In reading Mark 10:35-45 today, I began to wonder, and, frankly, speculate about who really is sitting at Jesus' right hand. In that story, the brothers James and John asked Jesus if they could sit at his right hand. What they wanted, of course, was earthly power because they thought Jesus was going to establish an earthly kingdom. Jesus doesn't tell them that they are wrong about the kingdom, but that they are wrong about the role of power.
However, I got off on speculating about who sits with Jesus. My first thought was that it might be Mary and Joseph, two important people in Jesus' life. Then I thought about the Transfiguration and reasoned that maybe it was Moses or Elijah. I even considered Judas as an example of what a forgiving Father God is. In the text, though, Jesus seems to imply that whoever it is will be someone who is a martyr. Perhaps Peter?
Could it be a rotating position with all the saints getting a turn? I don't know. Who would you nominate for sitting next to Jesus?
Another character writ large in the tale of Jesus' death is Judas. Judas's plotting and treachery are well-known.
We last looked at the role of Mary, the sister of Lazarus, who poured the expensive perfume over Jesus. It was a tremendous act of honor, but many of those present criticized her for this "waste" of good money - over a year's wages worth of perfume. Jesus, however, lauds what she has done. "She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial" (Mark 14:6-8).
While his words uplift Mary they disappoint Judas. Judas, who probably expected that Jesus had plans to overthrow the Roman oppressors, now sees that Jesus' kingdom is not about collecting money or gathering followers in order to raise an army. And if Jesus is not going to do that, then Judas is not going to have a prominent position in any new government. As treasurer, he has just lost out on a great deal of money. So he has lost hope of personal and financial gain. Add to that the fact that Jesus keeps talking about his death and Judas realizes there is no future with this guy. He has wasted several years of his life in following Jesus. And so he betrays him.
Yet, after selling Jesus out to the chief priests, Judas sits at table with Jesus to celebrate the Passover. On the one hand we can easily be shocked by the hypocrisy of celebrating a religious feast with a man he has sold out. But on the other hand we might examine our own lives for hypocrisy in relation to Jesus. Do our actions always match our words? Do we say we love Jesus and then mistreat our families? Do we say we follow Jesus and then neglect to help the poor? Rather than criticizing Judas, let us look to our own actions. Our actions may not be as well-known as those of Judas, yet they can be just as deadly.
Let us pray. "Exalt the Lord our God and worship at his holy mountain, for the Lord our God is holy" (Psalm 99:9). Jesus, I say I love you, whom I cannot see, and yet I have trouble loving others, whom I can see. I want to be more like you. I want to be more loving. I want to be more caring. I want my actions to match my words and your words more closely. Help me, Jesus, to root out the hypocrisy, the treachery, in my own life.
In this holy week as we remember the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ,let us spend a little time with Mark's account of these events (Mark 14:1-9). Jesus is having dinner at the home of a friend known as Simon the Leper. Perhaps Simon was one of those healed of leprosy by Jesus and so Simon, with his life restored to him, was now able to host a dinner party.
While Jesus is there, a woman, not named in Mark's Gospel but whom John identifies in his account as Mary, the sister of Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead, brings an alabaster jar of expensive perfume and pours it over Jesus. Everyone at the dinner party recognizes it as an extravagance. Based on the people we can surmise were present, quite a party is in progress. There are a man healed of leprosy and his family plus a man raised from the dead with his family. Who wouldn't be celebrating? Who wouldn't do what they could to acclaim Jesus? You don't just throw a lavish dinner party with your best wine, but your guests bring presents. Mary brings her most treasured possession - a beautiful jar holding glorious perfume. Indeed it was worth a year's wages.
For Reflection: Some complained that the gift was too lavish. But what is it worth to get your life back? What would you give?
It is hard to imagine living under persecution for being Christian (or any faith belief), but Christians have the words of Jesus who tells us to "fear not." That's much easier said than done; however, I think Jesus meant it.
If we know that when we die we will spend eternity in the Kingdom of God, then we need not fear death. So for Christians fear should not arise from death itself. Many of us, though, may fear what comes before death - suffering or pain. Is Jesus telling us not to fear suffering or pain?
Well, Scripture says that perfect love (God) casts out all fear (1 John 4:18), but it appears to me that verse is meant for the day of judgment. If we consider Jesus' agony in the garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-42; Matthew 26:36-46), Jesus is concerned about something. But what is it that overwhelms him? Is it death itself? or the pain of the whipping and crucifixion to come? or the weight of the sins of the world?
For reflection: Honestly, I don't know but I don't think it was the prospect of death itself that caused Jesus such anguish. I think it was either the physical pain to come or the weight of the sins of the world. What do you think?
Let us pray. Jesus, only you know what the persecuted Christians around the world are facing. We thank you for being with them in their time of testing and temptation, and we thank you for holding them like the Good Shepherd you are. Strengthen their faith in the face of the enemy. May your Name be always in their minds, and on their lips and in their hearts.
Our weapon against Satan is words, so what we have is a war of words. Some might not consider words to be very powerful. But we are not speaking of words of diplomacy. These are not the words of Secretary of State. We are speaking words with the same power as God's words of creation. When we speak, all of creation listens.
God's word did not go forth at the time of creation without effecting what he set forth to do. His word does not go forth void now (Isaiah 55:11). No, the word of God is living, active and sharp. It judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart and applies to all of creation (Hebrews 4:12).
Since we are praying again today on behalf of the persecuted Christians around the world, how then ought we to pray? We need to pray aloud and our words might be something like the following. As always, please feel free to add your own prayers.
We command all man-made weapons to be silenced and broken and to never work again (Isaiah 54:17).
We send the word of God into the hearts and minds of those who have a murdering spirit: you shall not kill (Exodus 20:13).
We proclaim the word of God to all who worship false gods: you shall worship the Lord, the God who brought the Hebrew people out of the land of Egypt (Exodus 20;2-3).
We command those with a spirit of hatred and covetousness: you shall not rape women, nor evict people from their homes (Exodus 20:14-17).
We proclaim the word of God for all to hear: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Mark 12:29). You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:13).
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.