If Jesus is passive,others have their say about him in word or action. The passion narrative is framed by stories about women; one who annoits his body for burial and two who watch that burial.
Jesus describes the anointing as a'' beautiful thing'' that anonymous woman does for him. This is a rare description in the Bible of an action as beautiful. Her act of extravagant love was one of the few kind things done to Jesus that week. Her touch was marked contrast to the touch he experienced when he was manhandled,spat on,flogged,pierced by thorns,and ultimately crucified. Actions that should be tender---a kiss,being dressed,receiving homage--were disorted into acts of cruelty.
Touch is important;War horse,the central character,cannot speak,but elicits responses from the people around him,drawing out love in the cruel theatre of war. The nuzzling of two horses;the whipping as they struggle to drag a gun carriage up a steep muddy hill;and the exquisitely gentle touch of two soldiers-enemies brought together by compassion--who free the exhausted horse from the barbed wire that traps him.
There is always room for beauty in the midst of suffering,if only we will bring it. The gentle touch of compassionate action,the beautiful gift that the woman gave Jesus in her anointing,is the touch that Jesus probably yearned for in his passion.He had used touch to heal and restore people,including those deemed untouchable by others,and yet he was not touched that way again until after his death.
Other people move in and out of the narrative,making their small mark. As unnamed person leads the disciples to a large room that Jesus borrowed from another unnamed person for the Passover meal. Its largeness indicates the presence of many people at the last supper. We know his mother and brothers were in Jerusalem,and there were always children at Passover meal,because a child has particular questions to ask as part of the proceedings.
Outside Jesus's circle there are numerous walk-on parts; the priests buy Judas's betrayal; Judas brings an armed crowd;the curiousity of a slave-girl and bystanders leads Peter to deny knowing Jesus;another bystander ,Simon of Cyrene (a place that now is part of Libya) is forced to carry Jesus's cross,leading to speculation that his family was converted Acts 13;1,Romans 16;13; a mysterious young man flees naked from the garden--scholars say he is not Mark,but perhaps there are evocative resonances of Adam and Eve,naked and later cast out of another garden,or of the young man in the empty tomb?
Jesus's cry of agony and abandonment on the cross--one of the few times when God is mentioned in these chapters. Jesus's suffering draws vastly different responses out of others,and also completes Mark's storyline about people's gradual recognition of Jesus.It began at his baptism,when the voice from heaven proclaimed;''You are my Son,the Beloved''. It moved forward when Peter said;''You are the Messiah''. Which led Jesus to begin speaking of his suffering.
Now finally,a Roman centurion,inured to the harshness of crucifixion,said of suffering man;''Truly this man was God's son''. As we hear this story read in its entirety,we can imagine ourselves in the scene,playing a bit part. It is tempting to want to be an uninvolved bystander,but Paul's challenge is to participants who have the same mind that was in Christ. That mind set includes responding in grateful,beautiful love when we see Christ's suffering in his people today--and remind ourselves of God's love;Love so amazing,so divine,Demands my soul,my life my all. AMEN.