Palm Sunday Sermon - April 17, 2011

Based on: Matthew 26:14 - 27:66

The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday

May my words be your Word and my heart rest in you as I speak, O Lord. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN.

The passion gospel you are about to hear is full of small betrayals.

There is the large betrayal of Judas, of course. But what about the small betrayal mentioned in John's gospel when Judas takes money from the common purse? What about Judas' betrayal of questioning Mary anointing Jesus with nard? Judas had lived closely with Jesus and knew his deep generosity, and yet he betrayed that generosity by suggesting Mary's act was far too generous. Judas betrayed Jesus with a lie when he knowing he was the betrayer, he asked Jesus, "Surely not I, Rabbi?" And Jesus responded to that lie with, "You have said so."

Judas' largest betrayal was to turn Jesus over to the authorities, of course, but why do it with a kiss? Another small betrayal; a betrayal of the love shown to Judas by the man he betrayed.

Betrayals are cumulative. They have a life of their own, it seems. One small betrayal can lead to another and then another. And the life a betrayal has seems to grow larger. One small betrayal, and then the next betrayal can be a little bigger, and the next larger still, and on. Once betrayed, easier the next time. We know how. Like Judas, we have taught ourselves how to betray and the more we do it, the easier it becomes. We are practiced betrayers. We are busy being betrayers without giving it much thought or much purpose.

When Judas final betrayal had taken place, he was no longer caught up in the busyness of betrayal. He became mindful of his betrayal, according to Matthew's gospel and he repented. He took his repentance to the wrong place, however. Judas went to the authorities. Where Judas went to make his repentance was like making a confession to a court of law or to the opposing side's lawyer. He received no forgiveness from the judicial authorities, and he was bereft. His remorse was so great he hanged himself.

The little betrayals of Judas became so great he did not return to the community he betrayed and make his confession there. Did he think he would not have been forgiven? Did he believe that even in a community that followed Jesus he would still be cast out for his sins, for his betrayal? Perhaps he would have been. Perhaps even a community begun by the son of God, the God who became flesh among them and forgave sins, perhaps even that community would have cast him out. Perhaps even a community where the founder, God made human flesh in Jesus, had given them a cup of wine just a few days before, and said, "(T)his is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many, for the forgiveness of sins."

Poured out for many. Poured out for Judas too? The man to whom Jesus had said, only a few days before, "(T)his is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many, for the forgiveness of sins." For Judas too? Perhaps for Judas too; if only Judas had asked.

I wonder as we listen to the gospel today if we can imagine Judas coming to this community. I wonder if this community would offer forgiveness. I wonder as we listen to the gospel today if we can imagine the rest of the people in the gospel who betrayed Jesus coming to this community. I wonder if we would forgive any or all of them. Would we forgive even Judas, if he came to us today? AMEN.


The Rev Nicolette Papanek

Trinity Episcopal Church

Covington, Kentucky


John 12:4 (NRSV)

John 12:3-6 (NRSV)

Matthew 26:22-25 (NRSV)

Matthew 27:3-5 (NRSV)

Matthew 26:28 (NRSV)