URC Daily Devotion 22 March 2024

St Mark 14: 26 – 31
When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. And Jesus said to them, ‘You will all become deserters; for it is written,

“I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.”

But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.’ Peter said to him, ‘Even though all become deserters, I will not.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ But he said vehemently, ‘Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.’ And all of them said the same.

If the denial of Jesus by those closest to him feels shocking today, it would be even more so to Christians in the very early Church in the decades immediately following Jesus’ earthly life. These first Christians scattered around Asia Minor and particularly those in Rome, regarded Peter and the other apostles as huge role models and fearless witnesses for Christ.  So, for these heroic saints of the fledgling Church to be seen as disavowing Jesus must have been difficult to take on board. 

Perhaps they came to an understanding of this by appreciating two linked messages implied in this passage. First, that this was as had been foretold in scripture, that after the shepherd was struck “the sheep will be scattered;” and second, that this was a panic scattering following the horror of their Lord being brutally taken away from them. In other words, it was to be seen as a “weakness of the flesh” rather than a deliberate betrayal. It must have been of some comfort to members of the early Church when they wavered in their faith, to appreciate that even the apostles at times faltered.

Nevertheless, the language used in this passage is pretty stark and uncompromising. Jesus doesn’t spare them with accusations of merely wobbling, but says they will become “deserters.” When Peter fervently protests, Jesus does not relent or soften his message but doubles down in his blunt prediction of Peter’s threefold denial.

So, alongside those Christians of the early Church, we also may despairingly ask: if even such paragons of faith as the apostles are found so wanting, what hope is there for us?

Well, ironically, as I read Peter’s hurt-filled words “Even though all become deserters, I will not” what struck me was, in fact these words capture the fundamental promise and assurance that Christ makes to each of us. No matter how far short we fall, however much we fail as Christians and to live as we should, and, indeed, however much we desert Christ … he will not desert us!

In all our lives there are times when our faith falters, doubts overwhelm. and we do not believe, but we have the assurance that Christ will always believe in us.

There are many times
When life becomes so difficult
When crisis overwhelms us,
panic sets in, and we doubt.
There are times when
we fail to believe:
and we desert you
and the path you lead.
When we cease to believe in you
Thank you for continuing to believe in us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.