Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Passion According to Mark - with reflections by Martin Luther

READINGS FOR PASSION SUNDAY 2015                      
Reflections from Martin Luther – Day by Day We Magnify Thee (Fortress Press, 1982).

Reading 1: Mark 14:1-25

Anyone who wishes 
to receive the Holy Sacrament
must offer to God Almighty
an empty, single, and hungry soul.
Therefore it is most fitting 
when the soul is least fit,
which means,
when the soul feels altogether wretched, poor, and devoid of grace,
it is most receptive for God’s grace 
and most fitted to receive it.
But then the soul must endeavor
to come to the Sacrament with perfect faith,
or with all the faith possible,
and most firmly believing that one will receive grace.
For one receives as much as one believes will be received.
Therefore faith alone is the best and highest preparation.

Your hungry heart must build upon these words
and you must trust in the promise of the divine truth,
and in this spirit go to the Sacrament,
imploring God and saying,
‘Lord, it is true that I am not worthy
that you should come under my roof,
yet I am needy, and eager for your help and grace,
that I too may be made godly.

Thus I come with no plea
but that I have heard sweet words,
namely, that you invite me to your table.
Dear Lord, your Word is true, I do not doubt it.
In that faith I eat and I drink with you.
May it be done to me according to your Will and Words. Amen.
That is to come worthily to the Sacrament.

Reading 2: Mark 14:26-42

Merciful Father,
why does my Lord Jesus Christ shrink (from this agony)?
Why does the Son of God shrink?
What is his agony?
He asks that the cup 
be taken from him.
What kind of cup is it?
It is the bitter death upon the cross.
But why should he suffer death?
            He is without sin, he is holy and just.
            It is for the sin of the world which God has laid upon him.
            That presses upon him, and alarms him.

            And is it not true
            that if God has laid my sin upon him…
            I am free and rid of my sin?
            Why then should I accuse myself and my Lord Jesus?
            I am a sinner.
            Alas, it is true.
            Sin frightens me.
            That, alas, I feel deeply
            and my heart ever faints within me.
            I fear before God and his severe judgment.
            And yet, of what shall I accuse myself,
            and of what shall I accuse my Lord Christ Jesus?
There, on the Mount of Olives,
            he shivers and shakes
            and is in such dread and alarm
            that he sweats blood.
            And my intolerable sin brings him to this,
            my sin which he has taken upon himself
            and which is so hard to carry.
            Therefore I will let it lie there
            and confidently hope that,
            whenever I come before God and his judgment,
            he will find no sin in me.

            Behold! The Mount of Olives is a comfort to you,
            that you may be certain,
            that Christ has taken your sin upon himself,
            and paid the price for it.
            If, then, your sins are laid on Christ,
            be content.
            They lie in the right place,
            where they belong.

Reading 3: Mark 14:43-65


[Jesus, the True High Priest]
            is both priest and offering,
            for he offers his body and life 
            upon the cross.
            It looks very unpriestly
            that he hangs there on the cross,
            stripped and naked,
            bruised and covered with blood,
            having a crown of thorns
            pressed down upon his head.
            And yet, he is the true priest and bishop
            who offers himself and out of his great love
            gives his own body to be consumed, 
            as through fire,
            for the redemption of all the world.
The old priesthood 
            was endowed with great splendor
            but about this High Priest 
            there is no splendor.
            His altar is the cross and the gallows.
            That is a shameful, ghastly, and unusual altar.
            And that is why he is in the eyes of the world
            such a mean, disdained high priest.
            He has such an offensive and dishonorable altar
            and is such a sacrifice as makes people shudder.
There, then, we have this High Priest,
            Jesus Christ, with his altar and offering,
            most shamefully treated…
            And yet he carries on his shoulders
            the sin of us all.
            There we lie,         
            you and I and all people,
            from the first man Adam until the end of the world.

Reading 4: Mark 14:66-72


Judas has a heavier load on his back than Peter.
            Therefore he falls into despair,
            thinking there is no help or consolation forever,
            and thus, for woe and sorrow,
            he went away and hanged himself, poor man!
            But why?
            Because he had been slothful in hearing the Word of God.
            He despised it and never bettered himself by it.
            Thus, when he needed consolation
            and had the Word no longer,
            it was impossible for him to find help.

