Sermon = Who…?
Text = Mark 11
Day = Holy Thursday
Editorial note = I think this is one of the better sermons I have prepared over the course of 22 years of ministry. I do not recall how I noticed? read? the exegetical insight into how the gospel of Mark tells the story of the Passion of Christ.
Great pizza and Lady Gaga.
Celebrating our daughter Mary’s birthday. Driving home from Schlitz and Giggles. Listening to music on the radio. New song by Avril Lavigne. And that new song by Lady Gaga that some people are angry about it.
Judas. Judas? Oh right. The disciple who betrays Jesus.
Hold that question in mind for a minute. Who betrays Jesus.
This is how the gospel of Mark tells the story.
When evening comes Jesus arrives with the Twelve. While they are lying down at the table eating he says, I tell you the truth one of you will betray me – one who is eating with me. They are sad and one by one they say to him, Surely not I? Jesus replies, It is one of the Twelve one who dips bread into the bowl with me. While they are eating Jesus takes bread gives thanks and breaks it and gives it to his disciples.
In the short story “Silver Blaze” Gregory of the Scotland Yard asks the famous detective Sherlock Holmes:
“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.
The curious incident is that the gospel of Mark does not say specifically that Judas is the one who will betray Jesus. Not if we read it carefully.
One of you will. One who is eating with me. Surely not I? All of them eat with Jesus. All of them dip bread into the bowl with him.
Next scene Mount of Olives. You will all fall away. Peter declares, Even if all fall away I will not. Jesus replies, Tonight you will deny me three times. Peters insists, Even if I have to die with you I will not. All the others say the same.
Garden of Gesthemane. Sit here while I pray. Stay here and keep watch. Three times Jesus finds his three closest friends sleeping. Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. Enough! The hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Here comes my betrayer.
The arrest is a little different although we have to be careful how we translate the story. Judas one of the Twelve appears. The betrayer has arranged a signal. He goes to Jesus says Rabbi and kisses him. Then everyone deserts Jesus and flees. A young man wearing only a cloth is following Jesus runs away naked and leaves his cloth behind.
The trial. The structure of the story is typical of the gospel of Mark. Start telling one story – then stop and tell another – then go back and finish the first story. They take Jesus to the high priest – all the religious leaders come together. Peter follows him at a distance. Then the trial against Jesus. Then back to Peter. While Peter is below in the courtyard. Three times someone asks and three times Peter says I do not know what you are talking about / not one of his followers / do not know this man.
Who betrays Jesus? Judas? Well yes but the story in the book of Mark almost never mentions his name. Instead we get one of you will betray / one who is eating with me / you will all fall away / you will deny me three times / can you not stay awake one hour? everyone abandons him and runs away / Peter follows but three times says he does not know Jesus.
The famous artist Rembrandt van Rijn took fifteen years to produce seven paintings that tell the story of the passion of Jesus. He painted himself into two of them. The Raising of the Cross and The Descent from the Cross. As if Rembrandt himself is there. Rembrandt sees himself as part of the story of the suffering and death of Jesus.
We read these stories and think those silly disciples oh Peter oh Judas. But in many ways the book of Mark is like a mirror. That invites us to ask where are we in this story? How are we like the disciples like Peter even like Judas? In what ways do we not understand / we betray / we do not follow / we do not stay awake and pray for just one hour / we deny that we even know Jesus?
The point is not to hate ourselves or to be sad and miserable or lose hope. Or wear shirts with a big letter B for Betrayer! The point is we can be honest with ourselves and honest with the Lord Jesus. So that we will not trust in our own greatness but rather in the mercy of God our Father. So that by the presence and working of the Holy Spirit within us our primary prayer will always be, Lord Jesus Christ / son of God / have mercy on me / a sinner.
Because if the question is who? who betrays Jesus? the answer is us – we do. In different ways some big some obvious / some small some we do not recognize. But also who does Jesus call to follow him on the way of the cross? with whom does Jesus eat? with whom does Jesus pray? for whom does Jesus give himself completely on the cross? whom does Jesus send? again and every time the answer is us – that is who. Christ calls us. Eats with us. Prays with us. Gives himself for us. Sends us. Loves us. And therefore saves us.