4TH SUNDAY OF LENT, March 11
DAY 1 (Sunday, March 11, 4th week of lent)
As I mentioned in the introduction to this Lenten journey, Mark has highlighted six places that could have been followed by early Christians in much the same way some Christians today walk the Stations of the Cross. The places are all in Jerusalem and mark the last hours of Jesus’ life on earth. Seeing them as ‘Stations’ suggests that the narrative Mark now tells is one that the early church pondered about in prayerful devotion, as they walked in Jesus’ footprints and worshipped him.
I’m going to begin these ‘stations’ with three episodes that aren’t part of the six places but form a backdrop to Jesus’ arrest, trial and crucifixion. The first and third episodes relate to Mark’s primary themes in this last section of his Gospel--conspiracy as the authorities begin plotting to execute Jesus (14:1-2) and betrayal, Judas’ decision to turn informer against Jesus (14:10-11). In-between these two themes, is the story of the woman who anointed Jesus in the village of Bethany, a few kilometres outside Jerusalem (14:3-9). She is an illustration of one who remains faithful to Jesus, neither conspiring against him nor betraying him in any way. Each of these three stories prepares us for Mark’s emphasis on Jesus’ passion so that we read about it in the right mood.
PREPARE TO LISTEN. Begin with the usual silence and then pray: Let those who are wise give heed to these things, and consider the steadfast love of the Lord. (Psalm 107:43)
READ: Mark 14:1-2 ‘A plan, but no control’
1It 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; 2for they said, ‘Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.’
These verses set the stage for the final hours of Jesus’ life. They are ominous words, not the kind we’d ever read for inspiration and encouragement. Jesus appears only by name; he says and does nothing, preparing readers for a more passive role for Jesus as we begin the journey through Jesus’ last days on earth.
The story begins with the detail that it was two days before Passover and introduces us to the first of Mark’s two themes in this section, the theme of conspiracy, which has to do with Jesus’ relationship to the authorities. The chief priests and scribes, members of the ruling elite, were determined to end Jesus’ life. Mark uses powerful and active language—“they were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him.” They thought they were in control, could eliminate Jesus whenever they wanted and yet, they were afraid of the crowd and so decided to wait until after Passover. They had a plan but lacked control to put it into action. God had a different plan, one that included Jesus’ death during, not after Passover, regardless of the rulers’ plan.
If we read this story and wonder about God and not some historical detail or interpretive issue, we’ll get the picture Mark is painting. The God and Father of Jesus remains in total control over this seemingly hopeless situation. This is a message that we all need to hear, especially today as we look at political crises in different parts of the world. I’m writing this from South Africa that has a major crisis in leadership, corruption that is slowly destroying the country and a drought in the Western Cape that is bringing its people to their knees. I’m a resident of the United States that has its own crises of leadership, natural disasters, alarming gun violence, etc. We need to know that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ can and is working to complete his plan, regardless of what world leaders say and do and plot. These words in Mark are, I believe words of hope to encourage our faithfulness.
There are extremely powerful authorities controlling the world in which we live, doing things that conflict with the way of Jesus. Let this short story today be an encouragement to you that Another, the Lord God, is moving all things towards his purpose and end. Nothing and no one will stop God. Rest assured in this truth.
RESPOND TO JESUS IN PRAYER
Lord Jesus, the rulers of your day had one plan for you that failed. I rest today in your power to bring your plan to fruition just as I continue to hope in your future for your world. Amen.
GO AND LIVE IN OBEDIENCE TO CHRIST in confident hope despite present circumstances.