URC Daily Devotion 28 March 2024

St Mark 15: 6 – 20

Now at the festival Pilate used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked.  Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. Then he answered them, ‘Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?’  For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over.  But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. Pilate spoke to them again, ‘Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?’  They shouted back, ‘Crucify him!’  Pilate asked them, ‘Why, what evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Crucify him!’  So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort.  And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him.  And they began saluting him, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’  They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him.  After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.


We understand Mark to be the shortest, most obscure Gospel, leading many theologians to name a Messianic secret inside it.  Here, though, there is no shortening of the story. Betrayal by Jesus’s faith family, choosing of Jesus for death instead of another prisoner, teasing and torture of Jesus by soldiers – there is no mystery here.  It is spelled out in shameful detail.  Whoever wrote Mark means us to see this day clearly. 

For us, reading this against the torture of people in so many places in our 21st century, it can feel like obscure irrelevant history. It’s simply part of the annual ritual we have in our Churches. Today’s ritual is to read this on the day we are to recall the mandate – the maundy – to love one another as Jesus loved his own. We read this on a day when we’ve heard more shocking news, more examples of humans doing anything other than love, often deliberately.  I pray as I write this just before Christmas, that the news we will read before Easter is that Ukraine and the Middle East have found peace. Yet we humans are so cyclical that one devastating injustice ceases as another begins.

Why? It’s certainly not God.  It’s us.  Somehow we can’t believe in the peace God calls us to imagine.  Jesus’ message was silenced. God forgave Jesus’ killers and those who bayed for his killing. God gave no ancient revenge. Resurrection was the audacity of the peace God gives. Holy Spirit breathes inside us to give us power for peace.  What do we do? We keep being intensely human. Peace?  Must be a dream!  Perhaps this Maundy Thursday as we prepare for Easter, we can change our mindset. Just once. We can waken Holy Spirit inside us to accept God’s reality. Peace is possible.


God, oh God, help us believe.
Help us imagine what peace looks like, smells like, produces.
Give us courage to try it out, to test the results.
Let us try again.
For our sakes, for the world, for the future.
In your power and presence,
Amen and Amen


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