Friday 06 April 2012

Bible Book:

"And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom." (v. 38)

Mark 15:21-41 Friday 6 April 2012


Mark's Gospel is the shortest one we have in the Bible, and thewhole story of Jesus' passion, from Palm Sunday onwards, takes upnearly half the length of his book. It is the core and culminationof the story, and the crucifixion itself, which we reflect on today(Good Friday) is at the heart of the passion narrative.

After all the highly charged events of Holy Week - symbolic acts,hostile dialogue with his enemies, intimate moments with friends,agony and fear in the garden, betrayal and arrest under cover ofdarkness, a show trial where Jesus has stayed silent, and the crowdnow howling for crucifixion - the moment of execution hasarrived.

In Mark's account we sense the very bleak human experience that itwas - Jesus' only words from the cross are a cry of abandonment byGod (verse 34). Yet there are many clues that this was a salvificmoment that changed human history for ever. There are several keynames mentioned which suggest a living Christian community beyondthis event. The person who carried Jesus cross was "the father ofAlexander and Rufus" (v. 21). Presumably the Gospel's first readersknew those brothers as fellow Christians. The women who witnessedthe whole event are named in verse 40: Mary Magdalene, Mary themother of James the younger and Joses (also now Christians?) andSalome.

Mark shows the crucified Jesus being mocked ironically by hisenemies, the passers by, and even the criminals dying beside him,and a challenge is thrown out: "Let the Messiah, the King ofIsrael, come down from the cross now, so that we may see andbelieve" (v. 32). It is as if the scandal of a crucified saviour -perhaps the most difficult part of Christian belief to stomach forthe ancient world - is deliberately posed at the very moment ofJesus' death. And indeed he does not come down from the cross; hedoes not "save himself" (v. 30).

But at the precise moment of his death Mark narrates that the hugecurtain in the temple protecting the inner sanctum (traditionallythe holiest place of God's presence on earth) was torn in two "fromtop to bottom". A new and living access between God and humanityhas been created.

To Ponder

How does this story affect you when you readit?

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