Wow. That was pretty intense. To read about all of that violence and hatred and to think that all of this happened to Jesus – of all people. Even people that really don’t know much about Jesus know that he was a great guy. He was innocent, and did all he could to love and help people. But in return he received this horrendous treatment. His friends even run away and leave him in these darkest hours of his life. It is hard to really blame them – when you are dealing with ruthless and well-trained soldiers like the Romans and you have just seen the way they are treating Jesus, you know that if you stick around you will be next.
The Gospel of Mark has a bit of a rough edge. Mark doesn’t soften any of the descriptions. When I was on retreat recently, I spent a few days reading and re-reading these chapters. It is hard work just to read about what happened to Jesus over the last 24 hours of his life. Imagine what it was like to be there. Imagine what Jesus went through. I wrote in my prayer journal a list of all of the violent and hate-filled things that Jesus endured in these pages – from being spat upon, beaten with sticks, stripped, mocked, whipped, cursed, blind-folded, hit, slapped, yelled at and rejected – while your closest friends deny that they even know you and run away naked rather than be caught near you. All of this culminates in the brutal agony of crucifixion itself. The Romans used this as the ultimate weapon to keep the masses in line, because to see someone being crucified created such horror and repulsion in people that they would do anything to avoid the same fate.
Yet somehow, despite all the horror of these pages, lying beneath this account is the conviction that Jesus went through all of this for me. And you. He didn’t have to – but he freely chose to keep on saying yes to love and yes to his Father. He wanted us to know that no matter how many times we will say no to God, he will always say yes to love, mercy and healing. And so that is what is available to us.
Jesus, help us to enter into the days ahead with our eyes and hearts wide open, so that we can receive in new ways all of the wonders of your amazing love. Amen.