I Will Strike the Shepherd
Over 2,000 years ago, on Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem to the shouts of praise the crowd. This bolstered the disciples’ confidence and perhaps gave rise to pride in being a follower of Jesus.
This confidence continued building-up as Jesus spent the next few days teaching and showing His integrity in a striking difference from the nation’s leaders.
But at the Passover meal, He had made a troubling pronouncement. He said:
Mark 14:18 (NKJV) Assuredly, I say to you, one of you who eats with Me will betray Me.
The disciples were shocked and troubled by this statement. They were sure Jesus was going to set up His kingdom and claim the throne over the nation. He would put the Romans and the Gentiles who trampled their nation in their place.
However, for some time, he had been telling them that He was going to die at the hands of the nation’s leaders and the Romans.
A short while after Jesus shocked them by saying one of them would betray Him, they finished the Passover meal, and Mark says they sang a hymn and went out.
To this day, the Passover meal concludes with a hymn. Jesus was following tradition.
On the way to where they were going (the garden of Gethsemane), Jesus said to them:
Mark 14:27-28 (NKJV) 27All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’
28But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.
Once again, Jesus’ words upset the disciples, mainly the twelve (eleven since Judas was not with them at this point). As usual, Peter voiced the thoughts of all. He responded:
Mark 14:29 (NKJV) Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be.
We all have thoughts like this. We all are tempted to think, “Surely not me!”
Many have expressed the thought that if they had lived in those days and seen the miracles that Jesus performed, they would have believed. We need to remember that many people (perhaps in the millions) witnessed the miracles of Jesus and did not believe. A Biblical principle standouts to me.
Consider 1 Corinthians 10:12-13.
1 Corinthians 10:12–13 (NKJV) 12Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. 13No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man
Learn 1 Corinthians 10:13. In it, God promises that He will not let us be tempted beyond what we can endure and that He always provides a way of escape. However, I stopped halfway through the verse to make the connection with verse 12 obvious. When we think we can stand, we are most vulnerable. Notice that verse 13 says that it can be said of any temptation that is common to humanity. That means you and I are capable of doing what the disciples did. I would say that since all of them stumbled, it is likely you and I would have done the same. The Proverbs warn us that pride goes before destruction (Proverbs 16:18). One more verse on this subject is Galatians 6:1
Galatians 6:1 (ESV) Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
Even when we are helping another person to overcome a sin, we are vulnerable to the same temptation.
Jesus knows that we are weak. He made a way for the disciples to keep from stumbling and showed them the way. He did this by taking them with Him into the garden to pray. When He had prayed for a while, He came and found His disciples sleeping. Then He said:
Mark 14:37–38 (ESV) 37Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? 38Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Simon was the one who boasted though everyone else stumbled, he would not. And here he was — sleeping! Jesus told Simon and those with him that they must watch and pray to avoid falling into temptation. The reason he gives is: even though in our spirits we are willing, our flesh is weak.
Two more times, Jesus went away and prayed by Himself, and each time He came back, He found them praying — oops! I meant sleeping. The third time Jesus said.
Mark 14:41–42 (NKJV) 41Are you still sleeping and resting? It is enough! The hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.
Notice, Jesus says, “It is enough!” The word translated enough is defined: “to hold back, keep off, to be away, be distant.” These three words in English, “It is enough!” represent one word in the original. This word has been challenging to understand and translate. Some think that Jesus was pointing out the irony of their previous boasting compared to their present sleeping.
This would not be the first time God used irony. He used irony when He answered Job. Look at Job 38:
Job 38:4–5 (NKJV) 4“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding.
5Who determined its measurements?
Surely you know!
Job 38:21 (NKJV) Do you know it, because you were born then,
Or because the number of your days is great?
God was angry with Job because of His arrogance in the face of God. He started His answer to Job with:
Job 38:2 (NKJV) Who is this who darkens counsel
By words without knowledge?
The original temptation and the source of sin was pride — the desire to be like God. Pride was also the downfall of angels. Because of pride, one-third of the angels became demons.
Jesus warned His disciples to watch and pray lest they stumble. He rebuked them the first two times He found them sleeping when He said:
Mark 14:37 (NKJV) Are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour?
The third time He says:
Mark 14:41 “Enough!”
“The hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.”
Some think that the verb (ἀπέχει) (a difficult word to translate) should be translated, “he is at a distance;” as though Jesus meant, “There is still time for you to sleep. My betrayer is still some distance off.”
However we understand this exclamation on the part of Jesus, it is clear that pride is a deadly temptation. We must do as Jesus instructed — watch and pray.
Many things were happening at the same time.
Isn’t this always true?! Life has a lot of moving parts.
As Jesus taught His disciples, He struggled with His own grief and sorrow. He told His disciples about this struggle and then prayed, telling His Father about His suffering.
In Mark 13:33-34, it says:
Mark 14:33–34 (NKJV) 33And He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be troubled and deeply distressed. 34Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.”
The text tells us that He was troubled and deeply distressed, and then, in His own words, Jesus said, “My soul is exccedingly sorrowful, even to death.”
Jesus was not sorrowful for Himself. He was sorrowful for the pride and failures of His disciples. He was sorrowful for the sin and shame of all of humanity for all time. And, He was sorrowful for what was about to happen. Verses 43 through 52 of Mark 14 tell one of the saddest stories of all time. These verses are a snapshot of what sin has brought to our world. It is a story of greed, betrayal, duplicity, and murder.
We will not go into it because the story is hard enough to stomach, but I wish to point something out. Isaiah 53:3 prophesied of Jesus:
Isaiah 53:3 (NKJV) He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
At the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus wept. He did not weep because He was helpless. He wept at the terrible price humanity is paying for our choice to rebel against God. It was the same sentiment He expressed toward Jerusalem.
Matthew 23:37–38 (NKJV) 37“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 38See! Your house is left to you desolate.
How true of humanity! Our house is left to us desolate. All because we will not humble ourselves before God, our Maker.
The final scene of today’s passage says it all.
Mark 14:50 (NKJV) Then they all forsook Him and fled.
We have all had our moments of stumbling. All the disciples stumbled.
But, Jesus forgave them all.
I want to pay special attention to verses 51 and 52.
Mark 14:51–52 (NKJV) 51Now a certain young man followed Him, having a linen cloth thrown around his naked body. And the young men laid hold of him, 52and he left the linen cloth and fled from them naked.
Can you imagine the shame of this young man? If you have ever felt the hot pang of shame (and I am sure you have), then you have an idea of how miserable this young man must have been. The author understood because Mark wrote of himself.
This was not the only time Mark stumbled. Paul and Barnabas took him with them on their first ministry voyage, but we learn:
Acts 13:13 (NLT) Paul and his companions then left Paphos by ship for Pamphylia, landing at the port town of Perga. There John Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem.
Mark failed Paul and Barnabas. So much so that Paul was not willing to take Him on the next journey. Barnabas disagreed, and Paul and Barnabas split over the decision. However, as strongly as Paul opposed giving Mark another chance, at the end of his life, Paul asked for Mark’s help.
2 Timothy 4:11 (ESV) Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.
God will always give you another chance -- until you die. Once God has taken you from this life, decision time is over. Do not think that God does not understand what you have gone through. Jesus was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He redeemed a young man named Mark and made Him “very useful.”
One closing note: in an invitation to turn to Jesus for help, the Bible says:
Hebrews 4:15–16 (ESV) 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
No matter where you come from, no matter what the failure if Jesus could save those that stumbled that night in the garden, He can save you also. Draw near to Him to receive mercy and find grace.