Mark 16:9-20

[The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have verses 9–20.]

When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. 11 When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.

12 Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. 13 These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either.

14 Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.

15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. 20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.
(Mark 16:9-20 NIV)

As we wrap up the Gospel of Mark, we would not be complete without at least a discussion of this last section of the book.

Scholars believe Mark’s writings ended with verse 8.  All the earliest manuscripts ended at verse 8; only later manuscripts contained verses 9 through 20.

Scholars also point out that the writing style changes dramatically from Mark’s signature style throughout the rest of the book.  Also, the subjects covered seem to be snippets of the other gospels and of the disciples’ and Paul’s life events pulled together.

So why would the early church fathers add on to Mark’s work?  The primary conjecture among scholars is that the early church fathers felt that Mark’s gospel abrupt ending at verse 8 was incomplete – it said nothing of Jesus’ post-resurrection days, nor of his ascension back into heaven.  The question in the early church fathers’ minds seemed to be “why”, so they set out to give Mark’s gospel a proper ending.

In fact, the ending Mark provides in verse 8 is not surprising – it is as fast to finish as it was to start in 1:1-3.  Mark leaves us with the three women, running from the empty tomb back into the city, waiting to breathlessly exclaim “He has risen!” to the disciples.

As we look back to the Book of Acts and the other letters and epistles of the New Testament, we see this news of Jesus’ resurrection as a total game-changer.  The defeated and scattered disciples were now gathered, empowered through the Holy Spirit Jesus promised and were going out and turning the world upside down with His story, even giving their lives to share Jesus’ redemption with any and all who would listen.

May we snap out of our slumber to the reality of Mark’s gospel, like the women leaving the empty tomb, believing before seeing, in faith ready to exclaim “He has risen!”.

This is the.best.news.ever.

Blessings,
~kevin

Mark 16:1-8

16 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene,who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”

Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
(Mark 16:1-8 NIV)

Jesus was crucified and died on the cross.  Before sundown on Friday, Joseph of Arimathea had boldly asked Pilate, the Roman governor, to give Jesus’ body a proper burial.  Pilate, surprised that Jesus was dead already, ordered a soldier to verify Jesus’ death.  Upon the soldier’s verification, Pilate released Jesus’ body to Joseph.  Joseph then prepared Jesus’ body for burial, placing Jesus’ washed and wrapped body in a tomb and rolling a large stone over the entrance.

Early Sunday morning, at the crack of dawn, the three women (Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome) that had been present at Jesus’ crucifixion (15:40) and at Jesus’ burial (15:47) are now returning to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body with spices.  The spices were not to embalm Jesus’ body, but rather to mask the smell of decomposition.  This was the final step of burial that they were not able to perform before Friday sundown and the beginning of the Sabbath moratorium on work.

These women expected that they would find Jesus’ body still in the tomb.  Their biggest concern was who would be available to roll away the stone that covered the entrance to the tomb.

Imagine their surprise when they arrive and find the stone already rolled back!  They step inside, only to be shocked again when a young man dressed in white (presumably an angel) speaks to them.  He assures them that yes, they are at the correct tomb, and yes, Jesus was buried here, but is now physically resurrected from the dead.

The angel then commands the women to go tell the disciples and Peter that Jesus has risen and will meet them in Galilee, just as He had promised.  The women fled the tomb in fear, not saying a word to anyone along the way.

Imagine Peter telling this story to young Mark, how the angel had specifically called out his name.  Peter was likely drowning in self-loathing and had given up on ever being reconciled to God.  Before Peter ever saw Jesus after the resurrection, the angel’s words must have given Peter hope that Jesus wanted to restore their relationship.

As we put ourselves alongside the women as they approach the tomb in unbelief, we are confronted with the reality of an angel and his good news of Jesus’ resurrection and a promise of seeing Him face-to-face.

How would we respond to an empty tomb and the angel’s message?  Would we turn away in disbelief, with no proof that Jesus was there?  Or would we believe in Jesus’ resurrection before we see Him?

Do we look back on Jesus’ history and life before He died, as just another historical figure?  Or do we look forward in faith and joyous expectation of meeting Him face-to-face one day?

Faith requires belief and trust before proof.  This is not “faith in faith” or “hope in hope”, crossing our fingers and wishing that all will turn out in our favor.  This faith is grounded in the person of Jesus as our only means of peace with God.  His physical resurrection from the dead gives us hope that there is life after death, and we can know of our standing and relationship with God this side of heaven.

