Holy Week Sermons 2018 – Based primarily on Mark’s Gospel

Preached by Ven. Andrew Mintern  (Parish Priest of Glenelg)

 PALM SUNDAY  –  Focus Scripture Mark 11:1-11

 Introducing our hands!

Our hands are amazing things.

Out of the 206 bones in our bodies, 54 of them, more than a quarter, are in our hands. Moved by some 68 muscles (around 10% of the muscles in our bodies)

We use our hands almost every moment of the day – in daily tasks, in working, in creating, in art, in showing love, in communicating, gesticulating, fidgeting, in prayer, in showing anger, hatred and even violence.

Perhaps we find that our hands don’t do now what they once did. Perhaps they ache. Perhaps arthritis is getting the better of them. Perhaps they don’t look like we want them to, but whatever our opinion of them, they, without a doubt, make an impact on the world around us and give expression to who we are.

Of course we can still be faithful successful humans without them. I know someone with no hands who has a large family and a successful career. So I acknowledge that can certainly be so, but also it is true that in our society it is a significant challenge to live without our hands, such is the reliance of humans upon them.

Billy Graham once said: “God has given us two hands – one to receive with and the other to give with. We are not cisterns made for hoarding; we are channels made for sharing.” Our hands help us to give and receive. They help us survive. They help us communicate.


Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem.

When Jesus entered Jerusalem he did so to a cacophony of shouting voices and waving hands.

Jesus instructed the disciples to find a colt that had never been ridden. Symbolically this indicated that it was destined, set aside, for a holy purpose, (Num 19:2; Deut 21:3; 1 Sam 6:7) especially considering the prophecy that a new king of Israel would come “humble and riding on a donkey” (Zech 9:9). The disciples untied the donkey with their hands and lead it to Jesus. Knowing what difficult and opinionated animals Donkeys can be I can imagine how Jesus might have soothed it with his hands before climbing on its back and then reassuringly guided it with his hands.

As Jesus entered Jerusalem we are told in Mark’s Gospel that the people spread cloaks and garments on the road, reminiscent of Old Testament royal processions (2 Kings 9:13; 1 Macc 13:51; 2 Macc 10:7). People used their hands to remove the cloaks they were wearing and to cut down branches. The people spread them on the road and waved them in the air. As they waved to Jesus they called out “Hosanna (Lord save us), Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Mark 11:9)

The hands of the people in the crowd show joy and expectation. They show support and approval, like a football crowd when the winning goal is scored with 30 seconds to go! As one the people leap up, they call out, and they clap their hands, they wave them, they punch them in the air, they slap each other on the backs, they high five.

Jesus’ procession into Jerusalem suggests all the fervor of a sporting crowd, and you can just picture the sea of people, arms raised, waving hands, waving palm branches and shouting out.

The stage appears to be set for something big and, yes, it is coming, but St Mark, in a moment of beautiful anti-climax, finishes this raucous expectant triumphal procession with:

“Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve” (Marl 11:11)

What is that all about???


A Different type of Messiah

All this fanfare entering Jerusalem, all the hosanna’s, all the hand waving, cloak strewing, palm branch waving, fist pumping, as people welcome Jesus to Jerusalem, and then  Jesus has a quick look around and leaves again.

This is the drama of Mark’s Gospel, The Gospel writer is holding up a finger to us and saying, “Don’t be sucked in by the crowds. Jesus is not necessarily the Messiah you think he is.”

Who is he? Well you will have to wait and see.

Jesus will return the next day and with hands filled with righteous anger will overturn the money changers’ tables in the temple and drive out those selling and buying there. This act of challenge to the religious institution of his day will seal his fate. (Mark 11:15-19)

But there is more to come… so much more.


Walking through Holy Week with Jesus

This week we will hold hands with Jesus and the disciples and walk the journey of holy week. We will journey through remembering the Passover meal (which became the last supper), where Jesus broke bread and washed his disciples’ feet. We will recall the arrest of Jesus and, in memory of the way he was stripped and whipped, we will strip the church of its ornaments. In Vigil following the Maundy Thursday service we will follow Jesus’ request to stay awake and keep watch and pray with him. We will gather on Good Friday to reflect on those loving healing teaching hands being nailed to a cross and consider the crosses we and our world are facing. And then on Easter day we will proclaim the good news of resurrection on Easter morning as the Risen Christ reaches out to his disciples to show that death is not the end. At our 10am service, for those being confirmed, the bishop will lay his hands on them in prayer signifying their commitment of faith and God’s blessing for their lives.

