Summary: When life takes an unexpected turn, trust in God's plan and don't be faithless and desert, denounce, or disown Jesus; but if you already have, trust in God's grace.
Ivan Misner, in his book The World's Best Known Marketing Secrets, tells the story of a San Diego bank, which hired a private investigator to track down a bank robber and retrieve stolen funds. The search led to Mexico. The investigator crossed the border and then, realizing he would need a Spanish interpreter, opened up the telephone book and hired the first interpreter listed in the Yellow Pages.
After many days, he finally captured the bandit and, through the interpreter, asked him, “Where did you hide the money?” In Spanish, the thief replied, “What money? I have no idea what you're talking about.”
With that, the investigator drew his pistol, pointed it at the suspect, and said to the interpreter, “Tell him that if he doesn't tell me where the money is, I will shoot him where he stands.”
Upon receiving this message, the bank robber said to the interpreter, “Señor, I have hidden the money in a coffee can, under the fourth floorboard, in the second-floor men's room of the Palacio Hotel on Via Del Rio in La Paz.”
“What did he say?” the investigator asked the interpreter.
“Señor,” said the interpreter as he thought for a moment, “he says he is prepared to die like a man!” (Ivan R. Misner, The World's Best Known Marketing Secrets, Bard Press, 1994, p.41; www.PreachingToday.com)
Life is like that sometimes. People, who are supposed to help us, betray us. Or our circumstances take an unexpected turn, and we find ourselves in a lot of trouble. It happens even to those of us who are following Christ. We are not exempt from trouble. If anything, we open ourselves up to more trouble because of our commitment to Christ.
This is exactly what the 1st Century Christians in Rome discovered. After they put their faith in Christ, their friends and even some of their family members betrayed them to the Roman authorities. Many of them lost their jobs. Several were arrested, and not a few died horrible deaths as a result.
So how do you respond when you feel betrayed and deserted? How do you respond when life takes a terrible turn? How do you respond when the suffering is more than you can bear?
Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Mark 14, Mark 14, where the Gospel writer, in addressing those 1st Century Christians in Rome, describes for them and us how Jesus’ original followers responded.
Mark 14:43-45 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. 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.” And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him. (ESV)
Judas kissed him like a long-lost, close friend. The same word is used of Mary who anointed Jesus’ feet and “kissed” them continually (Luke 7:38,45). It’s also used of the father who saw his prodigal son returning home from a far off. Luke 15 says, he ran to him and “kissed” him (Luke 15:20). This was an expression of extreme devotion and love, which became the sign of treachery and betrayal.
Mark 14:46 And they laid hands on him and seized him. (ESV)
The crowd with the swords and clubs, the crowd, which John’s gospel identifies as “a band of soldiers”, arrested Jesus (John 18:3).
Mark 14:47 But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. (ESV)
John 18:10 tells us that this disciple was Peter. He was trying to make good on his boast to defend Jesus at all cost. Only, he was a terrible swordsman. He went for the head and missed, cutting off only an ear. I’m sure the other soldiers just snickered under their breath.
Luke 21:51 tells us that Jesus restored the man’s ear, or else Peter would have been arrested, as well, and there might have been four crosses on Calvary. Warren Wiersbe said, “He used the wrong weapon, at the wrong time, for the wrong purpose, with the wrong motive.” Peter was fighting a spiritual battle with a physical weapon. He had failed to pray, so he resorts to the sword in his hand and fails miserably. That’s when Jesus steps in.
Mark 14:48-49 And Jesus said to them, “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.” (ESV)
These soldiers were cowards, arresting Jesus in a secluded place at night, but all this happened so that God’s Word would be fulfilled. You see, Jesus’ arrest and betrayal were all a part of God’s plan from the very beginning of time.