Mark 14:64

“You heard his blasphemy? What is your verdict?” They all condemned him, declaring that he deserved death.

to be tied to power
is to rise by action
confirming its right
and fall inactive
in its absence

such mutual propping up
takes so much energy
there is no noticing
ground has sagged
away from under us

with a bothered head
asking how this happened
we hurriedly fill the hole
with the nearest body
not our own

our life is well-worth
the death of one or many
the worth of our life
is deserving of their’s
thus resolving all questions

The question, “What do you think?” is still a good one for a Reader to attend to.

You’ve heard a question about being the Messiah (the Anointed) and the Son of the Blessed One (G*D). You’ve also heard a response about a Human One.

We are back to a question of identity. Who do I say I am? Who do you say I am?

These titles seem to mean different things to Caiaphas and to Jesus. A critical difference is one of power.

Before going further, the imagery of being a Child of G*D has a long and valued heritage in the Hebrew story. It is not preloaded as a source of blasphemy. It is something everyone can claim. Here, though, it has been turned into a point of division rather than solidarity.

For Caiaphas and the Council, Messiah is a title of victory and, thus, power. This is the same perspective that Peter had when he denied a human-oriented Messiah (adam’s Image) instead of a doctrinaire, G*D-centered “Son of G*D”.

Sabin1145points to Jesus seeing things differently:

The Markan Jesus uses all of these terms in a different way: he is anointed in respect to death; he is God’s son in respect to obedience. He is ordinary ben ’adam who by undergoing death in the manner of God’s “beloved son” is raised up to God’s glory.

Here is a key “He said—He said” conflict. How do you read it?

This is part of the need to continue reading Mark with the understanding that it will be re-written through how we read such details.

Mark 14:63

At this the high priest tore his vestments. “Why do we want any more witnesses?” he exclaimed.

most devastating
an affirmation
not matching my own

the safe predictability
taken years to attain
tumbles apart to the ground

a cosmic scream
erupts from a crack
so long covered over

no more no more
off with their head
to satisfy my own

carefully positioned mirrors
shatter like dominoes falling
an image of identity exhausted

Tearing clothes is not easy. In keeping with the portrayal of a show trial, a wonderment does occur—did the high priest come prepared with a robe that had tear-away sleeves and a strategic cut to initiate a long tear?

The drama of tearing clothes precludes any response to the question other than, “No! We need no more witnesses!”

Even though there is biblical precedent for tearing clothes in the presence of “blasphemy” (2 Kings 18:37–19:1), this comes in a line within Mark that tracks from tearing open the sky, tearing these symbolic clothes, and the tearing of the Temple curtain. Each of these rendings opens an expansive and expanding blessing.

Aichele23 puts the difference between the rending of robes by King Hezekiah and Caiaphas concisely: “here in judgment, but originally a gesture of grief”. When we lose our grief, our compassion, we lose our ability to judge.

As always with scripture, there is more than one place in scripture to look for insight about a specific passage. In addition to 2 Kings, we could look at Leviticus 21:10 where the instructions about priests include this word about high priests: “The high priest…must not pull their hair in grief or tear their clothes.” They are to be removed from the usual responses for their role as intermediary between the people and G*D would be demeaned if they only had usual emotions.

It is this intermediary relationship that may have triggered the extreme of tearing clothing. Jesus’ response to the question of being “Son of the Blessed” is a role of the chief priest. The desire of James and John shows up again—who will be chief, first, prominent?

Mark 14:62

“I am,” replied Jesus, “and you will all see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of the Almighty, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”

doesn’t even need
to think
to be understood
as an I am

comes streaming
clouds of glory
after them
before them

Commentators like to make too much of the response, “I am” as a parallel of the identity of G*D in Exodus 3:14. Here Jesus is only responding to a question by the High Priest, not bringing a presence that would enlist the Council to be as bold as Moses in a mission to confront the authoritarian ruler of his day.

While Jesus may have had such an allusion in mind, we need to hear Bratcher466 talk about translational issues to have this allusion bear any weight.

