Reflection for March 28 – Bonnie Rafer

Today’s Passage from The Bible: Mark 14:53-72

They took Jesus to the high priest; and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes were assembled. Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the guards, warming himself at the fire. Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for testimony against Jesus to put him to death; but they found none. For many gave false testimony against him, and their testimony did not agree. Some stood up and gave false testimony against him, saying, ‘We heard him say, “I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.” ’But even on this point their testimony did not agree. Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, ‘Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?’ But he was silent and did not answer. Again, 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 at the right hand of the Power”, and “coming with the clouds of heaven.”

Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘Why do we still need witnesses? You have heard his blasphemy! What is your decision?’ All of them condemned him as deserving death. Some began to spit on him, to blindfold him, and to strike him, saying to him, ‘Prophesy!’ The guards also took him over and beat him.

While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she stared at him and said, ‘You also were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.’ But he denied it, saying, ‘I do not know or understand what you are talking about.’ And he went out into the forecourt. Then the cock crowed. And the servant-girl, on seeing him, began again to say to the bystanders, ‘This man is one of them.’ But again, he denied it. Then after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, ‘Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.’ But he began to curse, and he swore an oath, ‘I do not know this man you are talking about.’ At that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ And he broke down and wept.

Reflection – Bonnie Rafer

There are two parts to this reading – Jesus Before the Council, and Peter Denies Jesus. I find these passages very disturbing, as they show humans intent on destroying another human, even without evidence, or with manufactured evidence. Why would a group of people want to incriminate someone? Are they threatened by this person? Are they jealous of the following that surrounds him? Are they simply following along with the crowd, in an effort to be popular, or to eliminate the person who is causing disruption in their way of thinking? Why do they hate him so much? 

The presence of false testimony combined with the apparent lack of integrity in their legal system is a deadly combination. At a point, the priests and council seem to be reaching for straws to put Jesus to death, even without testimonial evidence – there are holes in the stories, and the stories don’t match up.  For some reason, possibly because he is no longer the “fun Jesus,” many of Jesus’ followers decide to turn against him. All of this time, Jesus remains innocent, and remains silent, which reminds me of the adage about remaining silent when dealing with fools. And with his knowledge of the course of events to come, he surely sees them as unworthy of his interaction, and he knows he cannot change the final outcome.

The crucial part comes in verse 61 when Jesus is asked, point blank, if he is the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One.  And Jesus answers, in effect, that he is the Christ, and that one day he will be seated beside God, coming with divine power. After this revelation, Jesus seems free to admit who he is, and the meaning is clear: He is stating he is the Christ, and not just a showman who does miracles. This is a shocker because now there is the fear of him, that he will be beside God, and have power and judgment.   

This is not what anyone expected and, in turn, brings forth the claims of blasphemy, and finally they have what they think is a reason to put him to death because of what he’s saying about tying himself closely with God and being Christ. This likely seemed to them to be insanity, narcissistic and completely wrong. They now had the reason they were desperately searching for, and could blame it on Jesus, no need for further testimony! 

Meanwhile, the part about Peter denying Jesus is another example of the frailties of human nature. The bystanders persisted in asking him about his relationship with Jesus and although Peter denied any association, they continued to pester him. Peter obviously didn’t want to be aligned with the man whom he now saw as being a loser. Peter is portrayed as a very weak person, I think, as everything was fine when Jesus was in the limelight and everyone loved him for being the miracle worker, but when things began to go downhill, Peter and others wanted nothing to do with him…..trying to save their own hides!   In the end, Peter realized what had happened, and that it all had been predicted by Jesus. At that instant, he knew…. he knew and he wept…. as well he should have, for himself in self-pity, and for Jesus, who had been his friend, and the subject of his betrayal.

And so, the story continues, being told through the ages. Unfortunately, some humans continue to persecute others, making judgments without evidence, and employing “fake news” tactics, and supporting causes to go along with the crowd.  Let us pray that we can employ Christian behavior, seeking to see the good in people, working together for common goals and defending those who have been unjustly condemned.  

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