Mark 14:27–34, 37–38, 43, 48–50comment (0)
October 15, 2009
By Michael Wilson
Related Scripture: Mark 14:27–34, 37–38, 43, 48–50
Bible Studies for Life
Director, Resource Center for Pastoral Excellence, Samford University
The Hero Betrayed
Mark 14:27–34, 37–38, 43, 48–50
A group of students and ministers gathered on Samford University’s campus earlier this year to dialogue with a popular author and leader of Ikon, a community of faith located in Northern Ireland. Ikon uses unusual methods to reach people who regard Christian faith with skepticism. Compared with evangelism efforts churches use here, its approach is provocative and radical. Peter Rollins, coordinator of Ikon, commented, “It may be necessary to betray your faith in order to keep it.” Not surprisingly, his comments generated lively conversation among students and ministers who care passionately about missions and evangelism. He explained that for some, the Christian life is no more than a social activity done on Sundays. For these people, the practice of faith is too comfortable and routine, without engagement with the hurts and hopes of people, especially those who have low regard for Christianity. In his view, such Christians must betray — go against — their comfortable, out-of-touch faith in favor of faith that actively pursues obedience to the call of Christ. This Sunday’s lesson presents betrayal in a different context. Jesus’ closest disciples were tempted to abandon Him. By considering their experiences, we will discover how we can be more aware of our own vulnerability to go against the way of Christ.
Unaware of the Danger (27–31)
“You will all fall away” was another attempt by Jesus to inform the disciples of their vulnerability when challenged openly about their faith. Their statements, “Surely not I?” offered at the Last Supper, were reinforced by their insistence of devotion even at the risk of their own lives. Our word “scandal” comes from the Greek word used by Mark for “you will fall away.” It is interesting to note the same word is used in Mark’s account of the Parable of the Sower. In that passage, the Word describes seeds that “fall away” because of persecution and trouble (Mark 4:17). We see later how the disciples did indeed “fall away” under the threat of persecution. Sometimes even the best, most confident intentions don’t hold up in the presence of hard realities.
Asleep in the Danger (32–34, 37–38)
After situating the disciples in one area of the Gethsemane garden, Jesus asked Peter, James and John to go with Him to a secluded spot. Curiously neither the “Get thee behind me, Satan” rebuke of Peter (Mark 8:33) nor the selfish “sit at your right and … left in your glory” request of James and John seems to have hindered their relationship with Jesus (Mark 10:37). Each vowed to be faithful regardless of the challenge or threat. Perhaps this is why Jesus asked them to accompany Him. Or perhaps He wanted them to follow His lead and prepare for the trials they, too, would face just hours later. The Gospel writers rarely call attention to Jesus’ emotional frame of mind. In this case, Mark makes clear Jesus was visibly troubled by the burdens He faced. Even in the presence of Jesus’ alarming emotional state, His closest companions slept when they should have been praying.
Fleeing Danger (43, 48–50)
The people Jesus came to save became the people who refused His ministry and betrayed and crucified Him. These were people for whom Jesus sacrificed everything. Is it any wonder He was troubled and sorrowful while praying at Gethsemane? The word “rabbi” at the time Mark’s Gospel was written had yet to become the title for Jewish teachers of the Law. It was, however, a term used to show respect and honor. Two words are used in the text of Scripture to describe the kiss offered by Judas (45). Another rendering could be “and kissed Him warmly.” Betrayal by a friend in the presence of a heavily armed crowd sanctioned by the Jewish authorities was enough to make His Jewish followers scatter in fear. Mark noted one of the fleeing followers left behind his clothing and ran away naked. Nakedness in Scripture is a sign of shame. How ironic that one who left behind all things to follow Jesus chose to leave Him behind when presented a true test of faith and devotion. We face such tests every day and must choose how we will respond.