Lenten Devotion

April 5, 2023

All Day

Mark 14: 53-65 

They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law came together. Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire. The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree. Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.’ ” Yet even then their testimony did not agree.  Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” They all condemned him as worthy of death. Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him.  

Are You the Christ? I Am.

In 1633, in the Bavarian town of Oberammergau, many died from the bubonic plague. The townspeople promised to perform a play every ten years to recount the Passion of Christ if God would stop the deaths. The deaths did stop and the townspeople have kept their promise over the centuries. In August, we had the privilege of attending one of the 110 performances of the six-hour long 2022 Passion Play, performed with a team of over 2,000 townspeople in an auditorium with 4,500 seats.

Today’s Scripture passage was one that was particularly memorable in that production. The drama of the story is intense: the chief priests and the religious Sanhedrin Council are looking for a reason to put Jesus to death as the guards sit huddled in the courtyard with Peter among them. The religious authorities couldn’t find any reason to condemn Jesus. People lied about things Jesus had said. Even among the lies, the testimony did not agree. The production makes it clear that the trial was a total farce: an innocent man was condemned to death. The fickle crowd grows more and more unruly as the guards attack Jesus.

Despite the farcical trial conducted by the religious leaders, the silence of Jesus, the excitement of the crowds, and the ever-present and oppressive Roman guards, the real drama of the story is when Jesus actually does speak. In response to the question “Are you the Christ?” he says “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Here Jesus makes it clear that he is the Messiah and that he is God’s Son, sitting at his right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven. As Holy Week unfolds, we shall see the importance of that claim and how good God is. But for now, we can understand why today’s townsfolk of Oberammergau still thank God for healing – and why so many people keep going to hear the story of God’s goodness in giving us Jesus.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for sending Jesus, the Christ, to dwell among us. Forgive us when we, like the religious leaders, the crowds, the soldiers, and even Peter, reject you. Give us strength and wisdom to affirm your lordship and act accordingly in everything we do. Thank you for your goodness in your healing through the ages and for setting the stage for our salvation by sending Jesus.  Amen.


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