As they were reclining at the table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly I say to you that one of you will betray me — one who is eating with Me.” They began to be grieved and say to Him one by one, “Surely not I?” – Mark 14:17-18
And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away…” …But Peter kept saying insistently, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And they were all saying the same thing also. – Mark 14:27, 31
They came to a place called Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here until I have prayed.” …And He came and found them sleeping…. – Mark 14:32, 37
They laid hands on Him and seized Him…and [the disciples] all left Him and fled. – Mark 14:46, 50
The night before Jesus’ crucifixion reveals many of mankind’s weaknesses, but perhaps the one connecting them all, the undercurrent flowing from one weakness into another, is our fickleness.
First we see the grief and indignation in the disciples’ response to Jesus’ prediction of betrayal…”surely not I?”
Then, brash confidence…”I will not deny You!”
Next, frailty leading to self-indulgence…He came and found them sleeping.
Finally, fear and self-preservation…they all left Him and fled.
Looking into these verses, I see a vivid, uncomfortable reflection of myself. My emotions dictate my daily choices so much more than I like to admit — and my emotions vary so much in the course of a day. The amount of time I spent in quiet prayer and Bible reading; my diligence in accomplishing the tasks that will serve my family; the level of attention I give to my children when they’re telling me a joke for the dozenth time that day: all this and beyond comes much more from how I feel than from what I know to be right. If salvation depended on me, I would be on shaky ground indeed.
Today, as I approach the foot of the Cross, I am mindful of my deep need for Jesus. For the One who experienced human emotions — “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death” (Mk. 14:34) — but who refused to be ruled by them: “….remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will” (Mk. 14:36, emphasis mine).
Let us never fool ourselves into thinking that we can earn salvation; that we’re “good enough”; that Jesus’ teachings were useful, but His death was merely a good example of suffering in silence. Without Him, we are hopelessly lost; but with Him, we are held by One infinitely stronger than we could ever hope to be.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8)