Passion Sunday


Most merciful God, who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ delivered and saved the world: grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross we may triumph in the power of his victory; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.


Gracious Father, you gave up your Son out of love for the world: lead us to ponder the mysteries of his passion, that we may know eternal peace through the shedding of our Saviour’s blood, Jesus Christ our Lord.


Old Testament

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Jeremiah 31:31–34


1  Have mercy on me, O God, in your great goodness; •

   according to the abundance of your compassion

      blot out my offences.

2  Wash me thoroughly from my wickedness •

   and cleanse me from my sin.

3  For I acknowledge my faults •

   and my sin is ever before me.

4  Against you only have I sinned •

   and done what is evil in your sight,

5  So that you are justified in your sentence •

   and righteous in your judgement.

6  I have been wicked even from my birth, •

   a sinner when my mother conceived me.

7  Behold, you desire truth deep within me •

   and shall make me understand wisdom

      in the depths of my heart.

8  Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean; •

   wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.

9  Make me hear of joy and gladness, •

   that the bones you have broken may rejoice.

10  Turn your face from my sins •

   and blot out all my misdeeds.

11  Make me a clean heart, O God, •

   and renew a right spirit within me.

12  Cast me not away from your presence •

   and take not your holy spirit from me.

13  Give me again the joy of your salvation •

   and sustain me with your gracious spirit;

Psalm 51

[ or

9  How shall young people cleanse their way •

   to keep themselves according to your word?

10  With my whole heart have I sought you; •

   O let me not go astray from your commandments.

11  Your words have I hidden within my heart, •

   that I should not sin against you.

12  Blessed are you, O Lord; •

   O teach me your statutes.

13  With my lips have I been telling •

   of all the judgements of your mouth.

14  I have taken greater delight in the way of your testimonies •

   than in all manner of riches.

15  I will meditate on your commandments •

   and contemplate your ways.

16  My delight shall be in your statutes •

   and I will not forget your word.

Psalm 119 ]


So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him,

‘You are my Son,

   today I have begotten you’;

as he says also in another place,

‘You are a priest for ever,

   according to the order of Melchizedek.’

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 5:5-10


Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.

‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—“Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

John 12:20–33

Sermon on Passion Sunday

Today we begin “Passiontide”, a part of Lent when we turn to the events leading to the crucifixion itself, when we meditate on all that Jesus experienced in his last days – I have to ask: can we really imagine the thoughts and feelings that went through him on that last day, after he accepted the bitter cup which was offered him as the Christ.

‘Now my soul is troubled,’ says Jesus, and I say, “What an understatement!”

Jesus is looking forward to his ownmost possibility, to his own future, to what must happen to him, to his death, to his being sacrificed on the cross. And this only “troubles” Jesus? The Greek word, tetaraktai, is what we translate as “trouble”? Right from Homer this word has been used literally as meaning to stir up something. In John, this word is used to describe the waters of the pool of Bethsaida as well. The sick were there waiting to jump into the pool when the waters bubbled that they might be healed. Those “troubled” waters were the means of healing for some.

But it was hardly healing that Jesus felt when he says “Now my soul has been troubled.” Surely it is exactly the opposite Jesus is feeling. Like the waters at Bethsaida Jesus’ soul was stirred up. What normally were quiet and still have become agitated. There is no rest, it has all been put into flux like that water at Bethsaida.

My soul has been thrown into confusion – There is only a commotion of thoughts and feelings – I am all at sixes and sevens – I don’t have a fixed point in my life. – I am troubled. – All these things could be said in relation to this Greek word, tetaraktai. One scholar wrote, “To cause one inward commotion, take away his calmness of mind, disturb his equanimity; to disquiet, make restless” All of this comes to a head in this one short sentence which the gospeller has recounted for us.

“I am upset,” Jesus is saying. What is his “inner perplexity?” we ask in Lent. Is it something we can understand? Aren’t we troubled on occasion? – When our plans go awry, when we don’t get our own way, when our expectations are dashed – aren’t we agitated then? But what is causing Jesus such perplexity, what can agitate him so?

Well, I think he has been looking into the hearts of the people around him. What could be more upsetting than that? We all have expectations which we bundle onto others, don’t we? Imagine what people were expecting from Jesus! “Jesus, saviour of the world, have mercy on us.” Imagine your name being placed in that sentence. Would you not be exercised – would you not be upset – as you consider all before you?

I would like to link this verse and its troubling word with another word. The word which I associate with passiontide – the Greek word paschein. This word means “to feel heavy emotion, especially suffering”. But with my philosopher’s hat on I would emphasise a second meaning I found for it, “affected, experiencing feeling (literally [it means] sensible, that is,  sensed-experience); the feeling of the mind, emotion, passion” This Greek word compounds what Jesus is going though, when his soul now tetaraktai. – In my reading of the passion, who could not be upset? Who would not be agitated and troubled by these events? Who could fail to be affected by all that happens in holy week? If we can participate in the passion at this remove, imagine how Jesus experienced all of these events!

The online dictionary I used, related this observation about the word paschein –  “The Lord has privileged us to have great capacity for feeling (passion, emotion, affections).” This author, Thayer, goes on to say “from Homer down, [the word means] to be affected or have been affected, to feel, have a sensible experience, to undergo.” So you can see why I associate these two words. I think they are central to our lives of faith.

Our Lord could be troubled, agitated, upset – so would we with all those milling around us calling our name out for healing and salvation. Parents must feel this keenly when their children are crying at their feet. We can not keep our equanimity with all of this happening in our lives, can we? Our feelings are aroused, we must have a deep passion as we look on the state of humanity. Don’t we feel great emotions because of what we are going through? Don’t we understand why people take extraordinary measures when the wrath is stirred? Don’t we want to speak out as Jeremiah does, calling on the Lord to place in us hearts of flesh which beat to the law of the Lord?

This ancient word paschein is the basis of the whole of our lives. If we are not open to what happens about us, where is our humanity? We do feel, don’t we? We do want to cry out for the pain of the world, but we are silenced by our feeling of impotence, of powerlessness to be effective. Why? Why do we feel that we can do nothing for the sake of the world? for our children? for ourselves?

I think we have been cowed by the anonymous “they” – that silent majority – which makes cowards of us all, since we don’t have the courage of conscience.  Conscience, like Jesus’ soul, should always be troubled, but we do nothing because no one else does anything and we don’t want to stand out from the crowd, do we?

This Greek word forms the etymological base for many of our words: pathos, empathy, sympathy, compassion. This common experience of emotion joins all of humanity together. We cannot help but feel, can we? As that scholar wrote “Indeed, this is inherent [in us] because all people are created in the divine image. Note for example how Jesus [even] in His perfect (sinless) humanity is keenly felt.  … [The word is used] in a bad sense, of misfortunes, to suffer, to undergo evils, to be afflicted (so everywhere in Homer and Hesiod; also in the other Greek writings where it is used [in an absolute sense]).”

Some theologians have emphasised this experiential troubling as the basis of human life. They say human being is thrown into a world of care and sorrow and must overcome it, just as we say Jesus overcame the world. Jesus, as fully human, teaches us the way to experience the world – with compassion. So our souls are troubled because of our experiences, and we need to open our hearts, we need to take action, and we need to relieve the suffering all around us, if only by stretching out our hands in the loving friendship of Christ.


This sermon is from Stilman Davis. It is copyrighted. You are welcome to use it, but put some extra money in the plate if you do.

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