The Heart of Jesus – Mark 14:27-52
If you have a Bible, I invite you to turn to the Gospel according to Mark, where we are going to be looking at Mark 14:27-52, this morning.
At this point in the final week of Jesus’ life, it is late Thursday to early Friday. Last week, we looked at how Jesus celebrated Passover with His disciples and in so doing instituted the Lord’s Supper, which symbolizes the broken body and shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. But this celebration would be short lived.
In a few short hours, Jesus would be betrayed and abandoned and denied by His disciples, He would suffer at the hands of lawless men, and He would be sentenced to death on a cross, where He would suffer at the hands of His Father, whose will it was that He should drink the cup of divine wrath that was poured for sin. Jesus knows this, and yet, He continues on His way to the cross. And it’s in this passage that we are going to see the heart of Jesus.
Mark 14, beginning in verse 27: “And Jesus said to them, ‘You will all fall away, for it is written, “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.” 28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.’ 29 Peter said to him, ‘Even though they all fall away, I will not.’ 30 And Jesus said to him, ‘Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ 31 But he said emphatically, ‘If I must die with you, I will not deny you.’ And they all said the same.
“32 And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ 33 And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. 34 And he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.’ 35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’ 37 And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? 38 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ 39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. 41 And he came the third time and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.’
“43 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. 44 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.’ 45 And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, ‘Rabbi!’ And he kissed him. 46 And they laid hands on him and seized him. 47 But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 48 And Jesus said to them, ‘Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.’ 50 And they all left him and fled. 51 And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, 52 but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.”
In our text for our time together, this morning, we are going to look at three characteristics of Jesus that reveal His heart for mankind:
1. First, we see that Jesus knows our weaknesses.
In verse 27, Jesus tells His disciples that they will all fall away because of Him, this night. That’s encouraging, isn’t it? Not only will one of them betray Jesus, which was a bombshell that Jesus dropped while celebrating Passover with His disciples, but now Jesus tells them that they “will all fall away.” That’s not exactly something you want to hear after following Jesus for three years.
But notice that this saying of Jesus is rooted in Scripture. Zechariah 13:7 says, “‘Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who stands next to me,’ declares the Lord of hosts. ‘Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; I will turn my hand against the little ones.’”
Jesus is not saying that His disciples will fall away into unbelief. In John 6, Jesus says to the crowd of people following Him that His flesh is true food, and His blood is true drink, and that, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”
And nearly everyone falls away from following Jesus, because it was hard teaching to accept. But when Jesus turns to His twelve disciples and asks if they will also turn away, Peter says, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
Jesus is not saying that His disciples will fall away into unbelief. They still believe Jesus is the Holy One of God. But according to the Scriptures, God the Father would strike His Son—the Good Shepherd. Isaiah 53:10 says, “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him.” As a result, the disciples would be scattered. But the consolation comes, in verse 28, when Jesus says “But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”
In Mark 6, Jesus had compassion on the crowd of hungry followers, because “they were like sheep without a shepherd.” And here, Jesus doesn’t leave His disciples, His sheep, without a shepherd, for long. Jesus is not leaving His disciples scattered. He’s not saying, “Well, this has been a fun journey, but now it has to come to end.” No, Jesus is giving them a promise to hold on to, in their scattered state, that He will rise from the dead and will be with them, again.
This is good news. But Peter doesn’t want to accept it. He says to Jesus, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” Peter is seemingly not surprised at the thought that the other disciples will fall away, but he certainly thinks he won’t.
And what Peter fails to understand is his own propensity to sin. We looked at this, last week. As one commentator writes, “There is far more wickedness in all our hearts than we know. We never can tell how far we might fall, if once placed in temptation.”
It does us no good to protest that we have not committed the sins we self-righteously condemn in others. Like the Pharisee, in Luke 18, who prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.”
God doesn’t want to hear our self-righteousness; He wants to hear our humility. God wants us to humble ourselves under His mighty hand, lest we fall into all kinds of wickedness.
And it’s in this moment that Jesus corrects Peter. Before the night is over, Peter will deny Jesus three times. And you would think that Jesus’ words would put an end to the matter. But Peter responds with an even bolder declaration: “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And it says that “they all said the same.”