In his subsequent letter to the churches, Peter expresses this same choice of faith and hope in Christ before we one day meet Him face-to-face:

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
(1 Peter 1:8-9 NIV)

Blessings,
~kevin

Mark 15:42-47

42 It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. 45 When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. 46 So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.
(Mark 15:42-47 NIV)

It’s Friday, the day Jesus was crucified.

Late in the day, Joseph of Arimathea, one of the members of the Sanhedrin, came to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body.  Mark points out that this was a bold move on Joseph’s part.  One reason was that this move publicly identified  Joseph with Jesus.  Joseph’s Sanhedrin counterparts would find out about this soon enough and Joseph would likely feel the consequences of his actions.

Joseph’s request was also bold because the Romans believed that people that had been crucified did not deserve to be buried.  The Romans would often leave the bodies on the cross, and the natural elements, wild birds, and animals would eventually consume the body.  Could it be that this place of crucifixion was called Golgotha (“the place of the skull”) because that was literally all that that was left of a person after a period of time?

The Roman view of the deceased was directly opposed to God’s view.  In Deuteronomy 21:23, God had instructed the Israelites that bodies must be buried the same day as the execution.  To leave the body exposed (not buried) overnight would desecrate the land.  To show respect for the dead and to give them a proper burial, even dead criminals, showed respect for God as the author of life and judge of both the living and the dead.

Joseph’s request for Jesus’ body was also bold because the Romans typically did not give permission for anyone convicted of high treason to be buried.  The fact that Pilate did not believe Jesus was guilty of high treason was one of the reasons Pilate granted Joeseph’s request.  Pilate granting Joeseph’s request is also unusual in that family members were normally the only ones that requested and were granted permission to body a body.

Pilate’s biggest surprise from Joeseph’s request was that Jesus was already dead.  Normally it took a person several days to die via crucifixion.  Pilate needed to be sure that Jesus was dead, so he sent his centurion to verify.  After receiving confirmation, Pilate granted Joseph’s request.

As evening approached, Joseph (obviously with help of others) took Jesus’ body down from the cross and gave it a proper burial.  A proper Jewish burial consisted of washing the body, then wrapping it tightly in linen cloths.  All this had to be done before sundown, as the Sabbath started Friday night at sundown and no work could be done on the Sabbath.

After Joseph had prepared Jesus’ body for burial, he laid the body in a tomb cut into the rock.  Joseph then rolled a large stone in front of the tomb to seal the entrance.

In his closing notes, Mark points out that Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph were still present, noting where Jesus’ body was laid.

One of the perplexing questions some people ask is why did Joseph of Arimathea not stand up in Jesus’ defense during Jesus’ trial?  Why did he wait until Jesus had died to publicly identify with Jesus?  Was Joseph ashamed of Jesus, or was he just a coward?

Or did something truly change in Joseph’s life that caused him to believe that Jesus is the Messiah?

Jesus, in John’s account of the Gospel, said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”  (John 12:32).  Could it be that Joseph was one of the first converts, one of the first ones to publicly follow Jesus after Jesus’ death, just as He had prophesied?

It’s still Friday, but Sunday’s coming.

Blessings,
~kevin

Mark 15:33-41

33 At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”

36 Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.

37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.

38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

40 Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome. 41 In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.
(Mark 15:33-41 NIV)

Jesus has been up all night, arrested and tried illegally by the Jewish religious leaders, and found guilty of blasphemy against God.  These Jewish religious leaders, forbidden by Jewish law from carrying out the terms of the sentence (death), turn to the Roman governor Pilate and claim Jesus committed high treason against Rome by claiming to be king.

Pilate sees through their envious hatred of Jesus, and even though he knows Jesus is innocent, he caves in to the demands of the unruly crowd and orders his soldiers to crucify Jesus.  The soldiers take Jesus and two other criminals to the place of execution and nail them to their crosses.  From 9 AM until 12 Noon, Jesus endures the rejection and mocking of the religious leaders, the taunts and curses of the men crucified on either side of Him, and the insults of those passing by.

