Mark 14:15

He will himself show you a large upstairs room, set out ready; and there make preparations for us.”

we leave on ground level
looking all around
a burning bush here
a burning coal there
a burning cloud above

seeking a trail of water
flowing uphill
expansive space
milk and honey ready
a launching place

In later days we will find disciples of Jesus gathering underground in catacombs. Whether in a privileged raised location or hiding from powers by going below, anywhere baptismal waters are found is a good place to gather.

If we were reading this in the Greek it would be easier for us to cast our minds back to previous uses of two words.

The first is στρωννύω (strōnnyō, to furnish or to spread). This word is used to describe putting rugs on seats or couches to ease one’s lying at meal. That would be appropriate for the immediate situation—the work needed to be done that preparations would be accomplished.

This same word was used for the entry into Jerusalem as those rejoicing at Jesus’ “victorious” entry “spread” their cloaks or branches from the fields to participate in that entry—“I eased Jesus’ entry with my cloak!”

This anticipates our entering a new phase of the way Jesus has been traveling and it is not so much victorious as welcoming and encouraging.

The second word is ἑτοιμάζω (hetoimazō, prepare or make ready). Mark has used this word twice before. Back in 1:3 Isaiah calls people to Prepare the Way. In 10:40 James and John are turned down for places of privilege. The right and left are for those who are prepared for them.

Isn’t it the way that the hospitality preparations we make to welcome others prepares us for deeper experiences of loving Neighb*r and, thereby, love G*D and our S*lf? In preparing a feast well we find the meal to be all the more delicious. The infamous ingredient of love makes all the difference with home-style grits or 3-star Michelin prime rib.

The mystery of preparation preparing the preparer continues to prepare the disciples to lose Jerusalem and gain Galilee.

Mark 14:14

and, wherever he goes in, say to the owner of the house ‘The teacher says – Where is my room where I am to eat the Passover with my disciples?’

picking up their walking sticks
putting on their cleanest sandals
the two set off
looking for a changed heart
that bears another’s burden

here a teacher
can put down roots
to transform expected solidarity
shattering partnerships
to sow new seed

This is the only time Jesus refers to himself as “Teacher”. Up to now it has been a title, status, or honorific that others have used in addressing him.

As one spends time in the wild wilderness to be able to address significant issues in civilized wildernesses, wisdom does accrue and so a significant part of being Beloved is to teach with a different sense of authority—not lecturing pearls of wisdom, but engaging lives where they are experiencing caughtness, stuckness, captivity, or even enslavement. This is different than being a Priest, Preacher, or Prophet.

This is also the only time Jesus refers to those he had called and those who joined them on the way as, “My Disciples”.

This begins to set this sending of two apart from previous sendings. When the Twelve were sent out two-by-two it was to experience authority of power over unclean spirits. This was done with proclamation regarding changed hearts and lives as well as with anointing by oil. When two were sent into a village to bring back a colt it was in regard to Jesus being a “Master” of the situation, a sign of a non-military victory entrance—a one-time event.

We are entering a scene that LaVerdiere2232calls “catechetical”. What is coming will not be a one-time event, but one regularly repeated by followers of Jesus as, generation by generation, we prepare to encounter the meanness of life that has been covered-up by tradition and resist one discriminatory status quo after another.

While others were preparing to arrest Jesus and put him to death, the disciples would prepare Jesus’ (mou) guest room (katalyma) where, eating the Passover with his disciples, Jesus would offer them his body and blood….katalyma refers to any place where hospitality is offered to people on a journey. [LaVerdiere2232]

“My disciples will learn lived hospitality”, says the Teacher.

Mark 14:13

Jesus sent forward two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and there a man carrying a pitcher of water will meet you; follow him;

like last time
you two go forth

since you like signs
here’s one for you

a hunk of a guy
doing woman’s work

yes look for
Watering John

try to remember
Baptizing John

then follow (follow)
follow (follow)

follow his lead
to a landowner’s house

Mark likes to work in doubles and triples. Sending two disciples for a task echoes disciples going forth two-by-two as well as two going to find a colt by which Jesus will enter Jerusalem.

In each of these sendings there is an underlying understanding that hospitality will be the background against which the disciples will know they are on the right track. Look for a hospitable moment and enter where it leads.

When we can not only put together instances where two are together, but the context which defines their presence, we begin to see a larger picture and how it is that good news and belovedness rise in the midst of every day.

