But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” (Mark 14:71 ESV)
The hour of trial has arrived. The night grew dark. The authorities and enemies of Christ seized the Lord. Jesus’ closest companions fled the scene. An unnamed young man runs away naked. Everything Jesus said would happen is unfolding, just as he foretold: betrayal, arrest, abandonment. The very ones who insisted they would stay close fled for their lives. The chief Apostle – the “Rock” – would crumble under the pain of embarrassment. Jesus is left alone.
He is left alone to stand before the Jewish authorities. Lies are hurled toward him. Witnesses contradict one another as they muster all they can to condemn Jesus. Jesus remains silent.
Frustrated, the high priest asks a direct question of Jesus – “Are you the Messiah?” Jesus finally speaks up, affirming that he is. This is all the evidence they need. This Nazarene has blasphemed. In their minds, no true Messiah would be all alone, forsaken by his followers, in custody of the authorities. They see him as a pretender, a phony, a blasphemer. They condemn him to death.
The shadow of the cross is now closer in our narrative than it has been yet. Jesus is moments away from death. Earlier in the Garden of Gethsemane, he faced the soul-wrenching anguish of the task of redemption, and he demonstrated holy resolve to go forward. In this account, we see Christ’s resolve remain strong. He chooses to go forward. He doesn’t need to defend himself. He tells the truth. And he is willing to suffer the consequences.
His disciples, however, are not willing to do so. They value their lives more than their commitment to Christ and his kingdom. They are ashamed of Christ. Up to this point, Mark had demonstrated that while the disciples failed in many ways, they remained loyal to Jesus; but in this moment, all loyalty was forsaken.
Who does the church most identify with in this account? Are we like the disciples, scared, ashamed, and disloyal? Or are we united in mission like the enemies of Christ? Rest assured, that when the servants of the Kingdom of God stop moving forward, the world continues its assault. A stagnated group of disciples allowed Christ to be handed over, and a stagnated church will not have much impact in this world.
Thank God, there is one who persevered through all of this, and his name is Jesus! The disciples were disloyal, the authorities were loyal but unrighteous, but Jesus was loyal and righteous. In God’s sovereignty, these events were meant to unfold in this way in order for us to have peace with God; but this outcome does not minimize the sin of abandoning Christ. May we, who have been forgiven, trust in the One who endured to the end, that we also may stand up for Christ, to the glory of God.