In today’s text, Mark tells us that at Noon, darkness descends over the land for three hours.  There is no mention of thunder or lightning; there is no mention of any kind of scientific explanation like a solar eclipse.  In the Bible, when darkness occurs when there should be light, this is normally a sign of God’s presence (Genesis 15:12-21, Exodus 10:21, 14:20, 20:21, just for a few examples).  This is not merely the absence of light, but a darkness that can be felt, the very presence of Almighty God.

The prophet Amos spoke of this day:

“In that day,” declares the Sovereign Lord,

“I will make the sun go down at noon
    and darken the earth in broad daylight.
10 I will turn your religious festivals into mourning
    and all your singing into weeping.
I will make all of you wear sackcloth
    and shave your heads.
I will make that time like mourning for an only son
    and the end of it like a bitter day.

11 “The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord,
    “when I will send a famine through the land—
not a famine of food or a thirst for water,
    but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.
(Amos 8:9-11 NIV)

At 3 PM, Jesus cried out in his native Aramaic, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?”  God was present, as signified by the darkness, but had broken fellowship with His Son and turned His back on Jesus as Jesus bore the sins of the world.  Jesus did not reject His Father, but felt for the first time the pain of separation from His Father.

Someone heard Jesus utter these words, and thought Jesus was calling for Elijah.  With a morbid sense of curiosity, these people waited around to see if Elijah would show up.

Mark says that Jesus gave a loud cry, then breathed His last breath and died.  This was not a cry of resignation, but a cry of victory.  The soldier overseeing the crucifixions heard Jesus, and exclaimed that Jesus was truly Diety.  He had likely never heard or seen someone die in such power and strength as Jesus did.

Today’s passage also tells us that when Jesus died, the heavy curtain that separated the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies in the temple was ripped from top to bottom.  God was signifying that mankind now had direct access to God through the death of Christ.  No longer was an intermediary such as a priest needed to go before God on behalf of the people.

Three women are mentioned as bystanders during Jesus’ crucifixion.  Other women are present, but not called out.  These three women are introduced now; their introduction will become evident later.

If this were the end of Jesus’ story, it would be a sad ending indeed.  The good news is that there is a “rest of the story” yet to be told.

This is Friday, but Sunday’s coming.

Blessings,
~kevin

Mark 15:16-32

16 The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. 17 They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him.18 And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” 19 Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

21 A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus,was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. 22 They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 23 Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.

25 It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The written notice of the charge against him read: the king of the jews.

27 They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left. [28]  29 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 come down from the cross and save yourself!”31 In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! 32 Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
(Mark 15:16-32 NIV)

In previous passages, Jesus was arrested by Jewish religious leaders, tried illegally, and condemned of blasphemy against God.  Since the Romans would not allow the Jewish leaders to execute anyone, and the Roman courts would not hear any cases involving Jewish religious issues, the religious leaders changed their charges against Jesus from blasphemy to high treason against Ceasar and Rome.    This charge would force Roman governor Pilate to hear their case.

Pilate agrees to hear the case against Jesus.   Pilat sees through the envious intent of the Jewish leaders’ arguments but capitulates to the pressure of the crowd’s demand to crucify Jesus.  Pilate sends Jesus to be flogged and then crucified.

As we look into today’s passage, we see Jesus being led away to crucifixion.  As the arrangements are being made, the soldiers guarding Jesus pass the time by mocking Him as king.  When preparations were complete, the soldiers took Jesus to Golgotha, where they crucified Him.

Along the way, the Roman soldiers, as was their right, pressed a nearby civilian into their service, having this man carry Jesus’ cross.  Mark captures the man’s name (Simon the Cyrene), along with the names of his two sons (Alexander and Rufus).  While Scriptures do not say, historians suspect that Simeon of Niger (Acts 13:1) is the same person as Simon the Cyrene, and that Rufus, Simon’s son is the same Rufus mentioned in Paul’s letter to the Romans (Romans 16:13).

The soldiers offer Jesus some drugged wine to ease the pain, but Jesus refuses it.  Jesus had promised to not drink wine again until He drinks it again with His disciples in God’s kingdom (Mark 14:25).

The soldiers strip Jesus naked, crucify Him, then gamble for His clothes.  Two other men, both criminals, are crucified on either side of Jesus.  The two criminals, along with the onlooking crowd and the religious leaders gathered at the crosses, mock Jesus.  Mark tells us that all these activities happen between 9 AM and 12 Noon.

