Betrayal, Culture Wars, And Christianity - Radical

Betrayal, Culture Wars, And Christianity

How do we fit in to the broad redemptive story with Jesus? In this message on Mark Chapter 14, Pastor Mike Kelsey draws distinctions between the trajectories of life, while urging believer to find their place in the story of redemption. Within this sermon, Pastor Mike Kelsey analyzes the choices of betrayal in comparison to the culture wars of Christianity today. The two are contrasted further as Pastor Mike Kelsey reminds believers of the ultimate beauty and abundant life of Jesus. When our hearts and minds are fixated on Christ, no temporary worries can hold a place within our thoughts and lives.

  1. The Betrayal of Jesus
  2. Who are You in this Story?
  3. Hostility Toward Jesus
  4. The Beauty of Jesus
  5. Abundant Life in Jesus
  6. Culture War in Christianity Today

Betrayal, Culture Wars, And Christianity

Well, good morning. How’s everybody doing? We good? Come on. Why? Come on. We do this every time. How’s everybody doing? Good. All right. It’s good to be together. And for those of you that are new to our church, glad that you’re here. My name is Mike, one of the pastors here. Also want to welcome those of you watching online and at our different locations around the DC metro area.

We’re going to pick right back up in our study of the Gospel of Mark. And our goal in studying the Gospel of Mark was to try to still be in Mark when Jesus comes back. That was our ultimate goal. We’ve been here forever. So here at Tyson’s other locations, just raise your hand real quick. How many of you are new to our church since we’ve been studying the Gospel of Mark? Raise your hand. Yeah, it’s a lot of people.

Reading Mark Fourteen

Okay. All right. We’ve been in it for a long time, but we are rounding third base and Lord will, and our goal is to finish up the Gospel of Mark by the end of the summer. And it’s just been a rich time, you’ll just slowing down, taking passage by passage and just reflecting on the life, the teaching, the ministry of Jesus. And so today we’re going to be in Mark chapter 14, verses 43 to 52. So you can meet me there in Mark 14. If you don’t have a Bible here with you or wherever you are, we’ll have the verses up on the screen. But let me catch everybody up and on where we are in the Gospel of Mark and what we’ve been studying to this point.

It’s Thursday night and Jesus is in Jerusalem observing the Passover meal with his disciples. You’ll remember this from earlier in chapter 14. And so he’s leading them through the Passover meal, which just thousands and thousands and thousands of other Jews and tourists and pilgrims would be flooded into Jerusalem at this time doing the same thing. And typically some of you might say, “Well, the Jews, they would’ve observed Passover on that Friday.” Well, the Jews in Judea celebrated Passover on Friday because they marked the day from sunset Thursday night to sunset Friday night. But the Jews in Galilee celebrated on Thursday because they marked the day from sunrise on Thursday morning to sunrise on Friday morning. So Jesus is celebrating the Passover on Thursday, which actually in God’s sovereign orchestration of all things, allows him later on the next afternoon to be killed at the very same time that Passover was being celebrated in Judea.

And so Jesus is leading them through the Passover meal and in the middle of this meal, things get really awkward. Jesus says, “One of you is going to betray me.” And then after a brief private interaction with Judas John in his account tells us that Judas actually leaves. And then Jesus continues kind of leading and facilitating presiding over the Passover meal, except now he shifts gears and he begins to reinterpret the Passover in light of the sacrifice that he’s getting ready to become on the cross. And so he takes this Passover meal, this last supper, and he institutes what we now call the Lord’s Supper. And he says to his disciples, he takes the bread and he says, “This is my body for you.” And he takes the cup and says, “This is my blood. It represents my blood that is going to be shed for you.” Jesus is essentially saying that I’m about to fully give myself to you, to fully offer myself on your behalf.

The night kind of continues. It gets late into the night, midnight now where we’re middle of the night, Thursday night or early Friday morning, and Jesus takes his disciples to the Mount of Olives, the base of the Mount of Olives to this garden called the Garden of Gethsemane, where he begins to wrestle with the Father in prayer. You remember, he prays, “God, if it’s possible, take this cup from me, but not my will. Your will be done.” And he asks his disciples to wait with him and to intercede for him. And they can’t do it. They’re falling asleep like some of you are here right now. Don’t worry, it’ll get better.

