On Sunday March 24th I led the service at Scotton near Knaresborough. It was Palm Sunday but I did not preach on the entry into Jerusalem but instead we focussed on the trial, crucifixion and death of Jesus as recorded in Luke 23v1-49. We sang ‘Praise to the holiest in the height’ as the opening hymn as we remembered the final rejection of Jesus culminating in his death. Our first reading was the suffering servant of Isaiah 50v4-9a, the role Jesus had chosen for himself when he accepted the cup in the Garden of Gethsemane. We sang ‘My Song is love unknown,’ before a dramatised reading of the trial of Jesus before Pilate and Herod and his condemnation to death in Luke 23v1-25. I then gave a short talk meditating on the trial and condemnation of Jesus, recognising that Pilate had kept saying Jesus had not done anything to deserve death. Pilate hoped Herod would pronounce judgment on Jesus, as he came from Galilee, but Herod mocked and humiliated Jesus and sent him back to Pilate. Pilate still determined to release Jesus reminded the crowd that it was the practice to release a prisoner at the Passover Festival and offered them a choice of releasing Jesus, the ‘king of the Jews’ or Barabbas a well known murderer and they called for Barabbas to be released and called for the death of Jesus.
Then we sang ‘I will sing the wondrous story’ and read the second dramatised reading which was Luke 23v26-38, which described the road to the cross and the crucifixion of Jesus. In my talk I showed how the taunting of Jesus continued as he walked alongside his cross, which Simon of Cyrene had been forced to carry by the Roman soldiers. Jesus’ thoughts were only for those around him, telling the women to weep for themselves not for him. He asked God to forgive them as they did not know what they were doing. Even on the cross the soldiers and rulers continued to humiliate Jesus who was dying a tortuous death under the title ‘This is the King of the Jews.’ We then sang ‘Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim’ before we read Luke 23v39-49 which concluded with the death of Jesus. In my talk I commented on how even one of the Criminals hanging next to Jesus mocked him, but was rebuked by the other criminal who recognised he was being justly punished for his crimes, whereas Jesus had done nothing wrong. The second criminal in repentance asked Jesus to remember him when he came into his kingdom and Jesus told him that he would be with him in Paradise, far more than he could have possibly deserved. Jesus then said Father into your hands I commit my spirit and breathed his last. He offered himself to his Father in Heaven. We then sang the chorus, ‘Spirit of the living God’ twice as we prepared for the prayers of thanksgiving and intercessions. I found that doing the readings in this way interspersed with the talks and hymns made me focus much more on the final moments of our Lord’s life. The service concluded when we sang the passion hymn, ‘When I survey the wondrous cross.’
A young family came with an 18 month old boy who was not well, but he managed most of the service before he needed to have a run around. I came prepared with drawing to colour and crayons and a little donkey to help keep him amused. He seemed to be more settled whenever we were singing. It was good to see the young family who have been made to feel very welcome.