The crowds and religious leaders taunted Jesus to save Himself and come down off the cross.  Little did they understand that Jesus had the power to come down off the cross, but refused to do so because love held Him there.  His boundless and limitless love for you and me compelled Him to suffer instead of us for our sins, even to die in our place for the punishment of our sins.

In exchange, Jesus offers us eternal life and a right relationship with God through His death, burial, and resurrection.  If we have accepted Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection on our behalf and name Jesus as our only way to heaven and eternal life, then God sees us as pure and holy because of Jesus’ payment for our sins.

Yes, Jesus loves you and me that much.

Dear friend, what does Jesus’ love and sacrifice stir up in you this day?

A desire to receive His gift of salvation and eternal life, if you have not accepted His offer before?

Or a heart of gratitude and lifelong service to Him, if you have already accepted Jesus as your Savior and Lord?

Blessings,
~kevin

Mark 15:1-15

15 Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, made their plans. So they bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.

“Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate.

“You have said so,” Jesus replied.

The chief priests accused him of many things. So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.”

But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.

Now it was the custom at the festival to release a prisoner whom the people requested. A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.

“Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate,10 knowing it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.

12 “What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.

13 “Crucify him!” they shouted.

14 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

15 Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
(Mark 15:1-15 NIV)

In our last passage, Jesus endured an illegal overnight arrest, trial, and conviction by the Jewish religious leaders and the Sanhedrin.

As we step into today’s text, we see the religious leaders and the Sanhedrin finalize their plan to kill Jesus.  This arrest, trial, and conviction has lasted all night; there is very little time before they must try to get on the Romans’ judicial docket for the day.

While the Jewish leaders could pronounce the death penalty on a Jewish person, they could not carry out the execution of that conviction.  The Romans held the power of capital conviction and execution for Jews and Romans alike.

The Jewish religious leaders also knew that the Roman governor Pilate would not hear their case based on Jewish religious grounds, so they changed their charges to something that the Roman governor would be forced to hear – the charge of high treason.  And what was the basis of this charge?  Jesus’ claim to be king.

The Jewish leaders knew the typical Roman governor’s schedule.  Pilate would take care of all governmental business in the mornings, starting early in the morning.  The afternoons and evenings were then free to enjoy as he saw fit, usually at the Roman bathhouses and pools.

The Jewish leaders got on the docket, presented their case, and Pilate agreed to hear it.  Pilate, hearing the charges, asked Jesus outright:  “Are you the king of the Jews?”  Jesus’ answer was simply, “You have said so.”

Jesus’ reply was neither a yes or a no; rather, it was Jesus saying that there may be some truth to the charges, but not in the way the chief priests made it sound.  If Jesus’ answer were a clear yes or no, Pilate would have either passed sentence on Jesus or dismissed the charges altogether.

The chief priests kept bringing other charges against Jesus, but Jesus kept silent.   Even Pilate was amazed and asked Jesus if he would respond to the charges.  Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent of the charges, and wanted Jesus to defend Himself.  The last thing Pilate wanted to do was to pass sentence on an innocent man.

One of the customs of the Passover was to request that a Jewish prisoner being held by the Romans be set free.  A crowd of people had also gathered for this customary request to be granted.  Pilate, thinking he could appeal to the Jewish people, offered two men as their choice – Jesus, or Barabbas, a known insurrectionist and murderer.  In Pilate’s mind, this was a no-brainer choice – Jesus was the obvious winner.  But the chief priests, sensing the opportunity to sway the people, stirred up the crowd to demand Barabbas be released.  This was obviously a totally different crowd than the throngs that welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem a few days before (Mark 11).

Seeing the volatility of the crowd, and knowing that a riot could easily erupt out of the situation, Pilate looks after his own self-interests and defers to the demands of the mob.  Pilate orders Jesus scourged then crucified.

A Roman scourging was far worse than the thirty-nine lashes of a Jewish disciplinary flogging.  A Jewish flogging raised deep welts on a person’s back, often leaving permanent scars.   A Roman scourging, on the other hand, was not complete until the person’s back was reduced to torn ribbons of flesh.

In the stories of Barabbas and Jesus, we see our story – a guilty, condemned man goes free while an innocent man is condemned instead.  In this Great Exchange, we see what Jesus did for you and me.

