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  • Writer's picturePastor Brett

Betrayed (1 of 2)

Mark 14:27-31

            One of the bit players in the drama of the last week of Jesus’ life is the rooster that Jesus predicted would crow before Peter had denied knowing Jesus three times.  This noble fowl’s role in the story has been neglected long enough.  Recognizing that Mark’s gospel pays the bird more attention than the other three gospel writers, I want to take a few moments this morning to share some amazing chicken facts with you.

- It is estimated that there are more than 33 billion chickens worldwide!

- Chickens are the closest living relatives of dinosaurs! Scientific evidence has proven the shared common ancestry between chickens and the Tyrannosaurus rex.

- Today’s domestic chickens can fly for short distances – enough to clear obstacles or reach a perch.

- Chickens can dream!  We know this because chickens have REM (rapid eye movement) while sleeping.  What’s more, they can sleep with one eye open, which is useful for looking out for predators.

- Chickens have better color vision than humans: they are also able to see ultraviolet light, which are the colors you see when using a black light!

- Chickens have over 30 unique vocalizations that they use to communicate a wide variety of messages to other chickens.

- They are not “dumb clucks!” Chickens are able to recognize over 100 different chicken and human faces!

- Chickens have a pecking order: the social structure of their flocks depends on an order of dominance. All chickens know their place in this order, and it helps to maintain a stable, cohesive group.

- Egg shell color can be determined by the hen’s earlobe.  (I didn’t know they HAVE earlobes!) Generally, hens with red earlobes will lay brown eggs, and hens with white earlobes lay white eggs.

- Chickens learn from one another, such as a chick learning from her mother which foods are good to eat. They demonstrate complex problem-solving skills.

            Let’s show a little respect for the chicken, especially the rooster that played such a small but important part in the story of Jesus’ Passion.  Let’s stop asking why the chicken crossed the road and let them get on with their lives without constantly questioning their motives.

Peter’s denials and the disciples’ desertions are all betrayals of Jesus.

CONTEXT = This portion of the conversation took place after the Lord’s Supper, while they were ON THE WAY to the Mount of Olives (26).

1. Jesus predicted they would desert Him but they would be reunited later. (27-28)

            Jesus grounded His prediction in Scripture. (27)  The Scripture He used was a partial quotation of Zechariah 13:7.  Here is the full quotation: “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, the man who is my partner,” says the Lord of Heaven’s ARMIES.  “Strike down the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn against the lambs.”

            In context, the SHEPHERD in Zechariah is God’s PARTNER.  Following God’s plan, he is struck down to scatter the sheep, whom the LORD will purify through their adversity.  The nation of Israel was the original recipient of this prophecy and it was fulfilled in history.  Jesus used it here to encourage His disciples, assuring them that God will bring triumph out of tragedy.

            He warned them it would happen.  Why? To help them understand it was foretold in prophecy so they understand the events of the next few days are fulfilling God’s will.  This does not absolve them of responsibility but does put their actions in context.

            Alongside the warning, Jesus promised His disciples that their betrayal would not be the end of their relationship. (28)  Firstly, because He would be raised from the dead.  Jesus stated it here as a certainty: not “IF I am raised,” but “after I am raised.”

            Secondly, He promised to meet them back in Galilee, their home province. This promise was kept in Matthew 28:16-17.  It should’ve been comforting for them to know they’d meet up again at home, for all of them were Galileans.

            Jesus stated this so calmly, it seems like they’re all just checking their calendars.  Given the disciples’ replies, they must’ve stopped listening after Jesus said, “All of you will desert me.”  They made no reply to His promise to meet them in Galilee.

2. Jesus predicted Peter’s denials. (29-31)

            Peter’s first retort: “Even if everyone else deserts you, I’ll never desert you!” (28)  I’m a little surprised at how quickly Peter is willing to cast a shadow of doubt on the rest and a spotlight on himself.  No doubt this is pure emotion, a gut reaction to Jesus’ prediction of desertion.  Peter has engaged his mouth before his brain.

            We believe Peter gave John Mark the testimony that is recorded in this gospel.  Mark’s gospel is the most unflattering portrait of Peter, which shows he learned humility later in life.  This statement is one of a half dozen intemperate/mistaken statements in Mark’s gospel.  This is a proof of the historic reliability of the Bible; if you were making something up, you would not portray one of your leaders in this honest but unflattering way.

