The following sermon was prepared by Ps Lucas Stoltz. Click here: Mark 14:26-31, to download or stream the audio sermon. Alternatively, you can read the notes below, or follow along as you watch or listen.
Mark 14:26-31, The Danger of Wavering Faith:
- In the moment of adrenaline and excitement, we can agree to anything extreme, that we wouldn’t do on a normal day. Now the Dictionary of Nautical Literacy records a true story that illustrates this destructiveness of overconfidence and pride.
- During a 1923 training exercise, a naval destroyer called the USS Delphy led a fleet of seven vessels down the California coast. The USS Delphy was captained by Lieutenant Commander Donald T. Hunter, an experienced navigator and instructor at the Naval Academy.
- Without warning, about halfway on their training mission, a thick blanket of fog descended on the ships like a thick white veil. Hunter said it looked like pea soup and it prevented him from getting an accurate evaluation of his location. Contrary to Hunter’s calculations, the lead ship was headed right into Devil’s Jaw, which was a series of rocky ledges that were about 3 kilometres miles off the California coast near Santa Barbara.
- The dangerous area didn’t stop Hunter from plowing ahead. This was not surprising, for Hunter was known for his self-confident decisiveness and what others called his “magic trustworthiness” to guide his ship. Traveling at 40 kmph, suddenly the USS Delphy smashed broadside into the rocky Point Arguello shoreline.
- The force of the massive collision of welded steel and jagged rock split the body of the USS Delphy in half. One by one, the other destroyers followed the Delphy’s lead and smashed into the rocks. Twenty-three naval men died.
- The accident resulted in the loss of all seven ships. It still stands as one of the worst peacetime naval disasters in history. Why? Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before the fall. Our pride leads to a forecast for failure. And that’s what we’ll be looking at today in Mark’s Gospel!
- Our passage reveals how Jesus warns the disciples to guard against the danger of wavering in our faith. Many of us don’t plan to stumble or respond in weakness intentionally, but neither do we plan to hold the fort when we ought to.
- Therefore, we’ll be studying this passage under two important headings:
1. Trusting when Tempted to Waver:
- Text – 14:26-28
- Explanation – So the Passover has been memorialized, and having instituted the new Passover (the Lord’s Supper), Jesus and the eleven disciples headed to the Mount of Olives. The Passover meal would usually be celebrated late into the night, midnight late.
- So by then it was definitely dark, if you had any doubt, but it was going to grow even darker. See on the spiritual level, things are about to go from bad to worse with Jesus and the disciples.
- So here’s the scene, it is late into the night, and Jesus along with the 11disciples are on their way up a mount. Heading up, the Mount of Olives was often filled with campers during the Passover. So it is not as isolated as you probably imagined when you read this portion.
- Jesus had already told them that one of them would betray Him, and they were horrified at the thought, saying, “Surely, not I?” Here’s the deal, though they would not betray Jesus, they would fail Him. They would deny and disown Him. And that’s the danger of wavering faith!
- Illustration – Of course Jesus knows this. Therefore He says, “You will all fall away!” The Greek translation is skandalizo. It means to trip up or to cause to stumble and is used to imply a temptation to sin. The frightening thing is, Jesus warned the disciples about any behaviour or character that would trip someone up in their path of discipleship.
- The interesting thing is, this term is used in the passive tense, meaning that their failure, though their responsibility, would not be intentional. Things will take place in such a way that these guys won’t stand when they needed to.
- This was foretold, Jesus says; “For it is written.” Just imagine what they were thinking… “the Old Testament Scriptures prophesied your failure.” This must have been sobering. However, Jesus knew that none of this was an accident.
- Jesus knew this was all part of God’s sovereign plan. He was not in this by accident. And so we see His trust in the written Word of God. You say, well He is God! Yes, but He is also man, in moments from this hour, He will be crushed!
- Application – Yet, He does not wavering. That’s how we overcome weak faith. Let’s put it this way, Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane and faced the test of faith. Every time we are faced with Gethsemane moment, not to down play the situation Jesus was in, but every time we are faced with the temptation to wavering from our faith, trust God’s word. His Word His purposes for us, despite the darkness we encounter.
- Jesus looks to the Father, He trusts Him to be empowered to faithfully endure the coming mistreatment. And perhaps here’s the first lesson, Jesus was realistic about human nature. He expected failure from his disciples. He knew their limitations, yet they sadly did not! They were somewhat certain of not falling away. And the danger comes when their faith is no longer in Jesus, but in their circumstances and strengths.
- We must put our trust first in Him, and learn to live within the fellowship of failures knowing that Jesus will never fail you, while those around might. Sometimes you might get deeply hurt. Yet, if you are not putting your trust in the Lord, your hurts will grow hard.
- And the result is, becoming critical of others, having fault-finding spirit, and withdrawing from the church body. That’s when you stop loving a difficult brother or sister. That’s not what Jesus did. While knowing that His closed will fall away, He remained devoted!
- Conclusion – Jesus didn’t come for the spiritually fit and healthy, He came to seek and to save those who were lost. You will fail, those next to you will fail, and you must embrace that reality. Without Christ we’ll fail.
