Our Gospel readings will be from the
Gospel of Mark and will focus on the last
week of Christ’s life.
March 4 : Conflict and more Conflict
The Authority of Jesus Challenged
11:27 Again they entered Jerusalem. As Jesus was walking through the Temple area, the leading priests, the teachers or religious law, and the elders came up to him. They demanded, “By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right to do them?”
“I’ll tell you by what authority I do these if you answer one question.” Jesus replied. “Did John’s authority to baptize come from heaven, or was it merely human? Answer me?”
They talked it over over among themselves. “If we say it was from heaven, he will ask why we didn’t believe John. But do we dare say it was merely human? “For they were afraid of whet the people would do, because everyone believed that John was a prophet. So they finally replied, “We don’t know.”
And Jesus responded, ” Then I won’t tell you by what authority I do these things.”
Parable of the Evil Farmers
12:1 Then Jesus began teaching them with stories. “A man planted a vineyard. He built a wall around it, dug a pit for pressing out the grape juice, and built a lookout tower. Then he leased the vineyard to tenant farmers and moved to another country. At the time of the grape harvest, he sent one of his servants to collect his share of the crop. But the farmers grabbed the servant, beat him up, and sent him back empty-handed. The owner then sent another servant, but they insulted him and beat him over the head. The next servant he sent was killed. Others he sent were either beaten or killed, until there was only one left — his son whom he loved dearly. The ower finally sent him thinking. Surely they will respect my son.
But the tenant farmers said to one another. Here comes the heir to this estate. Let’s kill him and get the estate for ourselves! So they grabbed him a murdered him and threw his body out of the vineyard.
What do you supppose the owner of the vineyard will do?” Jesus asked. “I’ll tell you — he will come and kill those farmers and lease the vineyard to others. Didn’t you ever read this in the Scriptures?
‘The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing and it is wonderful to see’ ”
The religious leaders wanted to arrest Jesus because they realized he was telling the story against them — they were the wicked farmers. But they were afraid of the crowd, so they left and went away.
Taxes for Caesar
12:13 Later the leaders sent some Pharisees and supporters of Herod to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. “Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You are inpartial and don’t play favorites. You teach the way of God truthfully. Now tell us — is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay them, or shouldn’t we?
Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and said, Why are you trying to trap me? Show me a Roman coin, and I’ll tell you.” When they handed it to him, he asked “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
Well then, “Jesus said , “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.
His reply completely amazed them.
Discussion about Resurrection
12:18 Then Jesus was approached by some Sadducees — religious leaders who say there is no resurrection from the dead. They posed this question. “Teacher, Moses gave us a law that if a man dies leaving a wife without children, his brother should marry the widow and have a child who will carry on the brother’s name. Well, suppose there were seven brothers. The oldest one married and then died without children. So the second bother married the widow, but he also died without children. Then the third brother married her. This continued with all seven of them, and still there no children. Last of all, the woman also died. So tell us, whose wife will she be in the resurrection? For all seven were married to her.”
Jesus replied, “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God. For when the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage. In this respect they will be like the angels in heaven.
But now, as to whether the dead will be raised — haven’t you ever read about this in the writings of Moses, in the story of the burning bush? Long after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had died, God said to Moses, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ So he is the God of the living, not the dead. You have made a serious error.”
The Most Important Commandment
12:28 One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked , “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this. ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the LOrd your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.
The teacher of religious law replied, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth by saying that there is only one God and no other. And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required by law.”
Realizing how much the man understood, Jesus said to him, ” You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Whose Son Is the Messiah?
12:35 Later, as Jesus was teaching the people in the Temple, he asked, “Why do the teachers of religious law claim that Messiah is the son of David? For David himself, speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, said,
‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies beneath your feet.’
Since David himself called the Messiah ‘my Lord,’ how can the Messiah be his son?” The large crowd listened to him with great delight.
Jesus also taught: “Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they like to parade around in flowing robes and receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces. And how they love the seats of honor in the synagogues and the head table at the banquets. Yet they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public. Because of this, they will be more severely punished.”
The Widow’s Offering
12:41 Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins.
Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she is, has given everything she had to live on.”
March 11: The need for a traitor
Jesus Fortells the Future
13:1 As Jesus was leaving the Temple that day, one of his disciples said, “Teacher, look at these magnificent buildings! Look at the impressive stones in the walls.”
Jesus replied, “Yes, look at these great buildings. But they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!”
Later, Jesus sat on the Mont of Olives across the valley from the Temple. Peter, James, John, and Andrew came to him privately and asked him, “Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will show us that these things are about to be fulfilled?”
