Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,
If you have a TV at home and you watch shows with weekly episodes, you will know that some of them took a break over the Christmas and New Year period. So when the new episode arrived, it began with a slightly longer As Seen Previously segment to help us remember where the different story lines in the show were at.
Well, those of you who have been here in recent weeks will recall that we have described this section of Mark’s Gospel as Disciple TV – a reality show where we get to see the disciples, warts and all. But because I was in Dunedin last Lord’s Day, and because some of you have been on holiday or not here at all, it will be worth our time to have a bit of an As HEARD Previously.
• Episode 1 was about the conversation between Jesus and the disciples on the Mount of Olives, as recorded in vv26-31. And we made the point then that what we learn about the disciples of Jesus here also reveals much about ourselves as disciples of Christ.
o We saw how weak disciples are but how much the Lord Jesus loves them despite their weakness.
o We saw that the disciples completely missed what Jesus said about being “raised up” in v29 and were reminded of how important it is that we pay attention to God’s Word.
o And we saw the danger of self-confidence as we heard the disciples promises not to abandon Jesus, before doing exactly that. So our confidence is not to be in ourselves or our strength but in the Lord Jesus.
• In Episode 2 our focus was very much on the Lord Jesus and we only considered the disciples by way of contrast.
o We saw how keenly He felt the burden of sin in comparison to how often disciples do not take sin nearly as seriously as they should.
o And we learned much about prayer and temptation and submission to God’s will as we considered His example in Gethsemane’s garden.
Well, that brings us to today and Episode 3. It is very late at night or very early in the morning – it is the ‘wee small hours’ as we say. Jesus returns to His disciples and calls on them to get up, telling them that the hour of His betrayal into the hands of sinners has come.
And what we witness next are KINGDOM LESSONS FROM GETHSEMANE’S GARDEN. And we learn these lessons as we see that the King is ENTIRELY MISUNDERSTOOD and then COMPLETELY ABANDONED. And as we consider Judas and the crowd and then the disciples and this young man, we will once again learn much about the Lord Jesus and His kingdom that forces us to consider our understanding of the nature of His kingdom and our work as citizens of His kingdom.
So we consider the first kingdom lesson as we see that the King is entirely misunderstood, from vv43-49.
1. Back in 12-25 we read of Jesus enjoying the Last Supper with His disciples and instituting the Lord’s Supper. From vv18-21 we read of Jesus speaking about being betrayed and from the other Gospels we learnt that it was at this time that JUDAS ISCARIOT left Jesus and the other disciples, having in fact been told by Jesus that what He was about to do, he was to do quickly. Well, we know from Mark that Judas had previously agreed to betray Jesus to the chief priests. So it is clear from our text that he has gone to the Jewish leaders and told them that tonight was the night. Mark tells us that Judas was with a crowd and John tells us that the crowd was “a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees.” And if we play detective for a moment, we can imagine that they probably went first to the Upper Room. However, Jesus had left that place and they are either told or they guessed where Jesus had likely gone.
A. And while that is SPECULATION, I mention it because most of the commentaries you read on Mark’s Gospel will tell you that the young man of vv51-52, the one who fled from the scene, naked, was probably Mark, the author of this Gospel. Piecing various Bible texts together and adding in some not unreasonable guesswork, it is believed that Jesus ate the Last Supper at the home of Mary, who was Mark’s mother. And the arrival of Judas and the crowd in the middle of the night alerted Mark to fact that trouble was brewing so he grabbed a blanket or undergarment in his hurry to leave and followed Judas and the crowd to the garden where he witnessed the arrest of Jesus and later fled. And again, I mention this only because most commentators mention it. But we shall say more about this in our second point.
2. Whatever the case may be, Judas is here with a large group of people, who are armed, as we are told, “with swords and clubs.” And Judas had given the crowd a sign – Arrest the one I KISS.
A. And the GREEK word translated as kiss here is not the peck on the cheek kind of kiss but the kiss of deep affection between good friends.
B. And it is surely the most infamous kiss in all of history. What a deceitful way to betray one who had only ever shown Him grace and kindness.
3. So they lay their hands on Jesus and SEIZE Him. And while on other occasions Jesus escaped crowds who tried to seize Him, this time He does not do so but is content, instead, to let them take Him, because now is the time for Him to do what He came to do.
4. And then we read in verse 47 that one of those with Him, who we learn from the other Gospels was Peter, drew a SWORD and sliced off the ear of one in the crowd. But Mark is not interested here in who did this and to whom it was done and what happened to the ear; Mark is interested in highlighting just HOW BIZARRE AND SAD this whole situation is. So He records Jesus saying, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” And congregation, this is the whole CRUX of this episode. For many of us this is a familiar story. But listen to this description of Jesus’ ministry from Matthew’s Gospel: “And He went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.” Jesus did not hold secret meetings to try and attract a crowd. He didn’t lead daring night-time raids on soldiers’ posts or spray rebellious graffiti on the walls of Pilate’s palace. He taught and He healed in broad daylight. But now He is being treated like some robber.
