Mark 15:6-15 6 Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. 7 And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. 8 And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. 9 And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. 12 And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13 And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” 14 And Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
At this point in the events surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion, Pilate had seen through the chief priests in their accusations against Jesus. It was obvious to the Roman Governor that they were envious of Jesus and wanted him killed (verse 10). Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent. The chief priests were only coming to Pilate because he had the keys of death. As the Romans had conquered Israel they had reserved the death penalty for themselves. Pilate knew that he was being used so he decided that he would take back control of the situation. He would show everyone that he was above the chief priests by exposing their impure motives in having an innocent man killed. In all likelihood Pilate knew that Jesus was well liked by the people. Although most of Jesus’ public ministry was away from Jerusalem in Galilee, Pilate must have heard about Jesus and the crowds that He was attracting. Even in Jerusalem, when Jesus came for the Passover in previous years, it is likely that Pilate was aware of His presence.
The Romans would try to keep the favour of the nations that they had conquered. In Jerusalem, one of the practices that Pilate kept was to release a prisoner during the Passover feast. This was a perfect opportunity for Pilate that backfired on him terribly. Instead of just having Jesus released, Pilate offered up His freedom to the people. There was a crowd watching the trial before Pilate. Surely if Pilate presented a Jew who was a murderer before the people they would choose Jesus. All of the Jews knew that murder was punishable by death by the Old Testament Law. Surely they would not choose a man who was guilty by their own law and deserving of death over a man who was innocent and whose only witnesses for a trial were the chief priests themselves whose selfish motives were to have Jesus killed.
So Pilate brings out Barabbas. There couldn’t have been a more striking contrast than Barabbas with Jesus. In all likelihood Barabbas was a strong and powerful man- a man of great strength and stature. He was likely someone intimidating and cunning and who was able to kill a Roman soldier without much difficulty. He symbolized the strength of this world that only leads to destruction as man is corrupt at the core and is in need of salvation. Then there was Jesus. Isaiah 53:2 is clear that Jesus did not appear to be special in any way. He was unassuming and did not have any form of natural majesty or beauty:
Isaiah 53:2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.
The people had a choice. Would they choose the power of this world and the corruption of the human heart or the one who was not of this world? Would they choose the Savior of the world or the one who represents the destruction of this world? Would they choose the One who has unlimited spiritual blessings and the promise of eternal life or the one who represents eternal death? Who would the people choose? Who would you choose? Pilate thought that the choice was obvious. They should choose Jesus. He had presented this scenario to the people in order that he might gain more favor with the Jews. But the unexpected happened. They did not choose Jesus but Barabbas. By choosing Barabbas the people were declaring that they believed Jesus was guilty. By choosing Barabbas, Pilate lost control of the situation.
Why did the people choose Barabbas? Verse 11 states that the chief priests stirred up the crowds. The crowd can always be persuaded. How foolish is mankind that we do not want to think for ourselves. Most people want to follow the crowd. It doesn’t matter what direction the crowd is going. It is no different from anything that is popular or anything that is in the mainstream. If it is popular it must be good. If most people believe something then it must be the truth. There is no better example of why we need to think for ourselves than the crowd choosing Barabbas over Jesus. But there was a greater reason why the crowd chose Barabbas. Early on in Jesus’ ministry He did not attach Himself to the crowd that began to follow Him. They were only following Him because of the miracles that He performed. The Apostle John writes:
John 2:24-25 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.
In the events leading up to the crucifixion God was revealing the condition of the hearts of men. The Holy Spirit’s restraining influence upon the unbelieving world was withdrawn and God exposed the true condition of their hearts. All of mankind tries to hide in some way the wickedness that is in their soul. Most people don’t even realize how wicked they truly are. There are many restraints in this world that prevent mankind from revealing their true condition. But God can, at any moment, remove these restraints. This is what He did at Jesus’ crucifixion. The true condition of the hearts of the people in the crowd is that they desired evil and not good. They would rather choose a murderer over the Savior. They loved their sin and didn’t want to be set free from it. The motivation of the crowd that followed Jesus at the beginning of His ministry was impure and at the crucifixion it was revealed what really was in man.
The condition of Pilate’s heart was also revealed. In spite of seeing the wickedness in all that was transpiring he was unwilling to do what was right. In verse 15 we read that he delivered Jesus to be crucified in order to satisfy the crowd. He was not a true judge but a crowd pleaser. He cared more about trying to preserve his power than to let Jesus go. He tried to claim he was innocent as he washed his hands of the situation (Matthew 27:24) but he was still guilty.
Do you choose Jesus or would you rather have Barabbas? It is only as we see the true wickedness of our own hearts that we will ever see a need for Jesus.
Pastor Murray Hack
Mark 15:1-5 1 And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate. 2 And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” 3 And the chief priests accused him of many things. 4 And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.” 5 But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.
There are many people who think that it is always God’s will to bless the Christian. Death and sickness and struggles are against the will of God and prosperity and blessings are always His will. The Christian message must always be positive and good and we are always to be happy and rejoicing is the message that they preach and believe. But where does the cross fit into such false beliefs? While it is true that in eternity all sin and evil will be removed forever, it is unwise to think that God can never use evil and suffering to glorify His Name. In fact you could make the argument that the evil and suffering experienced by the Christian reveals the glory of God in a greater way than prosperity and blessings and even miracles. For it is always easy to praise God when times are good and when He has done the miraculous but how you respond when you are being crushed often shows more clearly whether you are born again or not. The glory of God revealed in the suffering Christian is more likely to cause amazement to the unbelieving world than any blessings that we may receive here and now. Many unbelievers are blessed with prosperity and believe that they can “buy” their salvation so any external blessings that God may give to a Christian are often of no interest to them. But they do notice the suffering saint. They are puzzled by him or her. Their behaviour is truly unexpected and foreign. This is clearly seen in Jesus Christ in the events surrounding His crucifixion and the events leading up to His crucifixion. There is no doubt that the glory of God was revealed in Jesus such that even unbelievers took notice.