But in just a few hours, their loud professions would be forgotten. And it’s here where we see the foreknowledge of Christ, as Jesus tells them what they are going to do before they do it. They will all fall away.
And yet, do you notice that this foreknowledge that Christ possesses does not prevent Him from choosing the twelve men He chooses to be His disciples? He knows that Judas is going to betray Him. He knows that Peter will deny Him three times before the rooster crows twice. He knows that each one of His disciples will fall away on account of Him in just a few short hours. He knows this, and yet, He still chooses the men He chooses to be His disciples.
This should be an encouragement to us. When a man and a woman get married, they have no idea what blemishes and shortcomings they are going to discover about the other person. They accept each other before these come to light.
But Jesus knows all about our weaknesses, even better than we do. He knows where we fall short. He knows every detail of our lives. And yet, He receives us with all our blemishes and shortcomings. Jesus does not cast us aside when He discovers something He doesn’t like about us, because He already knows all the dislikeable things about us, and calls us to Himself, anyway.
Like the hymn says, “There's not a friend like the lowly Jesus. No, not one! No, not one! None else could heal all our soul's diseases. No, not one! No, not one! Jesus knows all about our struggles, He will guide till the day is done; there's not a friend like the lowly Jesus. No, not one! No, not one!”
He is not disappointed in what He gets. In fact, 1 Corinthians 1:21 says that “it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.” God is pleased to save His people. He does not regret doing so.
The good news of Jesus Christ is that, when Jesus said that the Son of Man came “to give his life as a ransom for many,” it meant that Jesus came not just for someone else’s sin, but for my sin and for your sin. Jesus knows our weaknesses, and yet, He still pours out His life for us.
2. Jesus knows our weaknesses. Secondly, Jesus is obedient on our behalf.
Jesus takes His disciples to a place called Gethsemane, which means, “olive press.” It was a garden of olive trees, but the name for this place is fitting, because it would be here where Jesus Himself would be pressed for our sake.
We tend to have this picture in our minds of Jesus serenely praying in the garden, where His hands are folded, and there’s a light coming down from heaven, and He’s looking up to His Father, and it all seems so peaceful.
But this isn’t the picture we see from Scripture. Mark tells us that Jesus was “greatly distressed and troubled.” Jesus even says to Peter and James and John, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.” This is the language of the Psalms of lament. In Psalms 42 and 43, specifically, we read, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?”
Jesus goes a little farther and falls to the ground. The language here suggests that Jesus is collapsing under the weight of the task that has been given Him by His Father. Jesus is experiencing an agony we will never know.
Luke 22:44 says that Jesus was in so much agony that “his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Apparently, there is a medical condition called hematidrosis, where tiny blood vessels under the skin break open and the blood gets squeezed out through sweat glands. This is caused by extreme distress.
And when you think about what Jesus is going to experience in the next few hours as He heads towards the cross, it makes sense that Jesus would be in the kind of anguish and distress where He would sweat drops of blood.
But Jesus is not simply facing the anguish of death; He is facing the anguish of being forsaken by His heavenly Father. Jesus prays, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me.”
This cup, in the Old Testament, typically represented God’s wrath against sin. Isaiah 51:17 says, “Wake yourself, wake yourself, stand up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the Lord the cup of his wrath, who have drunk to the dregs the bowl, the cup of staggering.”
This is the cup that Jesus would drink. It was the cup of divine wrath poured out for Him by His Father. Not because Jesus deserved it. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” God would make Jesus to be sin and would punish Him with the punishment for sin we deserved.
This is what is causing Jesus such anguish. This cup would be worse than the falling away of His disciples; it would be worse than the crown of thorns on His head; it would be worse than the nails in His hands and His feet. The anguish that is before Jesus is that He will be forsaken by and separated from His Father, as He answered for humanity’s crimes of rebellion against Him.
Here we must understand the grievousness of sin. It is because of sin that Jesus is in anguish in Gethsemane. Jesus grieved over your sin and my sin before we did. He wept over our sin. He sweat drops of blood over our sin. He would be separated from His Father for the first time in all eternity because of our sin.
How do we feel about our sin? Do we treat our sin as no big deal? Do we understand the grievousness of our sin? Do we understand, as the song says, “It was my sin that held Him there, until it was accomplished”?
