In reviewing the events of the last night and day of Jesus’ earthly life this week, I was struck again by what an utter defeat several followers of Christ experienced as additional fall-out from His arrest. The most well-known of course is Peter. When Jesus spoke of all of the disciples abandoning Him, Peter vehemently rejected that he would ever do so. Did he mean it? Yeah. Was he planning on keeping his word? You bet! He was, in terms of his own will, all in when it came to following Jesus. But as night turned to morning, he crashed and burned. One denial followed another until the roster crowed and Jesus tossed him a glance. So a commitment to victory turned into self-inflicted devastating defeated.
But there were others who experienced humiliation as they deserted Jesus. The most unusual of those was probably Mark. We read in Mark 14:51 and following about a young man who made no bones about running from Jesus when things got tough. He made no pretenses of being a spiritual hero. But he still got humiliated…forced to flee from the scene naked, wiggling out of his clothes as the authorities grabbed them in an effort to corral him. He was ready to run and still wound up losing.
I see a couple of great lessons in these stories. They aren’t new, but that doesn’t mean that they are not valuable. First, whether we take being a follower of Christ lightly or seriously, whether we are Mark or Peter, if we are trying to do it on our own, we will be disappointed. If we are doing it in our own power, we’ll lose. The second lesson is incredibly encouraging. These two colossal failures are both transformed by the grace of God, come to live via the power of God’s will, and make huge impacts spiritually. From certain defeat great victory is snagged by not living on their own, but living through Him.
My suspicion is that those two lessons could be real helpful to many of us. So let’s not learn the hard way through our own defeats and choose to learn from the great cloud of witnesses that have preceded us and live through Him. And we can, because He is alive!