The Song Of Mark

 

A Verse Rendering

 

Of

 

The Gospel According To St. Mark

 

 

By

 

 

 

Jabez L. Van Cleef

 

© 1999-2005, Jabez L. Van Cleef




 

 

 

 

 


About the Text

 

 


The text of this work is adapted from “The Song Of Mark” first appearing in the book Gospels In Verse, Volume II, A Text Resource for Musicians and Composers,


(Xlibris Corporation, www.Xlibris.com). It has been changed as follows:


1. I have attempted to remove from the story all false and sinful condemnations of Jews which have historically contributed to the practice of eliminationist anti-semitism. The crucifixion of Jesus is shown as the assertion of Roman power, with the collusion of certain religious authorities, within the context of a cosmopolitan and polyglot community.

 

2. The conventional notion that Jesus was followed by a band of twelve men has been modified to include occasional references to women among his followers. Because Judas is often considered to be a personification of the supposed betrayal of Christ by Jews, some references to Judas have been deleted. The group referred to as “disciples” is construed to include both women and men.

 

3. Narrative which includes masculine pronouns and other gender-specific terms has often been modified to allow interpretation as descriptive of either sex.

 

4. References to God or Jesus which would favor one form of human government over another, e.g. ‘king’, have often been deleted.

 

In all other I have attempted to create a text for singing that is “congruent” with holy scripture, as advised in The Book of Common Prayer (pg. 14). I welcome any suggestions to change the text in accordance with the above guidelines if a reader discovers the need for such alterations.

 

Send all inquiries to jabez.vancleef@verizon.net or visit http://www.spiritsongtext.com


The Song of Mark

 


 

1.

 

Hearken of Jesus what he did,

Redeemer and one flesh with God.

 

Isaiah the prophet called:  See there,

In ev’ry place a harbinger,

 

For soon God’s way shall come to pass;

A voice calls from the wilderness:

 

Prepare now for the tread of God!

So in the desert John appeared.

 

With water he did wash their sin;

They repented and were forgiv’n.

 

So all the people came to him

From th’ country and Jerusalem;

 

In River Jordan there they stood

Confessing every evil deed.

 

John clothed himself in camel hair,

The hairy hides of beasts he wore,

 

Locusts and sweet wild honey ate,

And he used neither spoon nor plate,

He cried aloud to all of them,

Proclaiming, After me will come

 

The one who towers over me,

Whose sandals I may not untie,

 

With water now I wash your sin,

And he with Holy Spirit then.

 

So, soon Jesus did come to see,

From Nazareth in Galilee,

 

In the Jordan he stood with John,

Who took his head and plunged it in.

 

Then, when his face came up again,

The people saw a light shine down,

 

Like a white dove it came to rest,

And Jesus held it in his breast.

 

There came a voice from out of heav’n:

THIS ONE IS MY BELOVED SON.

 

The Holy Spirit in his heart

Led Jesus to a place apart.

 

Out in the desert he did go,

And Satan there did tempt him so.

 

Then came wild beasts, with fang and claw,

But angels Jesus oversaw,

 

For forty nights and one more day.

Then he came back to Galilee. 

 

Soldiers had locked John in a cell;

So Jesus preached to one and all:

 

The time is come, repent, believe,

And you will all your God receive.

 

From off a rock beside their boat,

Simon and Andrew cast their net. 

 

Jesus said, Come and follow me,

Fishers of men you now shall be.

 

They left their nets and followed him,

And soon they caught two other men,

 

Called James and John of Zebedee,

Who joined them to make five of three.

 

They all went to Capernaum

And to the synagogue they came.

 

There, on the Sabbath, Jesus spoke:

Many a rule his teaching broke. 

 

As a rabbi he preached and taught,

Not as a scribe who learns by rote.

 

Then from the crowd, inside a man,

A spirit, troubled and unclean,

 

Cried out, O Jesus, are you here?

O Jesus, I know who you are!

 

You are the Holy One of God!

But Jesus to the spirit called,

 

Be silent!  Come now, out to me!

So loud the spirit then did cry,

 

And shook, and trembled so, the man,

When out of him the devil came,

 

That all the people spoke of this,

And Jesus’ name did through them pass,

 

Till word of his authority

Spread everywhere in Galilee. 

 

He healed Simon’s mother-in-law,

And all the people came and saw;

 

And all the sick they brought to him,

The blind, possessed, afflicted, lame,

 

The whole city, wealthy or poor,

Gathered and stood outside his door. 

 

If they were dying, he was life,

And out the demons he would drive, 

 

But as he righted each their wrongs

He made the devils hold their tongues.

 

Before the sun came up one day,

He found a lonely place to pray.

 

Then when Simon came with the rest,

Jesus saw that his lot was cast.

 

My friends, he said, let us go on,

And we will preach in every town.

 

So as they went through Galilee,

The demons he would cast away.

 

A leper down before him fell,

And said, Lord, heal me if you will,

 

I know that you can make me clean.

So Jesus reached out with his hand

 

And touched him, saying, You are clean,

And Jesus’ touch did heal his skin.

 

Then Jesus left the man alone,

Instructing him to tell no one:

 

First show the priest your skin is healed,

Then make an off’ring as you should,

 

But do not tell them I healed you.

Yet that is what the man did do;

 

So still the crowds would press him in,

And Jesus often walked alone.

 

 

2.

 

Some days later Jesus came home

To his place in Capernaum.

 

The people gathered thick and close,

There by the front door of the house.

 

Out from the mingling of the crowd,

Four men brought in a crippled friend:

 

Stretched on a mattress, stiff and prone,

He sought the touch of Jesus’ hand.

 

When all the people blocked the door,

The man was lifted by these four

 

Up to the roof, and then let down,

On his spare pallet, to the ground.

