Saturday after Laetare
Scripture: St. Mark 14:1-31 (NKJV)
1 After two days it was the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take Him by trickery and put Him to death. 2 But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar of the people.”
3 And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. 4 But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? 5 For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply. 6 But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. 7 For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. 8 She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. 9 Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”
10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Him to them. 11 And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money. So he sought how he might conveniently betray Him.
12 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they killed the Passover lamb, His disciples said to Him, “Where do You want us to go and prepare, that You may eat the Passover?” 13 And He sent out two of His disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him. 14 Wherever he goes in, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”‘ 15 Then he will show you a large upper room, furnished and prepared; there make ready for us.”
16 So His disciples went out, and came into the city, and found it just as He had said to them; and they prepared the Passover. 17 In the evening He came with the twelve. 18 Now as they sat and ate, Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you who eats with Me will betray Me.” 19 And they began to be sorrowful, and to say to Him one by one, “Is it I?” And another said, “Is it I?” 20 He answered and said to them, “It is one of the twelve, who dips with Me in the dish. 21 The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had never been born.”
22 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” 23 Then He took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 And He said to them, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many. 25 Assuredly, I say to you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” 26 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
27 Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.” 29 Peter said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be.” 30 Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” 31 But he spoke more vehemently, “If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And they all said likewise.
The scattering of the disciples reminds us of what our relationship to Jesus is: we are the sheep; He is the Shepherd. When we look at the cowardice displayed by the disciples, we might fantasize that we would do better, since we live after the crucifixion and after the resurrection. In sober-thinking moments, though, we know that our flesh is no less troubled than theirs was with thoughts of earthly security and comfort. If our Shepherd were smitten, we would scatter.
Only by the grace of God in Christ can we stand and stay—as these scattered ones later would do. His grace has enlightened us by the Gospel, so that we see that our Shepherd was smitten for our iniquities, punished so that we could have peace with God. Thus, even in His being stricken He was acting as our Shepherd. Shepherded by the slain Lamb Who is risen from the dead, there neither was, nor is, reason for us to scatter. When we suffer the assaults of the devil today, these cannot separate Him from shepherding us; we are kept through faith in the obedience, suffering, and death of Jesus.
Our enemies still try this same tactic, nonetheless, today. They try to strike at our Shepherd—and the shepherds He appoints over us—so that we will abandon Jesus by abandoning the sound teaching that our pastor brings to us. Thanks be to God that He has given us His clear and wholesome Word and His Church’s Confessions that declare it, so that we know always to embrace that Word proclaimed by our shepherds, being gathered by it to partake rightly in the Body and Blood of our Shepherd, offered for us so that we may be scattered no more!