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Jesus' Last Week
March 19, 1978

St. Paul's United Methodist Church

MARK 11:1-11

The last week of Jesus on this earth is a story of events with great power. The Gospel writers did an especially effective and beautiful job as they wrote down what happened that last week. They've written these events, they've recorded these events in such a way that it is really possible for you and me some 2000 years later to enter, to put ourselves into the story. They have written these words so effectively that no preacher is needed to interpret because the meaning is there. They've written so effectively that if you will put yourselves into it, and try to imagine what it was like when the tension mounted, when the pressure mounted until finally, Jesus was crucified. Marilyn, John and I are going to read that last week right out of the Bible. We've selected verses from different translations. And we've compiled them in such a way that we feel this tells the story of that last week. No interpretation, just right out of the Bible. The week began with Palm Sunday. We celebrated that event with our procession and we heard in the New Testament lesson how Mark told the story. Now we will continue with the story. 

Day by day he taught in the temple. The chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the leaders of the people wanted to kill him. But found they were helpless because the people all listened attentively to what he said. One day, when Jesus was in the temple, teaching the people and preaching the good news, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders came and said to him, “Tell us what right do you have to do these things? Who gave you the right to do them?” Jesus answered them, “Now let me ask you a question. Tell me, did John's right to baptize come from God, or from men?” They started to argue among themselves, “What shall we say? If we say from God, he will say why then did you not believe John? But if we say from man, this whole crowd here will stone us because they are convinced that John was a prophet.” So they answered, “We don't know where John's right to baptize came from.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you, then by what right I do these things.” 

Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon, and a woman came to him with an alabaster jar filled with an expensive perfume, which she poured on Jesus's head as he was eating. The disciples saw this and became angry, “Why all this waste? This perfume could have been sold for a large amount of money and the money given to the poor.” Jesus was aware of what they were saying, and said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? It is a fine and beautiful thing that she has done for me. You will always have to deal with the poor, but you won't always have me. What she did was to pour this perfume on my body to get me ready for burial. Now remember this. Wherever this gospel is preached all over the world, what she has done, will be told in memory of her.” 

Then one of the 12 disciples, the one named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I hand Jesus over to you?” So they counted out 30 silver coins and gave them to him. From then on, Judas was looking for a good chance to betray Jesus. 

Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lambs were being slaughtered, they prepared for Passover. When it was evening, Jesus and the 12 disciples sat down to eat. During the meal, Jesus said, “I tell you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples were very upset and began to ask him, “Is it I? is it I? “ Then Judas spoke, the one who has to betray him, “Teacher, can you mean me?” “The words are yours. Do quickly what you have to do.” Judas then went out, it was night. 

While they were eating, Jesus took the bread, gave a prayer of thanks, broke it, and gave it to his disciples. “Take this, this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks to God and handed it to them, and they all drank from it. And Jesus said, “This is my blood, which is poured out for many, my blood which seals God's covenant.” Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives. 

Jesus said to them, “All of you will run away and leave me. For the scripture says, God will kill the shepherd, and the sheep will all be scattered.” Peter answered, “I will never leave you even though all the rest do.” “Remember this: before the rooster crows, you will say three times that you do not know me.” Peter answered even more strongly, “I will never say that I do not know you, even if I have to die with you.”

They came to a place called Gethsemane and Jesus said to His disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” Then he took Peter, James and John with him. Distress and anguish came over him, and he said to them, “The sorrow in my heart is so great that it almost crushes me. Stay here and watch.” He went a little farther on, threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if possible, he might not have to go through the hour of suffering. “Father, my father, all things are possible for you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I want, but what you want.” 

Then he returned and found the three disciples asleep and said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Weren't you able to stay awake for one hour? Keep watch and pray so you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

 He was still talking when Judas arrived. A crowd carrying swords and clubs was with him. The traitor had given the crowd a signal. “The man I kiss is the one you want. Arrest him and take him away under guard.” As soon as Judas arrived, he went up to Jesus and said, “Teacher” and kissed him. So they arrested Jesus and held him tight. One of those who was with Jesus drew his sword and struck at the high priest’s slave, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, ”Put your sword back in its place. For all who take the sword will die by the sword.” Then Jesus said to the crowd, “Did you have to come with swords and clubs to capture me as though I were an outlaw?” Then all the disciples left him and ran away. 

Those who had arrested Jesus took him to the house of Caiaphas, the high priest. The high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “In the name of the living God, I now put you on oath. Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God,” Jesus answered him, “Those are your words.” At this, the high priest tore his clothes and said, “Blasphemy. We don't need any more witnesses. What do you think?” They answered, “He is guilty and must die.”

Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard when one of the high priest’s servant girls came to him and said, “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” but he denied it in front of them all,  “I don't know what you're talking about.” Another servant girl saw him and said to the men there, “He was with Jesus of Nazareth.” Again, Peter denied it and answered, “I swear I don't know that man.” After a little while, the men standing there came to Peter. “Of course, you are one of them. Your accent gives you away.” Then Peter made a vow, “May God punish me if I am not telling the truth. I do not know that man.” Just then the rooster crowed and Peter remembered what Jesus had told him, “Before the rooster crows, you will say three times that you do not know me.” Peter went out and wept bitterly. 

When Judas saw that Jesus had been condemned, he repented and took back the 30 silver coins to the chief priests and the elders, “I have sinned by betraying an innocent man to death.” Judas threw the money into the sanctuary and left them. Then he went off and hanged himself. 

Early in the morning, they took Jesus to Pilate, the Roman governor. “Are you the King of the Jews?” “King is your word.” He said nothing, however, to the accusations of the chief priests and elders. So Pilate said to him, “Don't you hear all these things they accuse you of?” But Jesus refused to answer a single word. So the governor was greatly surprised. At every Passover feast, the governor was in the habit of setting free any prisoner the crowd asked for. At that time, there was a well known prisoner named Jesus Barabbas. Pilate asked, “Which one do you want me to set free, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus called the Christ?” “Barabbas! Barabbas!” “What then shall I do with Jesus called the Christ?” “Nail him to the cross?” “Yes, nail him to the cross.” But pilate asked, “What crime has he committed?” Then they started shouting at the top of their voices, “Nail him, crucify him! When Pilate saw that it was of no use to go on, but that a riot might break out, he took some water, washed his hands in front of the crowd and said, “I am not responsible for the death of this man.” 

Then the soldiers took Jesus. They stripped off his clothes and put a scarlet robe on him. They made a crown out of thorny branches and put it on his head and put a stick in his right hand. Then they knelt before him and made fun of him. “Long live King of the Jews!” They spat on him and took the stick and hit him over the head. Then they led him out to nail him to the cross. Great numbers of people followed. “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me. No, weep for yourselves and for your children.”

The hour of the crucifixion was nine in the morning. They nailed him to the cross, divided his clothes among them by casting lots, and then sat down to watch him. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them. They do not know what they are doing.” The passersby hurled abuse at him. They shook their heads and cried, “You would pull the temple down, would you, and build it in three days? Come down from the cross and save yourself if you are indeed the Son of God.” 

One of the criminals hanging there abused him, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us as well.” But the other spoke up and rebuked him, “Have you no fear of God at all? You got the same sentence as he did. But in our case, we deserved it. We are paying for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” “Indeed, I promise you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Standing close to Jesus's cross were his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary, the wife of Clovis, and Mary Magdalene. Jesus saw his mother and the disciple he loved standing there. So he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” 

It was about 12 o'clock when the sun stopped shining, and darkness covered the whole country until three o'clock. Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, in your hands, I place my spirit.” Then he bowed his head and died.

© 1978 Douglas I. Norris