Jesus replied, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in many parts of the world, as well as famines. But this is only the first of the birth pains, with one more to come.
“When these things begin to happen, watch out! You will be handed over to the local councils and beaten in the synagogues. You will stand trial before the governors and kings because you are my followers. But when you are arrested and stand trial, don’t worry in advance about what to say. Just say what God tells you at that time, for it is not you who will be speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
“A brother will betray his brother to death, a father will betray his own child, and children will rebel will against their parents and cause them to be killed. And everyone will hate you because you are my followers. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
“The day is coming when you will see the sacrilegous object that causes desecration standing where he should not be.” (Reader, pay attention!) “Then those in Judea must flee to the jills. A person out on the deck of a roof must not go down into the house to pack. A person out in the field must not even return to get a coat. How terrible it will be for a pregnant woman and for mothers in those days. And pray that your flight will not be winter. For there will be greater anguish in those days than at any time since God created the world. And it will never be so great again. In fact, unless the Lord shortens that time of calamity, not a single person will survive. But for the sake of his chosen ones he has shortened those days.
“Then if anyone tells you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah,’ or ‘There he is’ don’t believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones. Watch out! I have warned you about this ahead of time!
“At that time, after the anguish of those days,
the sun will be darkened, the moon will give no light, the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with great power and glory. And he will send out his angels to gather his chosen ones from all over the world — from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven.
Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout you know that summer is near. In the same way, when yousee all these things taking place, you can know that his return is very near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass from the scene before all these things take place. Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear.
However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the engels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows. And since you don’t know when that time will come, be on guard! Stay alert!
The coming of the Son of Man can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. When he left home, he gave each of his slaves instructions about the work they were to do, and he told the gatekeeper to watch for his return. You, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know when the master of the household will return — in the evening, at midnight, before dawn, or at daybreak. Don’t let him find you sleeping when he arrives without warning. I say to you what I say to everyone. Watch for him!
Jesus Anointed at Bethany
14:1 It was now two days before Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. The leading priests and the teachers of religious law were still looking for an opportunity to capture Jesus secretly and kill him. But not during the Passover celebration, they agreed, or the people may riot.
Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had previouly had leprosy. While he was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard. She broke open the jar and poured the perfume over his head.
Some of those at the table were indignant. “Why waste such expensive perfume?” they asked. “It could have been sold for a year’s wages and the money given to the poor!” So the scolded her harshly.
But Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. Why criticize her for doing such a good thing to me? You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could and has anoited my body for burial ahead of time. I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.”
Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus
14:10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests to arrange to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted when they heard why he had come, and they promised to give him money. So he began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus.
March 18: Last Supper and Garden of Gethsemane
The Last Supper
14:12 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go to prepare the Passover meal for you?”
So Jesus sent two of them into Jerusalem with these instructions: “As you go into the city, a man carrying a pitcher of water will meet you. Follow him. At the house he enters, say to the owner, ‘The Teacher askes: Where is the guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples? He will take you upstairs to a large room that is already set up. That is where you should prepare our meal.” So the two disciples went into the city and found everything just as Jesus had said, and they prepared the Passover meal there.
In the evening Jesus arrived with the twelve disciples. As they were at the table eating Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, one of you eating with me here will betray me.”
Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, “Am I the one?”
He replied, “It is one of you twelce who is eating from this bowl with me. For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. It would be far better for that man if he had never been born!”
As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take it, for this is my body.”
And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. And he said to them, “This is my blood, which confirms the convenant between God and his people. It is poured our as a sacrifice for many. I tell you the truth, I will not drink wine again until the ay I drink it new in the Kingdom of God.”
Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.
Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial
14:27But after I am raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there.
Peter said to him, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I never will.”
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth Peter — this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny three times that you even know me.”
“No!” Peter declared emphatically. “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” And all the others vowed the same.
Jesus prays in Gethsaname
14:32 They went to the olive grove called Gethsename, and Jesus said, “Sit here while I go and pray.” He took Peter, James, and John with him, and he became deeply troubled and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
He went on a little farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. “Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
Then he returned and found the disciples asleep. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing but the body is weak.”
Then Jesus left them again and prayed the same prayer as before. When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping for they couldn’t keep their eyes open. And they didn’t know what to say.
When he returned to them the third time, he said, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But no — the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Up, let’s be going. Look, my betrayer is here!
Jesus Is Betrayed and Arrested
14:43 And immediately, even as Jesus said this, Judas, one of the twelve disciples, arrived with a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs. They had been sent by the leading priests, the teachers of religious law and the elders. The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: “You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss. Then you can take him away under guard.” As soon as they arived, Judas walked up to Jesus. “Rabbi!” he exclaimed, and gave him the kiss.
