Lent 2020 - Week Five Devotional
In these few verses from Mark 14, we read of the fulfillment of scripture, which Mark has previously incorporated into his gospel: the “Son of Man must suffer…be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed ….” (Mark 8:31). In the two verses preceding our text we read, “The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners…. See, my betrayer is at hand” (Mk 14:41-42).
Mark’s Gospel, written around 70 CE, is believed to be the earliest of the four gospel accounts, and the later three gospel narratives add detail to Mark’s skeletal story. Our text comes from the part of the gospel account that portrays the passion and death of Jesus in chapters 14-15. Judas, one of the 12 disciples, has agreed to betray Jesus. (14:10)
Jesus had supped with his disciples in the Upper Room declaring, “one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me…” (14:18) and following supper, had gone out to Gethsemane and prayed, “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me, yet not what I will but what you will”(14:36). Jesus found his disciples asleep not once but three times while in the garden to pray.
And as Jesus was speaking to them, Judas appears with the violent, armed posse, crying out “Rabbi,” which literally means “my great one,” a term which according to Professor Douglas Hare, “could be used of any religious teacher.”
Judas kisses Jesus, his prearranged signal to identify him, so Jesus is arrested. He is taken away to face trial and crucifixion. An unnamed onlooker gets caught up in the moment, in the violent arrest, and cuts off the ear of the slave of the high priest, presumably Caiaphas.
And the disciples “deserted him and fled” (14:50). We know the rest of the story—Jesus is tried before the Sanhedrin, Peter denies Jesus three times, Jesus is taken before Pilate, and is crucified, buried and raised on the third day.
On this Good Friday, how does this text speak to us? Our focus first must be on Judas, one of the disciples. He “sold out” for monetary gain. He betrayed his Lord. He denied his allegiance to his “Lord and master.” And, according to the narrative, his treachery was planned, not impulsive.
He strategized and agreed to betray his allegiance for money.
And we need to note the reactionary response of the onlooker in the crowd who got so caught up in the demonstration of violence and the arrest of Jesus by the gang that he cut off the ear of the high priest’s slave. We do not know who this person was. In John’s Gospel the deed is attributed to Peter. (John 18:10)
Raymond Brown in The Death of the Messiah, concludes that “the swordsman must have belonged to a group other than the disciples or the arresting party.”
In Mark’s account of the incident, we note that the onlooker is “caught up” in the unrest and violence. Pheme Perkins in The New Interpreter’s Bible comments, “The episode is the kind of random violence that breaks out among an armed, angry crowd.” We do not know but we can appreciate how a person might react in the face of violence.
On this Good Friday, toward the end of holy week, we too identify with Judas. He, like us, had professed his faith and allegiance to Jesus as Lord and master, yet he betrayed Jesus. When push came to shove, he chose the attraction of financial gain. He sold out. He responded and reacted to the pressure.
You and I may not betray our Lord so blatantly, but we do deny our Lord. In our worship, we include in our liturgy our corporate prayers of confession: we deny, look the other way, compromise, and rationalize, yet we are comforted in the reassurance of God’s amazing, undeserved grace. We declare, “We are saved by grace through faith. Thanks be to God!” We often say or think, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
Recall the words that we sing in our worship each Good Friday: “Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble…” because we realize we are guilty of betrayal, denial, and avoidance. We were there. We are there.
And consider these words from the hymn: “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded:
What thou, my Lord, hast suffered was all for sinners’ gain:
Mine, mine was the transgression, but thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! Tis I deserve thy place;
Look on me with thy favor, and grant to me thy grace.
Lord, let me never, never out live my love to thee.