Mark 14:10-11, 26-31, 72 (NRSV)
10 Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. 11 When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him. 26 When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 27 And Jesus said to them, "You will all become deserters; for it is written, 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.' 28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee." 29 Peter said to him, "Even though all become deserters, I will not." 30 Jesus said to him, "Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times." 31 But he said vehemently, "Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you." And all of them said the same. 72 At that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, "Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times." And he broke down and wept.
A French priest said it actually happened to him. An armed robber accosted him in a dark alley in Paris and demanded his wallet. As the priest opened his coat to reach for the wallet, the thief caught sight of his clerical collar and immediately apologized. “Never mind, Father, I didn’t realize you were a priest. I’ll be on my way.” The priest was relieved and good naturedly offered the thief a cigar. “No thank you, Father. I gave up smoking for Lent.”
No matter how sincere our intentions, they often fail in light of Christ’s demands for faithfulness and discipleship. Neither Peter nor Judas realized how difficult it was going to be to follow Jesus to the very end. How many times has the cock crowed in our lives? How many times has thirty dollars in hand looked better than the thought of a life-time of commitment?
Human nature is a funny thing. No one (except maybe Jesus) ever imagined that Judas would betray his Lord and master and Peter would deny knowing him. History tells a different story. We shouldn’t be surprised that people generally take the easy route. Like Peter and Judas, we all have that in us which says it is better to survive life than to lose it. Never mind that Jesus says, “Those who seek to save their life will lose it.”
It seems that even though we have the best of intentions, our courage, our faith, and our dedication fail in the midst of pressure and adversity. Henri Nouwen was on target when he said
Where the devil is, God is not far away; and where God shows His presence, the demon does not remain absent very long. At the most unlikely moment, when we least expect it—usually when we are flush with spiritual certainty and victory; when the vision is clear and all the pieces have fit together—it happens. There is a dilemma to resolve, a crisis to confront, a crucial decision to be made and once more we meet the tempter.
For Judas, the tempter was thirty pieces of silver. For Peter it was denial in order to save his own neck. Who or what is your tempter? As the battle wages, who wins, the tempter or God? Think about it.
QUESTIONS FOR THE WEEK
Consider journaling your response to these questions:
As Jesus prepared for the Passover meal (a time laden with the imagery of sacrificed lambs and shed blood) He did not stop teaching and showing his followers how to live (John 13:1-17, The Story, p. 367-368). Describe the act of service Jesus offered his disciples (including Judas) and how they responded.
How does your willingness to serve reveal Jesus’ presence in your life and in the world? What is one unexpected act of service you can offer in the coming week?
Before Jesus’ arrest, He took three of His friends and went to a garden to pray (Matthew 26:36-46; The Story, p. 372-373). What do you learn about Jesus in this passage? What do you learn about God? What do you learn about His followers?
The religious and political leaders joined together to arrest and crucify Jesus (Matthew 26:57-67; 27:1-10; John 18:28-19:16; The Story, p. 374-377). How did they treat Jesus and how did He respond?
Peter, one of Jesus’ closest friends and disciples, vigorously denied know Jesus (Luke 22:54-62; The Story, p. 375). How do you think Jesus felt about Peter’s denial? How did Peter feel? In what ways do we deny Jesus and act like we don’t know him?
What do you learn about the heart of Jesus as He hung on the cross (Luke 23:32-43; John 19:25-27; The Story, p. 378-379)?
As you take time to pray, here are some ideas to get you started:
Thank Jesus for loving you so much that He would give himself up for our benefit.
Praise God for sending His Holy Spirit to be with us and in us. Ask that the work of the Spirit would fill your life.
Pray as Jesus prayed in the Garden, “Not my will but thine alone.”