We know the journey of Holy Week well. We have walked it before. Its steps are well-worn for us, but every year it is different. Every year God has something new to teach us. Without fail!

May God bless each of you as we travel together through this Holy Week.


Scan0002 close up


Focus Scripture – 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-17, 31b-35


Jesus hands were kind hands

I’d like to begin by singing a simple little hymn – “Jesus hands were kind hands”. (Together in Song – TIS 236).  

Jesus’ hands were kind hands, doing good to all,

Healing pain and sickness, blessing children small,

Washing tired feet, and saving those who fall:

Jesus’ hands were kind hands, doing good to all


Take my hands, Lord Jesus, let them work for you

Make them strong and gentle, kind in all I do;

Let me watch you, Jesus, till I’m gentle too,

Till my hands are kind hands, quick to work for you.


On Palm Sunday I started us reflecting upon hands – the wonder of the human hand, and our capacity to express ourselves both positively and negatively through the work of our hands in the world. We looked at the actions of the crowd waving branches with their hands and then Jesus later overturning the tables of the money-changers in the temple with his hands.


Service is sacrament

On this Maundy Thursday Jesus expresses his whole gospel of love through his hands. Kneeling humbly on the floor he washes his disciples’ feet. We so often associate the last supper solely with the sharing of bread and wine – the institution of Holy Communion – but the act of  foot-washing is just as important.

The beautiful hymn, “An Upper Room”, one of my favourites, puts it so well and so succinctly: “And after supper he washed their feet, for service, too, is sacrament.” (TIS 536)

Service is sacrament. Jesus gives his disciples a lasting example that if they want to lead, they must know how to serve. His example to them is to take on the task of the lowliest of servants – washing the dirty smelly feet of his disciples with his bare hands. This simple action is a sermon in itself – it is an expression of love and humility, of service and leadership.

Those same hands that washed their feet, will break the bread and share the wine, forever linking the great sacrament of communion with the way we live our lives in practical service.


Dominical Actions

When priests are learning about the Eucharist, and how to conduct it, sooner or later they get taught about the seven dominical actions. Whilst St Paul’s version of communion which we heard tonight doesn’t spell out all of them, it is clearly put in Mark’s version of the Last Supper (Mark 14:22-25)

  1.  he took a loaf of bread,
  2. and after blessing it
  3. he broke it,
  4. gave it to them,
  5. he took a cup,
  6. after giving thanks
  7. he gave it to them

These seven simple actions of Jesus’ hands (taking, blessing, breaking, giving, taking, thanking, giving) have been repeated countless millions of times by priests and ministers in his name. And as we break bread tonight, millions of Christians around the world are also linking hands with us and joining in the sharing the bread and wine.

Humble service of others and the gracious sharing in the Eucharist – These are bedrocks of the Christian faith.


Jesus’ kind hands are leading us.

As we move into the Easter Triduum (the three holy days) during this holy week, let the hands of Jesus guide you. Let his example of hands-on service inspire you. Let the way he picked up, blessed and shared bread and wine, as his body and blood, strengthen and encourage you.

In every Eucharist Jesus lifts up his hands and presides, in every act of service Jesus is present.

Those hands of gentle service and generosity will soon be roughly bound and cruelly nailed but even that had no power to stop the salvation that God had in store.

Jesus’ hands were kind hands, doing good to all,

Healing pain and sickness, blessing children small,

Washing tired feet, and saving those who fall:

Jesus’ hands were kind hands, doing good to all


Take my hands, Lord Jesus, let them work for you

Make them strong and gentle, kind in all I do;

Let me watch you, Jesus, till I’m gentle too,

Till my hands are kind hands, quick to work for you.

Scan0011 close up


Focus Scripture- Mark 14:32 – 15:47


Hands and feet nailed to a cross!


A cruel crown of thorns.


Side pierced by a spear.


There is no way to pretty up or sanitise the crucifixion.  We may try, making pretty crucifixes in gold and silver, but whatever representation we choose it all points back to a barbaric form of execution.