- But in that moment of temptation to lose your hope and faith in the Lord, don’t respond with I’m okay. Respond with prayer; “Lord, I am not okay, I’m falling away – help me to hold on, help me to trust you.”
- The second lesson here is Jesus’ quote from Zechariah 13:7. This was a prophecy about the chief shepherd who would be smitten to death and his sheep who would be scattered. Most importantly, God himself is the one in the passage who would be smiting the shepherd.
- And in fact, this moment was the fulfilment of this quote. Zechariah was prophesying to a returned remnant from exile in Babylon. They were rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem. Zechariah prophesied Israel’s continued rebellion and God’s response of righteous judgement.
- But the nation would experience turmoil for centuries to come. Then during all this time, the nation would be led by worthless shepherds. After this, the Messiah would come. In fact, He would come to the Mount of Olives (14:4), and according to Zechariah, the Messiah would be rejected and smitten.
- Yet it won’t end there. Verse 28 says “after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” This is the hope and encouragement! Zechariah prophesied this as well.
- Bridge – The final phrase of Zechariah 13:7 can be translated “I will come to the aid of my little ones.” Isn’t that what we need? See, after His resurrection, Jesus would confirm that they were His people and He their God.
- Jesus does not simply say that He will rise again, but promises to be their deliverer and leader. And the power of His resurrection proves this. It proves that God will supply all your needs according! It reassures us that Christ will build His church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).
- Now as we move on, in order to overcome our wavering, we need to be aware of who we truly are and therefore we must trust in the Lord especially when it seems impossible. Secondly, Jesus has already proved the evidence of His work, which gives us the assurance of our trust.
2. The Warning against Wavering:
- Text – 14:29-31
- Explanation – Our passage also provides the evidence of what happens when we continue to doubt our trust in Christ through Peter as an example. See Peter was filled with false trust. He was tuned in his own strength. He believed that there is no way for him to fall away, yet he did not feel the same for his brothers.
- But Jesus corrected Peter, saying; “Truly, I tell you, this very night.” I think as Mark was writing this, Peter was grieved even at this memory. See, Peter was Mark’s source to writing this Gospel. And this moment stood out to Peter so significantly, we see details left out by other authors.
- Illustration – Mark is the only one who mentions the rooster crowing twice. This is because Peter choose to be transparent with Mark about his failure. See, he thought he knew better than the Lord. But it is he who denied!
- The word translated “deny” means to disown. And this is certainly not what the disciples thought of doing. Give them credit, they were passionate, and they assumed their faith was stronger than it was. They assumed their courage was stronger than it would actually prove to be.
- Application – The warning against wavering is to know you weaknesses. Knowing our weakness is just as important as knowing our strengths. In fact that’s Paul’s exhortation in 1 Corinthians 10:12; “let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”
- It is a warning to guard against spiritual pride! Why is this necessary? Well like I said when we started, in a moment of courage, many people are willing to die for Jesus. But who is truly willing to live for Him? We are not all destined to take the bullet for the cause, however, we are all called to devotion!
- Conclusion – Rather than bold declarations, we need to simply commit ourselves to watch and pray with our Lord. We need to examine our spiritual condition. That is how we heed against wavering! Don’t overestimate your devotion, thinking that you are in control. But also don’t underestimate your sinfulness. As Peter shows us here.
- Learn from this, and don’t be quick to point fingers. We all fail, we all will face the temptation of our faith. Don’t point the finger when that happens to a brother. Yes, pride comes before the fall, but “whoever gives thought to the word will discover good, and blessed is he who trusts in the LORD” (Proverbs 16:20).
- Bridge – Friend, keep looking to Jesus. He not only died for your sins but also rose from the dead, and is now making intercession for you (Hebrews 7:25).
- So what have we learnt today? As we are tempted to lose faith in Christ, we need to know our limitations as people saved by His grace, but still tempted by the flesh. Therefore, trusting Him is so so important, and kept up by our devotion to Him through His word.
- In addition, the words of Zechariah 13:7 reminds us the Messiah would be rejected and smitten so that we may live in Christ’s righteousness, having God’s forgiveness.
- Peter’s example also teaches us that there is no need for bold claims of devotion, instead, if we want to be true in our faith in Christ, it is the obedience of ongoing devotion that will help keep us from falling away.
- I close with this: “If you are going through a difficult or confusing time, know that your Lord has gone before you and He is present with you. He is fully aware of what you are facing, and He is actively responding to your need. There is nowhere you can go that you will not find Christ waiting for you to join Him. Even when you face death, you can be assured that He has gone before you in triumph. As a child of God, rest in the knowledge that your Savior preceded you, and He will walk with you through each experience of your life.”
- How are we so confident in the moment of courage, but so faithless with daily devotion?
- Why was Peter so sure that he would not leave Christ in His final hour?
- How does Zechariah encourage you to continue trusting in the Lord, especially when tempted to fall away?
- How does today’s teaching help you trust in the Lord’s doing in your life, especially during COVID? And what helped you learn more about God’s grace?