Teach Us to Pray (Mark 15:25-39)

As Mark takes his readers through the death of Jesus on the cross, he’s mindful of organizing the events around their place in time. Read Mark 15:25-39 and notice how Mark mentions what time things occurred:

It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read: the king of the jews.
They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!” In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”
Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.
With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.
The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

Two distinctions (that have their roots in ancient Greek words) are often made about the concept of time: chronos time and kairos time. 

Chronos time is the concept of sequential time (we might call it clock time),  – things come and go in regular and measured intervals.
Kairos time is ordered around the concept of significant moments – we might refer to events or circumstances happening “at just the right time.”

Mark weaves chronos and kairos concepts of time together in his retelling of the crucifixion.  It’s a beautiful literary technique to point us to the reality that we are creatures who experience God in the sequential and measured intervals of the day (chronos) as well as the moments that seem to live outside regular time (kairos). Early in the life of the church, Christians began to practice a form of prayer that honored this stitching together of chronos and kairos time. They stopped to pray at certain times of the day to unite the regular (chronos) and the exceptional (kairos). And they used this passage from Mark as part of a template to order their prayer day.

During this Holy Week of 2017, take a few minutes (right now) to set a few calendar reminders for prayer around this passage in Mark. Don’t worry, it won’t take very long to make them (on your device) or pray them (when the time comes). As you make yourself mindful of the kairos events of Jesus in the chronos context of your own life, the two (kairos and chronos) begin to merge together and we see all of life as a holy union – a place where the deep mercy of God is as new and regular as each sunrise.

Holy Week Daily Prayer Schedule from Mark 15:
9:00 - Jesus, you were placed on the cross and endured both physical pain (the torture of the cross) and phycological pain (the rejection and taunting of all those around). Thank you for entering into our suffering. Give us eyes to see the suffering of those around us that we might enter into it as well.
12:00 - Father God, at noon darkness fell over the earth you made. Whatever darkness we are in today, God; thank you for the promise of your presence during that darkness and the promise of new mercies every morning.
3:00 - Jesus, your honesty and vulnerability in crying out to God in your weakest moment (even to ask “where are you?”) as you breathed your last on the cross is a model for us. Holy Spirit, move us to reach out to you and each other in our moments of profound weakness, just like Jesus.

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About the Author
Isaac Gaff is the Managing Director of Worship and Creative Arts at Calvary UMC