Mark 11 – 14

Readings for this week March 18 – 22
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – True Kingship

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 11:1-6

Mark can be quite economical with words. He simply describes the animal as a colt, which could refer to several different animals; elsewhere Matthew specifies that it is a donkey. (We’ll see something similar with the branches people wave: Mark doesn’t say they are palm fronds in particular; there are many types of plant that would do the trick.) And we do not know whether the arrangement with the colt was a spur-of-the-moment decision from Jesus or something that he had organised beforehand. But either way, Jesus knows that there are certain ways of doing things, certain expectations of the king – like how you reveal yourself to the people and how a king should enter the holy city. Jesus has shared with his disciples who he is, and others have been slowly coming to the realisation that the long-awaited king is here. But some have already discovered that the expectations might not match reality.

Jesus has been – and will continue – redefining kingship. When we look back to the revelation of his Messiahship to his disciples; if we look over what he has been saying and doing throughout his travels; once we see what he proceeds to do in the next few chapters – all these things reveal that what Jesus has been revealing about kingship is not what people may have been expecting. The lame are healed, the blind receive sight, the possessed are released, those pushed beyond the boundaries of society are welcomed back – and the Messiah moves purposefully ahead to the cross that awaits him, but that others cannot yet perceive.

Questions to Consider
How do you think Jesus feels about the way people see him? Why might he be disappointed? Bemused? Concerned?

Prayer
Almighty God, reign in my life. May you truly be my king and may I be a loyal and loving subject at all times. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – What Type of King do You Think You’re Getting?

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 11:7-11

The scene is a relatively well-known one, particularly in romantic novels set in Elizabethan times, and in films set in the same period: a finely dressed noblewoman is walking along the street when suddenly her way is blocked by a huge puddle of muddy water that will ruin her dress and shoes if she approaches anywhere near it. Luckily for her, a chivalrous young man sees her predicament, sweeps his cloak from around his shoulders and lays it across the puddle, thus saving her clothes and her blushes, and earning her undying gratitude.

But this kind of cloak-laying activity, performed by the crowd welcoming Jesus, was not done for strangers or friends or even for important people. Laying your cloak on the ground in this way was something done for royalty and royalty alone. Likewise with the branches: this was only something done in honour of a king. The Messiah the disciples have been slowly coming to know and understand was now, upon entering Jerusalem, being acknowledged as the king. The understanding dawning in Mark 8 was now manifest here. This was Jesus’ royal reception. The word Hosanna mixes two ideas together. It was a shout of joyful praise to almighty God, as well as a prayer in expectation of this almighty God acting to save his people – hence the mention of David and his kingdom, as the crowd looks towards the restoration of the kingdom and the king. But do they really know what kind of king they are welcoming?

Questions to Consider
Why did the crowd that welcomed Jesus so enthusiastically as king cry so enthusiastically for his crucifixion? What changed for them? Why?

Prayer
Lord God, may I not be fickle, blown by the wind, praising you when times are good, running for cover when times are bad. Give me strength to be loyal and faithful at all times regardless of the cost. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – The Coming Death

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 14:1-3

From this point onwards the Gospel is speeding towards the crucifixion of the Messiah. We might think the events covered by the remaining readings this week don’t really seem to do this – particularly the interlude involving the woman anointing Jesus’ – but Mark has structured his story very carefully and precisely in order to give each and every point of the story its due weight. We, with our prior knowledge of the ultimate outcome, understand the anointing as part of the burial preparation of the soon to be executed king; this after all is Jesus’ own gloss on the situation. But even Mark’s framing of the episode would allow someone unfamiliar with the story to understand that something crucial was happening here. Either side of that beautiful expression of love towards the soon to be sacrificed saviour, Mark gives us signs of the danger closing in around Jesus.

We have the chief priests plotting to kill him, looking for a moment to strike, but recognising that Jesus’ current popularity with the crowds – especially after the welcome he received upon entering the city – prohibits them from doing anything immediately. But Jesus’ death is signposted here: the authorities plot to kill him. Then, the anointing. Afterwards, we see Judas slinking off to offer his services to the chief priests, agreeing to betray Jesus to them, and then immediately looking for opportunities to do so. This entire section is about death: death plotted and facilitated by men who cannot see the truth in front of them; death mourned and actively symbolised by a woman who sees deeper than most.

Questions to Consider
What do you think of the woman’s act of devotion? What would be a similar act for you today?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, grow in me a similar love and devotion as exhibited by this woman. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – An Act of Devotion

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 14:4-7

If ever there was a clear cut example of someone missing the point, or getting hung up on the tiny details rather than seeing the bigger picture, this is it. Some of the people present – people who would have been around Jesus for a while and seen the people upon whose behalf he spoke – would have thought they were on to a winning thing in chastising the woman for her wastefulness. The money could have been given to the poor – of course Jesus would be in favour of that, right? Obviously the poor should be supported – that is a given for Jesus – but not just through the giving of money. We should give deeply of ourselves too, like this woman did.

The woman acted spontaneously. No indication is given by Mark or by Jesus that she knew that Jesus was going to die. The interpretation that she was anointing him for his burial ahead of time is offered by Jesus to the audience. The woman’s motivation is left unsaid, opaque, but is obviously a sign of her deep love for and devotion to Jesus. She is offering everything that she can in order to honour him. She gives no thought to cost – though it obviously cost her a lot in financial terms. She pays no heed to social stigma – though it obviously opened her up to accusations of profligacy and inappropriate conduct. Her act was one of simplicity and love – as opposed to all the men around her (and around the story) who plot in complicity, argue over details, and completely miss the significance of what is happening.

Question to Consider
How can we keep from missing the point like the crowd did here?

Prayer
Lord God, my I give all I am to you, no holding back, not swayed by public reaction, mindful of the cost but not ruled by it or afraid of it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Who Are You?

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 14:8-11

Priests plot; a woman worships; people grumble; a friend betrays. There are many characters in this story, many people exhibiting characteristics and traits that we also possess, many people acting in ways that we also sometimes act. At different times in our lives we resemble different people in this story. Who in this story do you most relate to? Where would you be in this story? Who do you identify with? As difficult as it is, if you were genuinely to try and put yourself in this story today, now, watching it unfold before you, not knowing necessarily where it was leading, who would you side with? What would your response to the woman’s actions be? Would you agree or disagree with the crowd?

Are you the type of person that quietly plots their own way forward because you don’t like where you see the story going? And if things are about to go downhill very badly do you, like Judas, manoeuvre and plan and scheme in order to at the very least secure something for yourself? Or are you on the sidelines, an anonymous grumbler, unhappy with the devotion shown by others, looking for an excuse – any excuse, even one that in others times and places would be welcomed and encouraged – to pull someone down a few notches? Are you, like the disciples, struggling to understand, even after all you have seen and heard? Or, like the woman, do you only have eyes for Jesus?

Questions to Consider
Who do you identify with? Why? How would you like to change?

Prayer
Loving Father, forgive me for my stumblings and my failures. Thank you for grace, forgiveness, second chances, and above all for your faithfulness to me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)