The Wild Places Bible Guide – 29
April 18, 2019
Thursday, April 18
Mark 14:53-72 (CEB)
53 They led Jesus away to the high priest, and all the chief priests, elders, and legal experts gathered. 54 Peter followed him from a distance, right into the high priest’s courtyard. He was sitting with the guards, warming himself by the fire. 55 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for testimony against Jesus in order to put him to death, but they couldn’t find any. 56 Many brought false testimony against him, but they contradicted each other. 57 Some stood to offer false witness against him, saying, 58 “We heard him saying, ‘I will destroy this temple, constructed by humans, and within three days I will build another, one not made by humans.’” 59 But their testimonies didn’t agree even on this point.
60 Then the high priest stood up in the middle of the gathering and examined Jesus. “Aren’t you going to respond to the testimony these people have brought against you?” 61 But Jesus was silent and didn’t answer. Again, the high priest asked, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the blessed one?”
62 Jesus said, “I am. And you will see the Human One sitting on the right side of the Almighty and coming on the heavenly clouds.”
63 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “Why do we need any more witnesses? 64 You’ve heard his insult against God. What do you think?”
They all condemned him. “He deserves to die!”
65 Some began to spit on him. Some covered his face and hit him, saying, “Prophesy!” Then the guards took him and beat him.
66 Meanwhile, Peter was below in the courtyard. A woman, one of the high priest’s servants, approached 67 and saw Peter warming himself by the fire. She stared at him and said, “You were also with the Nazarene, Jesus.”
68 But he denied it, saying, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t understand what you’re saying.” And he went outside into the outer courtyard. A rooster crowed.
69 The female servant saw him and began a second time to say to those standing around, “This man is one of them.” 70 But he denied it again.
A short time later, those standing around again said to Peter, “You must be one of them, because you are also a Galilean.”
71 But he cursed and swore, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.” 72 At that very moment, a rooster crowed a second time. Peter remembered what Jesus told him, “Before a rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down, sobbing.
Points of Interest
- Mark tells the story of two trials, the one in which an innocent, blameless Jesus in condemned to death, and the one in which a guilty Peter escapes harm but breaks down in shame.
- The high priest and Jesus share an insider theological moment, with high stakes for them and their fellow second temple Jews. Jesus is asked if he is God’s special son, the Christ, which in Hebrew, is the Messiah. In the early first century and the decades before, hopes ran high that this figure would save Israel. Jesus hasn’t used this term of himself to date, but he says, essentially: Sure, you can call me that. But he reframes his identity and mission on different terms – language lifted from the then very popular book of Daniel. Jesus says he’s that mysterious figure from Daniel’s prophecy, now alive in history. He is the “Son of Man”, translated here the Human One, and repeats Daniel’s metaphorical language for God’s right-hand man and messenger to earth.
- Jesus’ trial ends with him true to himself and soul-strong, but beaten, mocked, and spat upon.
- Peter doesn’t yet face legal trial for his role as one of Jesus’ closest known associates. Yet he does face a trial of reputation. His appearance and his accent make him a dead giveaway, but he’d rather pass as someone he is not than face ridicule, humiliation, or harm for staying true to the convictions and relationships God has given him.
- Peter’s trial ends with him safe in body, but empty of heart and soul, and weeping in shame. Earlier in Mark, Jesus had said to Peter and friends that there are times we save our lives only to lose them, while there are other times that we can lose our lives in order to save them. This was one of those times. This isn’t the end for Peter, but is one of the great failings and regrets of his life.
- This week we are praying that we arise “through the strength of Christ’s descent for the judgment of doom.” Most literally, this refers to the tradition and hope that between Jesus’ death and resurrection, he descended into hell or some form of spirit netherworld for the redemption of all those that died without knowing Christ’s love and hope. More generally, the whole of the incarnation, climaxing in Jesus’ death, can be read as God joining us in all of our death, darkness, and despair – cancelling its finality and sting, and giving us God’s hope and life in its place. Whatever your version of Peter’s shame or despair, know that Jesus hasn’t given up on you or abandoned you but is present to you in your pain, cancelling its doom, and releasing God’s life to you.
A Direction for Prayer
Pray for the great places of doom in your city – all the homes and lives where despair seems final or ascendant. Ask Jesus to release hope and life there, stirring friends and neighbors to speak and to be good news.
Spiritual Exercise of the Week
Toward Courage over Fear – If you’re up for it today, consider for a moment a great fear of yours – a failure, a loss, or trouble you might face, perhaps even your own death. Ask Jesus to assure you that Jesus will be with you should you face this fear. Ask Jesus: how will you be with me in compassion and strength? After a few moments of imaginative prayer, welcoming Jesus’ presence with you, close by praying this short excerpt from the ancient prayer, The Breastplate of Saint Patrick:
I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of Christ’s healing with his laughter,
Through the strength of Christ’s teaching with his feasting,
Through the strength of Christ’s crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of Christ’s resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of Christ’s descent for the judgment of doom.