The disciples are falling asleep and Jesus overwhelmed with anxiety and the reality of what he’s getting ready to face, he comes back for the third time, fives the disciples, sleeping and he’s saying, “Seriously.”

He says, “Listen, nevermind my time has come.” And in the middle of this is where we pick up in Mark chapter 14, verse 43, it says, “And immediately, while Jesus was speaking to his disciples, Judas came, one of the 12 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 Jesus at once and said, “Rabbi,” and he kissed him.”

The Betrayal of Jesus

Now, pause there for a moment because Jesus already knew that Judas was going to betray him, but we’ve already looked at this. It still broke his heart. This was betrayal. And Judas was not only betraying Jesus, but he was also betraying the other disciples too. And I think that’s why Mark keeps emphasizing the fact that the one who betrayed Jesus was, and you see this phrase over and over again, he was one of the 12, one of the men in his inner circle, one of the men whom he had invited into his most trusted group of friends into some of his most sacred and vulnerable moments of his life. And this is what makes betrayal so detestable and so painful, isn’t it?

Because betrayal feeds off of trust and it disguises itself with good intentions. Judas shows up and betrays Jesus with a kiss. And a kiss on the cheek was common. It was a common greeting in that culture. But the word here for Judas’ kiss is a very intense word in the original language. It’s a very dramatic, it’s a kiss with a preposition attitude. It’s a very dramatic kiss, and not in a sensual way, but in an intentionally misleading way, in a way that gave the appearance of genuine affection.

Judas is doing the most. It’s an over the top greeting because it’s masking his betrayal. And some of you listen, know what this kind of betrayal feels like.

And it’s not just the act of betrayal that’s painful. I’ll be honest, I hadn’t really in my life really experienced, I mean I’ve experienced some shady people, but I hadn’t really experienced that deep wounding kind of betrayal until really over the last three years. It’s not just the act of betrayal that’s painful, it’s the effect of the betrayal that really causes the most pain because it robs you of the world that you thought you were living in. This is why it’s so painful, because it makes you wonder whether anything you believed was actually true. Whether anything you experienced was actually real. So not only do you not trust that person, but now you wonder, can you even trust yourself?

And if you’ve been betrayed like this, I hope you’ll see that Jesus not only understands how you feel, but is with you to help you heal and respond in a Christ-like way. And so Judas had given the signal and he betrays Jesus with the kiss. And so then in verse 46, it says, “They lay hands on him and seized him. But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear.

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 didn’t seize me.” Jesus like, “You didn’t have that same energy. When I’m in the temple, you’ve seen who I am. You’ve listened to what I’ve taught, and you think you have to show up with swords in clubs.” He says, “But let the scriptures be fulfilled.” And they all left him and fled.

And one of the weirdest things in scripture, and a young man followed him with nothing but a linen cloth about his body, and they seized him. But he left the linen cloth and ran away naked, which is hilarious. We’ll come back to it.

As I was thinking about this story, this scene in the life of Jesus, particularly that last part, it made me think about my college days, student of University of Maryland in my freshman year, there was a movie that had recently come out, some of you might remember, it’s like this indie horror film called the Blair Witch Project. Anybody remember Blair Witch Project? Yeah. It was a terrible movie, but it was a local movie and it was like, I forgot where it was, somewhere out in Maryland, and it was basically a bunch of kids, students die in the woods, whatever. It’s a horror movie. Okay, all right, don’t watch it.

So I’m a freshman in college and me and some of my guys are hanging out with some girls. This is BC, this is before Christ, me and some of my guys are hanging out with some girls and we decide it’s like late night, one night, and we decide let’s watch the Blair Witch Project with them. So we watch it with them and they’re absolutely terrified. What they didn’t know is that now the plan was after we watched it, this was such a dumb idea.

