Tender Presence

"Being" at the cross, we witness the tender presence and care of a few both named and gathered around Jesus. The entire scene, beyond the profound theological implications of Jesus' death, seems like a prophetic display of the transformation which occurs in those who gather around the Presence of Christ. Observing closely, we see that those gathered around Jesus recognize him for who he really is and act with tender compassion towards him and his body.

And we wait with them learning again and again that in dying comes new life...

Mark 15:33-47 (NLT)
At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 34 Then at three o’clock Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
35 Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah. 36 One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to him on a reed stick so he could drink. “Wait!” he said. “Let’s see whether Elijah comes to take him down!”
37 Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.
39 When the Roman officer who stood facing him saw how he had died, he exclaimed, “This man truly was the Son of God!”
40 Some women were there, watching from a distance, including Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James the younger and of Joseph), and Salome. 41 They had been followers of Jesus and had cared for him while he was in Galilee. Many other women who had come with him to Jerusalem were also there.
42 This all happened on Friday, the day of preparation, the day before the Sabbath. As evening approached, 43 Joseph of Arimathea took a risk and went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. (Joseph was an honored member of the high council, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come.) 44 Pilate couldn’t believe that Jesus was already dead, so he called for the Roman officer and asked if he had died yet. 45 The officer confirmed that Jesus was dead, so Pilate told Joseph he could have the body. 46 Joseph bought a long sheet of linen cloth. Then he took Jesus’ body down from the cross, wrapped it in the cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone in front of the entrance. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where Jesus’ body was laid.

For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a word, a phrase, image, or feeling that stood out to you as you listened? Bring it into your prayer with Jesus.

Bring your own experience of abandonment / giving up / surrender / death to false self into prayer with Jesus. How is he with you in it? Does he have something to say to you?

Be with Jesus in his dying and death, either at a distance or by his side. Is there something you want to tell him?

Love Un-numbed

The long, painful path to the cross has come to an end. We have felt the weight of dwelling in these texts which extended beyond the church calendar. We have chosen to allow the text to shape and change us. 

After much dialogue with his Father, Jesus discerned the time to choose and allow the humiliations of his enemies.  We observe the provision of a companion, an advocate for Jesus in his suffering. And we witness what love looks like un-numbed.

Mark 15:16-20 (NLT)
16 The soldiers took Jesus into the courtyard of the governor’s headquarters (called the Praetorium) and called out the entire regiment. 17 They dressed him in a purple robe, and they wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head. 18 Then they saluted him and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” 19 And they struck him on the head with a reed stick, spit on him, and dropped to their knees in mock worship. 20 When they were finally tired of mocking him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him again. Then they led him away to be crucified.
21 A passerby named Simon, who was from Cyrene, was coming in from the countryside just then, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. (Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus.) 22 And they brought Jesus to a place called Golgotha (which means “Place of the Skull”). 23 They offered him wine drugged with myrrh, but he refused it.
24 Then the soldiers nailed him to the cross. They divided his clothes and threw dice to decide who would get each piece. 25 It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. 26 A sign announced the charge against him. It read, “The King of the Jews.” 27 Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.
29 The people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. “Ha! Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. 30 Well then, save yourself and come down from the cross!”
31 The leading priests and teachers of religious law also mocked Jesus. “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! 32 Let this Messiah, this King of Israel, come down from the cross so we can see it and believe him!” Even the men who were crucified with Jesus ridiculed him.

For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a word, a phrase, image, or feeling that stood out to you as you listened? Bring it into your prayer with Jesus. Is there a color you associate with this word?
Bring your own experience of being mocked into your prayer with Jesus. How is he with you in it? Does have something to say to you?
Be with Jesus in his humiliation, either at a distance or by his side. Is there something you want to tell him?

What Do We Usually Do?

Steeped in this text, we witness the typical form and pattern of life effectively lived apart from God. Thinking they are powerfully in control, the Jewish ruling elite make perfectly executable plans. Pontius Pilate, the appointed governor, leads and decides without pausing to pay attention to his own discomfort and dis-ease with the decision before him. As much as we want to blame all of them for the horrible treatment of Jesus, we can see our own similar patterns of behavior. If we are truly honest with ourselves...

we make elaborate plans without consulting God;

we disregard certain information, often living on autopilot, doing what we always do while not paying attention to the signals of new information, or the prompting of the Holy Spirit within;

we chose to satisfy the "crowd", either consciously or unconsciously, and betray the Still Small Voice within.

Perhaps God is inviting us to consider giving up old patterns of doing what we usually do and allowing the Spirit to do a new thing in us.

Mark 15:1-15 (NIV)
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.
2 “Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate.
“You have said so,” Jesus replied.
3 The chief priests accused him of many things. 4 So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.”
5 But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.
6 Now it was the custom at the festival to release a prisoner whom the people requested. 7 A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. 8 The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.
9 “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.


For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a word, a phrase, image, or feeling that stood out to you as you listened? Bring it into your prayer with Jesus. Try drawing your prayer if you are so inclined.

What do you notice about ‘making plans’ in the text? How do you ‘make plans’? What have you noticed when you invite Jesus to ‘make plans’ with you? Talk with him about it.

Perhaps crowd pleasing, or people pleasing is a temptation for you as you make decisions. How is Jesus guiding you in discernment as you face choices?

Be with Jesus in this story, either at a distance or by his side. Just be with him.