Last night at Maundy Thursday we sang the hymn “Jesus hands were kind hands doing good to all”. Yet these kind hands were nailed to a cross! Jesus’ hands were once an infant’s hands reaching out from the manger for his mother Mary’s touch. These hands were once a child’s hands being taught the woodworking skills of this father Joseph’s trade until  as another hymn puts it, “whose strong hands were skilled at the plane and the lathe.” (TIS 613 Lord of All Hopefulness)

These hands, reaching out on the cross to the world, were the ones that  felt the flowing water of the river Jordan as his cousin John baptised Jesus. (Mark 1:9-11)

These were healing hands that reached out to his friend Simon’s mother-in-law to lift her up and heal her. (Mark 1:29-31)

It was through his healing hands, compassionate heart and strong faith that Jesus defied the synagogue leaders by healing a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath, leading to the Pharisees and Herodians to plot to kill him. (Mark 3:1-6)

He lifted hands to still the storm on the lake.  (Mark 4:35-40)

When he walked to heal Jairus’ daughter, a woman of faith in the crowd touched the hem of his garment with her hands and was healed. Jesus lovingly called her “daughter” as he continued on his way to take Jairus’ daughter by the hand and heal her. (Mark 5:21-43)

Those crucified hands had taken five loaves and two fish and, with thanks to God, had shared the meagre offering until it became enough for a crowd. (Mark 6:30-44)

They were strong dependable hands that strengthened the faith of Peter when he began to sink into the waters – lifting him up and gently chiding his lack of faith. (Matt 14:28-33)

Jesus’ hands were healing hands that touched a deaf man’s ears and tongue making him whole and bringing him back into the fellowship of his community. (Mark 7:31-37)

His hands were happy welcoming hands that embraced a group of children and, in turn, rebuked the disciples for trying to stop the children coming to him. (Mark 10:13-16)

Gentle hands that guided a donkey into Jerusalem to the cheers of the crowd, but then later angrily overturned the tables of the money-changers in the temple.

Hands that broke bread, shared wine and washed disciples’ feet.

Hands grasped in prayer in Gethsemane until rough hands arrested him.

These healing, helping, teaching, guiding, loving hands of Christ were bound; forced to carry the cross on which they would then be nailed at the mercy of the rough cruel hands which crucified him, mocked him and gambled for his clothing.

Joseph of Arimathea, along with Jesus’ mother Mary and Mary Magdalene, then took Jesus from the cross, anointed and wrapped the body for burial. I wonder, did Mary pause to remember at that moment, how she had wrapped him in bands of swaddling cloth so long ago when she placed him in the manger.

The story which started then in the stable now seemed finished. Jesus’ hands and heart and love had been stopped. They were still. All seemed lost.

The cross of Jesus stands as a huge challenge for us – a barbaric example among many of human inhumanity and cruelty. It is loss of meaning. It is seeming abandonment.

Standing here beside me, in stunning art, we see our own hands adorning the cross made by the Sunday kids (see front cover of this booklet). This powerfully reminds us that whatever pain or sadness or suffering we carry can be taken to the Jesus and borne on his cross. He can hold all of our pain within his own. On the cross he reached out his hands to all those who suffer. Through the power of the cross, we can bear our sufferings with Christ.

Also, if we can face it, this cross (along with all examples of human cruelty) confronts us with the reality that we too are implicated. Are our hands any different to the ones that held the swords and whips and hammer? Our hands upon the cross also confront us with the times that we fall short of who we should be – as individuals and also communally as a people. We are confronted by the justice we ourselves yearn for but fail to live. But the cross of Christ is strong enough to hold all that too.

The cross of Christ is strong enough to hold all our pain and suffering as well as all our failure and sin.

If the cross was the end of the story then Jesus’ crucified hands become just one other pair among the millions nailed to the crosses of history. But those wounded hands will yet comfort a grieving Mary and be shown to doubting disciples. At that time the power of the cross will be revealed.

But lest we be tempted to move too quickly to happy endings and easy solutions today we are called to stay with the cross – to stay with the pain and sorrow that we want to place beneath it. To stay with the prayers for forgiveness we want to offer. Today we can simply accept that the crucified Christ reaches out to me, to you, to us – once and for all and always.