On the cross, Jesus would cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Do you notice that Jesus is not calling out for His Father, while on the cross, but His God? Never before had the Triune union of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit been separated. But in that moment, the divine Sonship would be all but obliterated, as Jesus drinks the cup of God’s wrath, completely.
In order for sinful humanity to be in the presence of holy God, sin had to be dealt with. Jesus going to the cross means we don’t get the judgment we deserve. Like the hymn says, “There is no condemnation; there is no hell for me. The torment and the fire my eyes shall never see.”
This is a reality for the Christian because of Jesus and His atoning work on the cross. But Jesus must first yield Himself in perfect obedience to His Father, even though it will mean separation from Him, and even though it will mean the pain of hell. There is no Calvary apart from Gethsemane.
This is where the battle lines are drawn. This is where Jesus would be tempted by the devil to doubt God’s plan of salvation. But as Hebrews 4:15 reminds us, Jesus “in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
Three times, Jesus would pray for His Father to remove this cup from Him. Jesus is asking His Father if there is another way to save His people that does not involve Him drinking this cup of divine wrath. But then, Jesus says to His Father, “Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
I think there is good biblical precedence here to ask God for what is on our heart. I think we often jump too quickly to “yet not what I will, but what you will,” that we fail to ask of God. It’s like we don’t want to sound demanding. And yet, we see Jesus addressing His Father as capable of removing this cup, but right in what He has ordained. That, I believe, is the posture we are to have in prayer.
We come before God’s throne of grace in prayer, asking God, petitioning Him to work on our behalf, while at the same time acknowledging that He is right in what He has ordained for us. And what this does is it quells disappointment.
Notice that Jesus prayed three times that His Father would remove this cup from Him, but that Jesus doesn’t get what He prayed for. And if the Holy Son of God didn’t get exactly what He desired, then we shouldn’t think that when we don’t get exactly what we desire, in the way we want, that it is a lack of faith or that there is some unconfessed sin in our life.
It might be that what God has ordained for us is greater than we can imagine. It’s why the apostle Paul prays, in Ephesians 3:20, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.”
I'm not saying this is easy to pray, by any means. When a loved one dies, or when a medical checkup finds something more than what you were expecting, or when you lose your job, or when a pandemic hits and changes all of your plans, or when the bottom falls out from underneath you, how do you pray, “Yet not what I will, but what you will”? How do you do that?
And the answer is: Only by the grace of God. When we understand from what we have been saved, then we can trust the will of our heavenly Father, that, in His perfect wisdom and sovereignty, “he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him,” as Ephesians 1:4 says, and therefore His plans for us are good, even if it involves a cross, even it involves a cup of suffering, because He is good.
We can ask Him to remove the cup from us because He is able, but then we can say that He is right in what He has ordained for us. We can look to Jesus, who suffered anguish on our behalf, but who was also perfectly obedient to His Father’s will on our behalf, so that we can be saved from the judgment we deserved. It’s how we are able, in our weakness, to go to our Father in prayer.
3. Jesus knows our weaknesses, and He is obedient on our behalf. Lastly, Jesus is gracious to the end.
In the resolve to do His Father’s will, Jesus gathers up His sleeping disciples, saying, “Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” Jesus is not a victim of circumstances outside of His control; He is the willing sacrifice for sin.
Judas comes with an angry mob with swords and clubs to take Jesus. As soon as Judas gives the signal, which was a kiss, the guards jump into action: “they laid hands on him and seized him.”
“But one of those who stood by,” whom John notes, in his Gospel, was Peter, “drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear.” But in an amazing turn of events, Luke records, in his Gospel, that Jesus “touched his ear and healed him.”
This Jesus, who is being arrested on no charges, who will be tried unfairly, who will be sentenced to death unjustly, and who will die sinlessly, continues to show grace. This is the heart of Jesus. The entire earthly ministry of Jesus has been restorative. Jesus has been bringing the kingdom of God to earth, and He does so again in this moment, as His life on earth is coming to an end.
Can you imagine being that guy whose ear was cut off one moment, but then healed the next moment? Can you imagine having to continue to arrest this Jesus, who is clearly the Son of God?
