Mark 14: 53-65, NRSV
They took Jesus to the high priest; and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes were assembled. Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the guards, warming himself at the fire. Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for testimony against Jesus to put him to death; but they found none. For many gave false testimony against him, and their testimony did not agree. Some stood up and gave false testimony against him, saying, ‘We heard him say, “I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.”’ But even on this point their testimony did not agree. Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, ‘Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?’ But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’ Jesus said, ‘I am; and
“you will see the Son of Man
seated at the right hand of the Power”,
and “coming with the clouds of heaven.” ’
Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘Why do we still need witnesses? You have heard his blasphemy! What is your decision?’ All of them condemned him as deserving death. Some began to spit on him, to blindfold him, and to strike him, saying to him, ‘Prophesy!’ The guards also took him over and beat him.
Preached Sunday, May 6, 2018 at Westfield Church by the Rev. Jonathan Chapman
I think churches could learn a lot from 12-step groups. Society tends to look down on folks who go to AA or NA or any of the other related groups, but really, it’s a courageous act. That is, it takes courage to admit a problem and strength to work to address it. The truth is that when I’ve visited 12-step meetings as an observer, I realize that they what church really should be. Time and again, the people sitting in that room have screwed up, have blown it. And time and again, the group open its arms to them, welcoming them back into the fold. They hold each other accountable, calling out excuses and keeping an eye out. They tell the truth.
There’s a lingo in 12-step groups that help folks in the program stay on track. They’re not official, just little tidbits that have developed over decades of recovery. Phrases like “It works if you work it” and “Keep comin’ back” remind folks that routine and repetition make a difference and can help get addicts make progress. But my favorite of these sayings is this: “We’re only as sick as our secrets.”
It sounds a little grim the first time you hear it, but it holds a deep—and liberating—truth for us. You see, it’s the truth: we’re only as sick as our secrets. That is the things we hold in the dark only hold power over us as long as they stay there. But here’s the thing: bringing hard things out of the dark and bearing them in the light is hard. It’s scary—we don’t know how people will react, or maybe we do, and so we don’t. We lock them away, and stay sick with our secrets.
And maybe there will be pain—a little—along the way. Like taking sunglasses off after hours of wearing them. You’ll probably squint a while, blinded by the light. But you see, the light doesn’t just help us see. It also warms us and makes colors all the brighter.
Today in Mark, we encounter a story of secrets. The Sanhedrin—the Jerusalem City Council—has gathered to try Jesus in the deep of night. Have you heard of the phrase, “Under the cover of darkness?” This is where it comes from—they tried Jesus under the cover of darkness. Now why would you do such thing? Well, either you’re embarrassed or you’re trying to accomplish something without anyone noticing before they can object. I’m not sure it was entirely one or the other in this case. I suspect it was a little of both.
And Mark gives us—and more notably the earliest followers of Jesus—something to object, too. Did you notice how the testimonies don’t line up in these first verses? That’s an important detail because in Deuteronomy, we’re told that if multiple witnesses and their stories don’t line up, then they cannot be considered. Mark makes a point of showing us that these stories don’t add up. But the trial proceeds anyway.
Jesus isn’t having it—this secretive work in the middle of the night. They ask him questions and he doesn’t answer—a fulfillment some would say of Isaiah’s prophecy of the suffering servant who stands silent before his accusers. The darkness in our lives often thrives off our engagement with it. I don’t know about you, but the best fights I have are when I’m in the shower. I win every single one of those arguments. Later, though, I realize that I lost. Because I didn’t win anything that was real. What I actually did was give that person or situation space in my head rent free. That is, it took my time and I didn’t get anything for it. Sometimes, it’s just better to stay silent, to not engage.
But sometimes, we’re called to tell the truth which is exactly what Jesus finally does when asked, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” “I am” he says, before quoting more scripture. He’s accused of blasphemy (although, for the record, it wasn’t. It wasn’t uncommon for Kings of Israel to be called ‘Messiah’ or ‘Son of the Blessed One’). But for folks looking for a reason to condemn Jesus, it was enough.
You see, our secrets—as long as we let them live in the dark—have an appetite for getting what they want. Secrets grow bigger and bigger, feeding off our shame and wading into our embarrassment, finagling any way they can to get what they want—even if it’s based on half truths or, in some case, flat out lies.
And the only cure is to bring them out into the light. If you’re feeling like you’re on trial under the cover of darkness, speak the truth. If you feel shackled by your past or present, speak the truth. Tell the truth about your darkness and watch it melt. May God give you, may God give all us, such courage. Amen.