A. And the reason for this, as we see in v49, is ‘THAT THE SCRIPTURES MIGHT BE FULFILLED.”
i. We read earlier from PSALM 22 where David prophesies by the Spirit of Jesus as the forsaken one; the one scorned by mankind and despised by the people; the one encompassed by a “company of evildoers.”
ii. Isaiah 53 speaks of Him as one who was despised and not esteemed by the people, and one who was “numbered with the transgressors.”
iii. Jesus is treated like any other criminal or rebel leader that the Scriptures might be fulfilled. None of the people here understand Who He is and What He has come to do.
a. The SON OF GOD who is the One by whom all things were created, the One who is the perfect image of God, and the one whose whole life has been characterized by kindness and gentleness is treated here like some common robber who might resist arrest. Phil. 2:8 talks about Jesus making Himself nothing and humbling Himself. So this moment too is a part of His humiliation. This moment was a part of what was necessary for Him to be a suitable Saviour.
B. You know there is massive irony in this moment. We have spoken several times about the JEWISH EXPECTATIONS regarding Messiah and the reality of what Jesus came to do. So consider this: The Jewish expectation of that time was that Messiah would arrive on the Mt. of Olives and deliver His people from the Gentiles and resanctify the temple by cleansing it of pagan influence. Ask anyone in the streets of Jerusalem and that is what they would have told you would happen any day. But what happens here instead? Jesus is betrayed and delivered to His Jewish enemies, where? On the Mt. of Olives, which is where Gethsemane is. And they soon hand Him over to the Gentiles who put Him to death. And what happens as He dies? The curtain of the temple is torn in two as a preview of the complete destruction of the temple that is soon to come! But Judas and the crowd and even Peter who pulled out his sword and the other disciples who all fled had not understood this about King Jesus and His Kingdom. Their worldview was still an earthly, military, Judeo-centric world-view.
C. Soon Jesus would stand before PONTIUS PILATE. And John tells us that Pilate asked Jesus if He was a King. Listen to Jesus’ reply: “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”
i. Well, no one there in the garden understood this. Judas never understood it, eventually taking his own life because of an overwhelming guilt. The disciples only understood this later after they met the risen Jesus and He poured out His Spirit upon them from heaven.
ii. The question today then is DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE NATURE OF JESUS’ KINGDOM?
iii. And you can only answer yes if you FIRST UNDERSTAND JESUS.
a. He was born in a manger to a lowly nobody of a mother with very little fanfare.
b. He was rejected by all the theologians of His day and betrayed by a friend and abandoned by His other friends.
c. He didn’t come to be a conquering general in military battles.
d. He didn’t come to solve world poverty.
e. He didn’t come to clean up the environment.
f. He didn’t come so that His people could get rich and be free of illness.
g. He came to save His people from their sins.
1) Mankind’s greatest problem; your greatest problem is sin and the inevitable death that sin brings. You are a law-breaker. You are a guilty sinner. But Jesus came to die on the cross so that whoever believes in Him shall be forgiven and have eternal life.
2) Is this the King Jesus that you know and believe in and trust and love?
iv. And in terms of His KINGDOM, Jesus came to gather all those who believe in Him into His church that together they might be His body on earth; that they might be His voice and His hands and His feet on earth.
a. The kingdom of the Lord Jesus grows as His people share the good news of the gospel by word and deed; they combine acts of kindness with an explanation of why they do this – the love of Christ.
1) ISIS is trying to spread the message of Islam with a sword. Christians, in the past, have imitated Peter and tried to convert with a sword. But 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 is very plain: “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.”
2) You boys and girls will know what WEAPONS Christian are to use from Ephesians 6 – the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness and the shield of faith and helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
3) The WAY OF THE KINGDOM IS, as Jesus said, “Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
4) And in Jesus’ interaction with Judas we have the perfect example of Him living these words – as He is betrayed with that ugly kiss, all for a few coins, Matthew’s Gospel tells us that Jesus said to Judas, “Friend, do what you are here to do.” Knowing that Judas was betraying Him, Jesus still called Him friend!
5) You have probably seen or heard about anti-abortionists killing doctors who perform ABORTIONS – that is not the way of the kingdom. To offer kindness and practical help in the name of Christ to mothers who don’t know what to do with an unexpected baby – that is the way of the kingdom.
6) You have probably seen or heard about Fred Phelps and the people of WESTBORO Chapel in the USA who wave ‘God hates faggots’ banners at protests – that is not the way of the kingdom. Being a kind and hospitable neighbour or work-colleague to the homosexual or lesbian you know as a demonstration of the love of Christ as well as speaking the truth of Christ in relation to sin – that is the way of the kingdom.
7) The gospel of the kingdom advances by the power of the Holy Spirit who delights to work through the deeds and words of the church of Christ. Are you a citizen of this kingdom? Is this how you are serving in His kingdom?
