Thoughts on what it means to be a traveler on the Way of Jesus the Christ
Tuesday, March 27, 2018
Holy Tuesday (3/27/18)
MARK 14:16-31: So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.
When it was evening, he came with the twelve. And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, “Surely, not I?”He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me. For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.”
While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.”Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. And Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters; for it is written,
‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.’
But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter said to him, “Even though all become deserters, I will not.” Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.”But he said vehemently, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And all of them said the same.
In order to better understand what Jesus is saying here, I looked up the passage he quotes. Those quick lines about the shepherd and the sheep are from the 13th chapter of Zechariah. Therein, the Lord uses the prophet to warn against those who had dared to speak falsely in the Lord's name. These false prophets will be punished and many will hide and lie about their deeds.
One assumes that the disciples would have been familiar with the texts that Jesus quotes. It is also reasonable to conclude that Mark's audience, the original hearers of this gospel, would have recognized that passage. What is harder to picture is how the original audience react to this quotation out of its context?
Did they suck their teeth in a sharp intake of breath because, in their ears, Jesus is accusing the disciples of falsehood or mistaken predictions?
Did they flush hot at the idea of Jesus' followers promising a faithfulness that they would not be able to keep of their own accord?
Did they remain silent, withdrawn by the drama of their own community, and too hurt to be drawn into the drama of the story of the crucifixion and resurrection?
It is very easy for us to slide into a binary way of thinking- a yes/no thought pattern. No, I would not desert you, Jesus. Yes, I will be faithful.
It's probably more honest to say, "I do not want to desert you, Jesus. I long to be faithful to you and your commands to the last. I find, however, that my fear/ lack of understanding/ desire for control/ impatience/ frustration keeps me from honoring you in word and deed to the fullness of my being."
In a space of honesty, we are likely to find ourselves in deeper sympathy with Peter, the other apostles, and all who have heard this passage over the years of the written Word. We do not wish to be false prophets, deserters, or betrayers. Still, we often find ourselves among that company when we recount what we have done and left undone, said and left unsaid, given and held back.
God of mercy, we confess with the Apostle Paul that we often do not do the good we wish to do. In fact, like a magnet, we are drawn to words and deeds that may not always be reflections of your light and love. Strengthen us to turn away from lives of falseness and to lean into the power of living in agreement with your Spirit and your Word. Amen.