After we watched it, the middle of the night y’all, like 2:00 in the morning, now we’re going to go to this abandoned mental health institution in Prince George’s County. So we did, we loaded them up, I loaded them up, in my mom’s minivan, that’s how lame I was, in college driving my mom’s minivan. I load them up, we make our way 2:00 in the morning, we go to where it’s this sprawling campus.

It’s this old, it’s this legendary old abandoned mental health institution. And y’all, it’s legit. It’s like they don’t make them like this anymore. They got the thick steel doors. It was terrible. And so we get out middle of the night and you got to walk through this field. The grass is up to your waist and you make your way through the field into a forest, pitch black dark middle of the night. You can’t turn no lights on because you don’t want the cops to see you. And so you get through the forest and then you come to this clearing where all of a sudden there’s this sprawling campus. Now, it was actually dangerous. It was legendary. People used to do all kind of drugs out there. There were homeless people out there, whatever. It was a stupid idea. And so we show up, and so we make our way through and we are walking through and it looks like something out of a horror movie.

I could hear the people watching the movie like, “Run,” you know what I’m saying? And so we get to this building and we’re getting ready to go inside the building. And so the door’s kind of boarded up, but there’s boards that have been ripped off or whatever, and you can see through a little bit.

At this point, we turn the light on and there’s like a stairwell going up, but there’s steps missing. It’s not a structurally sound building at all. And so we all make our way into this pitch black building, and one of my boys gets to the door, and this whole time he’s been like, “Guys, I don’t think this is a good idea.” He’s like, “No guys, really. No, really, no, really. I don’t think this is a good idea.” And he gets to the door and I lie to you not, all of a sudden my man just broke down crying and just went full sprint, just ran away. I don’t even know where he went to this day. You know what I mean? Nah, I know where he is. I’m not going to name his name James, but he just runs away. He was like, I’ll follow y’all to a certain point, but not beyond that point.

Who Are You In This Story?

And this is essentially what’s happening as you read the Gospel of Mark, you turn the corner into chapter 14 and we begin to head into chapter 15. What’s happening is that there are all these people around Jesus who have been following him to a certain extent, but now they begin to say, “Jesus, I’ll follow you to a certain point, but I’m not going to follow you beyond that point.” And so as you read Mark chapter 14, what you’re seeing in Mark’s writing is almost like this funnel where people are slowly but surely beginning to peel off and desert and betray and abandon Jesus until you get to the bottom of the funnel. And Jesus is left all alone. And my question for you is, where do you see yourself in this story? As you think about the different people and the different characters in the story, who do you most identify with? Because I believe God has a word for different groups of people represented in this passage.

Number one, I think there’s a word for non-Christians. Look back at verse 43, it says, “And immediately while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the 12 and with him a crowd with swords and clubs from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. Now Mark calls them a crowd, but this isn’t just some random crowd.

This is not just an angry mob that’s been running around trying to find Jesus. This is a joint military operation led by the Jews and the Romans. Like the Jewish leaders give the temple police official orders to arrest Jesus. And just in case things go left, they request additional military support from the Romans. And as you read the Gospel of Mark, you understand why, because hostility toward Jesus has been escalating all throughout his ministry.

Just a recap of what we’ve already studied together in the Gospel of Mark, chapter two, verse six, the religious leaders are starting to have concerns about Jesus. In chapter two verse 16, they start questioning the disciples about Jesus’s association with tax collectors and sinners. Then in Mark chapter three, verse six, the religious leaders are so concerned about Jesus’s ministry influence that look at what it says. It says, “The Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.”

Well, Jesus doesn’t make the situation better, because the Tuesday before Passover, Jesus is so upset about the corruption and hypocrisy of the temple that he barges in, flips over tables and kicks everybody out. And so obviously that doesn’t go over well with the leaders in Jerusalem. And so Mark chapter 11, verse 18, it says, “The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him for they feared him because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.”

Things are getting out of hand. He’s becoming too influential and too popular, so they have to stop him. And so Mark chapter 14, verse one, the immediate context of the passage we are studying, “Now, the Passover and the festival of unleavened bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him, but they said not during the festival or the people might riot.”