Though the words I am may imply a subtle allusion to the divine self-revelation (cf. Exodus 3:14), it is difficult, if not impossible, to reproduce this type of allusion in a receptor language. In most languages Jesus’ reply must be either (1) an affirmative such as ‘yes’ or ‘that is right’ or (2) a declaration such as ‘I am the Christ’. In most instances it is quite impossible to translate literally ‘I am’ because the copulative verb requires some type of so-called predicate complement.

The limits of language are seldom taken into account when theologizing takes place. The temptation to eternalize one moment in one language for all time in all grammatical constructs is usually too great to resist.

In his response, Jesus’ “Yes” to the question about being the Son of the Blessed One affirms all that has gone on to this point. We are at a place that returns us to the beginning verse of Mark, the reception and testing of Belovedness, a repeat of that at the Transfiguration and affirmation that, “Yes, I am partnered with that which Blesses.”

That same issue arises when it comes to the “right side” of “the Almighty” or “Power”. Again, Bratcher466,

Power cannot be used as a substitute for God in some languages since not only is the figure ‘right hand of the Power’ unintelligible, but ‘power’ does not exist apart from a possessor, e.g. ‘God who has power’ (Tzeltal) or ‘the one who has power’ (Mazahua).

This is the proactive consequence of the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. There is no denying blessing; it must be affirmed.

Mark 14:61

But Jesus remained silent, and made no answer.

A second time the high priest questioned him. “Are you,” he asked, “the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?”

in the midst of a silence
so deep we are frightened
by our own breathing
a silence bigger than
all outdoors
collapsing on itself

a wee whisper of doubt
makes its way to question
if suffering is a beloved’s way
here before all that’s holy
you stand accused accursed
can you stand any other way

Can you hear the sneer in the voice when “you” is emphasized? How could a nobody from Galilee, and, even worse, Nazareth, presume such?

Wright204 points to this tone when he comments:

Mark is aware of irony here. Caiaphas’s question, in Greek, takes the form of a statement with a question mark at the end: “You are the Messiah?” The words are identical to what Peter said in 8:29. Now Peter is outside, about to deny he even knows Jesus; and Caiaphas, inside, asks the question with contempt, knowing already what answer he would believe.

Not only is Jesus’ background sketchy, so is his present. What Messiah would stoop to the indignity of this scene? This enacted parable contains plenty of irony if only religious leaders could get outside of their righteous need to be right.

We might even see a thought-bubble come from Jesus and comment about the strangeness of a beloved of a Blesser being judged by such as these who wouldn’t stoop to being Messiah’s peer but live out the desire of James and John to be in positions of power just because their guy won an election.

Asking about being a Messiah is the equivalent of asking about being an Anointed one. Caiaphas would be expecting a Messiah to be anointed as a sign of power. The anointing Jesus received by an unnamed woman was an anointing as a sign of death.

The questions and answers of this fraught moment whiz by one another. Shakespeare’s comedies don’t do any better at everyone being someone else.

With Baptizer John and now with Jesus, Mark reveals what prophets continually show—the powerful lie in wait to trap the righteous. They do this with lies, false testimony, and false friendship of enjoying company and betrayal with a kiss.

Mark 14:60

Then the high priest stood forward, and questioned Jesus. “Have you no answer to make?” he asked. “What is this evidence which these men are giving against you?”

when forms fall apart
it is time to get personal

in the center of confusion
there is an affirmation to hear

let’s cut to the accusations
what do you make of them

pick any of them
what say you

don’t worry
about self-incrimination

we just want to get
a balanced view

Translators have a choice to make as to whether there are one or two questions asked by the high priest. In addition to the double question printed above, it could be: “Aren’t you going to respond to the testimony these people have brought against you?.”

Either way, the hope is that of every prosecuting attorney—to have the accused say one extra word that will destroy their defense. Imagine Jesus proceeding to show how the false testimonies contradict one another. An explanation usually digs a deeper hole by opening the way for the whole kitchen sink to be thrown in someone’s face.

The attempt to reduce the ambiguity of silence heightens a key element of Mark’s writing. Aichele28 describes it this way:

How the reader understands Mark’s ambiguous conclusion will be largely governed by how she understands the previous parts of the narrative, including the arrest/trials sequence. …they continue a pattern of ambiguity that has already been well-established in Mark – a pattern that begins not at the beginning of the passion narrative but at the strange beginning of the gospel itself.