We touch the cross in every moment of pain and failure and sin, but at the same time Christ touches us too, if we allow it, with the power of love and the possibility of new life.

Whatever it is we carry we can hand it over the crucified saviour. As we pray before the cross.



Focus Scripture – Mark 16:1-8


Christ is risen! Alleluia

He is risen indeed! Alleluia.


Saint Mark’s Account

St Mark’s account of Easter morning is the most confronting and yet, for me, the most moving of all the Gospels. Any bible published in the last four or five decades will make very clear that the earliest manuscripts of Mark’s gospel finish at verse 8 – “So they (the women) went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone for they were afraid.”

What sort of ending is that?

What sort of response to the news of resurrection is that?

Terror and Amazement had seized them – in Greek, Tromos and Ekstasis. The women were both traumatized and ecstatic!! A reasonable response to the mystery of Resurrection but we are also told that they said nothing to anyone.

No wonder some early scribes had difficulty with this telling of the Gospel and there are two different endings (a shorter and a longer ending) that were later added to it – and many bibles will include these as options. But to add on an ending is to miss the point of Mark’s Gospel.

Mark’s Gospel was once thought to be a more primitive Gospel because the Greek is not very high. My bible notes that “though vivid, Mark’s literary style is cruder and wordier than that of Matthew or Luke” (Harper’s Study Bible). But more recently some scholars have suggested that it is not so much “cruder” but rather it is written in the colloquial language of the day, the language of First century street theatre. And once we know that we can understand that there is a whole dramatic structure behind this Gospel.

Any early Christians reading Mark’s Gospel knew, of course, that the women fleeing the tomb did tell others the news of resurrection. Of course they did, for how else would we have had the faith passed on to us. What the drama of the Gospel is doing is getting us to respond in the way that any child responds at the end of a story: “But then what happened?”


Return to Galilee

The key lies in the message of the young man to return to Galilee to meet Jesus. Galilee is the place of first spiritual contact with Jesus, Galilee is where faith begins, Galilee is where the Gospel begins. Mark chapter 1 verse 9 ; “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee”. In Verse 14 “Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the Good news of God and saying ‘The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God has come near, repent and believe the Good News.’”

The message to go back to Galilee is an Easter message for all of us. Mark’s Gospel is sometimes described as having a circular or figure eight pattern, because when you get to the end it sends you back to the beginning. A figure eight image is used because right in the middle of the gospel is the story of a blind man from Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-26) who is healed but he can only see a little bit, not very clearly.  Jesus has to heal him a second time. It is like a key that says we may not see clearly the first time, but keep faith Jesus will help us see fully.

Read on, read on and return again to Galilee back to the beginning and read on. Eventually we will start to see. Eventually we will start to recognize the risen Christ is with us, in the midst of it all, always.

This is a very powerful Easter Message. The Gospel does not say “they all lived happily ever after”!  Instead it says – keep going, keep growing, keep encountering Christ, Keep going back to the origins of your faith, keep allowing your lives to be touched by the hands of the risen Jesus reaching out to you and longing to meet you in your Galilee.

I am struck that in Luke and John’s gospel when Jesus appears to the disciples he shows them his hands and his side (Luke 24:40; John 20:24-29). The Risen Christ, resurrected and transformed, still bears the wounds of the cross. Think about that! The Risen Christ, resurrected and transformed, still bears the wounds of the cross.  Jesus’ hands then and always bear the wounds of the world. As I said on Good Friday, all our pain that we carry can be shared with those wounded hands. And all the sin and shortcomings that carry can be laid upon the cross of Jesus (as our dramatic cross of hands so powerfully shows). The wounded Christ carries this pain and sin and it is transformed by the resurrection.

The resurrection is in invitation to return again to Galilee, place of first encounter, place of faith, place of healing, place of good news, and continue on in the renewed knowledge that Christ is with us – in sorrow, in joy, in our shortcomings and in our giftedness.

Christ walks with us hand in hand.

The traumatic and ecstatic news of Easter is that the cross, any cross, is not the end. There is always a Galilee and if we return there we will see Jesus, just as he told us.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

He is Risen indeed. Alleluia!

Holy Week and Easter Sermons 2018