Read­ing Time: 15 minutes

(Ref. Texts: Isa 50:4–7; Phil 2:6–11; Luke 22:14–23:1–56)

We must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the prop­er time if we don’t give up. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it . They took Palm branches and went out to meet him, shout­ing ‘Hosanna”. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”


After the Len­ten peri­od, fol­lows the Palm Sunday (also called Pas­sion Sunday) that marks the begin­ning of the Holy Week. The Palm/Passion Sunday is the first day of the Holy Week. Fol­low­ing the Gos­pel account accord­ing to Luke, the fol­low­ing were act­ively and con­vin­cingly involved in the betray­al of Jesus:

a) The pion­eer betray­ers: the chief priests (Greek: archiere­is), the scribes/teachers of the law (Greek: gram­mateis), the cap­tains or officers of the temple, and the eld­ers (Greek: pres­b­uteroi), cf. Luke 22:2.4.52. They are betray­ers because they betrayed that which they rep­res­en­ted – cus­todi­ans of justice and upright­ness. The fire of betray­al was ignited by them (cf. Luke 22:1–2);

b) Judas Iscari­ot, the per­son who helped the chief priests, the scribes and the cap­tains achieve their evil plan (cf. Luke 22:3–6.48);

c) Peter who for­got his enthu­si­asm to die with his Mas­ter if neces­sary (Luke 22:54–61; cf. v.34).

d) The rest of the dis­ciples also betrayed Jesus by run­ning away when their Mas­ter was appre­hen­ded (cf. Luke 22:24. Cf. also Mark 14:50 – ful­filling vv.27–31);

The role of Judas Iscari­ot became out­stand­ing because he was the one who helped the chief priests, the scribes, the officers and the eld­ers to mater­i­al­ize their evil plan. His plan was facil­it­ated by the fact that he belonged to the inner caucus, ful­filling Jesus’ affirm­a­tion that a person’s enemies are mem­bers of his house­hold (cf. Matt 10:36). The pas­sion account is a present­a­tion of what Jesus had to under­go because he pre­ferred to be just, faith­ful, com­mit­ted and ded­ic­ated to his mis­sion. Giv­en the length of the read­ing, I will only emphas­ize few of the out­stand­ing aspects.

Concerning the palm

This Sunday liturgy is par­tic­u­larly marked by the use of palm fronds. These fronds are blessed and used in pro­ces­sion, sig­ni­fy­ing Jesus’ tri­umphant entry into  Jer­u­s­alem. In the ancient world, the palm is a sym­bol of beauty, fecund­ity, vital­ity and resur­rec­tion. In Hebrew, the palm is called Tamar, which also is the name of a woman. The his­tory of the palm tree is often linked to fem­in­ine per­son­al­it­ies in the Bible (cf. Gen 38:6–30; 2Sam 13:1–22; Judg 4:2). It is one of the four plants used dur­ing the Jew­ish feast of Tab­er­nacles -D:\My Documents\Aruba.it\Wordpress\blog images\palm sunday2.jpg  Sukkoth (cf. Lev 23:40). The palm and oth­er plants are brought to the syn­agogue and waved about dur­ing the cere­mon­ies. Its healthy nature (very green leaves full of sap), provides imagery of prosper­ity, mater­i­al and spir­itu­al (cf. Ps 92:13[14]). In Isai­ah 9:14 and 19:15, the palm branch rep­res­ents the head or highest of the people as con­tras­ted with the reed, rep­res­ent­ing the low­est. For its form and dimen­sions, the palm indic­ates beauty and great­ness. Hence, the psalm­ist com­pares the upright char­ac­ter of the right­eous to the palm tree: “the right­eous will flour­ish like a palm tree” (Ps 92:12[13]). In the same vein, the Song of Songs describes the bride as hav­ing the stature of a palm tree (cf. Song 7:7). Simon Mac­cabeus entered Jer­u­s­alem with thanks­giv­ing and branches of palm trees (cf. 1Macc 13:51). The branches of the palm that accom­pan­ied Jesus’ entrance to Jer­u­s­alem (cf. John 12:13) are signs of good health and homage, but espe­cially, of his vic­tory over death and evil. As we re-live that exper­i­ence, may these palms bring out our beauty, fecund­ity, vital­ity, and help us to be vic­tori­ous over evil.

The betrayers of justice

Luke 22:1–2 reads “now the fest­iv­al of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Pas­sov­er, was near. The chief priests and the scribes were look­ing for a way to put Jesus to death, for they were afraid of the people” (cf. Mark 14:1). Mark 14:43 spe­cifies that the chief priests, the scribes and the eld­ers sent the crowd with swords and clubs who arrived with Judas Iscari­ot (cf. Luke 22:52). In Mat­thew 16:21, we read “from that time on, Jesus began to show his dis­ciples that he must go to Jer­u­s­alem and under­go great suf­fer­ing at the hands of the eld­ers, the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (cf. Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22). The expres­sion from that time marks the con­clu­sion of Jesus’ Galilean mis­sion and the begin­ning of his jour­ney to Jer­u­s­alem for the pas­sion. Jesus says he will suf­fer greatly. Sur­pris­ingly, the agents of such great suf­fer­ing were the eld­ers (Greek: pres­b­uteroi), the chief priests (Greek: archiere­is), and the Scribes (Greek: gram­mateis), the teach­ers of the law and cus­tom, who accord­ing to Mark, have been look­ing for a way to arrest and kill him. The Syn­op­tic writers attrib­ute Jesus’ suf­fer­ing and death to the Jew­ish, not Roman author­it­ies. Those who should have joined Jesus to main­tain justice and right­eous­ness were those who planned to kill him. Instead of join­ing Jesus to fight cor­rup­tion, unfaith­ful­ness and dis­obedi­ence, they pre­ferred pro­mot­ing evil.

In the Jew­ish set­ting, the eld­ers were mem­bers of the great coun­cil (Hebrew: San­hedrin). The Hebrew word San­hedrin means sit­ting togeth­er, hence, coun­cil. In early times of the Jew­ish his­tory, the rulers of the people, judges, (and oth­ers) were selec­ted from the eld­erly men. It was their duty to man­age pub­lic affairs and admin­is­ter justice. The San­hedrin there­fore, was the highest Jew­ish tribunal. That is, the supreme coun­cil of the Jew­ish people dur­ing the time of Jesus and even before. The high priests were sup­posed to be the lead­ers of the priests who offered sac­ri­fices and guar­an­teed the spir­itu­al well-being of the people. In the Bible and among the Jews, the Scribes were learned men in the Mosa­ic Law and in the Sac­red Writ­ings. They were the offi­cial inter­pret­ers and teach­ers of the law and the Scrip­ture. These same people con­spired against Jesus because he refused to par­ti­cip­ate in their evil and god­less­ness. In the list of those who betrayed Jesus, the eld­ers, the chief priests and the teach­ers of the law must be included, because they betrayed that which they rep­res­en­ted – justice and upright­ness. In fact, they were the pion­eer betray­ers of Jesus. Pion­eer betray­ers because accord­ing to Luke (22:2; cf. Mark 14:1), they were the people who ini­ti­ated the plan to arrest and kill Jesus. Again, accord­ing to same Mark (14:43; cf. Luke 22:52), the armed crowd that came with Judas Iscari­ot to arrest Jesus were sent by the chief priests, the eld­ers and the scribes. This is scan­dal­ous! As Paul warned, let this hein­ous com­port­ment not be found among us (cf. Eph 5:3). This trio – the chief priests, the scribes and the eld­ers, were the betray­ers of justice and uprightness.

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