FAILING OR FOLLOWING JESUS
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
April 7, 2013
27 And Jesus said to them, You will all fall away, for it is written, I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered. 28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee. 29 Peter said to him, Even though they all fall away, I will not. 30 And Jesus said to him, Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times. 31 But he said emphatically, If I must die with you, I will not deny you. And they all said the same. 32 And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, Sit here while I pray. 33 And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. 34 And he said to them, My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch. 35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will. 37 And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? 38 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. 39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. 41 And he came the third time and said to them, Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand. 43 And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. 44 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard. 45 And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, Rabbi! And he kissed him. 46 And they laid hands on him and seized him. 47 But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 48 And Jesus said to them, Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled. 50 And they all left him and fled. 51 And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, 52 but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.
-- Mark 14:27-52, ESV
God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility play out on every page of Scripture. God is ultimately in control of all things, and works all things together for the good of His chosen ones (ref. Romans 8:28, etc.). Yet men and women are free and responsible moral agents before God, and we must strive to do what is right, just, and faithful. It seems that God always handles His sovereignty with perfection and grace. However, we all too often fail in keeping our responsibilities before Him.
These truths were never more evident than when our Lord Jesus Christ made His way to the cross. Of course, this plan of redemption was ordained by God before the creation of the world (ref. Acts 2:23; Ephesians 1:3-14; Revelation 13:8). But as the hour approached for Jesus’ death, colossal failures on the part of His followers played a key role in Christ’s arrest and crucifixion. See here the four ways to fail Jesus, and the better way for followers of the Lord.
Failure Number One: Boasting (vs. 27-31)
When it came to keeping Jesus from the cross, Simon Peter had already boasted one time too many (ref. Mark 8:31-33). Here, the rock rolled his foot into his mouth once again. Jesus told them, honestly, that they would all abandon Him at His arrest. Peter told Jesus, arrogantly, that they would not. We will follow up on Peter’s particular failure later (ref. vs. 66-72), but for now we want to point out a general failure on Peter’s and the disciples’ part.
What do you call it when you think you know more than God? What do you call it when you think you have a better plan for your life than God does? What do you call it when you are one step away from taking a big step away from God? I suppose you could call it a lot of things. But for now I want to warn you against the failure of boasting, boasting in your self-sufficiency rather than the plan and providence of God.
Never brag about what you’ve done or what you plan to do for God. It is much better and wiser to brag on what God has done for you and will do for you in Christ. Pastors are the world’s worst at bragging on themselves, and we call it preaching. I’ve heard parishioners do it, too, and call it a testimony. The Apostle Paul teaches us to never boast in anything save the saving power of our Lord Jesus Christ (ref. Galatians 6:14), and that’s called witnessing. The Apostle James tells us to never boast about what we plan to do, only seek to carry out the Lord’s plans (ref. James 4:13-17), and that’s called following. Boasting is a sure way to fail when you are trying to to be a a good witness and a fully devoted follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Failure Number Two: Prayerlessness (vs. 32-42)
Boasting is a negative sign of self-sufficiency. So is failing to pray. Our Lord set forth a vigorous example of the power of prayer in a follower’s life, for in Jesus’ earthly life and ministry He was steadfastly praying and following the Father’s will. The Lord’s prayer in Gethsemane is probably the most powerful example of how prayer keeps us from failing and falling away from the Father’s will in our lives. Prayer promotes reliance on God’s Spirit, instead of trusting in our own strength. And prayer is something Jesus invited Peter, James, and John to do in this text.
And, they failed. Because they failed to pray, the failed to recognize Judas as the betrayer, failed to use non-violence as the way to defend the Lord, and failed to stand firm the the face of the adversity of Jesus’ arrest. Failing to pray is a failure in and of itself, and often leads to further failures down the road.
Going back to Christ’s supreme example, prayer is a lifestyle that leads to specific moments of communication with God -- not at God, nor merely from God, but with God. The Son verbally spoke to the Father, and the Father spiritually communicated to the Son. The Son expressed honest feelings and personal preferences, and the Father showed Him the way to go. The Son, like all children of God, had a will or desire about the way things ought to be, but His will was lost in the Fathers will at the end of the prayer. Prayer does not change our immutable God, but prayer changes our will and conforms our ways to God’s will. So, a failure to pray is a failure to do God’s will, in more ways than one.
