The Reverend Elizabeth Bowyer
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A reading from the fiftieth chapter of the book of Isaiah, verses 4-9.  The Servant

“I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks…”

….insert the reading here…..

Our responsive Psalm, 118, is found at VU p. 837.  We will be reading responsively Parts One, Three, and Four with no refrain: “The stone the builders rejected

….insert the reading here….

Remembering Jesus, the gospel according to Mark, an adaptation of Chapter 14, verses 1-72 and Chapter 15, verses 1-47 (This adaptation is loosely based on a resource from Seasons of the Spirit, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost, Wood Lake Books, Inc. 2006)

Vignette #1:  From Mark 14: verses 3-9

Here is how I remember this story that came to me from a friend who was in Jerusalem that week.  He began this way:  “It was two days before Passover.  Jesus and his followers had come to Bethany.  They were together at the house of Simon.  You know, the one who had the dreaded skin disease.” 

My friend paused for a moment and then he spoke about a brave young woman who did something quite outrageous.  Somehow she had got hold of an alabaster bottle of expensive ointment and poured it out on Jesus’ head. 

Some of the people with him were clearly upset.  Speaking in stage whispers they told one another “What a waste!” “The money could have been put to a much more practical use!”

But, then, Jesus rebuked them in the most kindly of ways:

“Stop your grumbling!  Don’t be so critical.  She made a difficult choice in a difficult situation.” 

Turning to my friend, Jesus said: She has anointed my body for burial.  What she has done here will be remembered forever!”

 Time of silence

Vignette #2: From Mark 14: 12-26  And the story continues. 

Another friend present had a different memory.  Here is what he had to say about the Passover meal:  “I remember Jesus.  I was one who followed him from town to town. 

On the first day of the Passover Festival, he sent two of his disciples into the city to find a room where we could share the meal together.  That evening, as we gathered around the table with the Twelve, here is what happened:  Standing in the centre, Jesus spoke in such a quiet way we might have thought he was thinking aloud: “Tonight, one of you will betray me.” 

Even as people began murmuring that this would surely never happen, he cleared his throat and spoke a little more loudly:  “Yes, it’s true, someone from among the Twelve breaking bread with us, will betray me.”

After what seemed a very long silence, he took a loaf of bread, broke it in two, and distributed to a neighbour-one on each side of him.  Gesturing to everyone present, he said: “Take, eat, this is my body, broken for you.” 

After this, he took a cup, he lifted it high, and he said: “This is the cup of God’s covenantal love-a symbol of God’s steadfast promise to always be with us. 

Take, drink, and remember “This is my love poured out for you.”

After the meal was finished, they lifted their voices in song and headed off to the Mount of Olives.

Time of silence

Vignette #3: From Mark 14: verses 26-50

Then, my mind was flooded with still more memories.  “Remember, as we made our way to the Mount of Olives, he also told us:

“Everyone will be a deserter.  Even, my friend, Peter. 

 But, Peter, outraged at this, responded with great sincerity and vigour:

“My Lord and Master, not I! Wherever you go, there also will I go.” 

Not a sound could be heard in that short moment of silence. 

Everyone held their breath. 

Then, Jesus said: “Peter, my dear friend, before the cock crows twice, you will deny even knowing me, not once, not twice, but three times.”

Still, Peter and all the others assured Jesus and one another that this would not happen.

When they arrived at the garden at Gethsemane, Jesus encouraged everyone to take a pause; to stay close but to rest awhile. 

Meanwhile he took Peter, James, and John a little further into the dark grove.

Just a few paces further on, Jesus set himself apart and went off to pray.  

Even from a distance, the three could hear the cadence of his voice as it rose and fell as if in conversation. 

This is what they heard him say: “God, if You will, take this cup from me.” 

After a short silence, they heard Jesus anguished prayer:

I know what’s important here, God.  Not my will be done, but Yours”

An eternity of time seemed to open up like a gaping hole between the three and Jesus.  They waited and waited and waited….

Then, just like what might happen to any of us, under tremendous strain, the strangest thing happened, this little trio of Jesus’ most faithful ones nodded off to a fitful sleep!  Until that is, until they tried to rouse themselves at the sound of Jesus’ voice rebuking them once more.

“Could you not stay awake, not even for one hour?

Time of silence

 “This time, you must not falter.  Stay awake until I return!” 

Once again Jesus headed off into the darkness.

Three times the scene repeated itself.

Finally, in exasperation, Jesus turned away:  “Never mind!  It’s too late!” he said.