 

Jesus gave comfort to this man,

And said, I now forgive your sin.

 

Authorities watched him, and they thought,

Does Jesus think that he is God?

 

But Jesus read their thoughts and asked,

Why do you take me so to task?

 

Tell me, which one is easier?

For me to say to this man here

 

My son, I now forgive your sin?

Or rather, say, Now walk again?

 

I can forgive what sins there are

Because I have this pow’r, and more.

 

Then Jesus to the cripple spoke,

Now take your pallet up and walk.

 

The cripple stood before the crowd;

And all their eyes were opened wide.

 

They sent hosannas up to heav’n

And doubted what their eyes had seen.

 

Jesus walked out along the shore;

The people pressed against him more.

 

To Levi, son of Alphaeus,

Sitting in his rev’nue office,

 

Levi, he said, Now follow me.

So Levi stood, and came away.

 

All of the local riff-raff came;

They sat to eat and drink with him.

 

Then those who thought he was a threat

Said, See who he invites to eat!

 

And Jesus, when he heard them carp,

Said,  I share all my bread and cup,

 

So would you have the healthy healed?

It is for sinners I am called.

 

Many were the authorities

Who questioned why he did all this.

 

They would their self-denial boast,

And asked him why he did not fast.

 

Jesus answered, My time is short.

Soon, the wedding guests will depart;

 

Now that the bridegroom’s in their midst,

It is not seemly if they fast. 

 

And soon enough the day will come

When I will say goodbye to them.

 

New cloth cannot repair the old

Nor agčd wineskins new wine hold:

 

So if you would this teaching hear,

Renew your spirit, and prepare.

 

 

3.

 

Once in the synagogue they found

A man who had a withered hand.

 

Elders watched Jesus, one and all,

So they would know if he could heal.

 

Jesus said to th’ afflicted man,

Stretch out your hand, and healed him then.

 

He grieved the hardness of their minds

Who tried to stop his healing hands:

 

The sabbath makes not good, nor ill,

’Tis better to save life than kill.

 

And they were silent, yet did plan

How to bring low the Son of Man. 

 

Jesus led the whole crowd away,

Down to the beach along the sea,

 

Where people from Judea came,

From round about Jerusalem,

 

From Jordan, Tyre and Sidon, too,

Seeking to see what he would do.

 

However many there he healed,

Yet more reached out, their voices called, 

 

As out the unclean spirits came,

They all fell down and spoke his name:

 

O Jesus, Jesus, Son of God!

He told them, Speak not this aloud.

 

Up on the mountain he would climb,

Calling his foll’wers after him,

 

The twelve who would go out to preach,

To cast out demons, heal, and teach:

 

Simon Peter, and James and John,

(The one whom he named “Thunder’s Son”),

 

And Andrew, and Bartholomew,

Philip, Matthew, and Thomas too,

 

And James the son of Alphaeus,

Simon of Canaan, and Thaddaeus,

 

And last, Judas Iscariot,

Who with th’ authorities did plot. 

 

Then Jesus left.  The crowd was great,

And there was nothing there to eat. 

 

Some said, He must have lost his mind!

Others would have him seized and bound.

 

Th’ authorities called him possessed:

Prince of demons, by demons blessed.

 

Jesus always before them stood

And so his way he justified:

 

The evil deep in ev’ry heart

Now seeks to tear itself apart:

 

A kingdom turned against itself

Cannot long stand.  Above the gulf,

 

The house conflicted on each side

Collapses with its weight of pride,

 

So Satan eats his very hand,

And in his feeding, cannot stand,

 

And in his breaking, cannot mend,

And so his house here meets its end.

 

The strong man’s house is safe and sure,

No one can break and plunder there,

 

Unless the strong man they would tie,

Then they would plunder verily,

 

And so I say the sins of men

And evil words, are all forgiv’n,

 

Save one:  that one eternal sin:

To claim my spirit is unclean.

 

Against my spirit make this claim,

Say this, and you yourself condemn.

 

His mother and his brothers came;

Standing outside, they called his name.

 

When people in the crowd then said,

Your fam’ly calls you, he replied,

 

Who is my mother? Who my brother?

I have you here!  I need no other!

 

 

4.

 

Again he wandered on the shore.

Closer the crowd came, more and more.

 

He got himself into a boat,

And on the water he did float;

 

Across the lapping waves they heard

Jesus calling out ev’ry word.

 

Listen!  A sower went to sow;

His seed fell to the ground below:

 

In the path by the sower’s step,

The birds came and ate the seed up.

 

Where rocks were many, soil was scant:

There the seed made a vig’rous plant,

 

Then the sun came, so high and hot,

And the heat scorched its meager root.

 

Some fell among the thorny vine,

It choked, and did not yield a grain.

 

Yet some into the deep soil got,

And when they rooted, up they shot,

 

These yielded grain a hundredfold;

Now hear the truth in what I’ve told.

 

So to his chosen followers

He told them what his meaning was:

 

The sower sows the word of God

And some have faith when first it’s heard,

 

But Satan with a hungry mouth

Eats up the seed before it sprouts.

 

Some grow too quickly and they wilt

When temptation weakens their faith,

 

 

When deprivation gnaws them hard,

Then their doubt finds its own reward.

 

Those caught amid the prickly thorns,

A lust for things and riches burns.

 

They that grow and yield forth grain

Embrace the word, and truth retain. 

 

So, if your little lamp is lit,

Don’t put a basket over it;

 

 

Don’t put it underneath the bed,

But show it, so there’s nothing hid,

 

And ev’ry thing will be revealed,

And all the locks and doors unsealed.

