“It’s a weapon found only in the hands of one you love.
Your enemy has no such tool, for only a friend can betray.
Betrayal is mutiny.
It is a violation of trust. An inside job.”
Max Lucado, THE FINAL WEEK OF JESUS
The Ones Who Left
After Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, he suffered beatings, secret trials, crucifixion, and death after hanging on a cross for six hours; most of his disciples, vacant from the horrific scene.
After the betrayal and capture of their leader, the followers bolted. Peter (and another unnamed disciple) did follow Jesus, only to deny His Lord three times and run away.
Jesus, the crucified. Jesus the betrayed.
If we rewind the story, we read that The Messiah taught His disciples what was to come several times as His ministry on earth closed in. He predicted His death and resurrection (see Mark 9:32). We also read in Mark that the followers did not comprehend His meaning.
“But they did not understand the saying and were afraid to ask him.”
Mark 9:32 ESV
What a notion – the idea that Jesus would die and then come back to life! I relate to the disciples’ reaction or lack thereof. How does one grasp the idea of death and resurrection?
The hope of this Hebrew nation was that a Savior would come and rescue them from the evil clutch of Rome. These men believed Jesus Christ was The One. Instead, He dangled to His death, seeming to desert his beloved supporters.
They were left with fear for their safety, fear of their future, and swimming in grief. I imagine bitterness and anger surged inside their inconsolable hearts. I do not condemn them. I empathize with their plight.
“If I were hanged on the highest hill,
Mother o’mine, O mother o’mine!
I know whose love would follow me still,
Mother o’mine, O mother o’mine!
The Ones Who Stayed
John. The only disciple who did not desert Jesus nicknamed “The One Whom Jesus Loved”. He accompanied Mary, the mother of Jesus and several other women on the harrowing route to Jesus’ death, and saw the horrors of the crucifixion.
Why did this group trail their leader when the others fled in terror? Yes, Mary stayed. Mothers usually do. And John, with His distinct and special relationship with His Lord (his term of endearment our clue), how could he not stay? But what about the others?
As I researched this time period, I learned that women were not arrested often. The ones deemed immoral – spurned, and stoned to death, yes. But not arrested. Did this give this sisterhood an extra dose of courage? Perhaps their commitment to their King far outweighed possible maltreatment. Or perhaps these loyal women had nowhere else to go but with their friend, this grieving mother, to her son’s place of death. Or, after what they had witnessed: the miraculous feedings, the healing touches, the change in the air, and the beauty of grace, they hadn’t the heart to walk away.
Maybe this entire grieving group understood more than the ones who fled what was to come? A knowing-sense of the darkest hour shifting to the brightest of days.
Undoubtedly, love shone in their eyes as cries of agony fell from their lips. Passion ran deep for their soon-to-be Savior.
To these faithful souls, Jesus was worth it.
There is a cost that comes with discipleship. For those who followed then. For those who follow the risen-one today.
I cried this week as I read an article in Christianity Today (link below). A group of ex-Muslim new-Christian believers recently chose to stay in the faith. These dear ones, elected baptism, even after their pastor was kidnaped and killed. The cost is great for these courageous new Christ-followers. They know they may face persecution and death. The odds are not in their favor.
In the chronicles of the Christian Church, stories of brave faith and martyrdom fill the pages – from the beginning of the church until the present day. Accounts of the ones who stayed.
As disciples of Jesus in the western world, we are not much faced with a life-risking level of persecution, yet. But the winds of change are blowing in as society does not show much tolerance for Biblical ideals these days.
When these winds begin to blow hot, will we flee? Will we count the cost and find it far too great?
Or, will we stay?
Do you have confidence that you will follow Him on the road to tribulation? Will you stand for Him when the majority runs off, only to leave you and a small band of faithful with nothing left?
Nothing left but Jesus.
The magnificent news is that all (but one) returned after the Resurrection. These scared men who fled the scene, went on to revolutionize the world. God’s power and courage filled them; His grace restored them. Heaven’s heroes.
This Easter, may we count the cost as we face our Savior on the cross. Then, look to the empty tomb. May we find Him worth it all and be the ones who stay.
“Princes, kings, and other rulers of the world have used all their strength and cunning against the Church, yet it continues to endure and hold its own.”
John Foxe, Foxes Book of Martyrs