Then the others grabbed Jesus and arrested him But one of the men with Jesus pulled out his sword and struck the high priest’s slave, slashing off his ear.
Jesus asked them, “Am I some dangerous revolutionary, that you come with swords and clubs to arrest me? Why didn’t you arrest me in the Temple? I was there among you teaching every day. But tese things are happening to fulfill what the Scriptures say about me.”
Then all his disciples deserted him and ran away One young man following behind was clothed only in a long linen shirt. When the mob tried to grab him, he slipped out of his shirt and ran away naked.
Jesus before the Council
14:53 They took Jesus to the high priest’s home where the leading priests, the elders and the teachers of religious law had gathered. Meanwhile, Peter followed him at a distance and went right into the high priest’s courtyard. There he sat with the guards, warming himself by the fire.
Inside, the leading priests, and the entire high council were trying to find evidence against Jesus, so they could put him to death. but they couldn’t find any. Many false witnesses spoke against him, but they contradicted each other. Finally, some men stood up and gave this false testimony. “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this Temple made with human hands, and in three days I will build another, made without human hands.’ ” But even then they didn’t even get their stories straight!
Then the high priest stood up before the others and asked Jesus, “Well, aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself? But Jesus was silent and made no reply. Then the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”
Jesus said, “I AM. And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
Then the high priesttore his clothing to show his horror and said, “Why do we need other witnesses? You have all heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?”
“Guilty!” they all cried. “He deserves to die!”
Then some of them began to spit at him, and they blindfolded him and beat them with their fists. “Prophesy to us,” they jeered. And the guards slapped him as they took him away.
Peter Denies Jesus
14:66 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 by 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 others, “This man is definitely one of them!” But Peter denied it againg.
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.
March 25 CANTATA: The last Week of Christ from Palm Sunday to Crucifixion
Jesus Trial before Pilate
15:1 Very early in the morning the leading priests, the elders, and the teachers of religious law — the entire high council met to discuss their next step. They bound Jesus, led him away, and took him to Pilate, the Roman governor.
Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
Jesus replied, “You have said it.”
Then the leading priests kept accusing him of many crimes, and Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer them? What about all these charges they are bringing against you? But Jesus said nothing, much to Pilate’s surprise.
Now it was the governor’s custom each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner — anyone the people requested. One of the prisoners at that time was Barabbas, a revolutionary who had committed murder in a uprising. The crowd went to Pilate and asked him to release a prisoner as usual.
“Would you like me to release to you this ‘King of the Jews’?” Pilate asked. (For he realized by now that the leading priests had arrested Jesus out of envy.) But at this point the leading priests stirred up the crowd to demand the release of Barabbas instead of Jesus. Pilate asked them, “Then what should I do with this man you call the king of the Jews?”
They shouted back, “Crucify him!”
“Why?” Pilate demanded. “What crime has he committed?”
But the mob roared even louder, “Crucify him!”
So to pacify the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.
The Soldiers Mock Jesus
15:16 The soldiers took Jesus into the courtyard of the governor’s headquartera (called the Praetorium) and called out the entire regiment. They dressed him in a purple robe, and they wove thorn branches into a crown and putit on his head Then they saluted him and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” And they struck him on the head with a reed stick, spit on him and dropped to their knees in mock worship. 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.
15:21 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.) And they brought Jesus to a place called Golgotha (which means “Place of the Skull”) They offered him wine drigged with myrhh, but he refused it.
Then the soldiers naied him to the cross. They divided his clothes and threw dice to decide who would get each piece It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. A sign announced the charge against him. It read, “The King of the Jews.” Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.
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, Well then, save yourself and come from the cross!”
The leading priests and teachers of religious law also mocked Jesus. “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! 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.
The Death of Jesus
15:33 At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 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 forsaken me?”
Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah. 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!”
When the Roman officer who stood facing him saw how he had died, he exclaimed, “This man truly was the Son of God!”
Some women were there, watching from a distance, including Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James the younger brother of Joseph) and Salome. 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.
April 1 Easter: The Resurrection
Saturday evening, when the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went out and purchased burial spices so they could anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on Sunday morning, just at sunrise, they went to the tomb. On the way they were asking each other, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” But as they arrived, they looked up and saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled aside.
When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side. The women were shocked, but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. Hi isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.
The women fled from the tomb, trembling and bewildered, and they said nothing to anyone because they were too frightened.
Then they briefly reported all this to Peter and his companions. Afterward Jesus himself sent them out from east to west with the sacred and unfailing message of salvation that gives eternal life.