 

If now you think you hear my word,

Attend, and still more will be heard,

 

For those who know, will know more yet,

And those who know not, will forget.

 

Our God is like the seed and soil

That sprout and nourish without toil;

 

The earth produces all we need,

And on this bounty we may feed,

 

And though the seed be very small,

Yet, greater may it grow than all.

 

With such examples then he spoke,

Then sailed away across the lake.

 

A storm of wind and rain came up

While in the stern he lay asleep.

 

The boat with sea began to fill,

His people woke him, one and all.

 

Saying, We do not want to die!

So up he got to calm the sea. 

 

Peace, be still, so he told the wind,

And there was calm on ev’ry hand,

 

And Jesus said, Fear not the sea,

Your faith will keep you safe with me.

 

 

5.

 

They landed on the other side,

There where the Gerasenes reside.

 

Jesus came up on the wide shore,

Where the tombs of the dead folk were.

 

A man with devils in his head

Was living there among the dead;

 

And Jesus said, Come out!  Begone!

You unclean spirits, leave this man!

 

A devil cried out piteously,

O what have you do with me?

 

O Jesus, Son of God Most High,

Do not torment me, leave me be!

 

And from that devil there came more,

Jumping and dancing on the shore,

 

And Jesus, of this company,

Asked of them what their names would be?

 

Our name is legion, whimpered they,

For many and more than many are we,

 

But now we beg you here today,

Please do not send us all away.

 

Now many swine on grass were fed

Close by there on a green hillside,

 

And the devils wanted to come

Among these pigs and enter them,

 

So Jesus sent the devils on,

And all the pigs began to run

 

Down the hill and into the sea,

Where two thousand of them did die.

 

The owners of the pigs ran off;

And crowds of people came to scoff:

 

They saw the man who’d been possessed

At Jesus’ feet, taking his rest.

 

The Gerasenes would threaten him,

So back into his boat he came,

 

But when the madman climbed aboard

Jesus restrained him with this word:

 

Go forth and tell them, one and all,

The Lord has mercy on your soul,

 

When they’d sailed back across the lake

A great crowd came to hear him speak.

 

Jairus fell down at Jesus’ feet,

And he called out to Jesus’ spirit:

 

My daughter is about to die,

Please holy Jesus come and see,

 

Please lay your hands upon her head,

And help her rise up from her bed.

 

As Jesus followed Jairus home

Behind him there a woman came;

 

For twelve years this woman had bled,

On physic spent all that she had.

 

But when she touched his garment’s hem

Just then did her blood cease to come,

 

But Jesus felt his spirit ebb

When the woman tugged at his robe,

 

Who touched me? she heard his voice call,

And then she felt his force of will;

 

In fear and trembling down she fell,

And the whole truth, she told him all. 

 

He said, Your faith has helped you heal,

Go now in peace, you are made well.

 

To Jairus, all the people said,

Too late, your daughter now is dead.

 

But Jesus said, Fear not, believe,

And on they went her life to save.

 

Jesus said, Do not cry and weep,

She is not dead, she is asleep.

 

He took her by the hand and said,

Rise up now even from the dead.

 

And so she stood upon her feet,

And they gave her some bread to eat.

 

 

6.

 

Then Jesus went back to his home,

And his disciples followed him.

 

On the Sabbath day he would teach;

And those who knew him heard him preach;

 

They said, We know who this man is.

So who is he to preach to us?

 

But Jesus said, I prophesy

So they who do not know will see;

 

But they who know my family

Will never see, nor honor me.

 

To his twelve foll’wers then he called

And sent them out by two’s to heal.

 

Take nothing but your staff, he said,

No bag, no money, and no food. 

 

Where people let you rest your head,

Stay there and work, and share their bread,

 

And if these folk receive you not,

Then shake their dust off of your feet.

 

So they preached:  People should repent;

Cast out demons where’er they went.

 

The people wondered of them all,

Who gave them pow’rs to bless and heal?

 

Some said, John Baptist has been raised,

Others, Elijah! Lord be praised!

 

Some people claimed a prophet came;

So, soon King Herod heard of him.

 

King Herod bore guilt for his wife,

For whom he stripped from John his life:

 

When Herod took his brother’s bride,

Then John had cursed their sinful pride. 

 

Herod would have him killed for this,

But feared to, for John’s righteousness. 

 

So then came Herod’s birthday feast,

Where food and drink were all the best. 

 

And there the daughter of his bride

Danced and enflamed his lust and pride,

 

Therefore he promised to give her

Whatever she should ask him for,

 

And she, to please her mother, said,

Give us John Baptist, just the head,

 

And this was on a platter brought,

The thing the vicious girl had sought.

 

John’s many mournful foll’wers came,

And laid his body in a tomb.

 

So Herod felt of guilt the twinge,

And sensed in Jesus John’s revenge.

 

Now the disciples all came home,

And now did Jesus comfort them,

 

Said, Let us go and rest awhile;

Out on the water we will sail.  

 

The whole crowd saw them sail the boat;

They ran along the shore on foot.

 

And as the boat came in to shore,

Still he would teach them more and more.

 

While the red sunset shed a glow,

And a chill wind began to blow,

 

The people on the grass still sat,

And none of them had food to eat.  

 

So Jesus said, Let them eat here,

But where was any food to spare?

 

Five loaves, two fish was all they had:

And Jesus took and blessed this food.

Behold!  Five thousand folk were fed.

 

Then Jesus put his band of twelve

In the little vessel to leave,

 

Alone he went ’neath starlit sky,

Out on the mountainside to pray.

 

Over the waves along the coast

He saw the boat by weather tossed,

 

And in the fourth watch of the night

Upon the sea he put his feet,

 

They saw him walking on the sea,

And with one voice their fear did cry,

 

He stood and spoke the gunwale by,

Take heart, fear not, for it is I,

 

And in the boat with them he came,

So they fell down and worshiped him.

