Reading for Thursday of Holy Week
Peace be with you!
As the week goes on, the story gets all the more challenging, especially since we probably can relate to the disciples. As we read about Peter’s three denials (Mark 14:66-72), we cannot help but think of times when we have effectively denied knowing Jesus. The servant girl of the high priest is certain that Peter is one of Jesus’s disciples. She inquires three times if Peter is one of the disciples, and each time he states he does not know or understand what the servant girl is talking about.
How many times do you walk quickly past a preacher on a street corner? Or how many times do you ignore the call to tell someone the good news? We have our excuses: too busy, they wouldn’t understand, not convenient, not the place, not enough energy, etc. When I am tired or not in mood, I just zone out and ignore any call to tell the person next to me the good news. Satan preys on our excuses and uses them to get what he really wants.
The chief priests and the whole council are looking for any testimony against Jesus, so they can fulfill their plan to condemn him to death, even if they are grasping for straws with false and contradictory testimony. Someone does come forward and reports Jesus said, “I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands” (Mark 14:58 NRSV). This report of Jesus’s words is only partially true in that it misinterprets a statement he once made which actually referred to his body being destroyed and coming to life again.
The high priest tries to provoke Jesus and get him to argue against the testimony. Finally, the high priest asks Jesus if he is the Messiah, the Son of God. Jesus answers, “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’” (Mark 14:62). This is enough for the high priest to condemn Jesus as worthy of death. If the Sadducees and Pharisees had been able to understand the majesty of the Trinity, if they had been able to understand that Jesus was not blaspheming against the one true God but rather proclaiming the truth of his nature (one God in three persons), would they have still sought to crucify Jesus? Regardless of the motives of the religious leaders, God’s plan had to be fulfilled. God used even incomplete theological understanding and the jealousy of these men’s hearts to bring about his purposes in the world.
Since only the Roman authorities can execute the death sentence, the Jewish leaders hand Jesus over to Pilate. Pilate asks Jesus if he is the king of the Jews, and he replies, “You say so” (Mark 15:2). Then the chief priests jump in and accuse him of many things, yet Jesus says nothing to defend himself. Jesus understands this needs to happen to carry out God’s plan.
Pilate is determined to release Jesus since he finds no fault in him. Since it was traditional for him to let the crowd choose one prisoner for him to release during Passover, Pilate brings Barabbas, a murderer, out and gave the crowd the choice between Jesus and Barabbas. Unfortunately, the chief priests are in the crowd and use their influence to get Barabbas released. When the crowd yells for Barabbas to be released, Pilate is confused and asks what he should do to Jesus, to which they reply, “Crucify him!” (Mark 15:7-14). To please the crowd, Pilate hands Jesus over to be beaten and crucified (Mark 15:15).
How many times have you felt helpless like Pilate? You know the right thing to do, and yet [whatever “it” is] stops you. Pilate failed because he did not own up to his responsibility. To know what is right and fail to do it is sin and cowardice.
Yet as human beings, we can relate to Pilate’s weakness, just as we could relate to Peter’s. I believe Jesus understands our inadequacy to give the good news every time we get the chance. We continue to fall short of his glory. He understands our battle with the devil and with our own sinful nature. Even as we hate this part of the story, it has to take place to carry out God’s plan to save us from the darkness. Yet even in the darkest hour we can see glimmers of light on the horizon.
Continue to follow the light. The story is just unfolding. Thanks be to God!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for forgiving and loving us even when we deny you and fail to do what is right. Help us to be more faithful to you, for you have given all for us. Thank you for Jesus’s willingness to go through such suffering for us. Amen.
Please answer the following reflective questions in the comments below. Please agree to disagree and be respectful to each other. (If you have not already done so, please also take a moment, to sign the behavior covenant by commenting on it.) You can answer as many questions as you would like.
- Have you ever effectively denied Jesus through your words or actions?
- When have you failed to do what was right out of fear?
- How can Jesus’s love and forgiveness empower you to put the past behind you and move on with the future?
Photo Credit: Amber Sue Photography