Scripture: Mark 14:1-15:47 (NRSV)
It’s two days before the Passover and Jesus is at the house of Simon the Leper when a woman enters and anoints his head with costly oil. Some scold the woman, for the oil could have been sold for a significant sum of money and that money could have been used to help the poor. But Jesus defends her and notes that whenever and wherever the Good News is shared, her act of kindness will be told in remembrance of her. Indeed, if we attend church at Easter time, we have heard that story countless times. But how many of us think about that story as the catalyst for Judas’ betrayal of Jesus?
There’s an economy to Mark’s story-telling that we need to pay attention to. In Mark 14:1, the Chief priests are looking for a way to arrest and kill Jesus. In 14:3 we have the anointing of Jesus at Simon’s house and the ensuing conflict over the appropriateness of it, and immediately following verse 14:10 reads “ Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the Chief Priests in order to betray him to them.”
Something about that encounter at Simon’s house was so offensive to Judas that he turned on his master, teacher and Lord. Jesus’ defense of the woman’s wasteful largesse, somehow revealed Jesus as someone so different than who Judas thought he was or wanted him to be, that he became willing to hand Jesus over to the people who wanted to kill him.
History has not been kind to Judas. We Christians seem to have a vested interest in casting Judas as the personification of evil, or alternately, the pre-ordained fall guy who has to betray Jesus to fulfill the prophecies. Implicit in those caricatures of Judas is the notion that WE never would have done such a thing. But in the Mark account, Judas seems less like the personification of evil and more like a man blinded by his own righteousness. If there’s a shred of truth in that statement, it should hit very close to home for many of us. It should disturb us. After all, we are good Christians and many of us have worked hard over long periods of time to hone our ethical sensibilities, built our reputations as upright followers of Jesus, and avoided even the appearance of evil. The idea that our desire for righteousness might somehow keep us from following, serving, loving and worshiping Christ, to the point of becoming an enemy of Christ—that should both scare and convict us. It should make us think.
God, we are your imperfect followers. Help us to grow ever more into your likeness, to love as you loved us, to follow you even when it is costly. Help us to see and discern when our desire for righteousness leads us to do things that are more Judas-like than Christ-like. In the Spirit of our risen Lord. Amen.
Scripture: Mark 14:1-15:47 (NRSV)
As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. 2Pilate asked him, Are you the King of the Jews? He answered him, You say so. 3Then the chief priests accused him of many things. 4Pilate asked him again, Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you. 5But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.
6Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. 7Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. 8So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. 9Then he answered them, Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews? 10For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. 11But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. 12Pilate spoke to them again, Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews? 13They shouted back, Crucify him! 14Pilate asked them, Why, what evil has he done? But they shouted all the more, Crucify him! 15So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.
16Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governors headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. 17And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. 18And they began saluting him, Hail, King of the Jews! 19They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. 20After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.
21They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. 22Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). 23And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. 24And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.
25It was nine oclock in the morning when they crucified him. 26The inscription of the charge against him read, The King of the Jews. 27And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. 29Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30save yourself, and come down from the cross! 31In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe. Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.
33When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34At three oclock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani? which means, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? 35When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, Listen, he is calling for Elijah. 36And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down. 37Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. 38And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, Truly this man was Gods Son!
40There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.
42When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, 43Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. 45When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. 46Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. 47Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid.