PREPARE TO LISTEN. Begin with the usual silence and then pray: O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever. (Psalm 107:1
READ: Mark 14:26-31. Station 2: Mt of Olives. ‘Deserters’
26When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 27And Jesus said to them, ‘You will all become deserters; for it is written, “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.” 28But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.’ 29Peter said to him, ‘Even though all become deserters, I will not.’ 30Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ 31But he said vehemently, ‘Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.’ And all of them said the same.
After the closing hymn, Jesus left the city for the Mt of Olives on the city’s outskirts, the second place in our journey through the six ‘stations.’ Many believed that the Mount of Olives would be where the triumphant ‘messiah’ would begin his work of restoring Israel to independence and greatness. No doubt the disciples were excited to go there, until Jesus spoke, warning of ‘betrayal’ in abrupt and no-nonsense words: “You will all become deserters.” The community he’d spent three years building up was about to fall apart as they would all desert their leader. Lest this sound all wrong to his readers, Mark points to scripture (Zechariah 13:7) to assure them that Jesus’ arrest and the disciples’ desertion wasn’t a random tragedy. It was anticipated. Messiah’s end goal would not be thwarted by human error, incompetence or fear.
The story isn’t all depressing. There are also words of hope in Jesus’ warning. Yes, the Shepherd (Jesus) will be stricken and the sheep will scatter, but, says Jesus, “after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Jesus will go back to the place where he started and again meet there with his disciples. (This message of hope is repeated by Mark in his brief resurrection story (see 16:7).)
The disciples, however, don’t get it. Peter was the most vocal and most confident of his loyalty to Jesus alone. The others will desert, but not Peter. Not only did Jesus repeat his prediction of their desertion but gets personal and brutal. Not only would Peter desert with the others, he would also verbally deny Jesus three times. Once again Peter is adamant, using language Mark describes as ‘vehement,’ that he’d never desert Jesus.
The way of Jesus is one of self-denial. Peter was so sure he was ready for it. He’d deny himself, never Jesus. He got it dead wrong.
The remarkable aspect of this story is Jesus’ reaction to Peter’s bravado. He gently warns, twice, yet never rebukes or dismisses Peter. He can patiently wait for Peter to learn by experience. What picture of Jesus does this ‘paint’ for you? How does this picture match up with your image of Jesus?
RESPOND TO JESUS IN PRAYER
Lord Jesus you are gracious and merciful, patiently waiting for us to learn by experience and return to you for forgiveness and healing. Bind my wandering heart to you today. Amen.
GO AND LIVE IN OBEDIENCE TO CHRIST, who is always forgiving.