Aichele continues,

…Mark is a continuously and conspicuously self-disruptive narrative which resists every attempt to define its identity or even to render it coherent. …the whole gospel of Mark presents a proclamation which is, like Jesus’s responses to the high priest and to Pilate, “no answer.”

Readers may also want to know Jesus’ response to the situation that he is in, to clearly justify himself, so they won’t have to trust a parabolic mystery, offer their own service to wounded children.

Mark 14:59

Yet not even on that point did their evidence agree.

disciples are disciples
whosoever’s they are
they can’t help themselves

still practicing
a fine art
of mimicry

behaving themselves
into the shape
of their master

whether of Jesus or Council
overly enthusiastic disciples
betray their assignment

every one
had a better idea
of how to best please

resulting in no result
again and again
acting before praying

When in doubt about how to respond, be sure to get the technicalities correct. If at least two witnesses report, their testimonies must cohere. If they differ in any detail neither can be used to condemn you. Not only is the devil in the details, so are the angels.

As our end is in our beginning, and all along the way, we might begin to see that not only does Mark’s story carry an “ironic mixture… or uncanny truth with deliberate falsehood” [Sabin2135] but so do our lives. This irony is a better description of our experience of life than is “original sin”.

What is not ironic here is the reality of the danger Jesus poses to institutions that just roll along of their own weight. His call, along with John’s and other prophets, is a reordering of hearts and, thus, behaviors. When such are changed, so are the systems in which they live and move and have their being.

Myers199 sharpens this irony and points it back upon us and asks:

… disciples to face up to the ways in which we have denied the suffering Christ who is present in the world. Where have I seen the Christ and pretended that I did not know him? When have I broken faith with the Human One to save face, to stay safe, to guard my own life?

The opportunity to betray is always present. It is important to recognize this as part of our reality so we won’t fool ourselves with our self-persuasive denial and rationale to break the trust of creation and next generations. Our incremental excuses lead us to miss one critical detail or another. We become climate deniers or deniers of belovedness in this moment. As a result we shade the truth in a hope of getting by with an easier way for another day.

Mark 14:58

“We ourselves heard him say ‘I will destroy this Temple made with hands, and in three days build another made without hands.’”

I heard a threat
to our lovely Temple
with its awesome stones

my ancestors built it
my offerings support it
my meaning depends on it

a threat to this edifice
is a threat to the one
who cannot be directly named

I heard he was Joshua
who would shout walls down
not that I believe that

I heard he had aliens lined up
to build it in the shape
of a pentagon

I heard he would snap his fingers
and broken walls would
arise of their own accord

Mark is clear that this is a false testimony. The irony here is laid out by LaVerdiere2264:

In Mark’s presentation, those who brought false witness against Jesus had no idea what they were saying. From their point of view, distorting Jesus’ words, they gave false witness. From Mark’s point of view, they could not have spoken more truly. So understood, the “false testimony” against Jesus plays an important role in the trial, introducing Jesus’ interrogation by the high priest and Jesus’ extraordinary Christological proclamation (14:60–62).

The accusation of another can lead to a great affirmation. Those in the Methodist tradition are very fond of the story of gaining their name through the misapprehension of their way of approaching holiness—methodically. The slur of “Methodist” was turned into a positive value.

It might be asked what sort of building can be built without hands. Today we might think of robots, but then we would have to ask who built the robots. There is no way to get away from our anthropocentrism.

Mark is looking for a different kind of “temple”—one not built with human hands—a baptism of repentance that results in forgiveness (1:4, 15). This “building” will have elements of changed hearts in a matrix of mercy and compassion. There will be a breathing, a beating of life—seeds that grow of their own accord.

Mark 14:57

Presently some men stood up, and gave this false evidence against him –

witness number one
come on down

what’s your name
where are you from

do you promise to play
according to our rules

tell us in words we need
what you saw and heard

be careful a loophole
will upset our apple cart

Definitely a strange verse. It is open to the perspective that Mark protests too much. It is almost like modern campaigning that the one who calls “liar” first wins or the pervasiveness of negative ads.

