Date: 25 Mar 2016 (Good Friday)
Text: Mark 14:12-31
On this Good Friday evening I want to step back in time about 24 hours and consider some of the events of the Thursday shortly before Jesus was arrested rather than what happened on the Friday morning. As with the rest of Holy Week, a lot happened in just a few hours of that evening and whilst a lot may have been happening it is interesting to see that Jesus was in control the whole time; He knew what was going on and how everything would pan out. Over the next few minutes I want to pick out two interesting aspects that stand out from that momentous evening.
The Last Supper
Hindsight is a wonderful thing so it is interesting to see that the NIV titles the passage that I’ve just read as, “The Last Supper”. We of course do know that it was indeed the last supper that Jesus would have with His disciples although at the time they reclined at the table the disciples had no idea, to them it was simply a Passover Meal with their friend Jesus.
As far as being in control is concerned, just look back to Palm Sunday when Jesus sent two of His disciples on ahead to collect the colt on which He was to ride into Jerusalem. Much to their amazement, the colt was there just as Jesus had said and the explanation they offered was accepted by the owner of the colt, again just as Jesus had said. Now, as they prepared for their Passover Meal, Jesus again sent two of His disciples on ahead to get everything ready. He told them where to go and who to speak to and just as with events on Palm Sunday; everything happened just as Jesus had said. That isn’t coincidence, that is God at work.
The Betrayal - Judas
As they reclined there enjoying the meal and one another’s company, Jesus dropped a huge bombshell – He told them all that one of them would betray Him. In the accounts of the evening provided by Mark and Matthew, Jesus didn’t expand on who it would be, how it would happen or when it would happen; just that it would. I would imagine that having heard Jesus say that, the disciples’ minds would be racing wondering which one of them it would be. They each said to Him in turn, “Surely you don’t mean me?” (Mark 14:19b). Jesus made it very clear that it was “one who dips his bread into the bowl with me” (Mark 14:20b). As with many events in the New Testament that were prophesied in the Old Testament, this one was no different since we can read David’s words in Psalm 41:9 which accurately predicted what was going to happen, “Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me”.
When we look at John’s account of the evening’s events, the Apostle does name names! He goes into quite some detail, details which are well worth hearing. When Jesus was asked who it was, John reports His reply as being, “’It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.’ Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, son of Simon Iscariot. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. So Jesus told him, ‘What you are about to do, do quickly.’ But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.” (John 13:26-30). We can only wonder at the reaction of the other disciples when they heard those words.
Remember that these were the twelve men who had been handpicked by Jesus to be His disciples, to accompany Him wherever He went during His earthly ministry, and who He had taught about the coming kingdom of heaven. Based on the reports in Mark and Matthew, I’ve no doubt that they would have searched their hearts and minds to see if they had reason to betray Him. To do that of course they would need to be honest with themselves. Are we always honest with ourselves? Or do we ignore certain parts of our lives that we may be living in the wrong way? If the disciples didn’t truly believe what Jesus had just told them, they needed only to cast their minds back a short while to the situation regarding the colt and that involving the Passover preparations. Jesus had told them what would happen and it happened. On that basis I should imagine that not only were they examining themselves but also looking suspiciously at their friends and colleagues.
The Betrayal – Peter
Following His stunning revelation, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, what we know more commonly as Communion and which we will share later in our service. He went through the two stages that we also follow; the breaking and sharing of bread and the sharing of the cup of wine. Jesus explained to His disciples that these represented His body and blood that He was about to give up for them and for all who believed in Him as their Lord and Saviour. I’ve never been 100% sure that the disciples fully understood or appreciated just what Jesus was saying to them, so much so that I have a niggling feeling that they were totally baffled by this ‘ceremony’. Remember that Jesus had just told them that one of their members was going to betray Him; that person being, according to John, Judas Iscariot. Put those two things together and I’m sure you may be able to imagine the scene. Not total disarray, but certainly an air of utter bewilderment.
However, the evening wasn’t yet over. Having already predicted that someone, Judas, was going to betray Him, Jesus went on to tell them that they would “...all fall away” (14:27); and quoted from Zechariah 13:7 when He said, “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered”. Peter, the impetuous one, spoke up for himself, “Even if all fall away, I will not” (14:28b). Brave words and words that Peter would later come to regret, since Jesus told Peter again that that very night, “before the cock crows twice you yourself will disown me three times” (14:30). Peter being Peter was absolutely emphatic that he would never disown Jesus and would rather die for Him than deny Him. Have we ever said those words? Have we ever said to ourselves and to others that we would do anything for Jesus and would never ever deny Him? Peter was absolutely confident that he never would and yet we know from Mark 14:66-72 that he did indeed fulfil Jesus’ prediction.
That was one amazing evening! How would we have reacted had we been there? The arrangements for an appropriate venue had been made just as Jesus had said. Jesus had predicted that one of them, His close disciples, would betray Him. He then went on to share bread and wine with them and tell them that these everyday elements represented His body and blood. At the time the disciples probably had no idea what He was talking about although it wouldn’t be too long before they really would understand. Having done that, Jesus then told Peter that he too was going to disown Him.
I would suggest that throughout the evening whilst Jesus was in control the disciples hadn’t a clue what was happening. However, it wouldn’t be long before they did learn exactly what was going on and would go into hiding for fear of retribution. I hope and pray that we wouldn’t be like that, although when push comes to shove only Jesus really knows.