The Disciples Forsook Jesus

October 15, 2006
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
Mark 14:43-52

1. There is a book -- with unforgettable words -- written by Mrs. Ayako Miura, "From My Red Notebook." In it an anecdote of the time she first met Mr. Toyoshiro Fukuda, who was responsible for the illustrations in [her book] "Freezing Point," is recorded as follows.

2. "At the first evening in Asahikawa [in Hokkaido], Mr. [Fukuda] happily had one glass after another with us, my husband and I, and a Mr. Kadouma. The sake was quite strong. While we were drinking, Mr. [Fukuda] looked at me straight in the face as he leaned forward over the table tray. The smiling face [I had] thus far went out.

3. 'I really like you. So let me do your illustrations [for your book]. But, uh, I would quit illustrating immediately should I ever misinterpret one verse.'

4. I'm optimistic, but I thought this was not an easily said thing. Therefore, I didn't understand about [these] verses there were somewhere that I was supposed to watch out for.

5. 'Uhmmm .. you said something about a verse ... ,' I responded to him with a stupid reply. Mr. [Fukuda] smiled with a whiff of air.

6. He said, 'You're a Christian, right? [And so] I was saying that I would never misinterpret a verse of [you] Christians.'

7. I was already forty-two years old. But, I was still in the process of growing up, put a nice way I was a little girl, put a not so nice way, I was still a bit way too simple. In my mind I thought, 'What's he talking about I wonder?!' Twelve years ago I received baptism on my sick bed. I believed that come what may I could be a Christian until I died. I couldn't even imagine myself not believing in Christ. Since I was seeing things on such a simple level, I didn't think irreverently that doing something like misinterpreting the verses of Christians could even be done. In my childhood [state of mind] I could not imagine that human beings are weak, and how ever strong one's faith may be, because of governmental authorities or due to the surrounding circumstances, it [could all] collapse like a house of cards."

The Disciples Collapsed Like A House Of Cards

8. Today's gospel reading was from chapter fourteen and verse forty-three of The Gospel According To Mark, but in this short passage the figure of the people where they ended up "due to the surrounding circumstances ... collapsed like a house of cards," as Mrs. Ayako Miura had put it, has been described. When they stood in a serious situation, everything in them, their convictions, their self-confidence, their sense of mission, their sense of justice, their passion and loyalty, it all collapsed and crumbled away without a trace.

9. Judas again appears on the scene among them. The Bible says, "Judas, who is one of the twelve." Even in chapter fourteen and verse ten the Bible says, "Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, was about to hand Jesus over and went out to the chief priests." "Judas, who is one of the twelve" -- It might just as well be written with the meaning, "Of all people Judas who is one of the twelve disciples."

10. The disciples of Jesus were not just twelve men. In The Gospel According To Luke it records the fact that there was a group of seventy-two disciples around him, (Luke 10:1). It is believed that the people who acknowledged themselves as disciples of Jesus was a higher number than that. The twelve disciples were a special class among more numerous disciples than that. They seemed to have been entrusted with the more serious work in particular, and they were definitely also aware of that fact. They believed that they were at the dawning of when Jesus would soon establish the kingdom of God, and then they would stand in positions where they would govern the people along side of Jesus.

11. But, the Bible is telling us that of all people one of the twelve disciples did reject and betray the Lord. Judas stood at the lead and approached Jesus. The method he took to hand Jesus over with dead-sureness in the darkness was to signal it with a kiss. Still wearing the mask as a disciple until the end, with a kiss to express the emotion of affection Judas handed Jesus over to the crowd with [their] swords and sticks.

12. Why did Judas ever even do such a thing? How could he do such a dreadful thing? Since olden times a large number of explanations have been made. Yet, Mark is not about to offer an explanation. It is still wrapped up like a puzzle. In The Gospel According To Luke the text just says this, "By one man among the twelve, into Judas called Iscariot did Satan enter," (Luke 22:3). No other explanation but that seems to be made.

13. Some may say, "What a dumb story about Satan that is in this twenty-first century!" But, the fact of the matter is, I think that there are a lot of experiences that we have where we cannot express them except like that. When evil thoughts keep entering [our minds], something in our hearts collapses. That which supports a person inwardly within in the heart collapses. When it has collapsed, something dreadful takes place. [Something] even [to the degree] of betraying a person with a kiss takes place.

14. What [happened] with the other disciples? Peter used to stand at the lead of the flock of disciples and he said to Jesus, "Even though everyone stumbles, I will not stumble." He also went on to say, "Even if I must die with you, I would never say that I do not know you or anything such as that." Then, the text also says that the other disciples said the same thing, (14:29-31). They weren't [just] bluffing and boasting. They felt that way from the bottom of their hearts. In them was this hope for the restoration of Israel. They had [this] dream. They believed they would surrender their very lives for the mission without any regrets. And above all else they adored Jesus from their hearts [as] he lead them.

15. But, what became of them? The scripture plainly and truthfully states that "All the disciples forsake Jesus and fled," (verse fifty). Their hopes for the restoration of Israel, their dreams, their sense of mission were, all of them, useless at that time as items of certainty and rock-steadiness. Because of the surrounding circumstances, it all collapsed like a house of cards.

