical conclusion that they should draw about the way they actually react and deal with each other as a community; that because Jesus does this on the night he was betrayed (“took bread, gave thanks, gave it to them”), so too you should be deferential towards one another. You should actually look out for one another. You should actually consider your existence as a community in terms that make sense relative to the fact that you’re supposed to be eating this meal, which is the living memorial of the person whose story was this. This is the same story we’re reading in Luke, now.
And I think one of the things that makes that point so beautiful is that then we can make any shared meal a communion meal or a Eucharistic meal. That is, if we recognize those moments when we gather around the table with friends that we love and share stories, we can recognize Jesus in those moments. There’s something that opens the holy in this up to the mundane, that I think is an opportunity to remember, as we gather around, whether it’s students gathering around tables in the refectory or families gathering around tables, or friends going out to eat, there is a moment of, if I can say this, profound simplicity in this act: because eating is something that many of us do every day (those of us who have means and privilege to, every day). And we can think about it in this new and holy way.
Yeah. I think it’s true that if, if we don’t actually think of every meal as a setting that has the capacity to be, in a sense, revelatory, at least of the true nature of human relationships and of God’s will for human relationships—if it can’t be true of meals in general, then there’s no point in trying to claim that it’s true in some sort of isolated way of the Sacramental meal. You made me think there of a favorite line I have from a hymn written by Percy Dearmer, who’s a hero of mine and a hymn writer, where the hymn is usually referred to by the first line: “Draw us in the spirit’s tether.” You may recall this, and a line that comes towards the end… and it’s a Eucharistic hymn, it’s definitely a Eucharistic hymn, but he makes the same point: “All our meals and all our living make as sacraments of thee.” And he was an Anglican sacramentalist, so he wasn’t saying, “Well, you know, this is just all about caring and sharing generally,” but rather that the whole point of Eucharistic celebration actually has to flow into the reality of daily life and daily eating and drinking, and the implications therefore of hospitality, of mutual regard, and I think also, we should say, of justice as well: in that it’s not only table manners that this is used to, but to the unequal ways in which food is distributed. The fact that people live in food deserts, the fact that people experience food insecurity–these are Eucharistic issues.
And that brings us back around–one of the very first words that I used when we started talking about this passage was “Hosanna.” And this is Palm Sunday, we’re talking about. And that notion of food deserts and accessibility versus inaccessibility brings me back to that Palm Sunday cry of Hosanna, “God help us; help us, save us.” And so, I really appreciate you bringing us back around to that, because there’s something in that as we approach this moment in the liturgical season and think about our 42 verses, altogether.
All of our 42 verses.
All of our 42 verses!
And I mentioned before the fact that reading it in the context of the passion narrative does make a difference to the Last Supper Story. I think the same is sort of reversed as well. And maybe this is, I think, related to your point about the Hosanna: that, if the Last Supper story represents Jesus’ program, in a sense, and it’s that that leads into the rest of what he experiences, we’re not simply dealing with some incidental fact that that Jesus dies, and therefore that’s something we can then theologize as having to do with dying for the sake of the world; it’s actually got something to do with the way he lives. His own interaction with his friends is actually the prelude to the fact that there are aspects of the world and its power which can’t cope with living that kind of way.
Thanks for listening. For more Bible resources for Holy Week, check out YaleBibleStudy.org. You can also find out more about Chapter, Verse, and Season there, including a transcript of this episode. And follow us on Twitter @BibleYale.
Chapter, Verse, and Season is produced by Joel Baden, Kelly Morrissey, and me, Helena Martin. Aidan Stoddart is our editorial and production assistant. Our theme music is by Calvin Linderman. Thanks, as always, to the Center for Continuing Education at Yale Divinity School. And thank you, Deans McGowan and Parker, for talking us through the Passion this week.
We’ll be back very soon with another conversation from Chapter, Verse, and Season.
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Host and Executive Producer: Helena Martin
Production Manager: Kelly Morrissey
Creator and Managing Editor: Joel Baden
Assistant Producer: Aidan Stoddart
Music: Calvin Linderman