The interactions between Jesus and Pilate are particularly fascinating. Here you have two great leaders. Pilate was a Roman and he ruled over Judea- the section of Israel which included Jerusalem. The Romans had appointed figurehead Jewish kings over the other regions in Israel (Herod in Galilee and Philip in Ituraea). This background is described in the book of Luke:
Luke 3:1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene
This encounter between Jesus and Pilate occurred after the chief priests had completed their council meeting to find some way to have Jesus killed (Judas Iscariot had betrayed Jesus and led men to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane). Jesus admitted directly in front of the chief priests that He is the Son of God and therefore He claimed to be equal with God. Based on Jesus’ own words they accused Him of blasphemy which was punishable by death (Mark 14:62-64) but as the Romans had taken away the Jewish authority related to the death penalty they had to get approval from Pilate. In this present meeting and Roman trial, Pilate would have been closely observing the behavior of both the chief priests and Jesus in order to determine guilt or innocence as well as the facts. There was no lawyer present on Jesus’ behalf (everyone had abandoned Him) and the chief priests themselves were the witnesses of what Jesus had spoken that led them to the charge of blasphemy. There was very little evidence beyond spoken testimony. Without a doubt, Pilate would have known about Jesus entering into Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt just days earlier accepting the praise of the people as they worshipped the coming Christ. As Pilate questioned Jesus whether He is the king of the Jews, Jesus admits to this truth. Pilate would have thought to himself, “Was this ‘King of the Jews’ a threat to Rome and to himself?” Having the title of a king in and of itself was not an issue. After all, Herod was declared to be a king as well as his brother Philip. The issue was whether Jesus was a threat to Rome and ultimately to Pilate himself who was governor over Judea. If Rome so decided they could appoint Jesus as a king in Judea ultimately replacing Pilate’s position. The chief priests then hurled all the mud that they could against Jesus before Pilate hoping that something will stick. In all their accusations they reveal the true condition of their hearts. The chief priests were not an impartial council looking for the Law of God to be fulfilled. They had come before Pilate filled with anger and hatred to have Jesus killed and Pilate knew it. They were enemies of Jesus and would do anything to have Him killed. What would Pilate do?
It was Jesus’ behavior that was particularly shocking and amazing to Pilate. Jesus acted in complete self control. He didn’t respond in emotion or anger. In fact, in His own defense He said nothing. He was silent. In spite of all the anger and the hatred spewed against Him by the chief priests Jesus was calm and did not act against them. The chief priests would have been doing everything they could to cause Jesus to come against them and to give them grounds to convince Pilate of His guilt deserving death but Jesus could not be moved. Jesus acted in the most perfect manner against the most unwarranted evil. Any other person would have attacked the chief priests in return for their false accusations and their threatenings but not Jesus. In every way Jesus acted like a king unlike any other. Pilate had never witnessed such a leader like Jesus before. Jesus was not seeking power like your typical earthly leader. Jesus already had all power and authority so He had no reason to try and seek it. He is not only the king of the Jews but of all of mankind. He was far above Pilate and the chief priests but willingly subjected Himself to their judgment as under God as it was to lead to the salvation of mankind. He was more committed to the cross than the chief priest’s desire to have Him killed. In this trial before Pilate you can see the glory of God revealed in Jesus. He acted in a manner so different from what anyone would expect when surrounded by such evil and corruption.
Do you see the king of glory revealed in these events of history recorded almost two thousand years ago? Are you amazed at how Jesus Christ acted in every instance of His earthly life and ministry? Jesus was in complete control in every situation that He faced. Are you in awe of Him? Jesus’ actions should give us hope that if we are born again by the Spirit of God that He too will lead and guide us no matter how difficult or uncertain the situation that we may face. But they also reveal that He is far above any man. He is God in the flesh who came to this world to save us by dying upon the cross in our place to pay the penalty that we deserve. Do you worship Him? Is He your rock and your salvation? Look to Him as your only hope.
Pastor Murray Hack
Mark 14:66-72 66 And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. 69 And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” 72 And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
The Apostle Peter was the most externally passionate member of the disciples. He was almost always the first to speak. He was willing to act in faith in response to Jesus. When Jesus had walked across the water to the disciples in the midst of a storm Peter also walked on the water in faith to meet Jesus before he began to sink (Matthew 14:22-33). He was the first to respond that Jesus is the Christ when Jesus questioned them about His true identity (Mark 8:27-30). And He was the first to claim that He would be willing to die with Jesus as the reality of Jesus’ death had finally sunk in and the disciples all understood that He would in fact die (Mark 14:31). But here, Peter failed Jesus in dramatic fashion. In spite of the fact that Jesus had just told Peter hours earlier that he would deny Jesus three times, Peter was unable to prevent himself from doing so.
Mark 14:30 And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.”
Why? What was going on in Peter that made him incapable of remembering his relationship with Jesus? Did he get amnesia? Who forgets the one they claim to be fully devoted to and only hours before declared such a devotion that he would be willing to die for Jesus? Peter and the rest of the disciples had given up everything to follow Jesus and now Judas Iscariot had betrayed Jesus to death. Was everything falling apart? Were these men that Jesus had poured Himself into over three years all going to fail Him? Yes. But Jesus would yet restore them.
As Peter denied Jesus he was alone. He could not see the will of God in his situation. He was hopeless and afraid. He could not handle what was going on with Jesus and Peter was in a state of confusion because of his own actions. Jesus had just been arrested. Peter had tried to defend Jesus with a sword but only made the situation worse. Jesus had prevented the disciples from being arrested with Him but surely they would be after Peter for what he had done in cutting off the high priest’s servant’s ear (Mark 14:47). But Peter had to know what was happening with Jesus. He would follow but from a distance. He was compelled to be in the very place where Jesus was. And that place was in the presence of the high priest. Surely the high priest would hear what he had done. Surely the servant of the high priest would condemn Peter even though Jesus had healed his ear. Peter was guilty for coming against the high priest. He had no defense. But it was done in darkness. Did they recognize him?
