Day 266 "Solitude" Mark 14
September 23, 2021, 8:00 AM

For a change they got it right.                                                                 

The title for today’s readings in our Study Bible is “Solitude”, and there is much to think about that word in the life of Jesus, as well as in the life of being a Jesus-follower, a person of The Way.

I’ll start at the end first with the contemplation because the writer talks about how our lives will ultimately collapse if we are disconnected from God because we depend too heavily on the world to fill gaps that only God can fill. We become like spiritual Swiss cheese, only there are more holes than cheese and the system eventually falls in on itself.

I disagree with Mr. Willard (probably the Rev. Dr. Willard!) because if that happened more commonly, our churches would be full of people, and my phone would be packed with messages from all the ‘swiss cheese’ people having difficulty staying strong. I think we’re more like processed American cheese. We have found some substitutes and ingredient switches that enable us to be solid, at least we look pretty solid and feel pretty solid, but we’re not really living into our true ‘cheesiness’. In fact, as processed cheese, which is a cheese product, but is not actual cheese, we are made to melt more easily when we get close to the heat. Hmmmm….there’s a whole direction to go there that I am not going to follow!! 😊

Full disclosure: please don’t think I am being disrespectful to American cheese. I grew up on Land o’ Lakes yellow American, sliced thin and all ready to be placed on my Taylor Ham sandwich for my school lunch. Every now and then at the deli department, I’ll order a half pound just to have my ‘cheese nostalgia moment’ and I always think it tastes delicious. But we all know—it’s not real cheese.

I see solitude all through today’s readings, and it is not all good. I see Judas as isolated from the disciples, keeping secrets, carrying the responsibility of his betrayal, carrying the weight of silver coins that will never satisfy him, silver coins that he throws away in despair when no one will hear his apology (We don’t hear that in this gospel, but we read about this in Matthew 27.)

Mary of Bethany, who walks into the dinner party with Jesus, is deeply alone as she navigates her way past all the men at the table and anoints Jesus in a pre-burial action that only Jesus understands. Her bravery and commitment are full of grief and knowledge as she pours the precious oil over his head, something that she will not be able to do at his burial.

At the end of our chapter, Peter stands alone, having denied Jesus in order to protect himself. Peter “broke down and wept,” (14:72). His heartbreak is profoundly isolating and solitary because his love for Jesus is so great. We are sometimes guilty of deeply wounding those who are closest to us, and it doesn’t mean that we love them less. It means that we love our agenda more at that moment. Sometimes we win those battles, and stand triumphant and alone on the hilltop. No one is there to celebrate with us. Peter’s denial, which he chose so he did not have to suffer like Jesus, is a lonely experience.

And then Jesus. Always Jesus. Even as Jesus is with others, he is in solitude because he is different. He is human, and he is divine. He can place his mind on the things of God more easily than the disciples because he is part of the wholeness of God, but he suffers and bleeds and is wounded like any other human being. That places him in a place of solitude of spirit. Jesus knows the road map of where he and the disciples are traveling. I mean that spiritually more than literally. He’s both the driver and the navigator and the disciples are like the kids in the back seat, poking and smacking each other to drive each other crazy, and to get attention from Jesus, sometimes bored on the journey and wanting to know “Are we there yet?” Kind of like a modern-day bus driver—there’s a job that’s currently hard to fill!!! Do you understand why, beyond the pandemic challenges, someone might think twice about driving a bus full of rowdy children? I think Jesus would understand.

But the suffering of solitude becomes most apparent to us as Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane. I have lots of ‘I wonder…” moments as I read this. I wonder if Jesus felt the presence of the Father at all as he prayed. We do not hear or see any response from the Father, as we did during the baptism and the transfiguration experiences. Might this be Jesus’s most human moment? But no. Tomorrow we will read about the crucifixion and that is his most human experience on earth, and perhaps the loneliest moment as well.

I wonder how Jesus stayed on his course. His disciples clearly did not understand what was happening and they fell asleep as Jesus prayed. His Father did not answer his prayers. No one was making him continue on the path to Calvary, yet Jesus did not turn back.

I wonder how it felt when Judas ‘kissed’ him on the cheek, my gosh, what irony! A sign of love and greeting has been turned into a sign of betrayal and Jesus allowed Judas to kiss him. Couldn’t he have fought that kiss, turned away from Judas at the last moment so Judas did not have the satisfaction of betrayal completed? We read in Matthew: “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also,” (5:39). Is this what it means? I wonder if Judas kissed Jesus on both cheeks, as would have been the custom, as is the custom in many cultures still today? (pre-pandemic, that is.)

I wonder what it was like to remain faithful for Jesus when he was carted away, when the disciples all left him, when people lied about him in order to convict him, when the darkness of pure night surrounded him as the verdict became clearer and clearer. First torture, and then death. And no one to stand by him, to stand with him. No one who defended him at that strangely thrown together night court. Jesus spoke for himself. Solitude indeed.

I’m going to leave it here. To leave the dust and the darkness swirling around us. To leave the picture of Jesus in our minds, alone and yet full of strength as he stands before the Council, as he begins the arduous journey to the cross. Solitude indeed.

Be blessed and be a blessing to others,