Mark 14:1-2

It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him; for they said, “Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.” Mark 14:1-2

Irony: [noun] “The expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect.”

We all know the story at the root of the celebration of Passover – God rescuing God’s people from slavery in Egypt and leading them toward the Promised Land. Over the years, that memory came to include many other memories of God’s continuing work of bringing people out of slavery into freedom, of sustaining their lives in difficult times, of sending prophets to bring both challenge and hope.

Passover is a festival celebrated at home, around a table, with family and special guests. An empty chair is left for Elijah, a visible symbol that we are not just looking back at a storied past but we are looking forward to God’s continued work. Jewish families are encouraged to invite Gentile friends. My wife and I have been invited to such gatherings and they are beautiful.

The closest observance in secular America to the meanings of Passover is the traditions surrounding Thanksgiving. We eat ceremonial food. We gather with extended families and maybe some special guests. We remember the romanticized – but still wonderful and vitally important – story of the Pilgrims being sustained by the local knowledge and support of the Indigenous people who helped them. In addition to thanking their hosts, we can trust that the Pilgrims first and foremost offered thanks to God.

Until the decision the congregation I serve made to become a multi-cultural, bilingual, congregation with intentional outreach to native Mandarin Chinese, I never realized the significance of Chinese New Year. But it is very close to Thanksgiving and Passover. People go home to their families. They eat traditional food. They celebrate their gratitude for life and each other. Had it not been for the coronavirus, last January we would have had nearly 500 people gathering to celebrate the Chinese New Year at Faith Lutheran Church – Chinese speakers, English speakers, Spanish speakers, church members, guests, folks from the neighborhood, young and old.

Do you see the key themes?

God’s redemptive activity in the world. Gratitude. Hope. Encouragement. Family. Home. Plenty of room for special guests, for strangers. The only proper language is the shared language of love.

All of that is why pilgrims flocked to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. It was why the city was jam-packed with excited people. Children who had been looking forward to the festival for weeks.

Here is the irony – in the midst of all of that, the only thing on the minds of the chief priests and scribes, precisely those who ought to have known better, was finding a sneaky way to kill Jesus.

Next week we will follow Jesus into Jerusalem. Today, let us focus on the goodness of God in the world – the gratitude, the togetherness, the family of humanity, the promise of release to the oppressed, the constant need for the sustaining providence of God – even as we keep our eyes open for those who would rather just use people for their own selfish ends.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, you are love. Where there is love, you are there. Where there is darkness, evil, and hate, you are the Light of the world. Shine in and through us as we bear witness to you in a world that still wants you out of the way. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


One Response to “Mark 14:1-2”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    This prayer resonates with me and will be on my mind all day.

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