Peter never should have drawn his sword. It is hard to know the full weight of the guilt that Peter felt in this moment because of his actions with the sword versus his abandonment of Jesus and the powers of darkness that seemed to be victorious over Jesus. But one thing is certain: any time you seek vengeance your conscience will not be clean. You will need to look over your back and your own thoughts of what could happen will consume you. Peter was already in an extremely stressful situation in seeing His Saviour be taken away in chains. But he only added to his despair by drawing the sword.
Romans 12:19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
Peter tried the best that he could to hide his true identity. As he watched Jesus in the mock trial before the Jewish council he tried to blend in but he could not. One of the servant girls of the high priest recognized his accent. The people from Galilee in northern Israel had a different accent than those around Jerusalem. Everyone knew that Jesus’ disciples were from Galilee (except for Judas Iscariot who was from Judea). Perhaps the servant girl had seen Peter with Jesus at another time. Irregardless she correctly identified him as a follower of Jesus. Peter’s cover had been blown. He could not be found out. What to do? Peter did what he thought was the only option- to deny Jesus. When challenged three times he gave the same response- that he did not know Jesus and he was so emphatic in his response that he was willing to invoke a curse upon himself by swearing, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” (verse 71).
What was the result of all this? This passionate disciple who claimed that he was willing to die for Jesus had denied any associate with Him. As he heard the rooster crow twice he remembered Jesus’ words and broke down and wept. He had failed. In the next events leading up to the crucifixion and Jesus’ burial, Peter would not be watching closely. He would be in hiding wallowing in shame and despair. But God was not yet done with him for Jesus had declared previously: Mark 14:27-28 27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, 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.”
Jesus was pruning His disciples in a manner that He had never done before. He was removing the filth and the mire within them as they came to see their sin that they were blind to recognize before. As Jesus was going to the cross He was also purifying His disciples. Jesus would restore Peter. He would become an apostle. But at this point he was brought very low.
Do you have such a devotion to Jesus Christ? Are you willing to follow Him to the cross? No one will do so if they don’t know the love of God or if they have not tasted His redeeming work. Peter had given up everything to follow Jesus. Have you? But once you do, this is only the beginning. You are a new creation. The old must pass away. Jesus Christ will lead you to a place where he will refine you through and through. He will show you what sin remains. He will bring you low but then, when you repent, he will restore your soul. Then, He will raise you up!
Pastor Murray Hack
Mark 14:53-65 53 And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. 54 And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire. 55 Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. 56 For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. 57 And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” 59 Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. 60 And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” 61 But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” 62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” 63 And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? 64 You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. 65 And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows.
Jesus had just been arrested after the betrayal of one of His disciples: Judas Iscariot. Now how would they justify having Jesus killed legally? They could not just murder Him. This would look bad against the chief priests and the elders and the scribes and ultimately they could be put to death themselves for such actions. This would also be an obvious breaking of the Law that the religious leaders claimed to obey and enforce as judges within the nation of Israel. They had spiritual authority in Israel even though they had been conquered by the Romans. But they did not have the authority to kill anyone. To have someone killed they had to get approval from the Romans. How could they justify having Jesus killed by their own laws and also convince the Romans that this was the right thing to do? Then there was the problem of the people and the crowds that were fascinated by all that Jesus would do including the many miracles. He had recently raised Lazarus from the dead not far from Jerusalem (John 11:38-44) and the people in the city would have heard of this great miracle. Although Jesus had been arrested there were many obstacles that needed to be overcome in order to kill Him.
How can you convince everyone that it is a good thing to kill someone who is perfect? How can you justify by the laws within your country to have someone killed who never broke the law? Jesus never sinned. No matter how the religious leaders tried to trap Him or trick Him Jesus always responded perfectly and He always obeyed God’s Law perfectly. He often corrected the religious leaders in Israel who had misinterpreted the Law showing that He knew the Law perfectly as the author of the Law. So it was unsurprising that as the chief priests and the whole council tried to find anyone who could bring a testimony against Jesus by which they could have Him killed legally, they found none.
The only option to have someone killed who is innocent is to get false witnesses. Many bore false witness against Jesus but their testimony did not agree (verse 56). If these false witnesses did not sound believable and if their testimonies did not agree then it would be obvious to everyone that the religious leaders were just trying to use their positions of authority to have Jesus killed. There is no way that the Romans would accept this argument and the Jewish leaders knew it. What could they do? If they could not come up with an imminent solution even though they had successfully arrested Jesus, the opportunity to have Him killed would slip through their fingers and Jesus would be released and His influence would only increase. When the high priest questioned Jesus about these false witnesses He only remained silent. I can imagine the anxiety rising in the hearts of all those who wanted Jesus killed as they tried and tried to come up with a solution to justify killing Jesus but found none.
But the time had come whereby Jesus would die. His hour was at hand and He would fulfill everything that He had promised God the Father. Jesus was in complete control of even this dark and evil and wicked trial. When questioned again by the high priest, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?,” Jesus replies, “I am.” He declares directly to them, in the hearing of everyone at the council of the judges of Israel, that He is indeed the Christ. Why was this so significant? Because no man can claim to be equal with God. No man can claim to be equal with the Creator Himself. God is sooo far above man, especially man in his sinful condition. But Jesus of Nazareth is indeed equal with God. This is the truth and a truth which cannot be denied especially when anyone examines the Scriptures revealing the life of Jesus Christ as He walked upon this earth in order to pay the penalty for all of our sins. And yet the religious council did deny this. These words were all that they needed to have Jesus killed. They could accuse Jesus of blasphemy and they themselves were the witnesses for the Law says:
Leviticus 24:16 Whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death.