Well, that is the first kingdom lesson from this episode. The King was completely misunderstood. His kingdom is not of this world – it is a kingdom of salvation that brings renewal to individuals and families and communities and nations that will ultimately climax in a new heavens and a new earth. But secondly and more briefly we learn another kingdom lesson as the King is ENTIRELY ABANDONED, from vv50-52.
1. As we have seen in previous weeks, the DISCIPLES and Peter especially made resolute promises that they would drink the cup that Jesus had to drink and that they would not abandon Him, even if they had to die! But as we see in v50, all that counts for nothing as they leave Him and flee.
2. And then we have this rather curious account of this unnamed YOUNG MAN who stayed for a while until he was also seized but managed to escape, naked. Was it Mark, the author of this Gospel? Perhaps. It is a reasonable case that is made. But we are simply not told who it was so we cannot be sure. And the point of this account is not so that we play detective and try and work out who it was, but that we see that Jesus was ENTIRELY abandoned. Even this young man who was a nobody abandoned Jesus – not one person was willing to stand by Him and speak up for justice or hang in there whatever the cost.
3. Proverbs 29:25 says, “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.” If you fear people, it can be like a trap that you step into and get stuck in. And it was fear of men that led the disciples to abandon Jesus – they knew where all this was headed for Jesus and they knew where it would head for them if they stayed with Him.
A. Well according to the Proverb, if we trust in the Lord, we are safe and NEED NOT FEAR MEN. Right? Well, I am sure there are many here would say that they trust in the Lord. So are you free of the fear of man? Are you free of peer pressure? Is there no-one who if you know you have to talk to them or no situation involving other people that if you have to face brings out a cold sweat and inner turmoil? I expect there is. This episode and many other from church history tell us that it is possible to be one who trusts in the Lord but when it comes to the crunch, the fear of men is just too strong to resist.
i. THOMAS CRANMER, for example, was a leader of the English Reformation and the Archbishop of Canterbury in the first half of the 16th century. He wrote and complied the first two editions of the Book of Common Prayer and oversaw the first worship services in English. However, later on, after being imprisoned for two years and under severe pressure from Roman Catholic authorities, he recanted some of his beliefs to escape death.
ii. The fear of man is a very powerful thing. So we must be wary of self-confidence. Are you stronger than the disciples? Are you stronger than Thomas Cranmer? Would you have stayed with Jesus? Would you have refused to recant?
iii. Oh how we need HUMILITY when it comes to ourselves and CHARITY when it comes to others. Perhaps someone you know has fallen into sin. Perhaps they have done so again. Well, do not expect too much of them and do not write them off as beyond God’s grace. The disciples who abandoned Jesus later repented and became His chief ambassadors. Thomas Cranmer was taken from prison and told to repeat His recantations at a public service at the University church. He wrote out his sermon, including his recantations. But when the time came to preach, he instead renounced the recantations he had said and written and called the Pope the enemy of Christ. Unsurprisingly then he was immediately dragged from the pulpit and sentenced to burn at the stake for treason and heresy. And as he stood there with the flames rising around him, he put the hand that had signed his recantations into the fire saying that it must burn first. His dying words were, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit … I see the heavens opened and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.”
4. But let us not end thinking about the disciples or Thomas Cranmer; let us end by thinking again of the LORD JESUS. At this moment, He was let down by people He loved. You too, I am sure, have been let down by people you love. It may have been friends or family or church members or elders, deacons, ministers. But in Jesus you have an UNFAILING FRIEND who will never abandon you.
A. And this is in no way meant to encourage you to live a life of carefree sin – Pastor said Jesus will not abandon me; I can live how I please. Learn from Judas! Judas was close to Jesus, but Judas died an unrepentant sinner. And the Bible is clear that Judas will receive eternal condemnation. So if you live a life of wilful and ongoing and unrepentant sin, then don’t deceive yourself that Jesus never abandons His friends. “If you live according to the flesh,” says Romans 8:13, “you will die.”
B. I speak here of the other disciples of Jesus and all those who are true children of God. I speak here of those who “by the Spirit put to death the deeds of the body,” as Romans 8:13 continues, for they “shall live.”
C. Your salvation depends not on your own strength and effort but on the saving work of the Lord Jesus. And you may, at times, fall into grievous sin that brings with it a strong sense of guilt and doubts about your salvation.
D. But you must then look to Christ who tasted every sorrow, who experienced every disappointment, who knows all your hurts, and who bore the abandonment of His disciples with patience and loved them nevertheless. Because as a loving Saviour, He always stands ready to forgive those who confess their sins and repent of their sins.
E. And if you know this and if you have experienced this then you should also do the same with others who disappoint you or hurt you or abandon you, perhaps many times.
The kingdom of Jesus is not of this world – it is a kingdom of salvation and renewal by His Spirit through His church. And though you might abandon Him, He will never abandon you.
It is as Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Amen.