Through God The Father

16. The figure of Jesus is being contrasted with the figure of Judas and the figure of the disciples. With Judas approaching, Jesus came face to face with him and accepted his kiss of betrayal. He turned himself over to the men of violence who were arresting him all at once with swords and sticks. He was a betrayed man. He was a forsaken man, both by his disciples and by the crowds. He was like a single leaf from a tree tossed about by the wind. But, though the single tree leaf be in the wind, for some reason it doesn't stir. With firm resolution the Lord says to them, "As though facing a thief, did you come to arrest [me] with swords and sticks? Even though I was teaching every day while with [you] on the temple grounds, you did not arrest me. But, this is in order to fulfill the words of the scripture," (verses forty-eight and forty-nine).

17. "This is in order to fulfill the words of the scripture." Jesus said that. Put in other words, it would be it "is in order to fulfill the will of God." It is a statement of trust in God the Father. What was making Jesus standing [there] in the middle of betrayal and violence was neither conviction nor sense of mission. Jesus was not standing [there] because of what was in his own heart. That's not why, rather he was standing because of God the Father. Just before this the figure of Christ in prayer was depicted. It is the passage we read last week. "Abba, oh father, you can do anything. Please take this cup away from me. But it is not what I want, let what is in accordance with your will be performed," (verse thirty-six). That's what Jesus prayed. His relationship with his father, in which he could pray like that even though he was agonizing with fear, caused Christ to stand fast unwavering before the betrayal of Judas and before the crowd that had come to arrest him.

18. Since I am a pastor, I have had more than a few times to visit folks who have been hospitalized. Therefore, sometimes I have heard statements from other patients like "It's great to be a person of faith, isn't it?" I certainly do think that faith will support a person during times of difficulty or when faced with a crisis. But, as I hear that statement, I often wonder what kind of intentions those people are saying that with? Do they mean, "The faithful heart or the piety within a person will support him or her?" As a matter of fact, I think it is with that sense that it is being stated more often than not because I often hear even statements like, "You should have faith in something. A heart that believes is important." But, if you say "The piety within a person will support him or her" in that sense, I don't think that is correct because anyone claiming to have a heart that believes will collapse in most cases because of circumstances. Like Mrs. Ayako Miura said, it is true that "Human beings are weak, and how ever strong one's faith may be, because of governmental authorities or due to the surrounding circumstances, it [could all] collapse like a house of cards."

19. What supports a human being is not anything like "a heart that believes." It is not anything like "faith" in that particular definition. That which holds a person fast is not what is on the inside of the heart, but is on the outside. It is the living God himself. That which supports a person does not lie on the inside of a person, but lies between the person and God. It is the bond with God, it is the relationship with God. Therefore, Jesus never said to his disciples to "Be firm" or "assure your own hearts," but instead he said, "Wake up and pray, that you not fall into temptation." He demanded not that we open our eyes and turn them onto ourselves, but that we turn our eyes to God and meet face to face with God.

Wake Up And Pray

20. To begin with, why is it even written in the Bible that Peter denied Jesus three times or that all the disciples had forsaken Jesus and fled? It was [written] that they might keep their mouths shut; they would keep their mouths shut about the shameful past. They knew quite well that the reason they were made apostles was not because they did not misinterpret the verses or because they forced their own resolve through, and [they knew that] the reason they were still Christians did not derive from any inner strength of their own hearts. They discovered at the flesh and bone level within that [it was] because Jesus restored them through his mercy to a relationship with him and to a relationship with God the Father, [even though] they were unsure in their hearts and so weak they did not see what they would be guilty of doing at the crucial moment.

21. I think it was probably the same for Mark who had written a gospel. He tacked on the event of when he was a youth and had fled away completely naked. The reason he went out of the way to add that particular piece of personal trivia on must be because he had really wanted to write it in because Mark also was what could be called "a runaway." The Acts Of The Apostles gives the following record of the events of when Paul set forth on his second missionary journey. "Barnabbas wanted to bring along John called Mark. But Paul thought they should not bring him along, this one who separated from them before in the province of Pamphylia and didn't go with them on the mission to preach," (Acts 15:37-38). At the first missionary trip Mark must have had a sense of mission for it and a passion of his own when he had traveled with Paul and the group. But then, along the way he dropped out and went back to Jerusalem. Paul became angry over it. He didn't want to bring such a type with him again and at the second time around it was Mark who was written off by Paul.

22. But, that's not the end of the story for Mark. He ferried over to Cyprus with Barnabbas and according to tradition he worked as a translator for Peter and then wrote a gospel later on. And in it he wrote that he was a youth who fed away naked. He was probably trying to include a [personal] thought [of how he was:] "This is me." Whatever the case may have been, it must have been clear even for Mark that whatever he had now as he wrote the gospel did not come from any rock-steadiness of his own or from any strength in his own heart and mind.

23. The words of Jesus, "Wake up and pray, that you not fall into temptation," must have had huge significance for Mark the way he was, or even for Peter or for any of the other disciples. A person is only joined to the One who is truly rock-steady. A person is only under His strong grip and grasp. A person only prays and seeks His mercy, that we "not meet up with trials, but be delivered from evil."