Never before did Jesus answer directly to the crowds who followed Him or to the religious leaders that He was the Christ. He did reveal this to others in secret. Jesus knew that He could be accused of blasphemy and put to death for admitting this directly. He always spoke and acted in a manner that revealed that He is the Christ but never gave an opportunity for the accusation of blasphemy until now. But now He spoke directly to those with the ultimate spiritual authority- the Jerusalem council. This was the last place He should have said this if He did not intend to die. But that, of course, was Jesus’ intent. Jesus gave the council the only means by which they could have Him killed- an admission from His own mouth.
But at the same time, as Jesus directly declared that He is indeed the Christ, He also condemned all those in the council who would not believe in Him. He said, “You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” This was a statement of judgment speaking of Jesus’ second coming (Mark 13:26). Every unbeliever will see Jesus in all His glory one day but by then it will be too late. They will be eternally condemned when they see Jesus. They will be condemned for denying Him as these religious leaders denied Jesus as the Christ. Can you recognize Jesus as the Christ or do you still deny Him? Can you see how perfectly Jesus responded even in the moments leading up to His death? No one but God in the flesh could act in such an amazing way! Believe in Him!
Pastor Murray Hack
Mark 14:43-52 43 And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. 44 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard.” 45 And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him. 46 And they laid hands on him and seized him. 47 But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 48 And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” 50 And they all left him and fled. 51 And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, 52 but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.
At the Last Supper much earlier in the evening, Jesus had revealed to the twelve disciples that one of them would betray Him. Jesus wanted each of the disciples to examine their own hearts and to recognize that any one of them was capable of betraying Him if they did not continually seek Him. The Christian life is not a life where we can seek Jesus once or when it is easy or convenient and then live for ourselves. No! It requires a continual seeking and a continual dependence upon God for we are all prone to returning to the evil ways that we all once knew and loved if we do not continually grow in holiness. We must examine Jesus Christ for who He really is and what He has done for us in His death upon the cross to pay the penalty for our sins and to provide a new life for us in Him. We must enter into salvation through repentance and faith but our salvation is also dependent upon our continual pursuit of God.
Judas Iscariot did not pursue Jesus Christ in this way. He was willing to betray the Christ to save his own skin and tried to make the most of a situation where he felt trapped as there was a real threat that he could be killed for following Jesus. Beforehand he had agreed to hand over Jesus to the high priests for money. The boldness of His betrayal is almost beyond comprehension as he gives those with him the sign of a kiss to identify who Jesus of Nazareth is. The darkness within the garden of Gethsemane must have been great such that it was hard to recognize who was who in the dark. Judas Iscariot did not want any mistake or confusion to occur in the darkness as he betrayed Jesus. He could have hid in the background and pointed out from a distance who Jesus was as He was with the eleven in Gethsemane but if the wrong person was arrested what would happen to him? I’m sure Judas Iscariot feared Jesus but also the chief priests who would have come against him if he was unsuccessful. He would betray Jesus to His face as well as in the presence of the eleven disciples. He would never again see them face to face as the devil would then lead him to hang himself (Matthew 27:3-10). His betrayal would ultimately lead to his own destruction and death and this will be nothing compared to the judgment he awaits when he faces Jesus Christ in the final judgment.
Even more surprising is not Judas Iscariot’s betrayal but rather Jesus’ response to His arrest and to the actions of His disciples. It can be so hard to have any empathy or compassion for a known enemy as they stand opposite to the side that you have taken. During times of war it isn’t difficult to be conditioned to fight against the enemy that you cannot see or the enemy who is different from you. Perhaps they speak another language or have a different skin colour. It is easy in a sense to dehumanize someone who doesn’t view things the same as you do and to hate them. But the hatred against someone who betrays you whom you know and trust and whom you would consider your friend is much more intense as it is personal. When Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus with a kiss he not only betrayed Jesus but every single one of the disciples. I do not doubt that every one of the eleven would have killed Judas Iscariot that very night if given the opportunity. It is more than likely that the fisherman Peter, who was not so good at yielding a sword, intended to kill Judas Iscariot and ended up cutting off the ear of the servant of the high priest. It is possible he attacked whomever tried to arrest Jesus but it is also extremely likely that he turned in a rage upon Judas Iscariot. How could he! How could one of Jesus’ closest friends betray Him? Just think of the anger that the eleven disciples felt against Judas Iscariot.
But Jesus did not permit any of His disciples to respond to His arrest in violence. He in fact performed His final miracle of healing to one of His enemies- the servant who had just lost his ear because of Peter’s lack of swordsmanship (Luke 22:51). Without the ability to respond in violence the disciples did not know how to respond and so they fled. If only they had prayed as Jesus had commanded them to do earlier. They still did not understand spiritual warfare. Why did Jesus not defend Himself? Ultimately because, as He said, the Scriptures must be fulfilled. Everything He did was in obedience to the Father but also to fulfill what had been prophesied about Him by the Old Testament prophets. He must go to the cross. His time had come.
But more specifically with the enemies who came to arrest Jesus, Jesus wanted them yet to be saved. God allows evil to be carried out upon this earth to reveal the wickedness in the hearts of those who carry out those evil actions. Any time someone does evil the condition of their heart is exposed. Any person can be convinced that they are good and others are evil (the enemies are only those on the other side of the battlefield) but when you see with your own eyes the wicked deeds of your own hands you cannot deny the depravity of your own soul. Your own actions condemn you. They reveal that you are guilty in the sight of God. They reveal that you need a Savior- someone else to provide for your salvation. Your wicked deeds should lead you to Jesus Christ. And, if they do not God will be just in the final judgment to condemn you forever. Every person who was involved in the arrest of Jesus of Nazareth should have known that what they were a part of was wrong and evil. If Jesus had responded in violence they could have justified their actions. His lack of defense proved their guilt in the sight of God.
Jesus Christ did not see those who came to arrest Him as His enemies. He viewed them as lost souls blinded by the devil and unaware of the judgment that they were already under apart from repentance and faith in Him. I would not be surprised if at least one of the men who came to arrest Jesus is now in the Kingdom of God because of the way in which Jesus responded. The true Christian does not see his enemies as the world does. The true Christian sees their enemies as Jesus does and responds with the love of God even in the face of evil. Is this you?
