Psalm 69:1-12; Numbers 15:1-31; Mark 14:12-31

Psalm 69:1-12  David is at his very lowest in the opening verses of what is formally a psalm of supplication, but more appropriately might be called a psalm of utter despair. The opening metaphor reveals not only David’s agony, but how close he feels he is to death as he pleads with God: “Rescue me, God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I have sunk in the slime of the deep, and there is no place to stand.” (2)  Rising waters with no place to stand is a pretty horrific situation, especially since David makes it clear he has been yelling at God, but in vain: “I am exhausted from my calling out. My throat is hoarse.” (3) The image of Jesus dying on the cross, crying out the first verse of Psalm 22 certainly comes to mind here.

All hope seems to be lost in God’s silence: “My eyes fail from hoping for my God.” (4) It’s difficult to conceive a more dire, hopeless state than to feel abandoned by God–especially for David who is the Bible’s exemplar of what it means to be in close communion with God.  His present crisis is completely unexpected and completely unjust in David’s eyes: “What I have not stolen should I then give back?” (5)

David’s innocence, abandonment and unjust punishment are a clear prophecy of Jesus’ suffering to come.  Like David, Jesus is being punished to atone for sins he has not committed. “Because for You I have borne reproach, disgrace has covered my face.” (7)  Unjustly accused and punished for the wrongdoings of others. It’s the cruel injustice of the cross that I often forget: that Jesus, innocent of wrongdoing, should bear the punishment every human justly deserves.

Numbers 15:1-31  Buried in the midst of this detailed description of various sacrifices to be made is, I think, one of the root passages for the enormous controversy in the early church regarding following Jewish law.  The Lord seems quite clear on the point that aliens (Alter uses “sojourners”) residing with the Israelites have the same rights but are subject to the same law as the Israelites themselves: “a perpetual statute for your generations, you and the sojourner alike, shall there be before the LORD. One teaching and one practice shall there be for you and for the sojourner who resides with you.’” (15, 16)

So, it would seem pretty understandable why the Jewish side of “The Way” would insist on circumcision for non-Jews.  Which is what led to Paul’s fevered disquisition in Romans on how Christ came to not only fulfill the Law but to transcend it.  And why the author of Hebrews is careful to point out that Christ is of the Melchizedekian, not the Aaronic priesthood and therefore he (and logically, we who follow Christ) are exempted from the specifics of the sacrificial system.

This chapter also deals with intentional and unintentional (Alter: “errancy”) sin.  The issues around intentional or premeditated sin is clear.  But clearly, Moses is addressing what I’m sure were major protests from those who felt that since they had sinned unintentionally they should be exempted from offering a sacrifice.

But even when we sin unintentionally, atonement is still required: “they have brought…their sin offering before the Lord, for their error.” (25).  Which is true for us, as well.  There are consequences created by even unintentional sin, and we must seek forgiveness.  Certainly forgiveness in the confession-to-God sense, but also forgiveness from the person who was the unintended victim of our sin.

Mark 14:12-31  There is so much packed in here; I wish the Moravians would slow down a bit.

Perhaps of small theological import, but here’s the second incident in a week (the first being the processional donkey) where Jesus  either has impressively specific foreknowledge, or he has somehow made previous arrangements.  It doesn’t matter really; the point is that something has been prepared ahead of time.  This is certainly in keeping with Jesus’ Upper Room Discourse in John, where he notes he is going to prepare a place for us.  Jesus was no Boy Scout, but he absolutely never failed to be prepared–and as he told his disciples on the Mount of Olives, it’s crucial to be alert, as well.

Once again one we encounter one those places where we really wish Mark had recorded the response to what Jesus said.  Here, I wish we knew Judas’ response to Jesus matter-of-fact statement, “It would have been better for that one not to have been born.” (21)  

I don’t think it’s impossible to consider that upon hearing these words, Judas would have experienced regret and shame greater than any he had ever known.  But it was too late. The wheels had been set in motion.  And he was too much a coward to put a halt to what he was about to do.

Or was Judas, as he has become known to history, evil personified and smirked inwardly to himself when he heard these words, thinking Jesus was such a loser and the world would be better off without him?  Obviously, we’ll never know, but somehow in my heart I have to believe that it would be impossible to be around Jesus for 3 years and not somehow be affected positively by what Jesus said.  But we do know that Judas came to regret his actions to the point of suicide.  This certainly indicates tremendous remorse. 

Just one note about Peter’s denial, which “he said vehemently, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.”” was agreed to by all present: “And all of them said the same.” (31)

We do well to remember that Jesus, like David in the psalm, was abandoned not just by Peter, to whom we give such a hard time, but by everyone.  All those people shouting ‘Hosanna’ on the preceding Sunday; all those people in the Temple court, so many that the officials were afraid to take action against Jesus; all those in the Upper Room.  Abandoned by everyone.  And on the cross, abandoned by God himself.  

God is a relational God. That’s why He keeps coming after us even when we run from Him. But to be utterly alone, abandoned by every person and then by God Himself is truly descending into hell.

Speak Your Mind