            Jesus’ reply to Peter was to make another prediction: Before the rooster crowed tomorrow, Peter would three times deny ever knowing Him. (29)  Typically, roosters started crowing at 3 am, what Jews of the time referred to as the “third watch” of the night.  Only Mark mentions how many times the rooster crowed: TWICE.  The prediction came true in Mark 14:66-72.

            Peter quickly found out how hot it can get when you’re in the spotlight, as Jesus fixed him with another prediction.  He wanted to be a stand-up guy and support Jesus with his life, but the truth was, it was not in him.  In three acts of cowardice, Peter would entirely deny knowing Jesus.

            I wonder if Peter, in the heat of that moment, recalled the words Jesus spoke as part of His instructions to the Twelve before He sent them out in pairs.  He said, “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.  But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33)  I do not believe this refers to a single occasion of denial, but a lifetime of denying who Jesus is.  However, if Peter had thought about it at all, it would’ve had a sobering effect on his statements at the supper and prevented his denials later that night.

            Peter’s second retort, “Even if I have to die with you, I will not deny you,” was met with general agreement. (30)  Ironically, this statement is also a denial.  Peter denied he would ever do such a thing.  He vowed that even death could not separate him from Jesus!  English does not allow double negatives, but its ok in Greek grammar.  Peter here used a double negative to show how emphatically he made this statement.  Peter was wound up emotionally, reacting instinctively.  The other ten agreed with Peter; they “seconded his emotion.”  The unfortunate part of this display of temporary loyalty was that it caused them to miss Jesus’ warning and the encouragement that came with it.

Peter’s denials and the disciples’ desertions are all betrayals of Jesus.

            Time and again we have observed Jesus exerting control over the events that lead to His death.  One reason the Bible makes this clear is that we are not to think about Jesus as a victim.  He did not suffer death at the hands of the Romans, He allowed them to bind Him to that cross in order to sacrifice His life to redeem us from our sins.  The Jewish clergy did not arrest Jesus, convict Him falsely, then railroad Pilate into a death sentence.  Jesus gave Himself up to be arrested and did not mount a defense at any of His trials.  To worldly eyes, He may appear to have been victimized, but the truth is, Jesus emerged victorious over the world, over sin, Satan, and death.  On the first day of the week He won the victory.

            This is why we celebrate.  Jesus’ victory sets forth a path for us to follow, footsteps in which we are to walk ourselves.  We forsake the way of Peter, the worldliness of reliance on self, false boasting, and superficial commitment.  We choose instead the way of peace, of service, and complete surrender to God’s will.

            I have often wondered how Jesus was able to do all this, endure all that suffering, remain faithful in the face of the scorn, ridicule, and injustice He suffered.  Including the loneliness of being abandoned by His followers and worst of all, the isolation from God the Father in the moment when the guilt of all of humanity’s sin was laid upon Him, utterly undeservedly.

            An explanation is found in the middle part of Hebrews 12:2 (p. 1866). Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame.   Jesus endured all that because He had a firm grasp of the bigger picture.  He knew that on the other side of the suffering lay JOY, the inexpressible joy of heaven and reunion with God the Father.  Since we have never personally experienced that ultimate joy, it can be hard to relate to it as a motive.

            The last part of Hebrews 12:2 tells us the outcome of Jesus’ endurance of the cross as it relates to Him: Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

After three days of death, Jesus physically emerged from the tomb and received the victor’s reward: restoration to His place in heaven.  Eternal life with the Father.  Because of His victory, He shares His reward with us.

            The first part of Hebrews 12:2 tells us the outcome of Jesus’ endurance as it relates to us: We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.  Though in the moment they may feel world-shattering to us, nothing we experience will compare with the pain and sorrow Jesus endured.  Even so, we endure it by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the one who initiates and improves our faith.  We endure by following Jesus’ example: we keep our eyes on the JOY of heaven to endure the worst this world can throw at us.

RESOURCES:

            Chicken details from https://spca.bc.ca/news/fun-facts-about-chickens/, retrieved on 8 March 2024.

            Darrell L. Bock, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol. 11, The Gospel of Mark, 2005, pp. 532-533.

            John MacArthur, One Perfect Life, 2012, p. 429.

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