Point of No Return?

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Continuing with meditations on Mark 14:17-42 for the season of Lent…

During the last supper and his time in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus made some predictions must have crushed his disciples. While Jesus had told them on many occasions that he would die very soon, Jesus told his disciples that not only would one of them betray him, but that all of his disciples would desert him. Jesus called to mind a picture of the fall of Israel during the time of the exile by saying they would be scattered like sheep. At a time when the disciples thought Jesus was the one who would end the exile and restore Israel, they must have been devastated at many levels. Though Jesus hinted at hope after his resurrection, they had no way of knowing when or how this would happen. In addition, the accounts in the other Gospels of their surprise at the resurrection meant they didn’t expect to see a risen Jesus three days later. While the death of Jesus may have meant an end to their dreams of God’s restoration of the Kingdom and the end of the exile, they also learned that they would fail Jesus as well. They would enter their own kind of exile. Would this exile be permanent? Would they have any hope of restoration? Jesus also predicted that Peter would take his desertion one step further by denying him. Peter knew what Jesus said about the consequences of denying him before men, and so Peter could not fathom doing such a thing. He denied it, setting himself apart from the others with a bold statement that he could outlast all of them.

By the time they reached Gethsemane, the disciples couldn’t even stay awake to pray with Jesus. Is it any wonder that they fled when Judas arrived with his armed militia? If they couldn’t fight sleep, they surely weren’t ready to stand with Jesus in his moment of trial. Peter’s denial followed shortly after that, while the rest of the disciples kept a low profile I am struck by the grace and mercy of Jesus both throughout these scenes and then after his resurrection. His closest friends had failed him. They didn’t believe in his words, serve him in his darkest trial, or stand with him. Were the disciples really good for anything? Could they be salvaged as disciples? Jesus said, Yes. The failings of the disciples in these scenes are quite terrible, but during their three days of exile, Jesus welcomed them back and restored them. While they had to repent, stop doubting, and renew their commitment with Jesus, it is striking to see how Jesus reached out to them after they had fallen so low. Are we ever beyond the reach of Jesus?

Art by Harold Sikkema. Used with permission. Post by Ed Cyzewski.