Pastor Murray Hack
Mark 14:32-42 32 And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. 34 And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” 35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” 37 And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? 38 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. 41 And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
On the night before Jesus’ crucifixion, He led His disciples to the olive garden at Gethsemane where they would often go at night. This was the place where Jesus would be betrayed for Judas Iscariot had already left to gather a group of men to arrest Jesus. But before this would happen Jesus had to pass one final test- a proof of the full devotion of the Son of God to the Father. He had to settle things once and for all as the Christ who was to die for you and for me. God cannot die but when the Son of God entered into creation and became the God-man, He could die as He was now fully God and fully man. Why did Jesus have to die? Because as it is stated in Romans 6:23: the wages of sin is death. Upon the cross, Jesus was about to become sin and yet He had never known sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). As our sins were to be placed upon His body as He died upon the cross, Jesus Christ would suffer death as the penalty for our sin. And in turn, through the Covenant of Grace entered into by faith, we can receive His righteousness:
2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
In Gethsemane, on the night before Jesus’ crucifixion, He had to come to terms with becoming sin and dying which meant being separated from His Father. He had never known sin. We sin daily and by nature love to sin. It is only as we are born again by the Spirit of God that we really fight against sin. But not so with Jesus Christ. He entered into creation in the likeness of sinful flesh (Romans 8:3) but without sin. He was perfectly obedient to His Father for over 33 years as He walked upon this earth. And now, as He would go to the cross He would taste the sins of all of mankind throughout all of human history. Only God in the flesh could do such a thing. Can you imagine? To go from living a perfect life to knowing and becoming sin? To taste every single wicked thought and action that you and I have done but not just for us but all of mankind throughout all of history and the sins of mankind yet to come? It is unfathomable the shock this must have been to His soul and His spirit. The magnitude of what Jesus was facing here in Gethsemane is beyond our comprehension! It is no wonder that Jesus’ sweat became drops of blood as He wrestled with the magnitude of what He was about to do (Luke 22:44). As Jesus prayed He was not trying to escape the cross but to fully submit to it. Everything in His earthly life and ministry was to lead Him to the cross and He did not run from it but ran towards it. But because becoming sin was so repulsive to Jesus and as a result of Him becoming the sin bearer He would have to suffer the wrath of His Father and be separated from His Father for the first time in all of eternity as He died upon the cross, Jesus wrestling here in Gethsemane with what He was about to do only further demonstrates His absolute perfection. He loved the Father so much that He did not want to be separated from Him. He hated sin so much that He did not want to become sin. And yet for you and for me He did it. How amazing is the love of Jesus Christ for you and for me! How could He show such great love for such wretched sinners like you and like me? And yet how could anyone reject Him for what He has done? Truly those who reject Jesus Christ deserve to be punished eternally for rejecting such amazing love!
But what were the disciples going through at this point? Jesus brings Peter, James, and John near Him as He faces this final test before He is arrested. He asks them to watch and pray. Why? So that they will not enter into temptation (verse 38). And yet they fall asleep. Three times! Jesus was facing the greatest struggle that He had ever faced and the disciples slept and yet they had thought that they were ready to rule in His Kingdom! They demonstrated their weakness and their lack of understanding. Why did they fall asleep? We find the answer in Luke’s account of these events:
Luke 22:45 And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow.
Sorrow and grief cause unexpected behavior. And the disciples had much to be sorrowful about at this point. Being asked to pray in the darkness of Gethsemane on the verge of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion is not where the disciples had expected to be at this point. They had expected to soon rule in Jesus’ Kingdom after He had conquered all of His enemies. But their ideas of what the Christ would do were far from the truth. They had followed Jesus to this place of darkness of which they too tasted personally. They had just been told at the Last Supper that one of them would betray Jesus. They had just come to the realization that Jesus would indeed die which they had continually denied when He told them before. The weight of sorrow and confusion that they felt must have been overwhelming. Their minds must have been spinning and what would they pray for in such a state of mind? They did not understand what Jesus was going through. They did not understand how even one of them could betray Jesus. They did not understand why Jesus would die. They did not understand what would happen to them when Jesus died. Would they too be killed? How could this be the end result of following the Savior not only of Israel but all of mankind? They had no hope at this point. The only stability they had was that Jesus was still with them telling them what to do. And so they found rest in the only escape they knew of in that moment- sleep. The weight of what they felt did not lead them to prayer but to sleep. What a contrast with Jesus who in His prayers found victory in His desire to submit in every way to what was required of Him as the Christ and the Saviour of mankind. All hope was not lost for the disciples. God would preserve them and yet restore them. And there is hope for you and for me in Jesus Christ! Do you believe in Him with all your heart? Do you understand?
Pastor Murray Hack
Mark 14:26-31 26 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, 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 they all fall away, I will not.” 30 And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31 But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.
If only the disciples knew where Jesus was leading them to would they have been so ready to follow Him over three years earlier? Every person who is willing to surrender their life to Jesus Christ and to follow Him for the rest of their lives must count the cost. There is a sacrifice required but rarely do we know what this cost will actually mean to us personally. This is by design. It is not that God is trying to trick us who enter into the covenant of grace but there are trials and sacrifices that He will lead us into in the future that if we knew what they were we in all likelihood would run from them instead of running to them. What a difference with the Lord Jesus Christ. Even before entering into creation as a man, the Son of God knew full well what was required of Him. And as the time approached for Him to die for our sins, He did not run from the cross but rather set His face towards it:
Luke 9:51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.
Not so with the disciples. On the night before Jesus’ crucifixion the disciples were reluctant followers. As the events were unfolding this was not what they had expected. Jesus, as the Christ, was supposed to defeat His enemies and rule from Israel from Jerusalem. The disciples were supposed to rule with Him and they fought amongst themselves who might have the greatest place of honor in Jesus’ Kingdom. In spite of the fact that Jesus had told them multiple times before that He would be killed they could not believe this. It did not fit their preconceived ideas of the Christ who was to come and save them.