Martin Luther, the great church reformer from the 1500’s, wrote:

“That is the mystery which is rich in divine grace to sinners: wherein by a wonderful exchange our sins are no longer ours but Christ’s and the righteousness of Christ not Christ’s but ours. He has emptied Himself of His righteousness that He might clothe us with it, and fill us with it. And He has taken our evils upon Himself that He might deliver us from them… in the same manner as He grieved and suffered in our sins, and was confounded, in the same manner we rejoice and glory in His righteousness.”

–Martin Luther, Werke (Weimar, 1883), 5: 608.

The apostle Paul summarizes this Great Exchange in his second letter to the Corinthians:

God made him [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him [Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God.
(2 Corinthians  5:21 NIV, bracketed text mine)

 

Have you accepted Jesus’ Great Exchange of His life for yours?

If not, what’s holding you back?

His offer still stands.

Blessings,
~kevin

Mark 14:53-72

53 They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law came together. 54 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.

55 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. 56 Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.

57 Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.’” 59 Yet even then their testimony did not agree.

60 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?” 61 But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.

Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”

62 “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.”

63 The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. 64 “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”

They all condemned him as worthy of death. 65 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.

66 While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. 67 When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.

“You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said.

68 But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway.

69 When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, “This fellow is one of them.” 70 Again he denied it.

After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.”

71 He began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”

72 Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
(Mark 14:53-72 NIV)

In our previous texts, Jesus was betrayed by one of His own, Judas Iscariot, then arrested by a mob.  Just as Jesus predicted, all His disciples abandoned Him and ran away.

In today’s passage, Jesus is taken by the mob from the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives to the high priest’s house while the Sanhedrin gathered.  Mark employs a familiar literary tool – the bookend – to weave together Jesus’ and Peter’s stories on this fateful night.  Mark tells us that even though Peter initially fled the arrest scene with the others, he did show up at the high priest’s courtyard where Jesus was being held.  It took great courage for Peter to show up (albeit at a distance); let’s give Peter credit for his bravery and love for Jesus.

Many false charges were brought against Jesus; none of the witnesses agreed; all had to be dismissed as evidence.  Finally, the high priest asked Jesus if He claimed to be Messiah.  When Jesus said yes, the Sanhedrin had all the evidence they needed.  Blasphemy was the charge, and death was the sentence, according to the Scriptures.

Everything about this meeting and trial was illegal – meeting at night, during a festival, the way witnesses were handled, asking the defendant self-incriminating questions.  The Sanhedrin, the very body that was supposed to ensure justice, fairness, and rule of law suspended all their duties and obligations to God and the Jewish people to uphold justice in order to condemn this man they both feared and hated.

The Jews, under Roman rule, could not carry out the death sentence.  They could only act as a grand jury and cite their findings and recommend action by the Roman governor.    With their game plan in place, the Sanhedrin then took it upon themselves to humiliate the accused by spitting on Him, blindfolding Him, slapping Him, and telling Him to prophesy who struck Him.  This was just as Jesus had predicted.

Peter, meanwhile, was watching all this transpire from the courtyard.  One of the slave girls recognized Peter and called him out as one of Jesus’ disciples, which Peter denied.  The slave girl followed him to another part of the courtyard and called Peter out again, which he denied again.  Finally, Peter’s thick Galilean accent gave him away.  Peter vehemently denied any association with Jesus a third time.  Peter heard the rooster crow for the second time, remembered Jesus’ words, and left the courtyard, weeping bitterly over what he had just done.

Two men betrayed Jesus that night.

Two men felt deep remorse over what they had done.

One man (Judas Iscariot) tried to fix the mess he had made on his own and died in dishonor and despair.

The other man (Peter), in humility,  sought forgiveness and reconciliation with Jesus and proclaimed the good news of Jesus that carries on to this day, changing the world one life at a time.

Dear friend, we have all denied Jesus at some point in our lives, either directly with our words, or indirectly, by not speaking up when we had the opportunity.    If you are trying to earn your way into heaven by making things right with God, know that this will ultimately end badly, just as it did for Judas.

Jesus invites you to come to Him and accept His free gift of eternal life by relying on Him alone as the only means of reconciliation to God through His death on the cross.  He paid the penalty for your and my sins so we don’t have to.

If you have not made this life-changing choice, what’s stopping you?  Jesus is waiting for you with open arms, just as He was for Peter.

Blessings,
~kevin