 

When to the other shore they came

A multitude confronted them,

 

Sick, lame and sore, so came they all,

And all that touched him were made well.

 

 

 

 

7.

 

Some authorities came and saw

They broke the dietary law.

 

And yet when they would criticize,

He said, Isaiah prophesies,

 

‘They honor me with holy speech

And still their hearts are out of reach,’

 

Earthly traditions hold you fast,

And so God’s word you leave for last.

 

The laws of God you would so prune

To make them fit the ways of men.

 

Then Jesus called upon the crowd

And spoke this sentence clear and loud:

 

Mark not the evils from without,

That folk inside themselves will put.

 

But watch instead what issues forth,

For this is how they show their worth.

 

The food they eat cannot defile,

But passes through them as it will;

They may eat good and wholesome things,

But from their hearts all evil springs:

 

Fornication, theft and murder,

Pride and foolishness and slander,

 

The secret ways of mortal sin,

Follow a path from down within.

 

There came a woman to be blessed

Whose little daughter was possessed.

 

The woman fell down at his feet,

And begged him, cast the devil out.

 

This woman, she was not a Jew;

He wondered what he ought to do,

 

And said, My children must be fed,

Before I’d throw the dogs their bread.

 

She answered, This is true, and yet

Even the dogs some crumbs will get.

So Jesus drove the devil out. 

 

Again as Jesus turned toward home,

A man came who was deaf and dumb,

 

Jesus took him away, alone,

Spat in his hand, and touched his tongue,

 

Upon his ears two fingers laid,

Sighed, and then up to heaven said,

 

Be opened, and the man could hear,

And spoke with words both plain and clear.

 

And Jesus asked folk not to tell

How he had made the deaf man well.

 

But the more he would have it so

The more they would proclaiming go.

 

They were amazed beyond all thought

At all the healing deeds he wrought.

 

8.

 

Some days passed, and the crowd did swell.

And his disciples heard him call:

 

Pity the suff’ring multitude,

Here for three days and without food:

 

If I now send them all away,

They will faint in the blazing day.

 

 

Then one of his disciples said,

How can the desert give us bread?

 

The crowd still sat there on the ground,

And seven loaves were all they found.

 

Jesus gave thanks and broke the bread,

And a few fish.  On this they fed,

 

There was more than enough for all –

Left over, seven baskets full.

 

Then Jesus sent the crowd away

And he came down to cross the sea.

 

Again there came authorities

Seeking a sign to be their test. 

 

He sighed and turned his eye within,

And said, Why do they seek a sign?

 

There is no sign would prove me true,

And in his boat off he did go.

 

Now, all their bread they had forgot;

There was just one loaf in the boat. 

 

He warned his followers, Take heed,

What people may put in your bread…

 

What does this mean, take heed? they said,

We’re hungry, and we have no bread!

 

He cried, Will you not understand?

Your hearts are hard, your eyes are blind.

 

Do you remember, back on shore,

One loaf became a thousand more,

 

And still you fear to go without!

Do you not understand me yet?

 

And so they came again to shore.

A crowd had gathered there once more;

 

They brought a person who was blind

So he could heal him with his hand.

 

From the village they all went out,

Into his eyes saw Jesus spit.

 

He asked the blind man, Do you see?

He answered, I see men, but they,

 

They look like trees, walking like men,

So Jesus touched his eyes again,

 

He looked again, and saw them clear,

So Jesus sent him off from there.

 

Then Jesus asked his company,

What now do people say of me?

 

You’re John the Baptist, some believe,

Or you’re Elijah, still alive.

 

But who do you believe I am?

You are the Christ, Peter told him. 

 

You all can tell me what you may,

What others should not hear you say.

 

Soon comes the day when all of us

Will suffer the authorities,

 

They will kill me like any man,

But in three days, I’ll rise again.

 

Said Peter, Lord, let this not be!

He said, Satan, get behind me!

 

For if my death you would deny,

You are condemned as men to die. 

 

The multitude he called to him.

And here is what he said to them:

 

If any one would follow me,

That one must his own self deny;

 

Take up your cross and come with me,

Forsaking any other way.

 

If you save your life, you are lost;

If you lose it, do not count cost,

 

Life lost for gospel’s sake, and mine,

Will bring you to the gate of heav’n. 

 

And what could pay you for your breath?

The world is worthless after death.

 

So those who would my name deny

Have little faith, and they will die.

 

9.

 

Many are standing here with me

Who will not die before they see

The world in God’s ascendancy.

 

So Peter, James, and John he led

Up and across the mountainside.

 

Up here he was imbued with light;

That dazzled them both sense and sight.

 

Then Moses and Elijah came,

And Jesus stood and spoke with them.

 

Peter complained to Jesus, Lord,

Our life on earth below is hard,

 

You could remain up here with us,

We each could have a little house,

 

We do not know just what to say,

But we could learn, if we can stay.

 

Then a cloud came across the sky

A voice from out the cloud did cry:

 

THIS IS MY OWN BELOVED SON,

LISTEN TO HIM, AND YOU WILL LEARN.

 

And when they turned and looked again,

Elijah and Moses were gone.

 

So then they left the mountain peak;

As they descended, Jesus spoke:

 

Do not betray a word of this

Till from the tomb you see me rise. 

 

And they followed him close at hand

Although they did not understand.

 

They asked, Why do the scribes declare

That Elijah must first appear?

 

Elijah first restores all things,

Then I must suffer many wrongs.

 

Elijah has already come,

And they did what they would with him.

