In college basketball, we are now down to the final four, and if history holds, my brackets have three of them wrong.
In Holy Week, Mark spotlights a final four as well—the exclusive inner circle of Jesus.
They are with him for the crucial moments of his ministry journey.
When he raised a little girl from the dead, he allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John.
When the transfiguration revealed his true identity, Jesus took with him Peter and James
and John and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves.
When he went to Gethsemane to pray, He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated.
Peter, James, John ... and God were Jesus' final four.
Now, at the cross, he sees none of them.
Plenty has been preached about the physical pain of crucifixion, which is beyond
excruciating, beyond comprehension, and in a way that keeps us strangely safe.
Few of us will ever endure it, so we also can stand at a distance from it.
Maybe it hits closer to home to be denied, betrayed, and abandoned by the ones you love the most, like your three best friends and your only parent.
Peter, James, and John saw and heard what no other disciples, then or since, ever did.
They saw Who Jesus truly is.
They saw him raise the dead and glow in terrifying glory.
They heard the very Voice of God saying, "This is my Son, the Beloved."
Peter was the one who identified him as the Messiah; James and John had confidence enough to ask to be at his right and left in glory.
If anyone would have the faith to stick with him, it is these three.
They are nowhere to be found.
And neither is God.
The only thing Jesus says from the cross in Mark is a haunting question: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Has Jesus lost faith, or is he expressing faith, praying Psalm 22?
A desperate father of the boy with demons once said to Jesus, Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!
Jesus, now a desperate son, understands.
He dies without an answer.
The silence of God ... does not equal the absence of God.
The absence of friends does not equal total despair.
Mark shares with us what Jesus does not live to see and hear.
Just like the sky at his baptism, the temple curtain is torn apart, from the top.
God has broken the barrier between heaven and human; God has destroyed holiness itself in order to be in relationship with us.
The cross is the reward, and the price, of this stunning decision.
Nothing protects God now, as Jesus feels in his broken hands and heart.
The barriers are destroyed.
There is no more sky, no more curtain, no more Holy of Holies, no more inner circle.
The place of Peter is assumed, and advanced, by a Gentile soldier, the first and only
human voice to identify Jesus fully: Truly this man is God's Son!
The places of James and John are taken by cynical criminals.
The sacred secrets are out in the open and available to anyone and everyone.
Now anyone can wander into the inner sanctum, the immediate presence of God.
Now the holy and glorious love story Christians call salvation is thrown open to all, including death row inmates who don't believe and a henchman overseeing the
crucifixion of God's Son.
The Holy of Holies is broken open, the body of Christ is broken open, possibility is broken open, the future is broken open.
Hope is broken ... open.
Now keep an eye on the tomb.