There is also an opportunity here to parallel an anonymous woman and her flask of perfume with an anonymous man with his jar of water. One comes toward Jesus bringing a sign of anointing, Messiah-being, and one leads on to where baptismal waters find their meaning, a wilderness where community is critical in the face of accusation, threat, suffering, and even death. To receive such an anointing or follow such a baptism is the stuff of life.

At some point a comment is in order regarding the way in which a man is doing a woman’s work of carrying water, presumably for a household. It is difficult to get around a release from cultural norms when Jesus is around. We can hearken back through Mark’s story to remember other moments when we were surprised. The rich don’t have an advantage in arriving in whatever heaven means. Foreign women can be heard and prevail. The sick and unclean can assertively reach out to touch or call out to be touched. Hungry crowds need not be left on their own but available resources shared. Family and work are not bound by traditional forms.

Mark 14:12

On the first day of the Festival of the unleavened bread, when it was customary to kill the Passover lambs, his disciples said to Jesus, “Where do you wish us to go and make preparations for your eating the Passover?”

such initiative
once waiting to be sent
asked to volunteer bread
told to bring an ass

we are learning
to prepare a way
thinking this feast
is like all the rest

so where do we go
to see how far
we have come
and know all is alright

we haven’t yet learned
to throw a surprise party
but we do know our need
for a next regular feast

we so want to know
our suffering your death
will be passed by
let’s do this

At least one of the disciples, Judas, is prepared to betray. Some of the disciples (perhaps beyond the Twelve) see the need to prepare in the midst of Jerusalem as much as for an entry into Jerusalem.

Given that preparation is a central concern here, there is still no resolution about calendaring issues here and elsewhere in Mark. There is confusion about a standardized understanding of what is going to happen and when. Unleavened Bread and Passover lambs don’t easily mix. If we simply take today’s Eastern and Western Christian traditions about Easter as a starting point, they are seldom held at the same time. The mix of peoples of differing sects and agendas seem to have always brought confusion—and still are.

If, at this late date, there is confusion about what is to be prepared and where, it may reveal knowledge of plotting by the Chief Priests and Scribes which leads Jesus and others to have gone underground again. This is in keeping with guerrilla tactics Jesus has used before—show up where least expected and be absent from where you are expected to be.

A more mundane attempt to deal with the confusion is to simply note that a Jewish marking of time from Sunset to Sunset puts the feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread on different days while Mark follows a Roman marking of time from Sunrise to Sunrise and groups them on the same day. Over such details do tribes compete.

To add to the confusion, William Tyndale translates the Passover references in this chapter as “Easter”—e.g., the Passover lamb becomes the “ester lambe”. Religious winners can retroject as they will.

Mark 14:11

They were glad to hear what he said, and promised to pay him. So he began looking for a good opportunity to betray Jesus.

once you delighted me
every journey fresh
playing Robin Hood
tweaking royal noses
strewing miracles

now in a lowly manger
of sick Simon’s house
attended by a no-account
woman wasting money
you take your stand

this place this act
doesn’t measure up
to paired success
to fed crowds
to stilled storms

you delight in taking
your long overdue due
and I’ll take mine
without delight
rotgut neat

The desires/prayers of the Chief Priests and Scribes were affirmed in an unexpected way. Like one swift sword swipe their dilemma was resolved.

The relief was palpable, the delight equal to that of Herod watching a dance in his honor.

In both cases promises were made and preparations had to be made. Herodias’ dancing daughter had her mother to turn to for advice. There is no mention of a mentor for Judas as to what opportunity would do for his deed and subsequent reception of silver—coins as cold and dead as the corpse of the one he was handing over.

Other sources note an amount (30 pieces of silver, the price of a slave). Mark’s simple promise keeps the focus on the rejoicing of the Chief Priests and Scribes. The money is of no more consequence than the offer of booths at a transfiguration. The whole promise phrase could be deleted with no real loss to Mark’s story as the promise is never recorded as having been fulfilled or Judas’ returning it.

It is enough for Mark to note the delight of the Chief Priests and Scribes that Judas would then take up their problem of finding a way to have Jesus handed over that wouldn’t rile up the crowds either to defend Jesus or revolt against the Temple authorities. All they had to do was promise some coins that wouldn’t have to be exchanged at the Temple. A pretty sweet deal for them.

Remembering a cleansing of the Temple, LaVerdiere2229, writes:

Ironically, the chief priests and Judas, “one of the Twelve,” were selling and buying the life of Jesus (14:11a), I AM (14:62), the life of one who would replace the Temple three days after it was destroyed (14:58).

