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What enabled the women to remain faithful even at the risk of their own well-being? Why did they stick with Jesus while the men abandoned him? Mark does not answer these questions directly. But the text does suggest at least one reason why the women remained: they had each other.
Though the twelve who had followed Jesus most intimately abandoned him when he was arrested, many of his followers stayed nearby. These, according to Mark, were all women. “Some women were watching from a distance,” including “Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome” (15:40). These women had been close to Jesus. Mark notes that they “had followed him and cared for his needs” (15:41). Additionally, “many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there” (15:41).
What strikes me today as I reflect on this text, however, isn’t so much a matter of Christology as a matter of how God meets us at work. The centurion, in doing his job, had an unexpected encounter with God. This was probably the last thing he would have anticipated as he oversaw the crucifixion of Jesus. Yet, while doing his terrible job, there was God: God making himself known in suffering, God reaching out through the person of Jesus, God showing up when least expected.
Mark 15 recounts the events of Jesus’s crucifixion. In verses 24-26, Jesus is nailed to the cross, with a sign identifying him, ironically, as “The King of the Jews.” Then, “at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (Which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) (15:34).
One of the great “discoveries” in recent times, made by many biblically grounded Christians, is that work can be worship. This insight is based, in part, on the fact that one of the key Old Testament words for worship, avodah, also means “work” or “service.” Moreover, Scripture teaches in many places that when we offer our work to the Lord for his purposes and pleasure, we are worshiping him, every bit as much as we do when we praise him in church gatherings.
There’s no doubt that Peter truly believed he would never, ever deny Jesus. He and his fellow disciples were sure that they would die for Jesus rather than deny him. But, of course, before long all the disciples did what they felt to be impossible, and Peter most of all.
But if Jesus was not using God’s own name in reference to himself, why was he accused of blasphemy (14:63-64)? What did he say that deserved punishment, even death, in the eyes of the Jewish officials?
After Jesus was arrested, he was taken to the home of the high priest, where he was interrogated by Jewish leaders from Jerusalem. Many witnesses offered testimony against Jesus, but their stories were not sufficient to condemn him. As he was being accused, Jesus remained silent.
Today’s text describes the seed falling into good soil. So, what makes the soil good? As our last set of reflections suggested, part of the answer lies in our giving conscious, sustained and disciplined attention to Jesus’ way of life and leadership. However, this is not merely an exercise in acquiring leadership knowledge or technique. Jesus’ teaching challenges us at the core of our being as leaders.
The prayer of Jesus in the Garden not only reveals the mystery of the Incarnation, but also invites us to pray without limit, hesitation, or fear. Most of us have learned not to tell the Lord what is truly in our hearts, at least not when we’re desperate, sad, angry, or doubting. We might give God a hint about what we’re really thinking and feeling. But, usually we couch this in safe and well-rehearsed spiritual language.
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