So the hostility toward Jesus had reached a boiling point, but they couldn’t figure out how to get to him in private, away from the crowds. They couldn’t do it during the day because the city of Jerusalem was packed because of the Passover festival. They couldn’t get to him at night because typically Jesus and the disciples would leave the city in the evenings to stay in Bethany, most likely at Martha Mary and Lazarus’s house. But then they got the opportunity that they had been waiting for. In fact, it was an opportunity that they couldn’t even have expected. Jesus was staying in Jerusalem that Thursday night, and one of his disciples approached them and was willing to make a deal. Jesus would often gather the disciples for prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. So Judas knew exactly where Jesus would be, and he led this arrest unit directly to him.

Why Were Leaders Hostile Toward Jesus?

And listen, it makes you wonder why were these leaders so hostile toward Jesus? Why were they so adamantly against him? And there were several reasons for this, but if I could summarize the underlying reason for their hostility, it would be this. They refused to accept and honor Jesus for who he really is. And here’s what I mean, and this is why I say this is a word for non-Christians.

Listen, as long as Jesus was just a carpenter’s son from Nazareth, as long as he was just an interesting teacher or a popular miracle worker, they didn’t have a problem with Jesus. But when he began to do and claim things that challenged their beliefs, confronted their authority, imposed on their lifestyle, then that’s when Jesus became a problem. And I think if you’re honest, that likely describes some of you, that likely describes your attitude toward Jesus. Because you look at every religious pole still in 2023, the overwhelming majority of Americans still think positively about Jesus.

Almost everybody believes and agrees that Jesus was a actual historical person. There’s no reputable scholar that denies that. Even goes beyond that and most people believe that Jesus taught some really good things, that he had a really positive influence on society in ways that we still benefit from today in 2023 all over the world. Most people in our culture and most people in this room and watching, if not everybody, or else why in the world would you be at church, have a positive view of Jesus. The problem is most people in America have a positive view of the version of Jesus that they’ve created for themselves.

And so we’ll pick and choose what we actually believe about Jesus or what we’re actually willing to implement from Jesus’s teaching. And listen, here’s the problem with that. And I’ll say this in love, that if you are genuinely seeking God, if you genuinely want to know who God really is, you really want, if this is possible, you really want to have a relationship with this God, then how will you ever find the real God if that God can never contradict you?

Is it really God that you’re looking for if that God just agrees with everything you agree with? Like in this moment, with this cultural consensus, you really think that God and all of His infinite wisdom is just going to align with all of us and just our finite humanity? No. If he’s really God, if he’s infinitely wise, and if he’s infinitely powerful and he actually is the creator and sustainer of all things, then there are going to be times when he reveals things that we struggle to understand or believe or even agree with.

And here’s the thing though, when it comes to Jesus, as Tim Keller just has said just so eloquently, “If Jesus rose from the dead, then we have to accept everything he said. If he didn’t rise from the dead, then who caress what he said?” The issue is not whether or not you agree with Jesus, it’s whether he actually rose from the dead. Because listen, if he rose from the dead and he did, and there has been no definitive evidence otherwise, quite the contrary, if he actually rose from the dead, then he is who he says he is. He’s not just a popular teacher, he’s not just a self-help coach. He’s not just a social revolutionary. He’s the king of kings. He’s the Lord of lords. He was the lamb who was slain for the sins of the world. He’s the way, the truth and the life. Jesus is king.

And listen, if you’re here and you’re not yet a follower of Jesus, not yet a Christian, then in all intellectual honesty, you have to actually reckon with who Jesus revealed himself to be. And the truth about Jesus isn’t just a challenge for non-Christians, but it’s also a challenge for superficial Christians.

There’s a word here for superficial Christians, and by superficial I mean people who appear to be Christians on the surface, but just like in the parable of the soils, they don’t really have saving faith in Jesus. And I think that’s what we see with Judas. You think about it. Have you ever wondered what made Judas turn against Jesus? Well, it’s not that Judas hated Jesus. In fact, Matthew 27 tells us that later, Judas eventually regretted his decision because he knew that Jesus was innocent.

