“And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me (Mark 14:18).’”
I won’t forget when a good friend of mine turned away from me. It was 4th grade, and several classes were assembled for a presentation. We had been warned not to talk or we would receive detentions. I was a good rule follower and had never been punished for anything so I was terrified of getting a dreaded detention. My Peter sat next to me at the assembly and began whispering to me. I turned to him to tell him to be quiet at the exact time that my teacher, Mr. Denny, bore his eyes into my skull. I turned to see him pull out his detention slip and fill in my name. Later I tried to explain what had happened, but my friend did not come to my aid lest he became implicated in the crime as well! I was punished while my friend Peter didn’t even get a warning!
Today, we see Jesus begin to acknowledge that he foresees that all of his closest friends and followers will turn away from him in his time of greatest need. It is striking to see them all fall away as the stakes are raised. Yet are we really that different from them? Faced with cruel torture, humiliation, and death, are our bonds to Jesus strong enough to hold us to him? The stakes don’t even have to be that high. Whenever we don’t do something for others we know we should do, we turn away from Jesus (Matthew 25: 31-41). Whenever we give other activities priority over spending time with God in worship, prayer, or study, we turn away from Jesus.
Thankfully, the most amazing part of the story is how Jesus ends up restoring his wayward followers and uses them in mighty ways to spread the goodness of his Kingdom. Is the power of God’s grace even able to restore those who have fallen away from him? Thank God, it appears as though the answer is “yes!”