The Call to Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark, Day 67
At this darkest hour, what does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? What does it mean to follow a man who has received the death penalty from the state? What does it means to follow one who with his last breath cried, "My God, My God, why, have you forsaken me?" He is surrounded by people who revile him - the religious folk, the soldiers, the other criminals being put to death - with all that torment how do we follow?They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.
It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. The inscription of the charge against him read, ‘The King of the Jews.’ And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!’ In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.’ Those who were crucified with him also taunted him. When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, ‘Listen, he is calling for Elijah.’ And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.’ Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’
There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem. When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid. .Mark 15:21-47
The text gives us some clues on what it means to follow even in the dark, even when you don't know what it means, even when the beloved is dying. Our first clue comes from the stranger. To follow Jesus can come from an unexpected source. You may be drawn into you're call when you are on your way to somewhere else. "They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus." Not the day he had planned. Here was a man from the country in the big city and he is dragged into the punishment of Jesus. He is forced to carry the cross. He is from the outside, a stranger. We learn that he is the father. The children are given names. This is a unique scene in Mark for we don't usually have names and people who aren't even present are named. So this experience must of had an impact on Simon and those children. Did he return to the country and share the Good News about Jesus? Did that change his children's lives and did they turn and share the Good News of God with those around them? Did they demonstrate to others how to share the burden?
Are next clue comes from a soldier. He is there while all of the soldiers taunt and torment Jesus. He is there as they beat and disrespect Jesus. He has seen all they have done to him. He is there when Jesus cries out to God and breaths his last. He is there carrying out the state's death penalty. "Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’" He who carried out the death penalty, he saw Jesus. He truly saw Jesus and says, "this is God's son." He sees Jesus not as a criminal but as one from God. If it wasn't too late for this soldier, it is not to late for us to turn and believe.
|Mohegan Woman statue in Williams Bay, WI|
Then there is Joseph. He is one of the religious leaders. But he is different from those who demanded his death and state execution. For he is one who was "waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God." He takes care of Jesus after his death. Caring for his body when his friends, his disciples are gone. He reminds us that even among people we think are hypocrites, who don't practice religion they way we believe it should be practiced, there are still good people who will work for the good of God's kingdom if we but look.
On this day when we experience the pain and torture of death. We experience that there are still ways to experience God's presence and follow Jesus even into those places that are the hardest to enter.