A Rooster Crowed

Poor Peter. It seems we have a hard time giving him a break when we read this passage in Mark 14:66-72. How could he deny Jesus? Not once, not twice…but three times! You think he would have been ready for that. Jesus warned him!
    Thankfully, the rooster crowed, and it woke him up to a reality he couldn’t see before. And then he wept. It seems that Peter’s passion for living life awake to reality grew from there.
    But what was the reality he became awakened to? Was it a deeper understanding of his fear and weakness? Was it an immediate awareness that Jesus knew him better than he knew himself? Might it have been the love he and Jesus had for each other assuaging the shame he might otherwise have felt?
We can’t say, but we can bear witness to a deep love relationship between Jesus and Peter that was enhanced by a crowing rooster—a servant of awakening to life-giving, rather than shaming, possibilities.
Have you heard a rooster crow lately? What are you being invited to awaken to?
Are you “One of those with Jesus of Nazareth?”
  © Brenda Henry

Mark 14:66-72
Meanwhile, Peter was in the courtyard below. One of the servant girls who worked for the high priest came by and noticed Peter warming himself at the fire. She looked at him closely and said, “You were one of those with Jesus of Nazareth.”
 But Peter denied it. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said, and he went out into the entryway. Just then, a rooster crowed.
When the servant girl saw him standing there, she began telling the others, “This man is definitely one of them!”  But Peter denied it again.
A little later some of the other bystanders confronted Peter and said, “You must be one of them, because you are a Galilean.”
 Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know this man you’re talking about!”
 And immediately the rooster crowed the second time.
Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he broke down and wept.


For reflection and prayer:
Is there a word, a phrase, an image, or something else that stood out to you as you listened? As you sit with that, what else does the Spirit seem to be communicating to you?

What would your response be today in the present moment if someone looked at you closely, as this woman did Peter, and said,  “You were one of those with Jesus of Nazareth?” What do you notice within?

What might a “crowing rooster” be for you? What are you being invited to awaken to?

Where is Justice?

As our community gathered to attend to Jesus in his trial before the religious elite we individually and communally experienced the redemptive power of God. Profound themes emerged in our sharing and listening to the text, the Spirit and one another. Themes such as:

Do they really think they can blindfold God?

Jesus, in his way, is destroying the structure of the Temple.

"I Am" - a place to stand

Hearing Jesus' voice in the darkeness - I am in the darkness

Freedom from false accusations: from the enemy, others, self

Weep at Jesus' beatings. Weep at the injustice of the world.

Where is Justice? When will you bring justice to the earth?

Here is my servant...my chosen one...
He will not shout or cry out or raise his voice...

In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
He will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on the earth.
Isaiah 42

Mark 14:53-65 (NIV)
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.

For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a word, a phrase, image, or feeling that stood out to you as you listened? Bring it into your prayer with Jesus.

What do you notice about discernment in the text? Is there something which Jesus may be teaching you through this trial? Talk with him about it.

Be with Jesus in this story, either at a distance or by his side. Just be with him.

Fleeing the Presence of Jesus

In their struggle to stay present with Jesus, these beloved companions eventually surrender to sleep. Jesus roused them as his betrayer approached, and in this text we witness the progression of fleeing the presence of Jesus. First the loved ones cannot stay internally present in their prayer, now they can no longer bear the fear and shame before them. One by one, they act out compelled by fear and shame, and eventually physically flee from Jesus. In the drama, chaos and contradiction of it all, Jesus is the only one who stays present to the reality before him. That day he said to them,

"Every day I was with you"

Today, he says to us,

"I am always with you"

Would you like to bring your fear, pain and shame and be with Jesus again in this moment?

For every child of God defeats the evil world
by trusting Christ to give us the victory.

1 John 5:4

Mark 14:43-52 (NIV)
Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.

44 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” 45 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. 46 The men seized Jesus and arrested him. 47 Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

48 “Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” 50 Then everyone deserted him and fled.

51 A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, 52 he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.

For Reflection and Prayer:
Did a word or phrase speak to you as you listened to or read the text? Dwell with it. Be quiet with it. Gently bring it into your conversation with Jesus.

How have you experience betrayal, even being betrayed by a "kiss'? Can you share the pain of the betrayal with Jesus? How is he with you in it?

We all move in and out of living in the awareness of Jesus' presence with us. What helps you stay present? What distracts your from his presence? When do you notice yourself compelled to flee the present moment? Be gentle and kind with yourself as you explore these themes with Jesus. Come back to a safe place with Jesus, when you become frightened by your thoughts or memories.

Attending to Jesus in Suffering

Now in the garden, Jesus beckons those he loves to share in his sorrow - to stay present and pray with him in it.  This is a hard thing to ask, to stay awake and keep watch with ourselves and another in anguish. It seems like we are hardwired to avoid suffering and we choose many means to avoid it. Falling asleep, checking out, numbing our sorrow with toxic substances or addictions all temporarily serve to keep us unaware of the pain in us and before us. Jesus longs to show us another way to be with sorrow and suffering with him. Jesus will give us the courage and strength to be present to reality and to be with him in it.

Mark 14:32-42 (NIV)
They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
39 Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. 40 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.
41 Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a word, a phrase, image, or feeling that stood out to you as you listened? Bring it into your prayer with Jesus.

How have you experienced keeping watch with Jesus in sorrow or suffering? What helps you stay awake to keep watch?

Is there a place where Jesus is inviting you to keep watch with him now? Have a conversation with him about it. How is he praying with you and for you in the watch?

Speak to your Abba about the cup you would like removed from you? What does the Abba say to you or show you?