Red Letter Year: 2/27

Mark 14:53-72

53 They took Jesus to the high priest’s home where the leading priests, the elders, and the teachers of religious law had gathered. 54 Meanwhile, Peter followed him at a distance and went right into the high priest’s courtyard. There he sat with the guards, warming himself by the fire.

55 Inside, the leading priests and the entire high council were trying to find evidence against Jesus, so they could put him to death. But they couldn’t find any. 56 Many false witnesses spoke against him, but they contradicted each other. 57 Finally, some men stood up and gave this false testimony: 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this Temple made with human hands, and in three days I will build another, made without human hands.’” 59 But even then they didn’t get their stories straight!

60 Then the high priest stood up before the others and asked Jesus, “Well, aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?” 61 But Jesus was silent and made no reply. Then the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”

62 Jesus said, “I Am. And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

63 Then the high priest tore his clothing to show his horror and said, “Why do we need other witnesses? 64 You have all heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?”

“Guilty!” they all cried. “He deserves to die!” 65 Then some of them began to spit at him, and they blindfolded him and beat him with their fists. “Prophesy to us,” they jeered. And the guards slapped him as they took him away.

66 Meanwhile, Peter was in the courtyard below. One of the servant girls who worked for the high priest came by 67 and noticed Peter warming himself at the fire. She looked at him closely and said, “You were one of those with Jesus of Nazareth.”

68 But Peter denied it. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said, and he went out into the entryway. Just then, a rooster crowed.

69 When the servant girl saw him standing there, she began telling the others, “This man is definitely one of them!” 70 But Peter denied it again. A little later some of the other bystanders confronted Peter and said, “You must be one of them, because you are a Galilean.”

71 Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know this man you’re talking about!” 72 And immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he broke down and wept.


Not a lot of red letters today. Not a lot of truth telling in this passage. As is too often the case, the “trial” features leaders looking for something to give them an excuse to do what they want, something to support a decision they have already made. When you are only looking and listening for what you want to see and hear, you are blind and deaf to the truth, even when it is plainly stated to you. All of the secrecy about Jesus’ identity that Mark kept emphasizing pays off here in the most direct statement in all the Gospels. Jesus finally lays all his cards on the table and comes clean with the religious leaders. But they weren’t looking for truth and they didn’t want a Messiah. They aren’t the only ones short on truth here. Their falsehood is mirrored by Peter’s, who seems to be the only one of the twelve who didn’t completely desert Jesus, but whose courage fails under the ‘harsh interrogation’ of a servant girl. We can so easily wind up in one of these untruth traps, where our own thinking blinds us to truth or our own fear leads us to deny or disclaim what we know is true. When we are plainly told and can’t see it. When we are plainly asked and can’t say it. It takes a lot of courage to accept truth (especially uncomfortable truth, but it always takes some measure of courage) and even more to share it. I hope we are brave enough for both.

New Living Translation (NLT)

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Red Letter Year: Introduction

Red Letter Year


At the church I pastor, we’ve been moving toward a centered set approach (you can learn more about that here). Last Sunday I preached about the two concerns of this approach: direction and proximity — are you moving toward Jesus and how close to Jesus are you (you can listen to that sermon here). Using Peter as an example, I stressed the importance of giving attention to this, no matter how long you’ve been a Christian, making an effort to be Jesus-oriented is a good, necessary thing. I also offered some practical suggestions for going about this.

One of those suggestions was to commit to studying the Bible. New Year’s is a good time to start a reading plan and there are many read-the-Bible-in-a-year strategies. Those are great, but it is a lot of reading (especially if you have a busy life) each day, so even if you manage it, I’m not sure how much retention you can expect, or how much you will get to reflect on each reading. Then it occurred to me (the way it usually does when the Spirit nudges me with a too-clever-to-have-come-from-me idea), if we want to focus on Jesus, we could slow down and take the whole year to read the Gospels. Which is what we’re going to do right here on this blog – we’re going to have a Red Letter Year (you know, how some Bibles put the words of Jesus in red).

A few things to note:

  1. I am going to post a reading on this blog every weekday, Monday through Friday. (Gives you the weekend to catch up if you need to).
  2. My hope is less reading will lead to more thinking. Read it slow, read it more than once, try to visualize the scenes. Read it out loud. Let it sink in.
  3. We will read each of the four Gospels in full (so the red letter name is a bit of a misnomer). There are approaches that lump the Gospels (at least Matthew, Mark, and Luke) together, since they do share many of the same stories. I don’t prefer that because each Gospel writer tells the story in a unique way (even for all the verbatim language) by ordering things differently. I think our approach here will enable us to better appreciate the nuances each writer brings to the table (there are good reasons why we have four Gospels and not just one).
  4. We are going to read them in the order they were (likely) written to further help us appreciate the editorial choices they made. It is my considered opinion that Mark was the first one written (likely Peter’s account set down by John Mark who was traveling with Peter). Matthew had a copy of Mark and used it to write his Gospel, adding material not found in Mark. Then Luke used both Mark and Matthew in writing his account. Everyone agrees John was written last, his is so different he may not have ever seen the other three (though I personally think maybe he did and his nearly unique account was a deliberate choice). Not everyone agrees with this theory, but it makes the most sense to me, so that’s what we’ll be doing here. (If you so desire, you can study this issue in more depth here.)
  5. For the most part (at least for now, I may change my mind later, and maybe many times) we are going to use the NLT translation. I went back and forth about this, trying to choose the “best” translation for this project, or debating about using different ones on different days. The NLT gives the clearest English meaning (in most cases) and being consistent will probably be better than changing tone/tenor randomly. But, I reserve the right to amend any reading if I think the NLT has failed to get the Greek meaning across. If I do that, I will make a note of it.
  6. I will post comments with the daily reading, but these will be clearly separated and I will do my best to keep the comments to a minimum and focused on the reading, not something I’m on about at the time. Comments will be open for each reading as well, if something occurs to you that you want to share, please do so.
  7. I am doing this primarily for the benefit of the folks at my church, the Wake Forest Vineyard, but of course everyone is welcome to join us in reading and commenting. The more of us that have a Red Letter Year, the merrier!