Saturday 20th March
St Mark 14: 12 – 21
On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, “The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.’ So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal. When it was evening, he came with the twelve. And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.’ They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, ‘Surely, not I?’ He said to them, ‘It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me. For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.’
Mark’s gospel portrays Jesus’ twelve disciples in an unflattering light, eg: they are repeatedly amazed at Jesus’ miracles; despite Jesus’ plea to remain awake in the Garden of Gethsemane, they fall asleep; Peter, the ‘rock’ denies knowing Jesus more than once; on Jesus’ crucifixion they flee back to Galilee.
Do actions really speak louder than words? It seems so, especially those of Judas, present with Jesus and the other disciples in the upper room. Though Judas’ name is not mentioned in the above passage, we read him into “one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me”. A familiar act of friendship, meal sharing, has become the occasion of a painful disclosure. We share with Jesus the foreknowledge of the betrayal that is coming: not because of any prescience on our part, but because of our prior familiarity with the Passion story.
There has been much conjecture as to why Jesus’ warning to the unnamed betrayer ‘it would have been better for that one not to have been born’ did not change Judas’ mind. Suffice to say, he could not, or would not change his chosen path. However, it raised alarm among the other eleven, that one of them might be the traitor, perhaps unwittingly. It has also alerted readers as to their complicity.
Mark sees Jesus’ forthcoming Passion in the light of the ancient Feast of Passover, with the killing of the sacrificial lamb linked to Jesus’ forthcoming death. Whatever doubts scholars have raised as to the timing of the Feast in Mark, it remains a powerful symbolism, capable of penetrating hardened hearts, even ours.
as we read and meditate upon
the events surrounding Jesus’ Passion
we become aware of our part in it.
Let your Spirit not only convict us,
but convince us that his sacrifice
is for all time, for all people,
even the undeserving such as us.
Let thanks giving rise up within us,
and change us for the better.