Our passage for this morning is Mark 14:26-52 (Read)
This week as I was reading this passage & preparing the sermon, I had to dig deep into my own heart and ask some tough questions about my loyalty to Christ.
And as I meditated on them, I believe the Holy Spirit convicted me of my Sins. But what’s amazing is that it opened my eyes to see my folly, and at the same time helped me understand God’s providence for me to help me remain loyal to Him.
As I preach from the same passage this morning, I’m hoping & praying that God would do the same work in your hearts.
In this passage, Mark is telling us the story of how Jesus was betrayed by Judas, one of his twelve disciples. And he also exposes the heart of other disciples who claimed to be loyal to Christ, but when the time came, they all ran away for their lives.
In verse 27 when Jesus tells them that “You will all fall away” as written in the scripture, we see Peter very boldly claims that even if others fall away, I will never fall away. To which Jesus says to him “This very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times”. And again to which Peter makes an, even more, bolder declaration saying “If I must die with you, I will not deny you”, and all the others joined with him and made the same claims.
But as the story progresses, we see that on the very same night when a crowd of people with swords and clubs come to arrest Jesus, the same disciples who made big claims ran for their lives.
And among them was also a young boy who ran naked leaving his cloth behind when he was caught.
As I pondered upon what the disciples did, I realised in no way we are different from them. We too make big claims of being a follower of Jesus and show a willingness to do anything from him. Don’t we?
Like, right now if I have to ask you the following questions, think about your answers.
Q. Do we love Jesus?
Q. Do we love Jesus more than ourself?
Q. Do we think under whatever circumstances we may find ourselves in, we will hold fast to Jesus and never leave him?
Q. Are we willing to lay our lives for the sake of Jesus?
I’m sure most of us would easily answer YES to those questions.
If we’re honest, you will all agree with me that there could be moments in our lives where we can end up acting exactly the opposite to what we claim, just like the disciples.
As I was evaluating the reasons why the disciples may have behaved in that way, I thought of three of them.
Fear of Man
The first reason I see is the Fear of Man.
I’m sure they were terrified when they saw crowds of men standing with swords and clubs. If we try and put ourselves in their shoe, I am sure we would be terrified too.
Think about his, what if right now a 100 people turn up in this room with swords. What do you think will be our response? Obviously Fear.
Forget people with swords, we get terrified when people ask questions about our faith and ask why we’re sharing the Gospel. Often times our natural response is to get away from those places.
I remember an occasion when we hosted a business seminar in Mumbai along with a team who came from the US. The goal was to make friends and connect with people. But when one of the speakers, out of the blue decided to speak about his faith, a group of attendees stood up and interrupted the seminar and went and complained to the owner of the facility that we are trying to convert them to Christianity. I remember how terrified I was and all I wanted to do was hide my face somewhere.
Imagine a situation where your unbelieving family members threaten you because of your faith in Jesus, your community people threaten to kill you or your family members because you are a follower of Jesus. When they threaten to throw you out of the community.
I bet it’s not going to be hard. And there is a possibility a lot of us who claim to love Jesus and follow him wholeheartedly will fumble and react just like the disciples.
Love for their present life
The second reason they ran away could be because they loved their present lives so much that they were unwilling to let it go. We all love the life we have, and I’m sure none of us imagines ending it right now or even in the next couple of years.
A situation like that where you are encountered with people who can kill you means losing the precious life we’ve been treasuring all the while. It could mean the end of all our dreams and desires. Dreams of getting married, having children, living in a big life, travelling to places. Why would someone want to lose them?
Think about people who are trapped in the world of fame and fortune that if they claim to be a follower of Jesus, they can lose everything in a moment.
Yes, there is a possibility that our love for our sweet little life would make us react just like the disciples.
The third reason they ran could be because they never expected such a situation to arise. It was an unexpected encounter. The disciples were hoping that Jesus would raise an army and defeat the Roman empire and become their King.