But, in spite of not believing that Jesus would die, they did fear that they might die. As the religious leaders in Jerusalem became more hostile against Jesus, the disciples had no interest in going anywhere near Jerusalem. They would prefer to stay in Galilee where Jesus had performed most of His public ministry over these three years. As Lazarus had died in Bethany, just outside of Jerusalem, the disciples had no interest in going to see him or his sisters. Jesus had intended to raise Lazarus from the dead foreshadowing His own resurrection and so He took the disciples with Him to Bethany. Thomas replies showing the fear that the disciples had that they might be killed for following Jesus. But Thomas’ statement wasn’t a statement of loyalty to Jesus but rather of pessimistic fear. This fear likely played a major reason as to why Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus.
John 11:16 So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
Still, as they continued to follow Jesus to Jerusalem in the days leading up to His crucifixion, the disciples had been safe. The week had started off great. Jesus had permitted the people to worship Him as the Christ as He entered into the city on a donkey’s colt (Mark 11:1-10). He had cleared the Temple again showing His authority over all the religious leaders (Luke 19:45-47). He had defeated the religious leaders in a war of words in the Temple (Mark 12). But then things went in a direction that the disciples had not anticipated. Jesus prophecies the destruction of Jerusalem (Mark 13) signifying that He was not going to rule from Jerusalem any time soon. Jesus is anointed for His burial (Mark 14:3-9). And then Jesus reveals at the last supper that one of the twelve disciples will betray Him to death. The disciples could no longer deny that Jesus was going to die and so Peter makes the statement in verse 31, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.
On the surface this statement seems like a sign of great bravery. All of the eleven disciples were willing to die if Jesus was going to die (Judas Iscariot had already left to bring the soldiers to arrest Jesus). But Jesus did not say that they were going to die. He said that they would be scattered. But not according to Peter. Peter and the ten other disciples agreed that if Jesus would die, then they too would die. They all claimed to have a strong faith in Jesus Christ which in reality they did not yet have. They were still weak and yet claimed to be strong. That very night they all indeed would flee Jesus and Peter himself would deny even knowing Jesus.
Why were the disciples so weak in spite of claiming to be so strong? Fundamentally we can see their weakness in comparison to the strength of Jesus Christ. Jesus went willingly to the cross. At this point the disciples had been forced to go with Jesus towards the cross and they were reluctant and unwilling in their hearts and souls. The disciples had just that night, the very night before Jesus’ crucifixion, finally understood that Jesus would physically die. Their theology and their understanding of God’s plan of salvation was very faulty and incorrect. They could not stand on the rock of their salvation because they didn’t understand what God was about to do. Jesus on the other hand knew perfectly what was required of Him. He, also as the Son of God in the God-man, could complete what was necessary for our salvation where any other man would fail. The disciples still had many sinful tendencies in spite of being true followers of Jesus Christ. They tended to compete with each other instead of doing all things to the glory of God and His Kingdom. Jesus always reflected the glory of God and the will of His Father. The disciples still were afraid to die for Jesus Christ in spite of their claims otherwise. Their eternal reward in heaven was not at the forefront of their minds and they were still looking for glory here on earth. All of these factors and more contributed to the weakness seen in the disciples. But Jesus would not abandon them after their failure. Rather He intended to use the events surrounding His own death to lead His disciples in becoming His apostles- His special messengers who would be sent by Jesus to proclaim the Gospel to the entire world.
Can you see the purposes of God in how Jesus Christ taught His disciples? Can their failure give you hope that God can still use you in spite of your own failures in serving Him as you should? He will raise you up for His glory if you are among the children of God! Let Him shape and mold you into the man or woman of God that He has called you to be! But do not be like Judas Iscariot who did indeed deny Him forever. Keep seeking Him even if you fall!
Pastor Murray Hack
Mark 14:22-25 22 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them and said, "Take, eat; this is My body." 23 Then He took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 And He said to them, "This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many. 25 Assuredly, I say to you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God."
On the night before Jesus’ crucifixion He ate His last meal with the disciples which was the first communion- a special service instituted by Jesus Christ and celebrated within the Church today. The communion service is a special service whereby the body of Christ comes into union with God in a special way and by which we remember Jesus’ death and resurrection and we look forward to His second coming when He will judge the world in righteousness.
At the time the disciples did not understand any of this. They had been struggling to accept the truth that Jesus had repeatedly said to them as He prophesied beforehand to His disciples that He would die and rise again. They had no struggles accepting that He would rule as the Christ and they longed to rule in His Kingdom with Him but His death remained a mystery to them. As they were just words it was easy for the disciples to ignore or misinterpret them but now Jesus had given them signs that they could not ignore. There was the sign of the woman anointing Jesus with expensive ointment for His burial (Mark 14:3) and also, just before the last supper, a shocking announcement that it would not be the external enemies (the elders, the chief priests, the scribes, and the Gentiles) who would overcome Jesus’ and have Him killed but a betrayer from within- one of the very twelve that was eating with Jesus (Mark 14:18-21). These weren’t statements that could be misinterpreted. They were very clear. Jesus had been anointed for burial. Jesus would be betrayed by one of the disciples eating with Jesus as they were celebrating the Passover meal together.
Jesus was going to die! Not only must have the disciples been in complete confusion as they examined their own hearts and questioned “Is it I who could betray Jesus?” but the reality of Jesus’ coming death must have been overwhelming them. How difficult and sad this last meal that they spent together must have been. The disciples must have been flooded with thoughts of confusion and bewilderment. They were having their last meal with the Lord and Savior! What could this mean? Would they all of a sudden be alone without Him? They had given up everything to follow Him. How could He die? What was this blood of the new covenant that was shed for many? What could it mean that Jesus would not drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when He drinks it new in the Kingdom of God? The disciples had been seeing Jesus manifest the Kingdom of God within their midst for over three years as He performed all kinds of amazing miracles and preached the Good News to the people of Israel and the surrounding areas. This last meal must have been heart wrenching and filled with questions and uncertainty. It was very special to be a part of this meal and yet at the same time it was very difficult.