 

From the crowd a man called, Come,

I brought my son, for he is dumb,

 

And when the spirit seizes him,

Then his clenched mouth begins to foam;

 

He falls and twists upon the ground,

And all his teeth begin to grind;

 

And I had asked your people here

To make the devil disappear,

 

But now I see they have not pow’r

The health of my boy to restore.

 

Jesus asked him, What faith have you?

How long am I to suffer so?

 

Bring the boy here and I will see

How that spirit answers to me.

 

When they brought him to Jesus, then

The boy and spirit both fell down.

 

How long has this thing been in him?

Asked Jesus of the father then.

 

From childhood it has cast him down

In fire to burn, and water drown,

 

O Lord, have pity on my son

And free him from this if you can.

 

If I can!  Where now is your love?

All things can be if you believe!

 

The father cried, You have my love!

Lord, help me with my unbelief!

 

And as the crowd grew thick and hot,

Jesus called the boy’s devil out

 

With a convulsion terrible,

Out it came.  Then the boy lay still.

 

Ev’rybody thought he was dead,

So like a corpse his body laid;

 

But Jesus took him by the hand,

Lifted him up, and helped him stand.

 

His followers expressed regret

That none of them could cast it out,

 

But he counseled them that this kind

Only by prayer would loose its bind.

 

As they traveled through Galilee

He did his healing secretly,

 

And he told all the twelve again,

Soon they will kill the Son of Man,

 

He will descend into a tomb,

And will rise up in three days’ time. 

 

They could not fathom what he said;

They pondered it and were afraid. 

 

Then they came to Capernaum,

And in the house, he asked of them,

 

As we were walking here today,

What then did you disciples say?

 

They wouldn’t tell him they had said

‘Who should be leader when he died?’

 

So he sat down and called them forth,

Saying, Here gauge each others’ worth:

 

The one who is first will be last,

The servant of all leads the rest.

 

He put a child among the men.

Holding this child, he told them then:

 

If you receive the innocent,

You have the one by whom I’m sent.

 

John said, Today we saw a man

Casting out demons in your name.

 

We said to him, You can’t do this

Because you are not one of us. 

 

Jesus said, Do not forbid it,

For if the demons will get out,

 

Then such a man must give us praise,

And not speak evil of our ways;

 

If he does not speak against us,

Then he is for us when he heals,

 

And if he shares his drink and food,

He will not lose his just reward.

 

Spoil not the faith of innocents,

Lest the Father would take offence,

 

And tie a millstone round your neck,

And throw you in with whale and shark.

 

If your sin dwells inside your hand,

Then cut it off and sinning end.

 

It’s better that one hand should fall,

Than with two hands you go to hell.

 

And if your sin dwells in your eye,

Then pluck it out, and presently

 

You’ll enter heav’n with half your sight,

Not go to hell with two eyes right.

 

The worm of sin lives on in hell,

And death will not your shame dispel.

 

 

10.

 

They crossed the river Jordan then,

And Jesus taught the crowds again.

 

Some authorities, sowing strife,

Asked, Can a man divorce his wife?

 

He answered, What did Moses say?

Moses assures us that he may.

 

Jesus said, Moses takes the side

Of those who joy in heartless pride.

 

‘Male and female God made them,’

That these two should one flesh become.

 

I say what God has so made one

Should not be broke by any man.

 

Some brought in children he might bless,

Whom his foll’wers sought to dismiss.

 

Said Jesus, Let the children come,

For God’s own house belongs to them.

 

May you hear my words as they do,

For they know not the guile you do;

 

And then he took them in his arms,

To keep them safe from any harms.

 

And then there came a man of wealth

Who in the path before him knelt.

 

He said, Good teacher, how can I

Be sure to live eternally?

 

And Jesus said, Why call me good?

For this is what you should call God.

 

You know what the commandments say:

And these are what you should obey.

 

From my own youth, the man said then,

Till now, I have obeyed these ten.

 

Jesus, lovingly to him spoke,

O wealthy man, one thing you lack:

 

Sell all your things, give to the poor,

And this will open heaven’s door,

 

Give your possessions all away,

Then you can come and follow me. 

 

These few words made the rich man sad,

For he did love the things he had. 

 

Then Jesus to the people spoke,

The rich a harder path must take,

 

For what they own and cannot shed,

Makes such a wide and heavy load!

 

And when they come to heaven’s gate,

Their burden cannot pass the strait,

 

As if a camel came to try

To pass within the needle’s eye.

 

Which of us can be saved? they said.

All things are possible with God.

 

Peter lamented, Lord, for you

We left our lives and families, too;

 

And Jesus said, These things you lost

Should not be counted as a cost,

 

For you will get eternal life,

No matter what your pain and strife,

 

Think not on trials in your past,

Those who were first will soon be last,

 

And though the world might do its worst,

You who are last will then be first.

 

And as they walked along the road,

He turned again and to them said,

 

In Jerusalem I will die,

And here is what the world will see:

 

Soldiers will take the Son of Man,

And Gentiles will his life condemn,

 

Mocked and scourged and killed one day,

On a crude cross at Calvary,

 

In three days, rising from the grave,

And all of this your souls to save. 

 

Then James and John said, Lord, now do

What ever we should ask of you.

 

What do you want? He asked of them.

That we should sit one on each hand,

 

When you will rule upon your throne

And you have to your glory come.

 

You know not what you ask, he said,

This has for someone been prepared,

 

The cup I drink, you will drink too

And we will all be baptized so,

 

But when word reached the other ten,

They were incensed with James and John,

 

And Jesus told them, Be not lords,

Or seek authority in words,

 

Seek not the leadership to have,

But find a master in your slave. 

 

The Son of Man came here to serve

That your life might a ransom have. 

