Guest Post: Mark Fourteen by Kendra Dahl

Each week throughout the ReMarkAble series at First Baptist Church, we will have a guest post from various pastors, church planters, missionaries, professors, bloggers, etc. I will always post them on Tuesdays. This week, Kendra Dahl has provided his reflections on Mark's fourteenth chapter.

Kendra is wife to Jordan, mom to Hadley, Adrienne, and Maximus. She have a B.A. in International Studies from the University of North Dakota, and had thought she would take her degree overseas or head to law school, but instead she married a North Dakota boy and settled into life in the Midwest. She is learning what it looks like to live as a recipient of grace and embrace the ordinary. She loves God, loves His Word, and writes to help women experience the freedom that comes from knowing Christ. Kendra blogs at www.KendraDahl.com, and I would highly recommend you venture over and read some of her writing. I am confident it will increase your affections for Jesus and encourage your soul.

Jesus as the Faithful One

Throughout his gospel, Mark strategically places the events of Jesus’ life in a particular order, illustrating for us certain truths about who Jesus is and why he came. In chapter 14, Mark shifts from recalling Jesus’ teaching to a fast-paced narrative of the events leading to the cross, but as he does, he juxtaposes Jesus, the Faithful One, with his unfaithful followers.

Judas is one such follower. As one of the twelve disciples, he traveled with Jesus, ate with him, saw him perform miracles and sat under his teaching, yet he agrees to betray the Lord for money. And as if it is not enough to see that one of Jesus’ closest companions would betray him, the fact remains that the Suffering Servant will be forsaken by all. Jesus predicts, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered’” (14:27).

“But [Peter] said emphatically, ‘If I must die with you, I will not deny you.’” (14:29)

Though Peter’s earlier confession of Jesus as Christ (8:29) indicated he saw the Lord clearly, his subsequent rebuke of Jesus’ mission to the cross (8:32) proved he still was looking at walking trees (8:25). But here in chapter 14, it would seem Peter finally gets it. He finally sees Jesus as the Christ and the Suffering Messiah. He understands his Lord must die. And he is resolved to stand by his side, whatever the cost.

Within hours, however, he is sleeping instead of watching (14:37). And when Jesus is seized by his accusers, Peter, along with the rest of them, “left him and fled.” (14:50) Then it gets worse. This disciple who swore he would die alongside his Lord now swears instead, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” The rooster crows and Peter is keenly aware of his unfaithfulness. Recalling the Lord’s prediction of his denial, he breaks down and weeps (14:72).

Jesus, however, prays while the disciples sleep (14:32-42). He goes willingly with his accusers while the rest flee (14:49-50). And while Peter is out in the courtyard denying him, Jesus is inside silently receiving accusation, insult, and blow after blow (14:61; Isaiah 53:7). His disciples cannot maintain their resolve, but Jesus will stand firm: the Faithful One bearing the sin of the unfaithful.

Seeing ourselves in Peter

This account of Jesus’ faithfulness has incredible implications for us as followers of Christ as we see ourselves in Peter. We are unfaithful, and we stand in stark contrast to the Faithful One. But as the sinless Son of God, Jesus is the perfect substitutionary sacrifice, like a lamb without spot or blemish. He takes our sin upon himself and pays its penalty on the cross. Because of this, it is just as if we have never sinned.

But there is more--Jesus also perfectly obeyed:

He prayed while we slept.

He stayed while we ran.

He held fast to his Father while we pretended like we never knew him.

And in bearing our sin and shame, he also grants us his righteousness. “For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21). We stand fully justified before God--not only is it just as if we have never sinned, it is also just as if we have always obeyed. Jesus’ perfect record of obedience is now ours. He does not require our faithfulness; he only requires faith that receives his faithfulness. Elyse Fitzpatrick writes, “What was our part in this victory? What did we supply? It was won for us while we slept.” (Found in Him, p. 100)

But we are forgetful, and our faith is weak, so in this chapter we also see the institution of the Lord’s Supper. God provided a means for strengthening our faith. As we come before the table, we bring nothing. It is a tangible picture of the way we receive by faith what has been given to us: Christ’s broken body and blood poured out for us. And just as surely as we taste the bread and the wine, we can be sure of his work accomplished for us on the cross. It is finished! As we partake of the Lord’s Supper together we are reminded that the Lord is faithful even when we are not (2 Timothy 2:13).

Growing into faithfulness

I imagine it grieved Peter to recall the events of his denial as he gave his account to Mark. Yet, though he was crushed under the weight of his sin, he was not driven to worldly despair absent of faith as Judas was (Matthew 27:5-8). Instead, the weight of his sin would drive him to seek the face of Christ, starting with an empty tomb (Luke 24:12).

Later in his apostolic ministry, Peter writes, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). He goes on to describe the faithful Christian life, beginning with faith and resulting in love (vs. 5-9). “For whoever lacks these qualities,” he writes, “is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins” (1:9).

Though faithfulness is not a prerequisite for salvation, it is the fruit of a life lived before the cross. As we remember that we have been cleansed from our former sins, and as we live a life characterized by repentance and faith, we begin to see the fruit of faithfulness growing in our lives. This is not because of anything we do, rather it is because he who called us is faithful; he will complete the work he has started (1 Thes. 5:24; Phil. 1:6).

Jesus predicted that Peter and the disciples would be scattered like sheep. Yet later these are the men he uses to build his church. Perhaps it is their awareness of just how much they've received that makes these Spirit-empowered, disciples-turned-apostles so effective? So we, like Peter, minister to others as recipients of grace. God uses broken, messy, unfaithful people to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth.

Peter knew this all too well; he would not soon forget that he was a sheep who strayed. It is true of us too. Peter reminds us, not so we can remain in despair, but that we might repent of our unfaithfulness and lift our eyes to behold the Faithful One. He writes:

“[Jesus] committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:22-25 ESV)