Grace for the Deserters


Mark 14:50 “Then everyone deserted him and fled.”

Following Jesus doesn’t make life easier or safer, does it. That doesn’t deny God’s providence or blessings for those who believe in him. Every believer can be confident of God’s promises. He will answer our prayers for daily bread. His angel encamps around those who fear him. The Lord himself will rescue us from every evil attack and bring us safely to his heavenly kingdom.

At the same time, those promises don’t change the fact that he lets us feel his loving hand of discipline. Jesus’ disciples sometimes had the idea that following him was going to make them national heroes, or land them in the lap of luxury. Modern day disciples sometimes share similar dreams. They believe that following him will make all their family problems go away. They think it guarantees a steady income or removes any need for doctors.

Bible history makes it clear that the enemies of God in this world have always outnumbered his friends. We’re on the wrong side, as far as this sinful world is concerned. Satan and his allies have no intention of leaving us alone. As soldiers in God’s army, we get shot at, too.

Sometimes Christians in other parts of the world understand this better. In Pakistan, the highest career most Christians can attain is taxi-driver or a janitor. Telling your friend about Jesus could cost you your life. In places like Sudan or northern Nigeria, entire Christian villages are wiped out, or they sell the women and children into slavery.

If we let our Christianity shine at work, our neighborhood, or at school here at home, we face our own possible consequences. What are they trying to do when they call you a Neanderthal or a prude for your old-fashioned morality? Isn’t this an attempt to commit spiritual homicide?

Don’t let it surprise you that Jesus lets it be dangerous to follow him. If being a Christian required no commitment, if it presented no troubles, if it didn’t call us to give up anything, would Jesus be the one we are following? He committed himself to us without condition. His life in this world was constantly plagued with trouble. He gave up everything to make us his own. Let’s not be surprised when following him brings us similar experiences.

When his disciples came to grips with the danger involved in following Christ at his arrest, they had a solution. “Everyone deserted him and fled.” At the moment, this seemed like a good plan. The more distance they could put between Jesus and themselves, the safer they would be. The less connected to Jesus they appeared, the more they could feel. They would run away and escape the danger.

Did they find the safety they were looking for that weekend? Did they feel secure once they had distanced themselves from him? Didn’t they spend the whole weekend huddled together in fear, reduced to a pathetic group of whimpering cowards? They were paralyzed and crushed by the guilt they felt over leaving Jesus alone.

The application isn’t hard to see. When we are together, we may be some Jesus’ boldest defenders. It’s safe in isolation. The question is, “how are we doing out there?” Do we resemble those the Apostle John wrote about, “They loved praise from men more than praise from God” (John 12:43)? We don’t literally get up and run away when Jesus’ teachings come under attack. We just bite our tongues and don’t say a word.

Part of the reason Jesus needed to suffer for sin was our own unwillingness to stand by him and defend him to others. And how does he react to those who have bailed out on him? Remember his first words to these men when he met them Easter evening: “Peace be with you.” He holds no grudges. He demands no restitution. He simply promises them peace.

That is the peace only Jesus could give. He had to suffer and die all by himself to secure that peace. No one could help him do it. No one did help him do it. Our own sin has always been a far greater danger to us than our association with Jesus. It is so dangerous it killed him. But now, he has taken the danger away. No matter what happens to us here, our souls are safe and secure in him. He will never desert us.

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