So what was the meaning of this blood of the new covenant which did not make sense to the disciples during the last supper but would become clear later? It obviously referred to Jesus’ death. We can find the answer in the book of Hebrews:
Hebrews 9:15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.
In eternity past the Son of God entered into a covenant with God the Father. He agreed to die in our place as a mediator. Why? Because God knew beforehand that Adam would break the covenant of works by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden and we all would be born into this world under the curse of sin. The blood of the covenant signifies the shed blood of the Son of God who would enter into creation as a man to die after living a life of perfect obedience to God. Jesus would pay the penalty of Adam’s sin and at the same time receive the reward of a kingdom of saints united to Him by faith. This new covenant entered into between God and man is called the covenant of grace. Although Jesus Christ had been manifesting His Kingdom continually upon this earth for over three years as He trained His disciples, His Kingdom could not formally be established without Him completing what was required in His covenant with God the Father. He had to die in order to receive the Kingdom of God and to set us free who were under the curse of sin.
Though Jesus has died and risen again and is currently seated in heaven at the right hand of God the Father in all authority and power, He has still not yet drank the fruit of the vine (grape juice) as at this last supper with His disciples. Why? Because His Kingdom is not yet complete. He is still drawing people into the covenant of grace by faith and saving sinners from the curse of sin. Jesus will not return to this world at His second coming until every last soul that He intends to save is in His Kingdom. Then will come the marriage supper of the Lamb:
Revelation 19:6-9 6 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; 8 it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. 9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
Are you in the Kingdom of God? Are you special enough to be invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb? You cannot be “good enough” to be invited. The invitations come only “by faith.” Have you drank of the blood of this new covenant? Do you know of the grace of God and have you entered into the covenant of grace with God by faith in Jesus Christ? How special it was for the disciples to eat this last supper with Jesus! How amazing will it be for us who repent and believe in Him to be a part of this marriage supper of the Lamb! Does this excite you? Do you long to see Jesus Christ who died on the cross in order that you may be saved? Or, does the blood of the new covenant mean nothing to you?
Pastor Murray Hack
Mark 14:17-25 17 And when it was evening, he came with the twelve. 18 And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” 19 They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?” 20 He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me. 21 For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”
On the night of Jesus’ death, His disciples finally began to understand the means by which His death would occur. The three previous times that Jesus revealed that He will die and rise again He did not mention anything about one of the twelve being an enemy of God. The enemies that would come against Jesus were described as external enemies: the elders, the chief priests, the scribes, the Gentiles. But now Jesus gives very specific details that not only would someone betray Him but that the person who would betray Him was actually eating with Him. It would be an inside job. How could this be? The thought was shocking to the disciples. It wasn’t so surprising to them after following Jesus for over three years that He had many external enemies but how could one of them, one of His closest friends be His enemy? The statement immediately shifted the disciples' focus from the external to the internal.
The disciples fell into the same trap that many in the Church today believe is true. There is a natural desire to think that there cannot be any enemies of God within the Church. We all would like to believe that everyone who professes Jesus as the Christ must be a Christian. It is almost like anyone who enters through the front doors of a church is automatically a Christian or will become a Christian or there is a forcefield somehow keeping away anyone who could be an enemy of God. The enemies of God are perceived to always be on the outside and the devil is never able to enter into a church building. We all like to simplify things and make the Christian life just a process or a method. If the enemy of God could be within the Church then each and every Christian would need to examine everything continually. This isn’t what we would like. We prefer to think that everything must be perfect within the Church or among Christians and that everything should just move forward step by step like a fine oiled machine and any and all evil is on the outside and just needs to be kept out. But just like during any time of war, the greatest damage that the enemy can perform is from within by someone who appears like everyone else but is in reality working for the enemy. This is not what the disciples expected.
The wisdom of God is seen in how Jesus reveals to the disciples that one of the twelve would betray Him to death. Jesus doesn’t directly make it known to them who it is. Jesus intentionally lets the disciples question whether they themselves could be the one who would betray Jesus. Instead of singling out Judas Iscariot to them all He makes the statement, “one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” And even for the disciples closest to Him while eating at the table (Peter and John) to whom He does make known that the betrayer is Judas Iscariot, they did not believe Him (John 13:21-28) or understand. In all likelihood Judas Iscariot was on the surface very much like the rest of them and perhaps even better than them. Judas Iscariot was in all likelihood a very moral person who on the surface appeared to be a great Christian but underneath it all was a corrupt heart that had never been born again. He had been following a false Christ and had never repented of his sins. Jesus knew the condition of his heart but no one else did or suspected. Jesus also knew that the rest of the twelve were true followers of Him but He doesn’t disclose this to the disciples as He makes known to them that one of them would betray Him to death. He doesn’t expose the false convert or reveal the true believers. Why? Because He wants each and every one of them to question themselves, “Is it I?”
The problem with a focus only on the external enemy is that it does not promote holiness within. It actually ends up producing hypocrisy where you condemn those on the outside who appear more sinful than yourself while inwardly you are becoming more and more corrupt and evil and may in fact be an enemy of God yourself. Jesus, in a most dramatic and powerful way, is teaching His disciples the need to continually examine their own relationship with God for any one of them could betray Him. You can see how this promotes holiness within the Church: if anyone within the Church could be a false convert and betray God then each and every Christian must continually seek after God. If every Christian recognizes this tendency within them to turn away from Jesus Christ and that they too could betray Jesus like Judas Iscariot did, then it will spur them on towards God in holiness. The very danger from within will cause them never to become complacent and lazy. They will need to be always on guard for the enemy that could be within.