He didn’t truly worship Jesus or surrender himself to Jesus and put his faith in Jesus as messiah and as savior and as king. But he knew enough about Jesus to know this man was innocent and he had regret. It wasn’t that he hated Jesus, it’s just that he never really loved Jesus. As he listened to the wisdom of Jesus’s teaching and witnessed the power of his miracles and saw the mercy and compassion in his ministry, his heart still hadn’t been changed. In fact, the best explanation for Judas’ betrayal is not that he all of a sudden flipped on Jesus, it’s that Judas was always following Jesus as a means to an end.

Remember we talked about this a couple of weeks ago? Remember, Judas was Jesus’s treasurer and had been stealing money the whole time. This was never legit. And now I think Judas is realizing that the walls are closing in on Jesus. He’s watching the hostility escalate. He’s hearing the rumors that Jesus is going to be killed, and he knows what happened to other movements once their leader was out of the picture. In fact, one of those leaders is mentioned in Acts chapter five, and his name also happened to be Judas. Judas of Galilee. You can look him up, you can research him. He led a revolt against the Romans and was eventually killed during this Judas lifetime. So I think this Judas in Mark 14 realizes that this Jesus movement is about to get shut down or so he thinks, which means his money supplies is about to dry up. And so before it all falls apart, he decides to cash out for 30 pieces of silver.

Judas saw Jesus as a means to an end. He was close to Jesus as long as he was getting what he wanted from Jesus. But as soon as Jesus was no longer useful to him, he just chose a different means to pursue the same end. Discipleship wasn’t giving him the life he wanted, and so he chose betrayal. And I think that’s one of the ways whether you are truly following Jesus or just superficially affiliated with Jesus, here it is, here it is. Do you still want to worship and obey Jesus even when he’s not giving you what you want?

Is Jesus Beautiful to You?

Or as Tim Keller put it. Is Jesus beautiful to you or is he just useful to you? It’s like my wife with candles. For me, candles are marginally useful. Like light a candle, the power went out. You know what I’m saying? For my wife, y’all, she got a evening candle, a morning candle, a stress candle, a happy candle, a dinner candle. She got all these different candles. In fact, she, over the pandemic, started to learn how to create candles herself. And so she got all these oils and whatever and whatever. Our house look like a meth lab right now because she just got all kinds of stuff spread everywhere, lighters and all kind of stuff everywhere. You know why? Because candles aren’t just useful to her. They’re beautiful to her. Just in and of themselves. Just the way the different wicks burn and the different wax and all the different oils that work together for different systems. And I’m at the end of my knowledge of candles. But for her, she can spend hours absorbed in a candle.

See, is Jesus beautiful to you? Is he just inherently worthy of your affection and your trust, your obedience simply because of who he is? Because you’ve seen his glory and his majesty and his dominion and his power, and your hearts desires to enjoy intimacy with him and the love and the worship. Or is Jesus just useful to you? Is he just a means to some end that you’re pursuing more than him? Listen, the bottom of that type of superficial Christianity will fall out. Will fall out and there are some of you who have been around Jesus, like me, growing up, culturally or religiously associated with him, but you haven’t actually been born again, your heart hasn’t been changed, and you haven’t truly surrendered to him. Your ultimate allegiance is to something else other than Jesus. And listen, you’re missing out. You’re settling for religion and missing Jesus.

One of my favorite descriptions of Christianity is First Peter, chapter one, verse three. Just listen to this and just bask in the wonder of this. This is Peter, the same guy we’re going to see who eventually denies Jesus, but then later when he really realizes the glory and majesty of Jesus, listen to what he says.

He says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In his great mercy, he has given us new birth into a living hope, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”

And what’s the evidence that this has become real for you? Look at verse six. He says, “In all of this, you greatly rejoice.” Though now for a little while, you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials, these have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith of greater worth than gold, which perishes, even though refined by fire, may result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

And this is my favorite part, verse eight, “Though you have not seen him, you love him.” And even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy. Listen, this is what a life genuinely in Christ is like, that even when the things of this world are stripped away and you faced various trials, you are still able to rejoice because your heart is filled with inexpressible and glorious joy. And even though you don’t see Jesus, you love him.