Mark 14:10

After this, Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests, to betray [hand over] Jesus to them.

you always hurt
the one you love
sings a lonely heart
discounted by the one
they love

they love
a bargained life
measuring every move
against a standard
unexamined unreachable

in a mere moment
lasting until death parts
deeds are done
we won’t undo
no won’t undo

Mark’s self-aware style of self-interruption has occurred again. If we were to return to the first two verses of this chapter we would see how smoothly the story might have flowed from 14:1–2 to 14:10–11.

The inability of the Chief Priests and Scribes to figure out how to do away with Jesus, given the Passover crowds, has now found its way in conjunction with the assistance of one of the inside Twelve—Judas Iscariot.

Mark doesn’t try to find a motivation for Judas’ action, just reports it in his usual rushed fashion.

Sabin2125remarks on the way Judas was going to carry out his decision:

Mark consistently uses the phrase “hand over” to express betrayal. That use carries ironic overtones, because “hand over” can also mean hand on, as of a tradition. By his persistent repetition of the phrase, Mark suggests that Jesus is handing on the tradition of being handed over. It is the same word that Paul uses with the same double meaning when he says that he is “handing on” to the Christian community at Corinth what he knows about Jesus’ institution of the Eucharist “on the night that he was handed over” (1 Cor 11:23).

If we were not so many generations, cultural shifts, language changes, and translational issues away from Mark we might find even more ironies than these that stick their hand up and wave. Sometimes we are willing to acknowledge that irony is a major tool in spiritual awakening and continued growth.

If we were going to look anywhere for a specific cause for the suffering and dying that would precede a rising, it would be in what comes between 14:2 and 14:10—the anointing.

What is it about that event that would trigger Judas? See if you can avoid Matthew’s avarice, Luke’s Satan, and John’s thievery.

Mark 14:9

And I tell you, wherever, in the whole world, the good news is proclaimed, what this woman has done will be told in memory of her.”

though shying away
from learning assurance
be assured
a deed of anticipation
no matter how incomplete
will grow in its own time
to sustain you tomorrow

the memory of your intention
will eventually break
every concrete bunker
you’ve protectively erected
such Dulcinaic memory
can but lead to a song of songs
bursting free of every barrier

On the Sunday before Easter, one of the lectionary options is the Liturgy of the Passion (all of Chapters 14 and 15). Given all that is in those chapters and a “holy week” context, the likelihood of a congregation hearing about the church’s memory of this anonymous woman is slight. It is much more likely messages will be about betrayal in the Garden and the gory details of a bloody atonement.

Since this woman is not referred to again we do have to question the lack of memory of her in the rest of Christian scripture. She is a Lady Wisdom figure for us and is just that discounted in the face of institutional orthodoxy and its overweening unity.

In my reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary [Wrestling Year B: Connecting Sunday Readings with Lived Experience237,] I wrote:

     Preparing ourselves and one another for our burials is holy work as well as hard work. It turns out Works of Mercy are always available to participate in. We don’t spend as much time as we might on the Works of Virtue….
     This is a pretty amazing state of affairs because our very nature or the gift we have been given leads us so consistently to dying.
     Instead of focusing quite so much on a “Jesus died for my sins” approach to Good Friday, this long passage might lead us to ask about what it would take for us to join Jesus and be prepared to so live that others might live and take the consequences every age gives to those who so live. What anointing do you still need to open your eyes to how OK it is to live and die faithful to your nature or gift? This anointing would also allow us to know that it is alright to die before we see the completion of our work.
     May you have your Bethany anointing, and that right soon.

And may your anointing be for good, remembered or not.

Mark 14:8

She has done what she could; she has perfumed my body beforehand for my burial.

our work with one another
deepens in meaning
when done in light
of preparing another’s death

this work extends beyond
seven generations hence
in light of preparing
a world to welcome them

this leaves us working
thankful for ancestors
who laid a ground of hope
we are blessed to pass along

It is a very simple idea that we do best when we do what we can. It is not an easy idea to enflesh for we continuously get messages about what we can’t do. Enough of these and we engage in passive waiting instead of active waiting.

Active waiting includes pushing the boundaries around us just one step further than where we are. If there is no pushing, we stay stuck. If there is too much pushing, we stay stuck because of strong resistance or push-back from the larger culture.

If you are interested in a practical example of this you can read, Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, by Irin Carmin and Shana Knizhnik.