From another perspective, we could see this as a great money-maker for those willing to join in a game of perjury when there are only positive consequences. We may not get 30 silver coins for bringing a false witness, but it may still be worth it. When a bounty is placed on heads it can get paid in many different ways.

Mark has been leading us along to see Jesus as a new Temple. Now Mark says that testimony about Jesus being a Temple is false.

What seems to be false is that Mark doesn’t want any side story to take away from Jesus being good news. In a land occupied by a foreign power and assisted by a religious system under the leadership of the occupier, there needs to be a credible threat to the powers that be.

There is not much more to be said than Mark is working from multiple sources and is stuttering a bit at this point.

Mark 14:56

for, though there were many who gave false evidence against him, yet their evidence did not agree.

the very richness
of our database
is working against us

there is no designing
a bumper-sticker
from this mish-mash

everything is riding off
in every direction
stampeding even

our procedures
have let us down
it’s time for a consultant

who are we going to call
the best money can buy
we’ve got to get this guy

The sequence in 13:9–11 is not an orderly progression. An arrest has been made. Who knows if an interrogation or a beating will come first. Whichever it is, it is to be understood as part of the reality of a situation when authoritarian tendencies ascend.

At some point there will be questions. To respond to all of them or none of them is one kind of witness but giving selected testimony is the strongest position to be in.

At this point there is no spirit-led position that would improve on letting the contradictions flow of their own accord. This doesn’t sit easy for folks who try to make their point and will go to practically the same length their accusers will go to shade things their way.

To follow the insights of chapter 13, it is important not to be in a worry mode (like Peter is when he tries to warm the hope in his heart by sitting near the light). It is only time to observe what is important and what isn’t important.

If one is clear that there is no exceptional exception available to the difficulties of life and judgments within it, attention can be made to what a spirit not bound to institutional protection will envision. This is a time to get to the heart of the matter and not be sidetracked by all the squirrels jumping here and there and back again.

I am exhausted when talking with true-believers fixated on doing anything to win. They expertly flow back and forth between accusations that I don’t measure up and then, caught making one too silly an accusation, will then flip into whining that they are the injured party. This is exemplified in the little scene about authority (11:27–33) where an accusation is followed by a whine and then followed by plans to bring bigger accusations and traps (12:13–17 and 18–27).

At such times I need to expectantly await a new spirit’s Wisdom.

Mark 14:55

Meanwhile the chief priest and the whole of the High Council were trying to get such evidence against Jesus as would warrant his being put to death, but they could not find any;

our self-imposed rules
require filling
check every box
of Form W6H6Y6

what was the offense
when did it take place
where did it occur
who was a witness

no there is no line
for why
there is no excuse
for this behavior

just do the best you can
give us the facts
that best describe
how bounds were broken

A difficulty with any attempt to come to a desired conclusion is uncooperative reality. There is a need to be careful in cherry-picking evidence. If climate change is denied, the very proof offered only lasts for a moment as the change will eventually wipe out all theories to the contrary.

There is an even more difficult problem than picking among pieces of evidence—finding any at all that would stand up to the criterion of having 2 or 3 witnesses who agree.

Institutions have a built-in disadvantage of appearing to know what they are talking about. It doesn’t take much to make any institution or process appear foolish if it tries to fudge a bottom-line of truthfulness.

Not finding evidence is not a breaking point for true believers playing at being realists. The Grand Inquisitor’s Speech from The Brothers Karamazov continues to reveal what is going on in this scene and in countries and churches around the world to this day.

The Speech takes place during the burning of thousands of “heretics”. Christ has quietly and humbly returned and been recognized by the Church. The Inquisitor says:

What I now tell thee will come to pass, and our kingdom shall be built, I tell Thee not later than to-morrow Thou shalt see that obedient flock which at one simple motion of my hand will rush to add burning coals to Thy stake, on which I will burn Thee for having dared to come and trouble us in our work. For, if there ever was one who deserved more than any of the others our inquisitorial fires—it is Thee! To-morrow I will burn Thee. Dixi’.”

Christ’s return is dangerous to the Church for it threatens to upset the social order and wealth the church controls.