The plot to kill Jesus, the Last Supper, travel to Gethsemane, betrayal, trial, denial, Pilate, crucifixion, death, burial.
Reading these chapters of Mark may take more time than the usual reading of scripture connected with The Upper Room Disciplines. Read them unhurriedly. A slow reading of this text yields spiritual treasures that do not come from speed-reading or a quick summary. Take time to ingest the text, letting it become a larger part of your life. Which portion seems to attract the most attention? Which portion seems to shine and invite deeper reflection?
The plot to eliminate the public nuisance of Jesus comes to a head here. The plot, like all evil deeds, is planned in secret and with caution lest the people riot. A few verses later, we see the negotiation of Judas Iscariot and the chief priests to betray Jesus.
Jesus, however, continues to go about his ministry and mission. He prepares for the Passover, remembering God’s act of liberation for the Hebrew people in Egypt and then offering his disciples a new meal of holy remembrance. Then Jesus and the disciples sing a Hallel psalm before going to the Mount of Olives. There we see the betrayal of Jesus by Judas and the eventual desertion of Jesus by the disciples. Then, in rapid order, we see the events that lead to Jesus’ crucifixion and burial.
Throughout these chapters, we see the plot to get rid of Jesus. We gain slight hints of the divine counterplot when Jesus speaks of the anointing of his body before burial and of the blood of the covenant. We know, with the turn of a page or so that we will read of the empty tomb and the Resurrection. But now we wait and watch. Our task is like that of the disciples at Gethsemane. We stay awake and alert to the nudges of the Holy Spirit.
God, open our hearts and minds to the ever-expanding ways your love enters the world. Amen.
This week’s readings prepare us for Palm Sunday, a joyous event. Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, a symbol of kingship in ancient Israel. The people greet him with loud acclamations. He is coming in the name of the Lord! Standing along the road leading into Jerusalem, how could anyone imagine what would happen that following week? Wasn’t Jesus finally going to manifest the fullness of God’s power, take his place on the throne of David, and overthrow the Romans? No, because that was not his mission. He came not to build an earthly kingdom but to lay aside his rights. He came to be glorified by being humiliated . . . for us. He came to suffer and die . . . for us.
Read Isaiah 50:4-9a. How does your faith community reflect the servant in this reading?
Read Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29. How are you rejoicing in this day that the Lord has made? How are you blessing “the one who comes in the name of the Lord”?
Read Philippians 2:5-11. How does this hymn of the early Christian community speak to you as you prepare for Holy Week?
Read Mark 11:1-11, 15-18. Spend some time imagining the scene of Jesus entering Jerusalem as described in the reading. Where are you in the scene? What do you see? What do you hear around you? What do you feel as you watch this event?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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