New Testament in 6 months – day 37

5 Jul

Apologies for anyone who has been waiting for over a month for this next instalment. Work suddenly got very busy at the time in the mornings that I was doing my reflections (not something I am used to) and I now find myself playing catch up.

Mark 14:1-52
Now the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some sly way to arrest Jesus and kill him. “But not during the Feast,” they said, “or the people may riot.” While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly. “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over. On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.” The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover. When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me–one who is eating with me.” They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely not I?” “It is one of the Twelve, ” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. “I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.” When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. “You will all fall away, ” Jesus told them, “for it is written:  ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.” “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “today–yes, tonight–before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.” But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the others said the same. They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.” Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon, ” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him. Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. The men seized Jesus and arrested him. Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. “Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” Then everyone deserted him and fled. A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.

A lot has been made over the years of the first statement Jesus makes in response to people rebuking the woman who washes Jesus’ feet, that the poor will always be with us. And some have even gone on to talk about Jesus’ second statement, that we can help the poor any time we choose. But what I find interesting about all this is that we see a pattern that follows on from this into Gethsemane. Because, just as there is the comment that the perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor, there is the statements from the disciples that they would never betray Jesus and that they would all stand beside Him, even if it meant death. Both situations have men declaring that something could or will be done, yet the follow through suggests a lack of conviction.

With the perfume, it is undoubtedly true that this 1 bottle could have benefitted a lot of people by being sold. But, as Jesus clearly points out, whilst this may be the case what about all the other ways that they could have helped the poor before this? It’s all very well chastising 1 woman for perceived waste on her part, but what about the daily waste of others? Where were their actions to help the poor? Was what they were doing all that they were capable of? And this apparent disinclination to the importance of money seems to be the final straw for Judas, who then not only seeks to help get Jesus killed, but also to do it for financial gain.

Then we come to Gethsemane, and Jesus sums it up well the second time He returns to find them sleeping, saying that their spirits are willing but their bodies are weak. First they cannot stay awake in His hour of need, then they all run away when trouble comes. And this all coming on the same night they have all declared, not more than a few hours before, that they would never abandon Jesus.

The human condition is frail. Physically we are easily ended and spiritually we are prone to buckling under the slightest pressure. Our convictions are only as good as our willingness to see things through. If we are just going to give up at the first sign of trouble, what good are our convictions in the first place? High ideals often require high sacrifice. In the case of those declaring care for the poor, they should have been looking to what they could sell off for the poor, not what another could do instead.
More and more we are starting to see or be informed about people standing up for their faith and being persecuted for doing so. In some cases it is mild, like the case of a street preacher in Wimbledon, Tony Miano being arrested for preaching from the Bible. In other cases it is much worse. The question for us is, are we going to be like the disciples before the Resurrection, where they were afraid to be seen outside and denying they knew Jesus? Or are we prepared to be like the disciples after Pentecost, where they were prepared to declare the Gospel and live it out, even if it meant being killed for it?


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Archbishop Cranmer

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