“My hour has come.  My betrayer is here.”

Coming towards them from the dim darkness they could see the figure of Judas approaching. In the near distance they could hear others coming-priests, scribes, and elders, a whole swarm of folks, some even carrying swords and clubs.

On point of recognition, Judas kissed Jesus declaring: “Rabbi!”

This was the pre-arranged pact Judas had made so that they would know who to arrest.

Gazing out at the gathering storm of a crowd, Jesus murmured: “I’ve been teaching in the Temple and no one came to arrest me there.   Yet, here in the garden, you come with clubs and swords ready to arrest me like a common thief.”

At this point, a strange thing happened.  All those who had been following Jesus just up and ran away.

Time of silence

Vignette #4:  From Mark 15, verses 53-54; and 66-72

Now another voice carried the story. 

“I remember they took Jesus to be questioned.  Peter followed at some distance. 

In the courtyard just beyond where they took Jesus, Peter could be seen, relentlessly pacing back and forth.   Sometimes he walked in circles and sometimes he sat down next to the guards.

Suddenly a finger pointed at him with a voice to match: “I know you!” it said.

“You were with Jesus.”

 Glaring at the speaker and then edging towards the gate, Peter denied any such thing.  “Not me, I have no idea what you are talking about!”    

At once the cock crowed followed by a mournful silence.

Again, the voice attached to the pointing finger said: “This man, this one called Peter, he was one of Jesus’ followers” Again, Peter denied the likelihood of any such possibility. 

Another voice took up the chant of the first one saying, “Surely, you were with him.  Are you not also a Galilean?” 

At this point, Peter vehemently denied any relationship with Jesus.

As they stood glaring one at the other, the cock crowed a second time. 

Peter, overcome by his memory of Jesus’ foretelling of this betrayal, covered his face with his hands and cried piteously.

Time of silence

Vignette #5: Mark 15: 1-40

It was such a sad, sad time. 

After endless rounds of questions, the chief priests finally decided they would present Jesus to Pilate. 

Reassuring one another, they said:  “Surely Pilate will know what needs to be done.   Surely Pilate will act on what’s needed here.”

Finally, after a great deal of hemming and hawing, a conclusion was reached. 

Jesus was sentenced to death on the cross.

But before that, Pilate thought it fit to bring Jesus and two criminals before the raucous crowd and asked: “What should be done?”

They responded this way:  “Release Barabbas and crucify Jesus!”

 And so it was as they had all wished. 

Barabbas, a common criminal, was released and Jesus, the Galilean upstart was beaten.

Time of silence

It’s a story almost too awful to be told.  But, told it must be. 

“Jesus was crucified at 9 o’clock in the morning. 

At noon, a darkness came over the land. 

The darkness lasted for three long hours. 

Then Jesus was heard to say those nine harshest of words:

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?!” 

Some of the people listening remembered seeing Jesus and Moses and Elijah on the mountaintop.  

These ones thought Jesus was calling out for Elijah, the great prophet. 

But others were certain Jesus was communicating directly with God.

Jesus’ words “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!” echoed in their ears.

And then, Jesus died. 

Some people say that, at that very moment in time, the Temple curtain was torn from top to bottom. 

Others were sure that a soldier, stationed at the foot of the cross, said:

“This one was sent from God!”

Others present noticed how folks huddled together in small clutches of family groupings and close friends. 

Still others were certain they noticed three women standing a little farther afield. 

They were recognized as Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James and Joses, and Salome.”

 Time of silence

Vignette #6: Mark 15: 42-47

That evening, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected Jewish Council member, went to Pilate to beg the release of Jesus’ body. 

Because Pilate found this disquieting, he sent out several of his best guard to check that Jesus had, in fact, died. 

Once he was assured of this, Pilate granted Joseph of Arimathea his wish. 

And so it was, Joseph brought a linen cloth for Jesus’ body to be wrapped for burial and entombed.

While no one could be absolutely certain of it, there was some talk that Nicodemus also came to assist with this preparation. 

Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses were also thought to be in the know of the tomb’s location.

Finally, when all was ready for the tomb to be sealed, all those who could muster strength took part in helping to lay a huge stone across the tomb’s entrance.  This would keep their Beloved One’s body safe from harm until time for its burial, or so they thought.

There is more than one interpretation of what happened in those bleakest of times and what came after, but for this morning, these vignettes from the gospel according to Mark offer us more than enough food for thought.

Through these words from long ago,

May we hear God’s living Word.