 

Then as they came through Jericho,

Past a poor blind man they did go.

 

Bartimaeus did sit and cry,

O Jesus, Lord, please pity me!

 

Though people told him to be quiet,

He only made more noise and riot,

 

Till Jesus said, What do you want?

O Lord, I know you have been sent

 

To heal my eyes and let me see.

And Jesus on him hands did lay,

 

Did his afflicted eyes then heal,

Saying, Your faith has made you well.

 

 

11.

 

Now as they towards the city came,

Jesus sent two disciples on,

 

Saying, When you find a young colt,

On which no one has ever sat,

 

Take it and bring it here to me,

And if they stop and ask you why,

 

Say this to them, The Lord has need,

And will bring it back to your hand. 

 

And so they went and found the colt

Standing out in the open street,

 

And they brought it out, as he said,

And on its back their robes they spread.

 

Jesus entered Jerusalem,

On that small colt they saw him come,

 

As he rode by, a crowd came out,

And all the leaves of palms they cut,

 

Threw robe and branch across the stone,

To welcome him as in he came. 

 

And all the people sang their hymns,

‘Blessed be He, the Lord who comes,’

 

Ev’ry one loud Hosannas sang,

They sang Hosannas to their king.

 

Through the temple then they all went,

And all that night in Bethany spent.

 

Then in the morning Jesus came:

God’s great temple he would reclaim.

 

He drove out those who sold and bought,

And from the faithful, profit sought.

 

The tables with their bags of coin

All these did Jesus overturn.

 

The pigeons waiting to be cut,

From their cages they were let out.

 

And Jesus said, See how ’tis writ

That here in prayer you will be met,

 

But here you buy and sell instead,

And have a den of robbers made.

 

When authorities heard of this,

They saw the trouble he would cause:

 

The one who made this brazen feat,

For Pontius Pilate was a threat,

 

A criminal who should be caught;

But from the city he went out.   

 

His foll’wers saw a fig tree there,

Standing with all its branches bare,

 

For Jesus when he came to eat

Had cursed it for it bore no fruit,

 

And Peter said to Jesus, See

The fig you cursed begins to die.

 

But Jesus said, Have faith in God

And hear the power of my word;

 

For by belief all things can be,

And mountains tossed into the sea.

 

And when you ask a thing in prayer,

Believe, and it will then be there,

 

And when you pray, be of good will,

Forgive transgressions one and all,

 

So by our Father up in heav’n

All of our sins may be forgiv’n.

 

And in the temple then he walked,

With priests and scribes he met and talked,

 

Who asked him what the source might be

Of his presumed authority.

 

And Jesus said, Was John made clean

By pow’r of God or pow’r of men?

 

We do not know what pow’r,  said they,

And Jesus said, ’Tis so with me.

 

 

12.

 

Then Jesus did a story tell:

A farmer tilled his vineyard well,

 

Then left it in some tenants’ hands

While he went off to foreign lands,

 

And when the time came to return,

He sent his servant there to learn

 

How did the vineyard’s tenants fare,

And if they of their fruits could share.

 

The tenants beat the servant sore,

And threw him out upon his ear,

 

And yet the master sent one more

Who also they did beat full sore,

 

Finally he sent his own son,

And the tenants murdered this one.

 

Even his son was dead, and so

What should the vineyard’s owner do?

 

These evil tenants he’ll evict,

And others he will then select,

 

As the one stone that was rejected

Will for the corner be selected.

 

Soldiers and authorities came,

The ones who sought to arrest him,

 

But they all feared the multitude,

And so chose not to spill his blood;

 

But rather sought to interest Rome

By posing him this conundrum:

 

Should Godly men support the state

By paying Caesar’s tax, or not?

 

So Jesus said,  Give me a coin,

And asked, Whose face is stamped hereon?

 

Give back to Caesar all his coin,

And give to God all that you can.

 

Then lawyers came with phrase and clause,

Saying, If a man’s brother dies,

 

One brother takes the other’s wife

To marry her and share her life. 

 

Now, if there would be seven brothers,

She mates first one, then all the others,

 

And when they all do meet in heaven,

Which is her husband of these seven?

 

Jesus answered,  On judgment day,

These souls will all like angels be,

 

They will not marry as on earth,

Nor to children will they give birth.

 

And one of them said, Rabbi, tell,

Which is the greatest law of all?

 

And Jesus answered, Hear, O man,

The Lord our God, the Lord is One,

 

Love you the Lord with all your heart,

Your soul, your mind, your strength impart,

 

This first is what you shall obey,

And serve the second equally:

 

Do not to any neighbor do

What you would not have done to you.

 

So the scribe said, Lord, these two

Will more than sacrifices do.

 

And Jesus to the scribe said then,

God’s kingdom you have seen within:

 

The other scribes love ornament,

And seek high places there to mount,

 

In the market they make salutes,

And occupy the richest seats,

 

Yet they on widows’ houses feast,

And for a pretense beat their breast,

 

And when at judgment they arrive

Their condemnation will receive. 

 

From where we stand we see folk come

Each to the treasury with his sum:

 

Though rich folk scrutinize their gains,

Mark how that widow shares her coins:

 

Much greater is her sacrifice

Than all their riches and device,

 

For they mere scraps and tokens shed,

While she has given all she had.

 

 

13.

 

Peter, Andrew, James and John,

Sat in the shade, out of the sun,

 

Saying to Jesus, Tell us when!

Tell us what will be the sign!

 

Put not your faith in stones conjoined,

Nor on an earthly house depend.

 

However high these spires may be,

There comes the day when stones will fly.

 

This temple, and this mighty wall

Will to a field of rubble fall.

 

Let not false prophets blind your eye

And lead your little band astray.