It’s ironic that, just a few days ago, Jesus rebuked the Jewish leaders for making the temple a “den of robbers,” but here they are treating Jesus as the robber. They didn’t need a mob. They didn’t need swords and clubs. They knew who Jesus was. They knew He had been in the temple every day that week, and that they could have just arrested Him, there.
But again, Jesus points to the Scriptures. Isaiah 53:3 says that “he was despised and rejected by men.” Isaiah 53:8 says that “by oppression and judgment he was taken away.” And Isaiah 53:12 says that “he was numbered with the transgressors.”
Even though the Scriptures would be fulfilled, Jesus continues to show grace to His enemies, by healing the ear of one of those who had come to arrest Him. And there is a tendency in us to say, “Jesus just endured anguish in Gethsemane for sin, and He’s showing grace to this guy?” And that’s the whole point of grace. This man doesn’t deserve his ear to be healed, but Jesus heals him, anyway.
What is the response from the disciples? They all fled. In verse 23, Jesus gives them the cup at the Lord’s Supper, “and they all drank of it.” In verse 31, Peter says, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And it says that “they all said the same.” Here in verse 50, it says that “they all left him and fled.”
Not one of them who was at the table with Jesus or who promised to remain with Jesus are left. They have all fallen away, as Jesus said they would. Our passage even ends with a man running away from the scene, naked. Verse 51 says, “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.”
Tradition tells us that this young man was John Mark—the writer of the Gospel of Mark—but I think the point that Mark is wanting to convey is that, even this anonymous sympathizer of Jesus left Jesus. This man would rather run away naked, then be identified as a follower of Jesus. This is the weakness of humanity, but there is grace for even them and grace for even us.
For all you children, this is where we need the classic children’s song: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong. They are weak, but He is strong.”
We are all weak. Romans 3:23 says that we all “fall short of the glory of God.” Psalm 73:26 says, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Though we are weak, there is One who is strong, who does not fail, and who shows grace to us in our weakness.
One thing that this pandemic brought was isolation. For a number of weeks, we were being told to stay in our homes as much as possible. In some countries, people were under lockdown orders, where they couldn’t leave their homes.
If you have been struggling these last few months with isolation and loneliness, Jesus knows about your struggle. He knows something about what it means to be alone, because there in the garden, He was completely alone.
He had to face the horrors of the cross absolutely and totally alone. It could only be that way. He alone could bear the sins of men. He alone could satisfy that divine wrath. He alone could face the anger of God against sin. He alone could endure the pangs of death and hell. He alone could atone for guilt and shame.
Like the song, “What is our hope in life and death? Christ alone, Christ alone. What is our only confidence? That our souls to Him belong. O sing hallelujah! Our hope springs eternal. O sing hallelujah! Now and ever we confess: Christ our hope in life and death.”
In the first garden, the Garden of Eden, the first man, Adam, would say to the Father, “Not your will but mine be done.” And as a result of Adam’s unbelief and disobedience, all of Creation has been plunged into sin. But in the second garden, the Garden of Gethsemane, the second Adam, Jesus, would say to the Father, “Not my will but yours be done.” And through Jesus, there is redemption possible for all of Creation.
Where Eden brought death, Gethsemane brought new life. And if you want to know what this new life is all about, you can talk to me or one of the elders, Ellwood or Fred, and we would be more than willing to explain it to you.
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s book, The Return of the King, after the great battle for the ring of power is over, the hobbit Samwise Gamgee is recovering. The last he knew, the wizard Gandalf had fallen into an abyss and died.
But now at the end of the story, Sam sees Gandalf and says, “Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue? What's happened to the world?" Gandalf replies, “A great Shadow has departed." And then, Gandalf begins to laugh.
And I love that picture. Is everything sad going to come untrue? For the follower of Jesus, yes. Revelation 22:20 says, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’” Jesus is coming again to set the world right. And with this hope in view, we can face the days ahead with confidence.
The good news of Jesus Christ is that God is great and will accomplish what He wills, and that God is good and has written a happy ending to all the sorrow for those who belong to Jesus.
May we be a people who grieve over our sin, who pray, “Yet not what I will, but what you will,” and who receive the grace that is offered by God in Christ Jesus in our weakness. Let’s pray…