"And he broke down and wept" (Mark 14:72).
Isn't Peter's breakdown exactly the way we feel at the end of Mark 14:26-72? We see the immense contrast between a resolute, innocent Jesus going to His terrifying death, and the disciples' abysmal failure and desertion. As we see Jesus' utter abandonment in His hour of need, don't we feel Peter's sorrow at his failure?
At the emotional climax of Mark's gospel, we see Jesus determined to do the Father's will (14:36) despite the fact He was ‘sorrowful, even to death' (14:34). Jesus was anticipating the worst death - beyond wood and nails, a crucifixion in which Jesus would face the cup of God's wrath (an Old Testament image, see e.g. Isaiah 51:17-20; Jeremiah 25:15-16). And yet we see Jesus resolute - determined. He renounced his objections (v49), stayed silent in a sham trial (v61) and provided the true statement about which they would convict Him: "I am [the Christ, the Son of the Blessed], and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven" (v62). Jesus is the one with God's authority, yet arrested, spat on, and struck.
Yet the disciples, who should have been ready to deny themselves (Mark 8:34) in this very hour of need, failed even to stay awake (11:7); they left Him and fled (11:50), and denied Him (11:71). As Mark records Peter's devastating forsaking, we see just how shocking the situation is. Even the best - even the closest - failed to stick by Jesus. When we think highly of ourselves, or even our ‘Christian heroes', we recognise in Mark 14 just how hopeless we all are.
Which is why Mark 14 is such a moving chapter. Jesus starts this passage with a quote from Zechariah 13:7. Jesus is God's shepherd, struck by God, at which the sheep scatter. This was predicted by God centuries before. And, despite knowing the disciples' failing, we see that Jesus is willing to die for them even despite their sin. We see the faintest glimmer of hope in Mark 14:7 - Jesus knows all this, but also knows the outcome. We read Mark 14 with tears in our eyes as we see that Jesus went to His horrific death knowing the utter abandonment of His closest friends, dying an awful death on their behalf even despite their rejection.
What a glorious king. What a wonderful deliverer. What a precious saviour.
Questions to ponder
- How does this passage answer the Christian who feels like a failure? How does this correct the Christian who thinks he is sorted?
- How has our view of Jesus been shaped by this passage?
- This is the Jesus with whom Christians will spend eternity in heaven. How do you feel about that?