Looking Past Our Failures: Mark 14:17-31

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We have arrived at the place in Mark’s gospel where he begins describing the evening of Jesus’ betrayal and arrest. During the night before this event, Jesus shares a special meal with the disciples, and during this meal, Jesus shares and does some things that surprise the disciples.

Let’s read what happened and discover what we can learn from this last night Jesus spent with His disciples leading up to His crucifixion. Our passage is found in Mark’s gospel, chapter 14, and we will read it using the Good News Translation. Starting in verse 17, Mark tells us that:

17 When it was evening, Jesus came with the twelve disciples. 18 While they were at the table eating, Jesus said, “I tell you that one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.”

19 The disciples were upset and began to ask him, one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, do you?”

20 Jesus answered, “It will be one of you twelve, one who dips his bread in the dish with me. 21 The Son of Man will die as the Scriptures say he will; but how terrible for that man who will betray the Son of Man! It would have been better for that man if he had never been born!”

22 While they were eating, Jesus took a piece of bread, gave a prayer of thanks, broke it, and gave it to his disciples. “Take it,” he said, “this is my body.”

23 Then he took a cup, gave thanks to God, and handed it to them; and they all drank from it. 24 Jesus said, “This is my blood which is poured out for many, my blood which seals God’s covenant. 25 I tell you, I will never again drink this wine until the day I drink the new wine in the Kingdom of God.”

26 Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.

Pausing our reading here, it is interesting in my mind that Mark really abbreviates this special meal Jesus shares with the disciples. While Mark’s gospel is known in part for summarizing events and moving at a faster pace, what we can discover from Mark’s summary are big, important details that we should pay attention to.

At this supper, Jesus openly declares that one of the disciples would betray Jesus, and this visibly upsets all the disciples. Jesus also uses this as another opportunity to share about His upcoming death, and Jesus tied this death to the scriptures predicting this.

Mark describes how Jesus would identify the betrayer, but we are left to simply wonder if this actually happened. Mark describes Jesus telling the group that He would dip the bread at the same time as the betrayer, but nowhere do we read in Mark’s gospel that this happened, that Judas Iscariot was identified, and we don’t even know when Judas Iscariot leaves to assemble the mob, soldiers, and people to arrest Jesus.

In Mark’s gospel, he also shares a brief, four-verse summary of the last supper and the details of Jesus breaking bread and sharing it with the disciples, passing a cup around, and giving a symbolic meaning to both the communion bread and communion wine.

However, what Mark shares next is powerful. After the group of remaining disciples leave with Jesus for the Mount of Olives, continuing in verse 27:

27 Jesus said to them, “All of you will run away and leave me, for the scripture says, ‘God will kill the shepherd, and the sheep will all be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised to life, I will go to Galilee ahead of you.”

29 Peter answered, “I will never leave you, even though all the rest do!”

30 Jesus said to Peter, “I tell you that before the rooster crows two times tonight, you will say three times that you do not know me.”

31 Peter answered even more strongly, “I will never say that, even if I have to die with you!”

And all the other disciples said the same thing.

In this last portion of this passage, I am amazed that Jesus clearly restates His imminent death, and that He will be raised back to life. He tells the disciples that after He has been raised to life, He will return to Galilee ahead of them.

However, it really appears as though Peter missed Jesus’ statement about resurrection, that he ignored yet another prediction of Jesus’ upcoming death, and he devoted his focus onto Jesus saying that all the disciples would leave Him.

Peter, being as outspoken as he is described in all the gospels, boldly makes the claim that he would die with Jesus and that he would never deny Him. However, Jesus counter challenges Peter with the prediction that before a rooster had crowed two times that very night, Peter would openly say three times that he didn’t know Jesus.

Mark also adds that Peter wasn’t the only one to make this promise to Jesus. All 10 remaining disciples make this promise to Jesus as well.

The amazing part of Jesus challenge is that, while all 11 disciples promise Jesus they would stick with Him to the end, only Peter is challenged and warned about openly denying Jesus. I go back and forth in my mind if this challenge is a positive one or not.

While Jesus does challenge Peter in this way, simply receiving this challenge implies that Peter will be in a place where people would recognize he is a follower of Jesus. This means that Peter will not have abandoned Jesus as significantly as the other disciples will. It is implied that the other disciples go into hiding – avoiding everyone – while Peter will be in a place where he could be recognized and singled out.

The challenge Jesus gives Peter does sound negative. After all, who wants to be told they will deny the person they looked up to and were friends with for over 3 straight years. The disciples’ response to Jesus telling them they will scatter is where our focus is drawn to in this passage, because it is what the disciples focused in on.

However, I believe Jesus told the disciples this not because He wanted them to obey His prediction, but because He wanted them to look past their upcoming failure to His upcoming triumph. While this weekend marked the triumph of sin and sinners, Sunday would open a new week, marking the triumph of Jesus and the ultimate defeat of sin.

It is in the resurrection Jesus’ disciples missed seeing predicted that Jesus wanted them to focus in on. With less than 24 hours before His death, Jesus wanted the disciples to look past their failure and His death and onto the resurrection.

In a similar way, while we are able to look back and see the crucifixion and resurrection clearly, when we face struggles, trials, and challenges in our lives today, let’s remember to look past our failures and these challenges, and forward to our future resurrection and recreation when Jesus returns to end this age in history and take us home!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, intentionally seek God first and place Him first in your life. When facing failures in our present or past, choose to forgive yourself and move forward, focusing on what Jesus accomplished and what He has promised each of us when we accept the gift of His life and death on our behalf.

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself to learn, grow, and open your heart to God, to Jesus, and to the Holy Spirit. Through prayer and Bible study, discover firsthand what God wants to teach you through the pages of His Word and discover how we can claim the promise and hope for a future, eternal life with God.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or deviate away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year in Mark – Episode 39: When describing the Last Supper and what Jesus tells the disciples as they make their way to the Mount of Olives, discover in Jesus’ prediction and warning a promise that we can claim and apply in our own lives today!

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