Musically, a touchstone is Give Me Roses While I Live, by the Carter Family. Good is to be done while we live for those who live. This is a way of honoring those who have gone before by doing what we imagine they would do today if they had the opportunity. It is also a way of preparing for those who will come later, that goodness become more expected and less surprising. A second song to attend to is Phil Och’s, When I’m Gone, that comes at this same issue the other way around.

If we pause for a moment we might think this woman simply has more resources available to her than the woman with two half-pennies and has invested a year’s worth of money in a perfume. Would Jesus warn against over-committing to him as well as to the Temple? If this is a non-verbal acknowledgement that Jesus is a Messiah who will suffer and die, why is she not a replacement for Peter?

We do not have the woman’s intention, only Jesus’ interpretation of her action. Other Gospels talk about her anointing Jesus’ feet. Either way, what might a current equivalent action be? Probably not marketing a Jesus perfume or building an expensive shrine. But what?

Mark 14:7

You always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you will not always have me.

no wonder
you’ll always have the poor
with you
you need them to cover
your comfort

your ease
depends on their indenturement
to provide
your want at least cost
to you

shift focus
pick any piece of clay
see it
as an image of all
h-m-m-m now

in particular
as you would do for me
this do
do now for any next other
you see

An early reference to reflect on is the interaction between Jesus and the Pharisees about eating with those seen as outside the bounds of faith—the “sinners”, the “incompatibles”—and fasting.

The poor, “sinners”, “incompatibles” you will always have with you, because they are a necessary part to any purity system build on sorting people into a simple duality of “ins” and “outs”. At any time the constraints of the constructed system can be changed and good be done, inclusion can be made for those defined as less-than.

While Jesus is around, the prevailing system based on restriction is challenged to reveal itself or change. Usually it reveals itself by ultimately requiring Jesus to suffer and die and not being ready for a rising.

When Jesus is no longer physically present, it will take intentional wandering in the wilderness, doing unpopular good, to find a perspective from which the current system can change its heart along with the people caught in supporting and perpetuating it.

As we anticipate Jesus’ absence and the attendant anxiety of such an eventuality, it becomes clear that always having a choice to remove the conditions of poverty, “sin”, and other exile producing mechanisms is what we can’t seem to get around. To acknowledge our complicity with the principalities and powers is to confess how much we like our little power perks and to what lengths we will go to keep them. This moral choice reveals our love of G*D and Neighb*r.

Mark 9:24

[Note: I just noted that this posting is marked as having missed its scheduled posting last January 2nd. Apparently, Jan 1st was too wild. Too bad there are no memories of it (though, given the prevalence of false memories in current national leadership it may be just as well). In theory its posting 8 months late will be just the right time for someone to read it. ~Wesley]

The boy’s father immediately cried out, “I have faith; help my want of faith!”

as per usual
it’s all about me

a bargained for affirmation
has questionable efficacy

where does taking faith upon ourself
fit with borrowing faith from another

a key element in a new good news
is the sharing of faith

to trust where another doesn’t
is prelude to direct action

disrupting our usual establishment
hierarchies claiming power

with no intersectional partnered trust
division after division brings nothing

In the first part of Mark, miracles of healing take place, BANG, now. We are now looking at slower healing with a process involving and almost requiring special faith and prayer.

In light of the context of healing, we might be aided by a translation into Marathi that would mean, “cast out my unbelief”, (Bratcher288).

Galston147 is evocative of appreciative unbelief:

The existence of God… requires belief because God is absent. What about people…who say they experience God? This makes the point: we experience God in the yearning for God, which is the presence of the absence of God clinging to our hearts. In such conditions I must say “I believe, help my unbelief (Mark 9:24). My act of believing is against unbelief, against the consequence of the absence of God. So, believing is willfully taking a leap over the abyss of absence without knowing where one might land. Such is religion: it exists because God does not exist; it is the willfulness of being human. It is the act of leaping across unbelief. Like Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855), the great founder of Existentialism, said, belief is the condition of uncertainty. Belief is about lying “constantly out upon the deep and with seventy thousand fathoms of water” underneath. Such oceanic depth is Kierkegaard’s metaphor for bottomlessness, for emptiness. God is not about certainty, and religion is not about God’s existence. Religion is about creating God while it awaits God. Religion is the “almost” of God; that is, religion is the record of beliefs that arise while waiting for the arrival of nothing. Religion is the trace of a God, culturally conditioned, who almost is.

Today “wisdom in religion involves the act of creating value out of nothing”; consumerism and technology substitute for G*D.