I taught the Frazier Sunday School class in my church recently. I was filling in for my friend Ellen Cheek, who is an excellent teacher and a real Biblical scholar. I will readily concede that I don’t match up in either area. The lesson was from the 14th chapter of Mark and dealt with how the disciples abandoned Jesus when he was arrested and taken to a so-called trial in the house of the Chief Priest. Mark’s focus was largely on Peter, who had promised to stand with Jesus regardless of what might happen, even if the others left the Master. However, as we now know, Peter fell far short of his pledge.
Jesus had told the 12 disciples that one of them would betray him, which turned out to be Judas, and that all of the others would falter very soon. Jesus had told the disciples on 3 separate occasions that he would be killed. They could not comprehend such a thing. On the fourth time, Jesus added that he would also see them again after his death in Galilee. The disciples failed to comprehend what Jesus was saying either as to his death or his resurrection. Putting one’s self in the shoes of the disciples, it’s very easy to identify with them – except for Judas – and at least be confused over what Jesus was saying.
As I read Mark’s account, I thought of an event that happened when I was in the 5th grade in school back in Clayton. A new Baptist preacher came to town and he had a son named John Henry. However, John Henry, who was in the 5th grade, was about 2 or 3 grades behind schedule in school. John Henry was much larger and lots tougher than my friends and I were at the time. It didn’t take us long to find out about how tough this new boy really was. John Henry was taking away our lunch money each day and he enjoyed physically abusing at least one of us at recess on a regular basis.
This sort of thing went on for several weeks and we finally decided that, having had enough of this big bully, we would take care of him once and for all. So our plan was to join together and teach John Henry a good lesson. The twelve of us made a pact that the next day at recess we would give this big bully a good whipping. We agreed to stand together and that I would be our leader and the group’s spokesman.
So when we went out for recess the next day the 12 of us were all ready to confront John Henry. I was in front of my 11 friends and I told John Henry that “we are going to give you a good whipping John Henry and put a stop to your bullying us.” John Henry just grinned and responded, “What do you mean by we? I don’t see anybody behind you Jere.” I looked around and he was absolutely right – my friends were all running for cover. I suddenly felt the reality of being all alone and in grave danger. Pretty soon I was getting up from the ground. I had put up a brief fight – but not nearly enough – and I had gotten a real good whipping from John Henry. It was a good lesson for me – but a painful one. I don’t mean to be comparing my situation to that described in Mark, but there actually are some comparisons.
It is difficult to comprehend how Jesus’ disciples could have failed to understand his ministry and mission since they had been with him, hearing his teachings and witnessing the miracles he performed. However, when you put everything in context, it is very clear. These devoted followers were expecting the Messiah, but they were looking for more of a military leader who would win battles for them and make them truly free at last. This is not what Jesus was all about. His mission on earth was to be a suffering Messiah, a sacrificial Lamb who would save the disciples and all others from their sins. Jesus promised them eternal life, but His disciples simply couldn’t comprehend this mission and their faith as a follower of Jesus was tested. Each of them – and especially Peter – failed the test.
Our faith – regardless of how strong – will also be tested. Our test won’t be like that of Peter and the other 10 disciples. However, there will be tests where we will be required to either take a stand for Jesus. The good news from the 14th chapter of Mark is that even Peter – who denied Jesus 3 times – could be forgiven by Jesus who never quit loving him. Peter then became the pillar upon which the church was built.
My prayer is for all of us who say we follow Jesus to have the faith necessary to stand up for him on a daily basis. There will be some of you who haven’t accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior and I fully realize that. I also pray for you without being judgmental. Consider these verses and reflect on them.
Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. Romans 10:17
Looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. John 14:12-14
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. 1 Corinthians 16:13
Having just celebrated Easter, I pray that this was the most meaningful one ever for each of you and your families. May God Bless!
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