|Christ Pantocrator ("Almighty"), Hagia Sophia Monastery, Istanbul|
At three full chapters and 121 verses, Tuesday is the longest day in Holy Week... or perhaps, the most thoroughly described/ busy.
It begins with Jesus' walking again past the (poor) fig tree he cursed on Monday, and, when his disciples say, "YIKES! It withered!", replying with what feels like a non-sequitur. He speaks about faith and prayer. Mark's gospel never offers us a version of the Lord's Prayer (that can only be found, in two different forms, in Luke and Matthew). But he does end his words on prayer with an echo of the Lord's Prayer as we know it:
“Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.” (11:25).
Jesus connects God's forgiveness of us to our ability to forgive others.
Forgiveness flows in both directions. In all directions.You might say, forgiveness is the heart and soul of Jesus' mission among us. You might say that.
Jesus returns to the Temple, where he is promptly questioned by the religious authorities as to where, exactly, he gets his authority. He demurs, but then tells a scathing parable that seems designed to portray those authorities as wicked tenants of the Father's vineyard, and ends with the promise of retaliation and destruction.
Which is very interesting, given his just-moments-earlier words on forgiveness.
It continues like this, all day Tuesday, with question after question being lobbed at Jesus.
“By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?”(11:28)
"Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?" (12:14)
"In the resurrection whose wife will she be?" (referring to a woman who had married seven brothers in turn, in accordance with the law).(12:23)
“Which commandment is the first of all?”(12:28)
But Jesus asks some questions, too. And in the end, when all the questions have been exhausted (and after some scathing words about religious professionals), Jesus enters prophetic mode and begins to speak about the future of Jerusalem and the Temple. He sees destruction everywhere. At the same time, he calls it "the beginning of the birth pangs." which leads me to believe he is describing, not a death, but a birth-- a messy, difficult, painful, even frightening birth, but a birth nonetheless.
It cannot be a coincidence that Jesus speaks of the end of all things when he himself is facing his own death. I have wondered for a while whether Jesus' tone in all these disputes-- the anger that breaks through-- is connected to his very human dread of what will truly be the longest day, beginning after supper on Thursday.
I find it consoling to know that Jesus was anguished. But in the end, his message isn't "hide." It's "Stay woke."
Stay woke, Jesus says. Through the mess. Through the difficulty. Through the pain, and through the fear. Be on the lookout for what God is doing because, trust me (says Jesus), God is doing a new thing-- a splendid thing. A beautiful thing. And God will be with us through the mess and pain and fear.
God is doing a new thing.