 

Great wars and talk of wars must be,

But all these little signify.  

 

Nations and kingdoms will conflict,

Earthquake and famine intersect,

 

But you should for yourselves take heed,

And bring the word to those in need.

 

Fly the good word across the sea,

Seeking out those in misery,

 

And when men bring you up for trials

You need not fear their chains or jails.

 

And when you stand before the sword

And they ask you for your last word,

 

Fear nothing when you testify,

The Holy Spirit will supply.

 

The father will his child betray,

One brother will another slay;

 

And everyone will call you vile

For speaking truth to one and all.

 

But at the end, if you endure,

You will be with me safe and sure.

 

The desolating sacrilege

Will drive you to the mountain’s edge;

 

Hold not tight to your petty spoils,

Or turn back for domestic toils.

 

And pity those with babe in suck

When winter cold and wind will wrack,

 

For such a trial has never been

Since God with clay created man.

 

The mercy of the Lord of life

Shortens your days and ends all strife,

 

Let you be there with the elect

False Christs and prophets to reject.

 

Signs and wonders will  disappear,

And taking heed, you will see clear.

 

So when the sun and moon go out

And all the stars fall at your feet,

 

Then the rock that holds up the sky

Will shake, and yield its mystery,

 

And then the Son of man will come

In pow’r and glory take you home,

 

And angels wing the chosen ones

To worlds bright as a million suns.

 

Learn from the scrolling leaf o’th’ fig:

As summer comes, the shoots grow big;

 

You hear the clamor at the gate:

And how long must your spirit wait?

 

In your own lifetime you will see

All of these things I prophesy –

 

Heaven and earth may pass away,

But my words in your ears will stay.

 

And you will never know the hour

Wherein comes the celestial power.

 

Take heed and watch, for you know not

From what fell hand is cast your lot;

 

As when the servants watch and wait

For their dear master by the gate –

 

And when the keeper of the gate

Watches yet closer, through the night –

 

So must you watch with open eye,

To see and hear this mystery,

 

Lest it come sudden, while you sleep,

Leaving  your soul itself to keep.

 

 

14.

 

Now the Passover was the time

Authorities sought to kill him.

 

Take him, they said, before the feast,

For people will his chains protest,

 

And now did Judas play his role

And on the soldiers paid his call:

 

If he could his Lord deliver,

They would pay thirty coins of silver.

 

Now Jesus was at Bethany,

Simon the leper come to see.

 

As in the house he sat and fed

A woman poured oil on his head.

 

A fragrant, precious oil it was,

And some asked, Why do you do this?

 

Why waste this precious oil on him?

Sell it and help the poor with alms.

 

But Jesus said, Trouble her not,

This is her duty and her right,

 

You always have the poor with you,

But to another place I go. 

 

She knows beforehand where that is:

For death this living corpse prepares.

 

And truly I say now to you

The world will hold her deed in awe.

 

So on the day they killed the lamb,

Jesus’ disciples said to him,

 

Where now would you have us all go

Prepare this Passover for you?

 

And of the twelve he sent out two,

Saying, Into the city go,

 

And you will meet a servant  there

Carrying a big water jar.

 

Follow, and to his master speak,

And there is where we bread shall break.

 

It so befell them as he said,

And they cooked lamb, and baked the bread.

 

As evening fell, Jesus came in,

Sat down to eat, and said to them,

 

One of you twelve will sell my head

Who will be eating of this bread.

 

And when they hung their heads and wept,

He said, The one whose bread will dip

 

Into the dish with mine, this one,

’Tis better never had been born.

 

Now as they ate he took the bread,

Blest, broke and passed it to each hand,

 

Saying, This is my body, eat.

So said he of the loaf of bread.

 

And then he took a cup of wine,

Blest and passed it from hand to hand,

 

Saying, My blood of the covenant,

Drink this,  for many it is spent.

 

I shall not drink this wine again

Till in God’s kingdom I am gone. 

 

Together then they sang a hymn

And to the Mount of Olives came. 

 

You will all fall away, he said,

As the blows fall around my head,

 

For as God strikes the shepherd sure,

So then the sheep are scattered far,

 

But when I come back from the dead

Through Galilee this flock I’ll lead.

 

No, Lord, said Peter, I’ll not fall,

These others may, but I stand tall.

 

Said Jesus, Ere the cock crows twice,

Tonight, you will betray me thrice!

 

But Peter said with heated claim,

I die before I smirch your name.

 

And so they all the same did say,

As Jesus went alone to pray.

 

In Gethsemane, there he sat,

Peter, and James, and John without.

 

Then he begged them, sore at his heart,

Stay here and watch, this is your part!

 

He fell and twisted on the ground

And asked God take away his wound,

 

Said, Take away this cup of gall!

Yet not what I, but what you will.

 

He came out, saw that Peter slept,

And said,  I know your ease does tempt,

 

But could you not one hour watch here?

Helping us all our souls prepare?

 

Your spirit is a willing force,

But now your flesh is weak, or worse.

 

Yet one more time he went away,

And off to sleep again went they,

 

So in the darkness he came forth

And gauged one final time their worth.

 

Up, up, enough, the hour has struck,

Call in the souls both dead and quick.

 

The Son of Man is now betrayed

And by the hands of sinners flayed.

 

And as he spoke, so Judas did

Arrive with sword and multitude,

 

On Jesus’ lips did plant his kiss,

So would the guards know whom to seize. 

 

And one of Jesus’ followers

Cut off the high priest’s servant’s ear,

 

And Jesus cried, Why do you so

With sword and club against me go?

 

When I by day in temple taught,

They did not come with anger fraught,

 

Nor with anger should I be called;

But let the scriptures be fulfilled.

