It is now the night before Jesus’ crucifixion. He has been arrested in Gethsemane and faces a mock trial and a gruesome death.
- Two Betrayers In a sense, both Peter and Judas betray Jesus. Both failures were foretold by Jesus. What are some other similarities between Judas and Peter? In what ways were they different?
- The Trials (Mark 14:53-65; 15:1-15) In Mark 13:11, Jesus had instructed his disciples what to do when arrested. He said, “Do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.” Now, when Jesus is on trial, we find that he is frustratingly silent. Why is there essentially no defense? Should we behave similarly when we face false accusations? Jesus finally does speak (in 14:62 and 15:2). Why does he choose to respond only to these two questions?
- The Two Sons of Abba (Mark 15:6-15) Pilate, believing Jesus to be innocent, offers the crowd a choice. He will release either Jesus, or Barabbas. The prefix “bar” means “son of,” and “Abba” is a word for “Father”. The name Barabbas, then, literally means “Son of the Father.” In Gethsemane, Mark records Jesus prayer addressed to “Abba, Father” (14:36). The crowd is thus presented with an ironic choice. Which “Barabbas” will they choose? We typically fault them for their choice. In what ways do we make the same choice?
- The Characters in the Story
Jewish leaders Simon of Cyrene Pilate Two Criminals Barabbas Centurion Jesus The watching women Roman soldiers The watching angels God the Father The disciples Peter
From the list above, who do you most identify with from the passion narrative in Mark? Whose experience is most difficult for you to identify with? If you could travel back to that time, knowing what you know now, would you try to change the course of events somehow? Would you simply stand and watch?
- The Crucifixion (Mark 15:16-33) Typically, our retelling of the crucifixion focuses on the physical horror of the scene. Why are all the gospel writers so concise and colorless in their account? What is gained by our more graphic portrayals? What is lost?When discussing the crucifixion, we tend to quickly move into explaining the theological ramifications of Jesus’ death. This, however, is quite foreign to the gospels. Why? Why don’t the gospels overtly attach salvific import to Jesus’ death?
- The Final Cry (Mark 15:33-41) In Mark, Jesus’ final words on the cross come from Psalm 22:1. This is a profound question, asked of God the Father. What are the various ways of explaining these rather disturbing final words of Jesus? Did Jesus merely feel forsaken? Had the Father indeed forsaken him? Doesn’t God promise to draw close to those who suffer? Did Jesus really not understand what was happening to him? In other words, was it a genuine question?Following the deadly tsunami that swept the coasts of southern Asia in December, 2004, an elderly woman from a devastated village in India wailed, “Why did you do this to us, God?” (Peter Graff, Reuters, December 30, 2004). How is Jesus’ final cry similar to the cry of this elderly woman? How should Christians deal with this “why” question? Are we, like Job’s friends, often too quick to speak? Don’t we have to say something, though?