URC Daily Devotion 24 March 2024

24 March 2024
Palm Sunday


St Mark 14: 43  – 52
Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders.  Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.’  So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him. Then they laid hands on him and arrested him.  But one of those who stood near drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear.  Then Jesus said to them, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit?  Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.’  All of them deserted him and fled. A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.

It’s Palm Sunday and yet we are already in the Garden of Gethsemane. Under cover of darkness and with an armed mob Jesus is to be arrested, but the sign to facilitate the arrest isn’t physically brutal or violent, it’s a kiss.

This arrest is underhand, underwhelming, under cover of darkness.

What was Peter thinking when he raised his sword? He could so easily have been arrested too. In fact they all could have been arrested, then where would we be? So maybe fleeing, instead of being seen as weak and cowardly, was merely pragmatic.

Jesus wasn’t fighting, he appears to be quite passive, resigned almost, in fact his one major act in this passage is one of healing, of restoration, amidst the turmoil and chaos, a calm act of kindness.

But he did speak to rebuke the crowd/mob. He mocked them for their overkill, for their cowardice at not arresting him in plain sight, for their fear, surely knowing they were afraid that he could bring about a revolution.

Where we find ourselves at the end of the passage is that everyone has fled, everyone has abandoned Jesus, he is left to face a mock trial alone.

This is a low moment in the Passion narrative. How and why does Jesus not resist, not demonstrate his power and authority? Why does he submit to his arrest like a lamb to the slaughter?

Let’s forget for a moment the ‘spoilers’ – we know how this plays out. The shock, the distress and the helplessness of the disciples is palpable.

At this point let this be our Gethsemane. Let’s be present in that instant as it gets dark, both physically and spiritually and let’s not be too harsh on ourselves or the disciples and the young man for running away. That response to an overwhelming trauma is human, understandable, forgivable.

Lord Jesus, on the same night that you took bread, you were  betrayed, you were let down, you were broken  but you knew however painful it was, the events unfolded as they were ordained. Amen



Today’s writer

Sam Goodman, Elder, Central URC Derby


New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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