Failure Number Three: Hypocrisy (vs. 43-46)
This third failure is dark and different. Of the four I find in this whole passage, it is the only one that only an unbeliever can make. Usually, there is no remedy or repentance for this failure. It is the failure of hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy is literally acting out a part, of pretending to be someone you are not, and being fully aware you are trying to fool others, sometimes even God. Judas pretended to be a follower of Jesus. He feigned affection and respect by calling Him, “Rabbi.” He was thought to be a leader of the fledging band of New Covenant church members. But He was the one chiefly responsible, humanly speaking, for the betrayal, arrest, brutalization, and crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ. And wherever or whatever Hell is, Judas is in the worst part, along with all the other hypocrites.
Of all the failures Jesus encountered in His public ministry, the only one He was particularly hard on was hypocrisy. He freely forgave an adulterous woman. He freely forgave a murderer and thief on the cross. He freely forgave almost all manner of sins and sinners, but He was hard and harsh on the religious hypocrites of His day.
Believers can be hypocritical at times, and nothing grieves the Holy Spirit more. Therefore, we should strive not to fall into temporary failures acting rather that being Christian. But believers can’t live constantly as hypocrites. Hypocrisy is the biggest, most unbelieving, most devastating failure of them all.
Failure Number Four: Cowardice (vs. 47-52)
There is one more failure that even followers fall into, and we do it all the time. As a matter of fact, every time we fail to follow the Lordship of Jesus Christ in witnessing, giving, loving, or any other thing the Lord has shown us to do, we commit this failure. It is the cold failure of cowardice.
Most sins we do by commission. Cowardice is the sin of omission. Cowardice is running away from the Lord, the Lord’s will, or the Lord’s task at hand. It is not doing what we are supposed to do as believers and followers of Jesus Christ.
At the arrest of Jesus what did Jesus’ follower do? They just ran. Even a young follower, who many believe was the author of this Gospel, Mark, ran so hard and fast away from Jesus that he left his very clothing behind. Yes, Mark is not only the first to write one of the four Gospels, he is also the father of the infamous fad of streaking. I think Ray Stevens has a song about that, too.
I don’t mean to make light of cowardice. It is too common and too costly. Remember, God is sovereign and all things happen according to His great plan and timing. But we are responsible before Him. If someone perishes because we are too cowardly to witness to them or invite them to Christian worship, we are responsible. If the church cannot complete a task because we are too cowardly to give the resources God has given to us, we are responsible. If someone is hungry and we do not feed them, if someone is naked and we do not cloth them, if someone is in harm’s way in any way and we do not stand to defend them, we are responsible. Let us pledge as one to never run away from the responsibilities God has given to His church! And, let us find the ways to avoid failure in following Jesus Christ.
Forgiveness and Faithfully Following Jesus
What can wash away our sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can keep us from falling into failure? Nothing but being forgiveness and being a fully devoted follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Judas did not recover from the failures found in this text. Simon Peter did, as did James and John, and the other disciples, even Mark. What did they believe in that Judas did not?
What did they find that Judas did not? They believed they could find forgiveness from God by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And forgiven people are not failures, for they become followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus did not boast. Jesus spent time in prayer. Jesus was the Truth. Jesus was no coward. Other examples abound. Paul, a man pedigreed beyond degree, never boasted in anything except the cross of Jesus Christ. Polycarp, a disciple of the Apostle John and an early church father, was nicknamed “Old Camel Knees” because of his penchant for prayer. Nathaniel Bartholomew was the anti-Judas Iscariot, with no guile or hypocrisy in his born again bones. And the beloved Apostle John, showed courage by gaining entry for himself and Peter into the courtyard of Jesus’ trial, by positioning himself at the foot of the cross at Jesus’ death, and by carrying the gospel to the ends of the earth all throughout his painful, persecuted life.
This is forgiveness and faith in action. This is fully and faithfully following the Lord Jesus Christ. This is Christianity filled with humility, dependency, sincerity, and courage. This is the remedy for failure. So don’t fail, follow, for it will inspire others to follow the Lord, too.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org