A second sermon in a series of walking with Jesus towards the cross. The passage is taken from Mark 14. Preached in the North Peace February 28, 2021.
27 “You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written:
“‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.’
28 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”
It is God who scatters, and God who gathers. After instituting the Lord’s Supper and making their apostolic office one of unity, after they travelled together from the Passover singing a hymn, our Lord shows again how all of Israel’s prophecy has a Christological layer. The passage Jesus quotes is from Zechariah, and it proclaims that a day will come when a fountain will be opened in the house of David for the cleansing of sin, but on that day the sheep will be scattered, and that scattering will refine them like fire, and that God will say to them that they are his people, and that he is their God.
29 Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.”
30 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.”
31 But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the others said the same.
Peter’s passion here is intense. He desires deeply to be close to Jesus, but that desire is exactly what keeps him away. There is a kind of selfish love that is all about us, the kind of love that is blind, the kind of love that does not see and cannot hear. Jesus is God. Jesus is telling Peter he will be scattered, but Peter will not hear what he has no control over. We may want to commit, all of God’s people want to commit, but our ability to commit is something God works in us, and then only for a season. Remember that we are but dust.
32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
39 Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. 40 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.
41 Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
Jesus’s call to stay awake and pray with him resonates throughout time. Jesus is crucially the Intercessor, every time we pray he is praying now with us for he sits now at the right hand of the Father, the work accomplished, interceding for the faithful. He asks the church to keep vigil until his coming again but our heavy eyes grow dim, we forget Jesus, we forget to pray, we fall asleep. In the Middle Ages this is why monks woke up in the middle of the night to pray. I have deeply enjoyed Holy Weeks in churches that keep a vigil of constant prayer from the Maundy Thursday service until the Saturday midnight Eucharist in shifts to remember to stay awake one hour with Jesus. We are encouraged to the discipline of regular and vigilant prayer by this passage.
We also see Jesus’s submission to the Father’s will despite his desire to have this cup taken from him. We have that verse “The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” Jesus conquered our flesh and died a willing loving death for us, giving us words for when submission to God’s will may be hard for us. Job said God only if you had human eyes or human flesh you would understand my suffering. He does, and he suffered, and he feared.
43 Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.
44 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” 45 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. 46 The men seized Jesus and arrested him.
Do not think it is only those in open opposition to Christ who are his enemies, here at this crucial moment of history Jesus is betrayed with a kiss by one who affirms his as his teacher.
As the psalmist says “With their mouths they bless, but in their hearts they curse.” Ps. 62:4
Judas has gotten something of a 21st century facelift. Treason has for most of Christian history been considered one of the greatest of sins, to betray one’s liege, one’s promise, the trust of one in authority is a brutal thing. Judas sold Jesus for money because he was jealous that he was being worshipped. The devil entered him and he showed the Sadduccees a secret and quiet way to arrest Jesus without a riot.
47 Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
48 “Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.”
We have this need in us to want to be noble defenders of Christ. This man arises with a sword to defend him, how does Jesus respond? By saying clearly that he is not leading a rebellion, that he does not need our defense. I am reminded of the story of Gideon who tore down the idols of false gods. He was named Zerubabaal which means may baal defend him self. God does not need our defense, he asks us to follow him and give ourselves to him, we do not need to defend his honour. We need to honour him, but he is our defense, we are not his.
50 Then everyone deserted him and fled. 51 A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, 52 he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.
As you can see they all were scattered as Jesus said. May we pray that even as we are scattered by fear and weakness, that Jesus would gather us to him again, that he would give strength to our weak flesh that we may pray with and share in his victory. In Jesus name. Amen.