Jesus Offers Abundant Life To Us

And even though you don’t see him yet, and you’re still waiting for him, waiting for him to come back, waiting for him to fulfill all of the promises that he made you in his word, even though you wait for him, you still trust him. That is the heart of somebody whose eyes have been open to the glory and the beauty of Jesus. And if you are just settling for this superficial artificial caricature of Christianity, then Jesus says, you are missing out on the abundant life that he came to offer you.

It’s a word for superficial Christians. It’s a word also for angry Christians. Just buckle your seatbelt. Everybody breathe.

Look at chapter 14, verse 46. I want you to see it. “But they laid hands on Jesus and seized him. But one of those who stood by,” and John tells us in his writings that it was Peter. And even if John didn’t tell us, all of us would know it was Peter. “One of those who stood by, drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Peter sees these soldiers trying to grab Jesus. And he says, not today. Try Jesus. Not me, not on my watch.” Now, scholars debate why Peter cut off his ear. I personally land on the simplest explanation. I think he just missed.

I think it’s perfectly reasonable. I know my wife will tell you, she knows I got all these scenarios in my head about how it would play out if some dude just really jumped out there like that. I’ll like do a spin move and then a back flip for no reason. And I would like sweep kick him in the leg. In reality, what would probably happen is I would break my hand when I punch him, and then I would beg for his forgiveness as I was running away. That’s what would most likely happen. And so I think Peter in this moment got a little ahead of himself and he swung. And maybe he was just that bad of assortment, or maybe this guy because he’s a soldier ducked, and Peter just clipped his ear and Jesus was furious. You say, why? Because in his anger, Peter was actually misrepresenting Jesus in his kingdom.

Let me show you what I mean. Mark leaves out some of the details between verses 47 and 48. But according to Luke, Jesus says, “Stop. Enough of this.” And then listen to what he said. Matthew records it for us. Matthew 26, verse 52, Jesus says to Peter, “Put your sword back in his place.” And Jesus said to him, “For all who draw, the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I can’t call on my father and he will at once put at my disposal more than 12 legions of angels? But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen this way.”

He’s saying, “Peter, if I have armies of angels at my command, why do you think I’m not calling on them right now? I could force these men to worship me or destroy them right now for refusing to do so, and yet I’m allowing them to arrest me.”

He’s trying to get Peter to think, to help him understand how counter-cultural the kingdom of God really is. And this is what Jesus is saying. He’s saying, “Listen, Peter, they can’t stop my kingdom with their swords, and you can’t advance my kingdom with your sword.” Why? “Because my kingdom is utterly different from the kingdoms of this world.” Listen, take note of this. Listen, “the kingdoms of this world advance through self-preservation at the expense of others, but the kingdom of God advances through self-sacrifice for the sake of others.”

Peter wants to kill them. Jesus is about to die for them. And when you see that, you realize that Peter here is not an example of courage.

Culture War In Christianity Today

He’s an example of worldliness, of trying to stand for Jesus in a way that actually misrepresents him. So let me bring this home to us in 2023. What Jesus is condemning here is a kind of culture war Christianity that treats people as enemies rather than as image bearers of God that Jesus came to safe. That’s what Jesus is condemning here. And some of you listen, have experienced that firsthand. You’ve been cut by Christians who did not represent Jesus well. And that’s why some of you’ll are watching online right now, because you’ve been so offended and so hurt by Christians misrepresenting Jesus, that even though you want to learn more about Jesus and you want to grow in your knowledge of God, you can’t yet bring yourself to walk through the doors of a church.

Well, listen, hear me, hear me. Please don’t confuse Jesus with the people who misrepresent him. Now, I’m not saying that Christians should never be angry. There’s times when Christians should be angry. We should be passionate about issues of sin and righteousness and justice, but we must not allow even our righteous anger to make us un-Christlike. And some of us need to repent for the ways that we have misrepresented Jesus with our families as we’ve cut them with our self-righteousness and our harshness. We need to repent for the ways we’ve misrepresented Jesus, among our colleagues, among our followers on social media.