            Peter also weeps bitterly.
            He is anxious and worried because of his sins,
            but he had been more diligent in listening
            to the word of his Lord Jesus Christ,
            and had engraved it on his mind.
            Therefore now,
            in the hour of his need,
            he seizes upon it and holds fast to it,
            comforts himself with it,
            and hopes that God will be gracious to him.
            That is the one true help in such a need,
            and the hapless Judas lacked it.
            But that Peter held firmly
            to the Word and grace of God,
            the Lord himself testifies when he says,
            ‘I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail.’

            Therefore learn here what is true repentance.
            Peter weeps bitterly;
            that is the beginning of repentance,
            that the heart acknowledges sin and is grieved for it,
            that it has no love for it or desire to continue in it,
            but is saddened that it has not kept God’s will
            and has fallen into sin.
            But we cannot do that of ourselves;
            the Lord must look upon us
            as he looked on Peter.

Reading 5: Mark 15:1-15


Thus our dear Lord Jesus Christ suffered,
not secretly at the hands of those who had no authority,
but publicly and at the hands of those holding public authority,
so that we should not take offense when we see that
both spiritual and worldly authority are against God.
Christ suffered, as we testify in the Christian Creed when we say,
I believe in Jesus Christ who suffered under Pontius Pilate.
In all ages, and still today,
Christians and true martyrs are put to death
by public authority, both spiritual and worldly.

No prophet has ever been treacherously murdered,
but they have all been put to death
by those in true official power.
All blood which is shed in the name of Christ
is shed by those who are kings, princes,
judges, or counsellors in worldly jurisdiction,
or bishops and preachers and the like, in spiritual jurisdiction.
Prophets die by the judgment of man.

But what will happen when once the tide turns?
Then will God do what will grieve them,
and leave undone what they desire.
They stormed against God and would not let Him remain,
although He would have let them remain.
Because they would not let God remain,
they must perish.

Reading 6: Mark 15:16-39


            He sacrifices himself on the cross,
            becomes a sinner and a curse;
            and yet he alone is the blessed seed
            through whom all the world shall be blessed,
            that is, redeemed from sin and death.
            And that he hangs on the cross between two malefactors,
            being counted equal to them,
            and that he dies there a shameful death,
            all this he does for the benefit of the whole human race,
            to redeem it from the eternal curse.
            Thus he is both the greatest and the only sinner on earth,
            for he bears all the world’s sin,
            and the only righteous and holy One;
            for no man can be made righteous and holy before God
            save through him alone.

            And whosoever believes that his sin
            and the sin of the world
            is laid on our dear Lord,
            who was baptized and nailed to the cross for it,
            and shed his precious blood
            in order that he, the only sin-bearer,
            should thus cleanse us from sin,
            and make us holy and blessed,
            that one receives forgiveness of sins,
            and eternal life;
            and Christ’s baptism, cross and blood
            become that one’s own.

Reading 7: Mark 15:40-47

            It is a good ministry
            that they take care of the body of Jesus
            and do not fear Pilate’s power.
            They go and close the tomb:
            Christ is at rest, God must work.
            Thus the burial takes place.
            Our Lord God approves when we honor the dead
            and do not cast them out like dogs.
            For if a soul has passed away by the Word of God,
            the body must rise again;
            for we do not live by bread alone,
            but by every Word of God.
            This is the ground of the resurrection.

            Yet we must remember that all the women,
            and even the apostles,
            doubted the words of Christ,
            and no one believed that he would rise from the dead,
            as the two said when they were on the way to Emmaus.
            For if they had had any hope,
            they would not have embalmed him and laid him in a grave.
            And if it had been the doing of man,
            God would not have been the doer of it,
            and this day would not have been called in the Scriptures ‘the great day.’
            This is a much greater Article (of the creed)
            than the first, that God created heaven and earth,
            for no one can be saved unless that one believes
            that God raised Christ from the dead.
            Such faith is no human work,
            but is wrought by God,
            as St. Paul and the Scriptures say in many places.

            And the saying about his rule must be fulfilled.