Text: Mark 14:1-72
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“One of you will betray me” (v. 18).
“You will all fall away” (v. 27).
“You will deny me three times” (v. 30).
Betrayal of Jesus
When I say the word “traitor,” I’m guessing that for many of you, two people come to mind: Judas Iscariot and Benedict Arnold. Benedict Arnold was an American general who was appointed to run West Point, a key military position during the Revolutionary War. Arnold betrayed America by offering to sell plans of the fort to the British for an amount that would equal $3 million today. People like Judas Iscariot and Benedict Arnold are one of most despised kinds of people. You don’t want to be known as a traitor.
On the night of his arrest, Jesus made three shocking statements to his disciples: (1) “One of you will betray me” (v. 18); (2) “You will all fall away” (v. 27); (3) “You [Peter] will deny me three times” (v. 30).
It could be said that all of the disciples betrayed Jesus. According to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, “betray” can mean “to give information about (a person, group, country, etc.) to an enemy” or “to hurt (someone who trusts you, such as a friend or relative) by not giving help or by doing something morally wrong.” The betrayal of Judas fits the first definition. (The Greek word for “betray” means “to hand over.”) The betrayal of the other eleven disciples (especially Peter) fits the second definition. How can people like the twelve disciples turn their backs on Jesus?
Every Christian is potentially a traitor, so we must be careful to maintain our loyalty to Jesus.
There are two kinds of people who call themselves Christians: (1) people who appear to be Christians but who really aren’t (like Judas) and (2) people who really are Christians but struggle to maintain their loyalty to Jesus (like the other eleven disciples).
The possibility of betrayal is strongest when doing our will is more important than doing God’s will. The betrayals of the disciples didn’t happen instantly. Three times in Mark’s Gospel Jesus predicts his death (8:31; 9:31; 10:31-34). After the first prediction, Peter rebuked Jesus (8:32). After the second prediction, all of the twelve disciples “argued with one another about who was the greatest” (9:34). After the third prediction, James and John said to Jesus, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory” (10:37; cf. v. 41). They were most concerned about their wills getting done.
Sometimes our betrayal of Jesus manifests itself for all to see. Other times we (churchgoers) honor Jesus with our lips, but our hearts are far from him (Mark 7:6). Perhaps your love for Jesus and for others has grown cold.
Loyalty to Jesus
For the Christian, nothing should be more important than loyalty to Jesus. If you’re a true Christian, you won’t be happy living a life of betrayal. And when a professing Christian is seen to be disloyal to Jesus, nonbelievers will scoff at their hypocrisy. How can we maintain our loyalty to Jesus?
1. We must admit that we’re not as strong as we sometimes think we are.
(Many times before I go to an all-you-can-eat buffet, I’ll say to myself, “I’m only going to have a couple of plates of food, and the first one will be a salad. But then when I get there I find out I’m not as strong as I thought I was.) Peter thought he was stronger than he really was. He said, “Even though they all fall away, I will not” (v. 29). After Peter was told that he would deny Jesus three times, he emphatically declared, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you” (v. 31). Mark adds, “And they all said the same” (v. 31).
2. We must be alert and pray.
In the garden, Jesus told Peter, James, and John, he asked them to “watch” while he prayed (v. 34). Three times he found them sleeping (vv. 37, 40, 41). On the second occasion, Jesus said to them, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (v. 38). “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). When we are alert, we demonstrate that we are not overconfident. When we pray, we demonstrate that we are depending on God.
3. We must believe that no sacrifice is too great.
“As [Jesus] was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head” (v. 3). “This ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii” (v. 5). (A denarius was a day’s wage for a laborer.) Jesus sacrificed his life for us. He is worthy of any sacrifice we make for him.
What is more shocking than the disciples’ betrayal is Jesus’ forgiveness. Forgiveness is not to be seen as an encouragement for more disloyalty to Jesus. Rather, forgiveness is the greatest motivation for total loyalty to Jesus.