Mark 14

Readings for this week March 25 – 29
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – Meaningful Meals

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 14:12

Food is an important, essential thing that human beings need in order to survive. No one would deny this. But so often for us food is just another means to an end: we need it to fuel ourselves, we prefer to get it as quickly as we can, eating on the go, squeezing in a bite or two whenever we can. Unlike many in this world, we have an abundance of food possibilities around us, regarding what we decide to eat, when we decide to eat it, and with whom we will eat it. Who we eat with says a lot about who we are, yet if we spend most of our time eating alone…

Meals are different. Meals aren’t just food. They require thought, preparation, time, and space in order to happen. And when they do happen, more than just our stomachs are fed; more than just food is shared. We share ourselves and our journeys and our experiences and our memories. Meals can change us, if we let them, if we create times and spaces for them. It seems that human beings of all cultures like to gather around the meal table to mark significant moments in their lives as individuals (birthdays, promotions, anniversaries, etc.) and as part of communities (religious holidays and festivals, national holidays, commemorations, and so on). Jesus knew this. So much of his time was spent around the table with people, sharing life together with them. It is not surprising that, as his passion approached, Jesus wanted to mark the coming occasion with a meal with his friends.

Questions to Consider
What are some of the most significant meals you have shared with others? What made them significant for you?

Prayer
Lord God, make the table around which we gather a place of love and fellowship. May we be open to others and with others, just as we are open to you. May we take the time to be together. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – A Meal of Multi-Faceted Meanings

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 14:13-21

“All the two know is that they’re getting ready the special elements that make up the traditional Jewish Passover. What Jesus knows is that this will be a Passover with a difference. This is the time when he will go, as a greater Moses, ahead of the Twelve, ahead of Israel, ahead of the world, into the presence of a greater slave-master than Pharaoh, into a terror greater than walking through the sea, to lead the world to freedom. This Passover-meal-with-a-difference is going to explain, more deeply than words could ever do, what his action, and passion, the next day really meant; and, more than explaining it, it will enable Jesus’ own followers, from that day to this, to make it their own, to draw life and strength from it. If we want to understand, and be nourished by, what happened on Calvary, the meal is the place to start[…]

To the annoyance of our rationalistic age, you can’t put this meaning into words. You can only put it into action. Actions like this are so powerful that sometimes people in the churches have tried to contain or control them, to surround them with more and more words, like trying to cage a tiger. But the actions – taking, blessing, breaking and giving the bread; taking, blessing and giving the cup – cannot be caged.”

-N.T. Wright, Mark for Everyone, p.194.

Questions to Consider
What does the meal that Jesus gave us mean to you? What does it signify about the kingdom and about what it means to follow this man? What happens when we celebrate it together?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, thank you for the meaning in the meal and the way in which you use it to bind us to you, and to your kingdom purpose in this world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Re-enacting the Kingdom

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 14:22-25

Words are powerful things. Lots of words have been spoken and written about the last supper and the kingdom meal that Jesus instituted. The words recorded here are probably not the only words that Jesus spoke at that table about the meal before them. As the head of the ‘family’ gathered together, he would have retold the Passover story, using the traditional Jewish elements gathered for the occasion. But Jesus used some old, familiar things – the bread and the wine – in a new, surprising way. Instead of just linking the bread and wine back to the Exodus story, he also pushed them forward, connecting them with the events of his fast-approaching death and the coming of the kingdom that he had always preached, and that his death would bring about.

Jesus was using the elements of the meal as a way of teaching his disciples – his friends – about his coming death and about what it would mean. He could have given them a theological lecture about the kingdom, or initiated a workshop on ‘being a disciple’, or given a list of instructions and tasks he wanted them to carry on with. Yet really, he’d sort of been doing that all along. But instead, as his final private moment with them, he gave them a meal, he gave them a table to gather around and bread to break and wine to drink in remembrance of his death and in anticipation of what was to come after, even though they couldn’t see it yet. This meal is the central way in which Jesus wanted his kingdom-bringing death to be recognised and known and enacted in the world, by his followers.

Questions to Consider
When you take communion, what thoughts and feeling does it evoke in you? How does it bring you closer to God, to others, and to the kingdom?

Prayer
Almighty Father, may the bread and wine, next time I take communion, speak to me of you in greater ways than they have before. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – To Know What is Coming

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 14:26-31

He knows they are – all of them – going to abandon him. He knows that very soon, in a matter of hours or even minutes, they will be gone and he will be alone. The people he has spent the last couple of years with, the people he has taught and led, feasted with and cried with, laughed with and loved, the people closest to him, the first to follow, will shortly be the ones to abandon him first. He has carefully and lovingly shepherded this flock, but soon the shepherd will be attacked and the flock will run in fear. Even Peter – head-strong, impetuous, big-hearted, clear-eyed Peter – will turn and run away, but only after having denied three times that he even knows who this Jesus – friend, teacher, master – is.

Even though Jesus knows that the Hebrew scriptures have foretold this moment, and even though he knows that he is the only one who can enter the darkness that is slowly closing around him and defeat it; even though he knows the task is his alone – imagine how he feels in this moment with his friends about to leave him. Before the physical punishment there is this special kind of psychological torture, the knowledge that those he loves, and who love him, will leave him utterly alone. Imagine his sorrow as he experiences their final moments together, imagine how bittersweet it is to hear the disciples’ protestations of loyalty and promises of steadfastness, how heart-breaking this final conversation with Peter must be, after all the time they have spent together. Man of sorrows indeed.

Question to Consider
Why do you think the disciples, especially Peter, were so adamant in their belief they would not abandon Jesus?

Prayer
Lord, the heartache must have been unimaginable as you said what only you knew would end up being goodbye. Thank you for all you sacrificed, on the cross and beforehand. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Our Betrayals

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 14:66-72

Peter’s (triple) betrayal is one of the most famous betrayals in history. Absolutely adamant that he would never abandon Jesus, it is his vehement conviction that such betrayal is impossible for him that makes his eventual falling away even more memorable and heart-breaking. Was it his fear and uncertainty about what was going to happen to Jesus, as he watched, that made Peter fearful of being associated with him? Or was it fear about what might happen to Peter himself if such an association was discovered? Or perhaps it was simply a basic reaction to being accused of something, and natural response was to deny it. But whatever the case, even though all the other disciples abandoned Jesus too, “the one who denied Jesus” is a label attached only to Peter.

We all deny Jesus in some way. Not all the time, and not in large, public settings like Peter did. Most often we do so in lots of little ways that eventually add up to some sort of slow-burn betrayal if we are not careful. But today’s reading is not meant to force us all to beat ourselves up about the ways in which we betray or fail Jesus. That is not the intended point. Instead, knowing that on our own, under our own strength (the way Peter thought he could do it) we will stumble and fail, we need to throw ourselves completely on the loving mercy of the Father, and pray that the Holy Spirit will guide us and empower us, not just in the big things, but in those tiny little things that can trip us up too.

Questions to Consider
What does it mean to betray someone? How do we fail and betray Jesus? How do we guard against doing this?

Prayer
Loving Lord, forgive me my trespasses against you, my failings and fallings, my attempts at managing things in my own strength. Thank you that failing is not forever and that your grace goes on. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)