Mark 14 continued

Readings for this week April 1 – 5
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – Unfamiliar Territory

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 14:32-34

We all know what can happen when a leader falls apart. Those they lead, those who look to them for strength, guidance and direction, can suddenly find themselves adrift and alone, fending for themselves, not knowing what to do. Though the text does not explicitly say so, if we read between the lines this scene in the Garden of Gethsemane is probably one of the most disturbing, unsettling scenes the disciples would have witnessed. Up until this point Jesus has always been the one in control. He has known what to do and what to say; he has spoken and acted with knowledge and authority; he has taught and guided, preached and healed, always knowing what he was doing. He’s always been strong and he’s always known what to do next. He’s always had the answers.

But now it seems that Jesus is falling apart. He’s lost, tired, distraught and upset. He seems restless, unable to stay still, unable to concentrate on any one thing for long. This would have been completely new, unfamiliar, frightening territory for the disciples to traverse: a leader giving all the appearance of undergoing some sort of terrifying internal crisis – and even more than this, insisting, again, that the disciples were all on the verge of abandoning him and running away, despite their continuing protestations to the contrary. Their faith in Jesus, in his ability to guide and lead them as he always had, would be badly shaken simply by looking at him, at how distressed and afraid he was. If Jesus suddenly isn’t coping, then who can possibly hope to handle whatever is coming?

Questions to Consider
How do you think the disciples would have felt seeing Jesus like this? Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? How did it feel?

Prayer
Lord God, you know our deepest despair and pain because you lived it in your son. Thank you that we can always call on you, no matter what. You will never abandon us, you will never leave us completely alone. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Not the Answer You Want

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 14:35-41

Back in Mark 10:27 Jesus had told the disciples that anything was possible for God. Now, in Gethsemane, perturbed beyond measure, Jesus reaches out for that promise himself. He does not want to go through what he knows is about to happen. Jesus throws himself on the Father’s mercy, believing that because all things are possible for God, it is even possible for God to remove the cup of suffering and death that lies before Jesus. The road of pain, torture, humiliation and death can be taken away and somehow not travelled. Because all things are possible for God. And so Jesus asks his heavenly Father to remove what lies before him, to take it away, and it seems that his Abba’s answers this most intimate, anguished, heartfelt prayer is “No”.

From that moment on, in the aftermath of that answer, Jesus treads the course to the cross without wavering. Though his anguish was almost unbearable, and the answer to his prayer was not what he sought, those moments of intimacy with his heavenly Father gave him the strength and courage to submit to his Father’s will, and walk the path to the cross. Jesus plumbed the depths of human agony and despair, not only as a means of putting a ‘tick’ in the box marked human, but also as part of what it means to be God’s son, the God-forsaken “man of sorrows” who takes away the sin of the world. Gethsemane forces us to wrestle, like Jesus did, with what it means for him to be the Son of God, for him and for us.

Questions to Consider
When have you earnestly prayed for something, only to receive the answer “No”? How did you feel? What happened as a result?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, you have my best interests at heart, even when I don’t know what they are. You see more than I do and I thank you for your far-seeing wisdom. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Not Worthy of the Name

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 14:42-52

Whatever else he is (and he is many things; much ink has been spilt on Judas’ character and his motivations for doing what he did) Judas is not stupid. He’s picked a good moment to lead the authorities to arrest Jesus. It is night time, and Jesus and the disciples are out of the city, in a secluded spot, so there are no inconvenient crowds around to complicate matters or get in the way. The soldiers come armed (perhaps they view Jesus as a revolutionary along the same lines as previous revolutionaries who had fomented armed rebellion); one of the crowd fights back as Jesus is arrested, but Jesus admonishes the violence; after all he had been peacefully teaching at the Temple long enough for them to have arrested him at any time. As he is taken away, his friends scatter.

It is interesting that when Mark mentions the disciples running away and abandoning Jesus – as has been hinted at and promised many times in the narrative up to this point – he does not use the word ‘disciples’ to describe them. He simply says “they abandoned him and ran away.” They. He doesn’t describe them as disciples because, frankly, at this point they are not acting at all like disciples. Seemingly everything they ever heard their master say, everything they saw him do, every miracle he performed, every claim he made – all of it has been forgotten in the rush to avoid being arrested alongside the one they had called master and lord, the one who had called them friends.

Questions to Consider
When do you act at your most un-disciple-like? Why?

Prayer
Loving Father, forgive me my failings, forgive my sin, forgive those times when I fail to act as a follower of Jesus should. Continue to shape me into a true disciple of your son Jesus. In his name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – A Study in Contrasts

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 14:53-60

Remember the way Mark had structured the story of the woman who anointed Jesus’ head with perfume earlier in this chapter? He bracketed this extraordinary story of devoted love with the chief priests’ plot to arrest Jesus and Judas going to them and offering to betray him. Light surrounded by darkness. Mark does a similar thing here, this time contrasting the exemplary behaviour of Jesus with the shameful behaviour of Peter. We begin with a reminder of Peter’s presence at the courtyard, yet we remember Jesus’ prophecy that Peter would deny him three times. The full passage ends with Peter’s three part denial (we read about this last week). Others may accuse him of being a false prophet, but Mark shows that Jesus is the true Messiah, and a true prophet of God.

The moment when Jesus fully reveals himself to be, and admits being, the Messiah, is followed by the moment when Peter, the first to recognise him as such, denies him. Jesus stands up amidst the condemnation of those who have the ability to see him put to death and reveals who he is; Peter hides from the accusations of strangers that he knew Jesus and followed him and denies the very thing he had been the first to declare about his lord and master. Peter ran and hid and denied who Jesus was. Jesus stood firm, declared who he was and what God would accomplish through him, even though he knew uttering these words would give the priests the excuse they needed to hand him over to be executed.

Questions to Consider
How was what Jesus did something only he could do? What does this show us about his character and his motivation?

Prayer
Almighty Father, forgive my ‘Peter’ moments, just as you forgave him over breakfast on the beach. Show me the place and work you have for me in your kingdom and give me the strength to do it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – The Messiah – and All That Means

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 14:61-65

When asked directly by Caiaphas if he is the Messiah, Jesus is unequivocal: I am, his answer begins, echoing the very name of God himself, the name revealed to Moses at the burning bush. Jesus goes on to quote two Old Testament verses, that show Caiaphas that he (Jesus) believes himself to be God’s chosen, anointed one. The entire gospel of Mark has revealed this, has shown that this is how Jesus has seen himself and seen his work: the kingdom-bringing work of God’s anointed. And he is not afraid to say so, even when death is the price for saying it.

This is all summed up in Jesus’ combined quote from Psalm 110 and Daniel 7:13, and a further dimension is added too, a dimension that causes the high priest to accuse Jesus of blasphemy. It’s bad enough that Jesus is claiming all these things about himself; that’s not a crime necessarily, but it does show how highly Jesus sees himself – or it is merely proof of his delusion. What makes it worse is that Jesus says that this is how God sees him too. Jesus claims that he will be vindicated by God, that God will prove him right, in the process proving the improvised court before which he stands wrong. Yes, I am the Messiah, I am Israel’s true king, I am a true prophet, all I have said will come true and, what’s more, you will see God act to vindicate me and show you I am right and you are wrong. The threat is unmistakable. It’s no wonder they hand him over to be put to death.

Questions to Consider
How was Jesus vindicated? What does this mean for us?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, thank you for your son and all that he did to free us so that we could have that intimate relationship with you that you always wanted for us. Thank you that the kingdom Jesus preached is the kingdom we are now a part of and work for. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)