“It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him; for they said, “Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.” (Mark 14:1 – 2)
I must tell you, beloved reader, the day I sat down to write on the long passage (Mark 14:1-15:47) I was not feeling well at all, having caught a nasty cold or flu. I was at times fumbling as to how to organize my thoughts and ponderings. I had blindly forged in dealing with the long passage from Mark that tells the complete story of the Passion. I had thought to separate the story over two days, since there were so many verses. What I did not consider was that we would be presented with the same story (albeit from a different gospel) during Holy Week. And having dealt with the story now, I would be at a loss for something new to see. And I have to confess, what I had written was a good bit of “dreck”, not something I would have like to have been remembered for! Thank goodness I realized my missteps and am in the processing of revising my thoughts and comments.
But I did make a few good points along the way. First, that in times past the Passion Story was presented as a play in communities, the parts being played by the people of the specific town. It came to be a tourist event, and people would travel to see it. More recently people have been traveling to the movie theater or their television to see the story presented in a more professional manner. I am not sure that is an improvement.
Secondly, later in the passage,
“On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, “Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?” So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.” So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.” (Verses 12 – 16)
I found it to be of interest that just the way the colt was found, the upper room came to be discovered by Jesus directing his disciples to actions that human knowledge could not predict. The story of the Passion of Christ is not the story of a common human but the son of Divine who is coming to the end of the mission and ministry that started with his birth. That fact alone may account for why the story is presented so often in the RCL.
Another thought I had came from a portion further on in the story.
“Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus said, “I am; and ‘you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power,’ and ‘coming with the clouds of heaven.'” Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “Why do we still need witnesses? You have heard his blasphemy! What is your decision?” All of them condemned him as deserving death. Some began to spit on him, to blindfold him, and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” The guards also took him over and beat him.” (Verses 61b – 65)
Sometimes we hear truths that we do not want to believe. We criticize and condemn the messenger in order to prove the message to be false. But truths can not be beaten and stamped out. Truths will stand up against any torture. Another aspect of truths is seen while Jesus is being questioned and abused inside.
“While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she stared at him and said, “You also were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.” But he denied it, saying, “I do not know or understand what you are talking about.” And he went out into the forecourt. Then the cock crowed. And the servant-girl, on seeing him, began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” But again he denied it. Then after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.” But he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know this man you are talking about.” At that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, “Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.” (Verses 66 – 72)
Truths also come out at inconvenient and embarrassing times. As much as we want to hide and deny the truth, it will come out. Peter did much better later in his life in aligning himself with Jesus Christ. And Jesus’ resurrection he gave Peter the opportunity to show how much he had learned about being a follower of Christ.
What I have presented here is certainly not all of the high points of the passion story, and probably not the ones that come down to us in biblical commentaries and exegesis. The passion story is full of poignant moments and sufferings. That is after all the meaning of “passion” in this instance – the suffering of Christ for our sake. Amid that suffering is lessons that we need to take to heart. I hope during Holy Week I am able to find more lessons and present them to you, beloved reader. Selah!