Mark 11:1-10; Mark 14:1-11

Al Capone, the famous gangster – out of all the illegal things he did – was finally convicted of tax evasion (but we’re still two weeks from the tax filing deadline). Jesus, who has spent the whole Gospel of Mark making enemies, was finally betrayed for being worshiped. That seems to be the final straw for Judas, who just left to conspire with the religious leaders.

We might acknowledge some validity to the critique that a year’s wages in oil could have been sold and the money given to the poor. We could say the same thing about this display with the palms. Jesus replies that worship sometimes takes precedence over good works, in this precious and tenuous life. So much happens in this unbelievable week, it has to start with palm branches and ointment.

Elie Wiesel told the story of the inmates at Auschwitz putting God on trial. (It has been told about earlier persecutions too.) In the midst of the Holocaust, a group of rabbis in the death camp found God liable for violating the covenant. They pronounced their verdict and abruptly adjourned for the evening prayers. In the most desperate times, it’s worship that keeps us alive, or that brings us through death.

We’re in the middle of this story of Palms and Passion, which we’ll read more of in just a moment. There are only two things to say about this story: one is that God loses, Jesus dies; the other is that God wins – God never gives up faithfulness to humanity, even when humanity itself puts God to death.

There are really only those two things to say about life: first, life can be (and often is) excruciating, unfair, and utterly hopeless; second, life is blessed and good beyond all comprehension. God is always pointing us toward the good end of the story, even when it looks like we have to go through the deepest darkness to get there.

We live the story this week, with its praise, worship, betrayal, despair, and death – and always with the promise that it does get better. The story, dark as it’s about to become, won’t end until next Sunday, and we can trust (even if we don’t strictly know) how it ends.

So may we worship, share, trust one another, and finally celebrate, for God is faithful. Amen.

Continue reading with Mark 14:12-21.