So many Christians in our country who have misrepresented Jesus to the very people that Jesus came to see. Now, while there are some Christians who misrepresent Jesus, there’s other Christians who are afraid to represent Jesus at all. And so before we close, here’s this last word, a word for fearful Christians. I was going to say cowardly, but that just sound a little too strong. But this is me too. I’m not talking about fear in general. I’m talking specifically about being afraid to suffer with Jesus. That’s what we see with the disciples.

Chapter 14, verse 50, listen, what happens with the disciples. And they all left him and fled. This is not talking about the soldiers because they arrested Jesus. This is talking about the disciples, and Mark wants us to feel the weight of this. That’s why he emphasizes the word “all” throughout this chapter, verse 23, “All the disciples drink the cup of the Lord’s supper.” Verse 31, “All the disciples pledge their allegiance to Jesus and say they’re willing to die with him if necessary.” And yet now, all the disciples abandon him and leave him to suffer alone. And then one of the weirdest passages in the New Testament, verse 51, this young man followed him with nothing but a linen cloth about his body, and they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.

There’s a lot of theories about who this young man was, but the bottom line is, we don’t know. Maybe he had been asleep, overheard the commotion and went outside to see what was going on. Maybe it was laundry day and my man just had to pull something together real quick. I don’t know. And you may be wondering then, well then why didn’t Mark include this in the story? It’s so random.

And the only reason I can think of is because it actually happened.
Because this is not just some mythical fable or religious propaganda. It’s a real historical account. Some dude is really out here running around butt naked in the middle of the night. That’s just a historical fact. And this man becomes a vivid representation of all the disciples who shamefully abandoned Jesus.

Are You Bold In Your Faith?

And I won’t spend a lot of time on this because Lord willing, we’re going to unpack this more next week when we look more closely at Peter’s denial. But this is a temptation that all of us, even the best of us and most faithful of us as Christians face, when we think about what faithfulness to Jesus might actually cause. We feel this fear when we’re at school with our friends, when faithfully following Jesus means that there’s just certain things that we’re not going to do, and therefore certain crews that we’re just not going to be included in. We feel this when we’re with our colleagues at work. And being a Christian is almost like a career liability.

We feel this fear when people actually ask us, what do you believe about? We feel this fear when we have an opportunity to tell people about Jesus and to invite them to trust in Jesus and be saved. And in that moment, even the best of us sometimes will care more about avoiding awkwardness than we care about them, avoiding the judgment of God that they deserve just like we deserve. And the only difference between us and them is that our eyes have been open and we have received the mercy of God. And instead of just telling them that and risking the awkwardness or our reputation, we just string. Back and then maybe even have the audacity to pray. God, would you send somebody to tell them about you?

Listen, we deal with this fear. We deal with this temptation. And Lord willing, as we’ll see next week, Jesus calls us into his suffering for the sake of other people. It is a challenging word, but hopefully an encouraging word for all of us as fearful Christians. And so before we close, let me just ask you a quick question. What do non-Christians, superficial Christians, angry Christians and fearful Christians all having in common? And this is not a joke. Maybe a few things, but certainly this one thing, they all, we all need Jesus to show us mercy.

Jesus Extends Us Mercy

No matter which one of these categories you fall in. And what blew my mind this week is the way Jesus extends his mercy to all of them. Think about it. The disciples abandoned Jesus in his darkest hour. And yet, as we’ll see, Jesus extends his mercy, commissions them as his ambassadors. And as you flip the pages into the book of Acts, he fills them with spiritual power and boldness that they need to represent him. And what about Peter? Well, Peter wasn’t really about that life. The whole garden thing was just, that was just a moment because now all of his misguided bravado evaporated when his devotion to Jesus was tested by a little girl.

And yet, even after he denied Jesus three times, Jesus extends his mercy, forgives Peter and chose him as the catalyst for the most powerful movement in world history. And then Judas, we looked at this a couple weeks ago, Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray him, and yet Jesus kept extending his love and mercy to him right up until that final moment when Judas, his heart was permanently hardened and God’s judgment permanently sealed. Jesus loved Judas, but Judas refused to receive that love and to turn from his sin.