But that is not what they encountered. Instead, the disciples saw Jesus helpless, weak and defeated. Maybe they ran away because they expected something else from Jesus.
We too can encounter unexpected events to happen in our lives. Loss of a family member, loss in business, losing jobs, financial crises, unexpected health issues either with one of our family members or us.
There is a possibility that we can also turn away from Jesus just like the disciples because of the unexpected and sudden events that shake our life of its foundations.
The more I thought about the disciples response against my response in similar situations I was sure that it is possible for me also to turn away from Jesus. Either because of the Fear of Man, love for my own life or because of an unexpected encounter.
And as I was groaning in my heart thinking about my natural responses to such circumstances. I asked God, Lord “How can I love you deeply enough and stay loyal to you until death?”
And, Thankfully I found the answer right there in verse 38 where Jesus finds Peter, James & John sleeping and he says “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
I realized immediately that the greatest providence of God for us in difficult times is God himself.
Jesus takes his disciples to Gethsamane and Mark writes Jesus was greatly distressed and troubled, his soul was sorrowful, even to death because of what was going to happen.
But instead of sitting and worrying about it, Jesus fell to the ground and cried out to the Father, and he even tells the disciples to do the same.
Jesus cries out in prayer saying “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
His natural response in pain was to ask the Father to remove the cup of suffering from him, but immediately after that, he submits himself to God’s sovereignty, knowing that God knows what is best for Him.
He knew that God the Father was seeking to glorify himself. He knew that through his death on the cross God was redeeming back his called ones to himself. He knew that only through his death mankind can find hope of a restored relationship with their creator God.
But three times when Jesus comes to check on the disciples he finds them sleeping and not alert.
I realized as I was reading this passage that our greatest folly which makes us give in to the schemes of the enemy is our failure to stay alert & our inability to pray at all times.
I’m sure that if the disciples had stayed awake and alert and had fervently prayed to God the Father for courage and strength in difficult times, they would have reacted differently.
What is Prayer?
I like to read a quote by John Piper which I believe beautifully summarizes the meaning of prayer.
“Prayer is the open admission that without Christ we can do nothing. And prayer is the turning away from ourselves to God in the confidence that He will provide the help we need. Prayer humbles us as needy and exalts God as wealthy”
Yes, there will be situations in our lives that will look dangerous, we will be hated by men because of your faith in Christ. There will be times when our love for ourselves will be so strong that our bodies will refuse to let go of the things of the world. And yes, there come uncertain and unexpected events that will take us by surprise.
The only way we can stay loyal to Christ and continue in our faith is when our dependence is on God. When we pray and ask God for courage when you are fearful, ask God for strength when you are weak, ask God for patience when you are restless, ask God for joy when you feel sorrowful & ask for wisdom when you are confused.
Jesus said “Whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith”
Brother & sisters let us not make the mistake of relying on our strength and abilities but let us turn to God in all circumstances and rely on His providence, which is God himself.
Let us get rid of all the distractions that keep us from prayer and watching over our lives. Lately, I had to get rid of all my social media accounts. I had to put off all my in-app notifications that bothered me and diverted my attention to things that were less important in life.
I’m trying to be more alert and to be in the moment when I’m at home, in the office and while travelling. Always praying to God in my moments of weakness and struggle.
Ask yourself, what is it that you need to switch off in your life that hinders your prayer life and your inability to depend on God at all times.
Let me list down a couple of things that you may want to think about
– Is it Money, wealth & possession that’s distracting you from praying
– It is Entertainment? On your Phone, On your TV, On your Computer
– Is it unhealthy & ungodly relationships
– Unhealthy/ unplanned s time schedule
– Work responsibilities
– Lustful thoughts and pursuits
If you know what it is, I urge you to repent before God and run towards Him, desiring for Him.
I believe if you do so, everything will go well with you and He will be give you the strength, courage & wisdom to stay loyal to Him till the end of our lives.