 

Ev’ry one of his foll’wers fled,

Even a youth in linen clad,

 

Around his trunk the cloth was wrapped:

So when they seized him, off it slipped,

 

Flapping from their hands, gripped tight,

As he ran naked down the night.

 

They brought him to th’authorities,

The judges and the legionaries,

 

While Peter from a distance spied,

And in a corner skulked and hid;

 

He sat among the palace guard,

Warm by the fire out in the yard,

 

When first they asked him who he was,

He drew in closer to the coals.

 

A judge sought Jesus to condemn,

But witness against him found none. 

 

Many agreed that he should die,

But could not claim the reason why.

 

The Romans asked of Jesus then,

Have you no answer for these men?

 

When Jesus did not answer them,

They asked, Is’t true as you proclaim,

 

That you are Christ, the Son of God?

I am the Son of God, he said,

 

And I will sit at God’s right hand,

And midst the clouds of heaven stand.

 

Then Jesus’ shirt the Romans tore

And cried, Why need we hear still more?

 

We need no witness to declare

This man condemned as a traitor.

 

The crowd cried out that he should die,

Taunted him, saying, Prophesy!

 

Many there spat and struck his face,

And the soldiers applied more force. 

 

And now to Peter came a maid,

She looked him up and down and said,

 

Were you not with the Nazarene?

He said, I know not what you mean!

 

And in the gateway yet again

She showed him to some other men.

 

They said, You are a Galilean.

He said, I do not know this man.

 

As if to drive away the night,

The cock crowed, at the breaking light.

 

Peter recalled his Master’s word

And wept at the accusing bird.

 

 

15.

 

As the bright sun rose hot and high

Romans decided he would die.

 

They tied the ropes both strong and taut

And brought Jesus before Pilate.

 

Pilate a simple answer sought:

Are you King of the Jews, or not?

 

This is what Pilate tried to know;

But Jesus answered, You say so. 

 

And when a judge ’gainst Jesus spoke,

Pilate asked, Why don’t you speak?

 

For Jesus ’twas a silent cause,

So Pilate wondered who he was. 

 

At the feast there would be set loose

One pris’ner, whom the crowd would choose.

 

And there was a murderer there,

Barrabas, whom the crowd called for.

 

So Pilate asked, What shall I do?

This man is called “King of the Jews.”

 

What evil has he done, that I

Should give you him to crucify?

 

But they would only rage and shout.

And so he let Barabbas out,

 

And Jesus he did scourge and whip,

And to the soldiers handed up.

 

They dressed him in a purple cloak

And spat upon him front and back,

 

Then they knelt down as if to pray,

And laughed, and mocked his majesty.

 

They stripped the purple cloak away

And led him out into the day,

 

And in their ranks followed behind

As through the narrow streets they wound.

 

Then from the crowd a passerby

They forced to help them crucify;

 

Simon Cyrene was his name,

Who dragged the cross and shared the blame.

 

Up to the place of skulls they went

And set the cross upon the mount.

 

They lifted Jesus to the rail;

The mallet pounded home the nail;

 

And at crude games of chance they sat,

That all his clothes they might allot.

 

And there they did a sign dispose:

HAIL ALL HAIL THE KING OF THE JEWS.

 

Robbers on either side they hung,

To die there in the morning sun.

 

And those who passed would wag their heads,

Repeating what they thought he said,

 

Rebuild the temple in three days!

Now save yourself, and earn our praise!

 

So all who saw him did revile,

And greet his death with easy smile.

 

And then at noon a darkness fell

Which lingered till they heard him call,

 

My God hast thou forsaken me?
And they thought soon that he would die.

 

And then as his last breath was spent,

The curtain of the temple rent,

 

And a centurion, standing by

Who saw him in that moment die,

 

Turned to everyone and he said,

This poor man was the Son of God.

 

Women were watching from afar

Waiting his body to prepare.

 

Joseph of Arimathea came

To take the corpse out to a tomb.

 

Pilate asked, Is he really dead?

So he is, the centurion said. 

 

So Joseph took the body down,

And wrapt a linen cloth around.

 

The women came, took him from there,

His lifeless flesh yet unprepared,

 

Laid in his tomb, cut from the rock.

They brought a stone the door to block.

 

 

16.

 

After the sabbath, the women woke;

Some oil and spices with them took,

 

So to anoint and so prepare

The body that was lying there.

 

Outside, the day had scarce begun,

With chill and glimmer of first sun.

 

Their preparations were not done,

But who would roll away the stone?

 

Then they saw the stone was rolled back:

The tomb was open, wide and black.

 

Inside the tomb a young man sat

Wearing a robe of gleaming white.

 

Do not be astonished, he said

Jesus of Naz’reth is not dead.

 

See the dark place where He did lay:

Go now and tell all Galilee!

 

He is now waiting for you there,

As He has told you long before.

 

To Mary Magd’lene He came first,

From whom He seven demons cast.

 

But when she said He was alive

There was not one who would believe.

 

To others He appeared thereafter

But their reports met jeers and laughter.

 

Then once, th’eleven met to eat,

And He with them at table sat,

 

He urged them all to keep the faith

That burst the bonds of sin and death. 

 

Go you into the world and preach.

This word to all creation teach:

 

They who believe are washed of sin;

Who turns away will be condemned.

 

Cast out the demons in my name;

This truth in every tongue proclaim.

 

Lift all the serpents up on high;

Drink of their poison harmlessly.

 

Lay your hands upon all the sick;

Help the poor folk with all they lack.

 

And after they had shared the cup,

Lord Jesus, He was taken up

 

To sit at the right hand of God.

And they went forth and preached the Word,

 

And God confirmed them with this sign.

This is the truth, I swear. Amen.