And then what about these Jewish officials and Roman soldiers? Well, we already saw how Jesus extended his mercy by healing the soldier. He’s so merciful that he’s willing to heal people who hate him. But that was just a preview of just how merciful Jesus really is, because think about what happened next. And Lord willing, we’re going to cover this in more detail over these next several weeks as we finish out the Gospel of Mark, because Jesus is about to feel the full weight of human hostility. He’s getting ready to be mocked, which is preposterous, that the Creator would be mocked by the people He created.

He’s getting ready to be spat on by crowds of people that previously have flocked around him. Maybe some of their family members have been healed. They listened to his teaching. They’ve seen his compassion. He’s about to feel the full weight of the Roman government. He’s going to endure trial after trial, after trial on trumped up charges, false accusations. And he is going to allow himself to be tortured and to be crucified, publicly lynched as a spectacle and a spectacle of entertainment. Because that’s what they would do. They would gather around and they would just sit and mock. It was like watching TV. And people are going to just be entertained as he gasps for breath. And the author of life is going to surrender himself to death.

But then the most devastating way of all, Jesus is getting ready to feel the full weight of God’s wrath toward our sin. He’s getting ready to be on the cross, and he’s going to cry out, “Father, why have you forsaken me?” Right after he prays, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” And he’s going to become sin. He’s going to become like someone who is disqualified from the presence of God. Why? So that through him, we might be qualified to live in and enjoy the presence of God. He’s going to carry that full weight.

And this is why in the grand scheme of things, it makes sense as you work your way down Mark’s funnel, that Jesus is left alone. Because the reality is that he’s the only one who can do what he’s about to do. Nobody else can do this. He’s the only one who can enter the presence of God with perfect righteousness. He’s the only one that can offer himself as an eternal sacrifice, not just a temporary sacrifice for a year like the Day of Atonement, but the only eternal sacrifice sufficient to cover our sins, past, present, and future for all of eternity. He’s the only one who can do what he came to do. And so he does it.

Be Thankful for Jesus

And that’s what we see here in Mark 14. He’s voluntarily enduring the social, emotional and psychological effects of sin as prelude to the moment, the climax of redemptive history, when he will voluntarily endure the physical and spiritual effects of sin. And listen, it’s here in the Bible not merely to make us feel sorry for Jesus, but to make us feel thankful for Jesus. For us to be able to see the depth of his love in a way that would shock our hearts to life and open our eyes so that we see him as beautiful and glorious and worthy of our repentance and our trust and our love, and our worship and our obedience. And this is why he says, “Let the scriptures be fulfilled.”

Because like Isaiah prophesied, Isaiah 53, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And as one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised. And we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace. And with his wounds, we are healed.” We’re healed. And I wish I could preach a whole nother sermon, but we’ll get to this in chapter 16. Because he didn’t stay dead. He didn’t stay dead.

In fact, it’s interesting to me because in Mark 14, this young man leaves his linen cloth to save himself. But in Mark 16, we’ll see that there’s another man, Jesus, who left his linen cloth in the tomb in order to save us because he burst forth from the grave with all power and victory and dominion over Satan, sin and death. So that you and I watching and hear whatever you’ve done and wherever you’ve come from, so that you and I could have a right relationship.

Who Are You in This Story?

So here’s my question for you here. Wherever you’re watching from at our different locations, I want to leave you with this to reflect on, where do you see yourself in the story? Where do you see yourself in this story? Because your story fits into this broader redemptive story of Jesus. And how might Jesus be inviting you to respond. Take a moment between you and the Lord, reflect on that question and then here and at our different locations, we’ll pray as we prepare to close.

Father, we thank you for your mercy, and as we prepare to remember the sacrifice of Jesus that has made your mercy available to all of us, God would you minister that mercy to our hearts and pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. Amen.

Mike Kelsey is Lead Pastor of Preaching and Culture at McLean Bible Church in metro Washington, D.C., where ​he has been a pastor for over 13 years. In his role, Mike leads MBC to engage in current cultural issues in order to reach new and emerging generations as well as people disconnected from and disenfranchised by the church. Mike and his wife Ashley live in the D.C. metro area with their three children.


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