May 2, 2013
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from Mark 14:27-31.
Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will have your faith shaken, for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be dispersed.’ But after I have been raised up, I shall go before you to Galilee.” Peter said to him, “Even though all should have their faith shaken, mine will not be.” Then Jesus said to him, “Amen, I say to you, this very night before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times.” But he vehemently replied, “Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all spoke similarly.
Jesus quoted from the book of the prophet Zechariah, the second part of which is a vision of the coming of the Prince of Peace. This verse comes from the The Song of the Sword, “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is my associate, says the LORD of hosts. Strike the shepherd that the sheep may be dispersed, and I will turn my hand against the little ones. In all the land, says the LORD, two thirds of them shall be cut off and perish, and one third shall be left. I will bring the one third through fire, and I will refine them as silver is refined, and I will test them as gold is tested. They shall call upon my name, and I will hear them. I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they shall say, ‘The LORD is my God.'”
Jesus had an incredibly strong heart. He had brought together this little band of brothers with whom he shared everything. One betrayed him, the others were about to flee at his arrest when their own lives were threatened, and Peter would even deny knowing him not once but three times. All this surely would break the heart of an ordinary person. Despite their turning of their backs on him, Jesus assured them that after his resurrection he would lead them back to Galilee where it all started. Even after all this he would gather them together again. Weakness of faith, failure of resolve, fearful disavowal in the face of danger and still Jesus loved them.
Unmerited love. That is the story of God’s love. Jesus told his followers about this love time and again in stories. This scene is the story of our lives, of my life anyway. My faith is shaken at times when bad things happen to good people and I search for God’s protecting hand but cannot find it. I react in fear when I feel threatened instead of trusting in God’s saving love. I betray God’s forgiveness and mercy when I am unable to forgive those who offend me and to love anew. I turn my back on God when I fail to show generosity to someone in need. My resolve to sin no more, to obey God’s will, melts in the heat of temptation. There are so many times that I betray him, flee him, and deny him. Yet Jesus continues to lead the way back into friendship, patiently waiting in Galilee.
And still I am in denial so much of the time; it is so hard to believe that no matter what God loves me and is ready to gather me into His arms. All I can do sometimes is call upon His name saying, “The Lord is my God, the Lord is my shepherd.” And He hears and replies, “You are my beloved son upon whom my favor rests.” It’s the most amazing thing, an amazement that I feel sure Peter felt as well after the resurrection when Jesus gathered his sheep together again.