Assurance of salvation is also important and we will see after Jesus rises from the dead how He restores His true followers and confirms to them that they are indeed His disciples but to question, “Is it I?” is in fact very healthy for a Christian. The true Christian knows that His sinful nature is so corrupt that even after following Jesus and knowing the truth of the Gospel, there can be a desire to turn away. The true Christian is so in love with God that they fear God and will do all that they can to keep on the narrow path. They know that the Holy Spirit will be their guide and sustain them to not turn away but at the same time without God actively at work in their lives they know that they could be the one who betrays Jesus. Each and every one of the disciples needed to realize that they were capable of betraying Jesus. This produced sorrow in their heart to recognize this and would have driven them nearer to Jesus, not farther away.
The false convert does not know this fear of God but only knows a selfish fear- a fear with a desire of self preservation and not a fear that their relationship with God could be broken. After all the false convert doesn’t know what a love relationship with God really is like but the born again Christian will do all that he or she can to remain in fellowship with God through Jesus Christ. This was the thought as the eleven disciples questioned, “Is it I? No. It can’t be. I will do anything to remain in fellowship with you Jesus.” Judas Iscariot could not say this as he had already met with the chief priests in order to betray Jesus (Mark 14:10-11)
Have you ever questioned whether you could betray Jesus? Does this bring you fear to think that you could deny Him? This is a good fear. Have you ever known this sorrow as the disciples experienced? Do you recognize that the enemy of God can be within the Church?
Pastor Murray Hack
Mark 14:12-16 12 And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 13 And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, 14 and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15 And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” 16 And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.
As two of Jesus’ disciples went into Jerusalem at the command of Jerusalem to prepare for the Passover meal I can imagine they went with trepidation. There must have been a certain sense of fear and uncertainty in their steps by this point. They knew something was going to happen. They just didn’t know what. They had hoped that Jesus would soon be crowned King over Israel and that they would rule with Him. A week earlier, in spite of their fear in going to Jerusalem where there was a very real conflict between Jesus and any and all of the different religious leaders who were united in opposition against Him, it had all started off well. Jesus had entered on a donkey's colt accepting the praise of the people. He had defeated all attacks against Him in a war of words in the Temple. But then, when the disciples had been looking in awe at the Temple buildings, Jesus declared to them that it would all be destroyed and much hardship would face them as disciples. And finally, although Jesus had told them before that He must die and rise again, a woman actually anointed Jesus with perfume for His burial. It was one thing to hear His words and not understand, but this was a visible sign confirming that His death was drawing near. The significance of these events could not be lost on the disciples as it was not lost on Judas Iscariot who had already gone secretly to meet with the chief priests to plan how to betray Jesus by this point.
And yet in spite of all this, Jesus Christ was in complete control. The disciples needed to know this. They needed assurance as they approached the death of their Savior that they were still in the will of God. Jesus was leading them to the cross with Him. Although they would not die they would suffer tremendously. The very foundation of what they believed would be rocked to the core. Jesus could have left His disciples in Galilee and told them, “I need to finish my mission alone.” He could have spared them the internal struggle that each of them would go through. But they needed to be there. They needed to be His witnesses of both His death and His resurrection. Instead of destroying their faith, the events that they were soon to be a part of would prove to solidify the very foundation of everything that they believed. Through the darkness of the cross the light of the Gospel would be known to them personally and then declared to the world.
Also, at this point, the disciples were still very much not the leaders that they should be. They believed that they were ready to lead in Jesus’ Kingdom but through their actions they showed they were not. They were still very self-seeking. They lacked a deep concern for God’s will. Jesus would rebuke them and correct them but the events surrounding the cross would teach them and shape them far above and beyond what Jesus had shown them so far. The anguish they would suffer as Jesus was dying upon the cross would grow them spiritually in a most dramatic and accelerated fashion. They would soon view themselves in a completely different light as the true condition of their hearts were made known and as Jesus would restore their souls. But all this was yet to come. For now, they carried on in uncertainty. For now they would walk with caution not knowing where each step would lead. And yet Jesus was leading each and every step.
How much comfort this can give us as Christians. Every Christian will face a period of refinement like the disciples. All of us will start off in following Jesus with a misguided view of ourselves. All of us will hear the teaching of Jesus and yet still lack understanding. There will be many things that He tells us that we hear but they do not take root. And so He will lead us into darkness. He will lead us into dark places where we would rather not go in order to remove the dross within us. He will, in the only way that He knows best, lead us into the way of purification. He will refine the gold within us. In the midst of this purification we will become confused. We will feel loss. We will feel like we are a failure to Him. We will feel on the verge of hopelessness. And yet, He is guiding us every step of the way. He led us into the darkness and He will lead us out into the light once again. We may not recognize what He is doing in us in the midst of this purification. I’m sure the disciples felt like they had lost complete control in the events surrounding Jesus’ death. But they could be reminded of how Peter and John were led to prepare the Passover meal. Jesus was still in complete control. They could still rest in Him. Do you know the purifying works of Jesus in your own life? Has He led you in this way?
But the unbeliever will never know such peace. The unbeliever will never willingly submit to such acts of purification. Why? Because they love their sin. They do not trust in Jesus. As with Judas Iscariot, they would rather betray Him than be led to the cross. They may start off following Jesus just like the true believer but they will not remain. As Jesus leads them on a path to be purged from sin it is only a matter of time before they reject Him. They will not submit to the leading of Jesus. They will not be ruled by Him. There is no comfort and reassurance that they are being led by Jesus because they in reality are their own guide. They would rather take the advice of the devil and to do his will than to come to the cross of Jesus Christ. The unbeliever will do all that they can to preserve themselves and will not be overcome by Jesus Christ. Many such disciples had turned away from Jesus earlier. The only difference with Judas Iscariot is that He lasted much longer before turning away. Don’t be like these unbelievers.
John 6:64-71 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) ... 66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.
Pastor Murray Hack
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.