FIRST READING Exodus 24:3–11
3 Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice, and said, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.” 4 And Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. He rose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and set up twelve pillars, corresponding to the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 He sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed oxen as offerings of well-being to the LORD. 6 Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he dashed against the altar. 7 Then he took the book of the covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” 8 Moses took the blood and dashed it on the people, and said, “See the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.” 9 Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, 10 and they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there was something like a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. 11 God did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; also they beheld God, and they ate and drank.
PSALM Psalm 116:12–19
12 How shall I repay the LORD for all the good things God has done for me? 13 I will lift the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD. 14 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all God’s people. 15 Precious in your sight, O LORD, is the death of your servants. 16 O LORD, truly I am your servant; I am your servant, the child of your handmaid; you have freed me from my bonds. 17 I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call upon the name of the LORD. 18 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all God’s people, 19 in the courts of the LORD’s house, in the midst of you, O Jerusalem. Hallelujah!
SECOND READING 1 Corinthians 10:16–17
16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.
GOSPEL Mark 14:12–26
12 On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, “Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?” 13 So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, 14 and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15 He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.” 16 So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal. 17 When it was evening, he came with the twelve. 18 And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” 19 They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, “Surely, not I?” 20 He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me. 21 For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.” 22 While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. 24 He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” 26 When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
A QUESTION OF FAITHFULNESS
Although the life of Jesus is recorded in all four gospels, they don’t share all of the same stories. Even though the first three gospels are call synoptic gospels, that doesn’t mean that they’re identical. Luke may record some parables that Mark didn’t mention. However, despite the differences, you will find a certain amount of repetition, sometimes it’s between two, at times between three, but rarely do we find the same stories and sayings in all four. One of those exceptions is Peter’s denial. It’s as if God wanted to make sure that we didn’t miss the story. It’s a question of identity and it touches the central theme for this Lenten series: “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”
Of course, this assumes that you want to be identified as a disciple of Christ. What if, like Peter, you’re trying to disguise your identity? Would you be able to do that? After all, you’ve been seen frequenting this church on Sundays and attending various other functions. You may read devotions daily in the privacy of your home. At least within your house there’s little chance someone might discover the devotional, unless, of course, you pass it on to a friend. I’ve even heard that some of you have an extra copy to share with others. The word may get out that you’re a Christian. There is a definite risk in being a high-profile disciple. Look at Peter.
Peter wanted to defend his Lord with a sword, but wasn’t willing to get arrested. Although earlier that night he vowed to go to prison for his Lord, yes, even to die for Him, now he found himself faced with a dilemma. He wanted to see what would happen to Jesus while at the same time maintaining his anonymity. There’s the rub—he was just too easily recognized. A maidservant of the high priest identified him, while others recognized Peter’s accent. Another fellow, a relative of Malchus, certainly wouldn’t forget the face of the one who mutilated a member of his family. Where could a large, boisterous, impetuous disciple hide?
As a pastor, I find myself in that kind of dilemma. People know what I do for a living. Not only am I known within this church but in others as well, and not just professionally. People I happen to meet in a restaurant watch my behavior and reactions. Nearly everyone I know, from the mechanic to the plumber, knows what I do. It’s difficult to be anonymous, a part of the crowd, unidentifiable. But then, why would we want to deny our relationship with our Lord?
Have you ever found your behavior to be less than sterling? Have you ever been so ashamed of the way you acted in public, in a store, or with some attendant, that you were glad that they didn’t know you represented Christ? You may not have denied Jesus outright like Peter, but when your actions reflected badly on our Lord, you may have been too embarrassed and ashamed to call yourself a Christian. Later you wept bitterly.
As Jesus looks at us, not in judgment, but in pity, it’s as if He’s saying to us, as He did to Peter, “Behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32). That very evening Jesus had shared His body and blood with His disciples, not to condemn them, but to strengthen them. Jesus willingly went to the cross for us. As he said to Peter: “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?” (John 18:11)
That same cup that was so difficult for Jesus to swallow is our cup of blessing. For all our denials and betrayals, for all the smudges and stains by which we have dishonored the name of Jesus, He still holds out that cup of forgiveness, and invites us to drink to our salvation. How many of us would welcome back a traitor?
Which one of us could embrace a disloyal deserter? Jesus has done this for all of us; and He’s done it time and again. We can’t let shame or bitter tears keep us from His table of grace. I invite you to come once again, to eat and drink, to receive the body and blood of our Lord for the forgiveness of our sins. St. Paul writes: “If we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself “ (2 Timothy 2:12-13).
In Jesus name. Amen.