January 29: The Fourth Lord’s Day after the Epiphany

January 26, 2017

And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.

And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” 

And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard.” And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him. And they laid hands on him and seized him. But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” And they all left him and fled. 

And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked. –Mark 14:26-52  

The passage copied above is relatively long compared to what we usually take at one time. However, it is integrated as Mark, yet again, uses a “sandwich story” form. The first/top part is about Jesus’ ominous prophecy that all the disciples will “fall away” with Peter’s emphatic protest, which inadvertently shows he has not been listening very well. The last/bottom part is a continuation of this strain with Judas “immediately” (Mark’s favorite word) betraying Jesus along with His arrest and “circumcision” of the high priest’s servant’s ear. Sandwiched in the middle is the central story of Jesus in the Garden with the disciples who wouldn’t stay awake during His great distress.

The first thing not to be missed here is that they sang a hymn right after the ritual supper in the upper room. Christians have followed this practice all the centuries since. It’s as if the communion section of the liturgy does not end until the following hymn is complete. I wonder what it sounded like in that room with those 13 men. Did Judas sing? What was the text? Would the melody sound to us like something from another world? Did they harmonize? Were they good singers? I sure do wish I could have heard it.

Curiously Mark says that “they went out to the Mount of Olives.” This is a second journey to the Mount in just the last few days. The first time three of the disciples asked the question about the destruction of the temple and what would be the signs that it’s about to happen. In that answer we heard that true Israel (those who follow Jesus, and thus know when to flee) will be scattered as they, quite literally, head for the hills. This time Jesus again tells of a scattering of His people, except His people are specifically the disciples! Nonetheless, they become the foundation stones of the Church (Mt. 16:18; Eph. 2:19; Rev. 21:14).

The scattering of the disciples parallels the future destruction of the Temple so that no one stone is left upon another. We already know that Jesus will Himself be destroyed and raised as the true Temple. And so their scattering along with His destruction is the way He’ll be reconstructed, and by the Spirit the living stones (1 Pet. 2:5) will be regathered around Him as their chief cornerstone (1 Pet. 2:6). Provocatively, though consistent with His work and agenda, He tells them that the reconstruction will not take place on Mt. Zion, but “after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” The old order of things is finished. But, behold, Jesus has come to make all things new. And that’s the gospel! Come hear it preached and enacted in the supper with Jesus this Sunday.

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