Teaching without compromise.

Loving without exception.


Fight or Flight

August 19, 2007 Speaker: Bryce Morgan Series: Who Do You Say I Am? (The Gospel of Mark)

Passage: Mark 14:27–14:52

Fight or Flight?
Mark 14:27-52
August 19th, 2007
Way of Grace Church

I. Responding to Fear

What do you do when you're scared? When something frightens you? There are a lot of different responses, aren't there. Some people freeze up. Some people lash out. Some people try to talk themselves out of it. Some people run away. Some people pray.

When we think about fear, sometimes we think just about those situations where our physical safety is threatened. We consider what we'd do if someone broke into our house or if the brakes went out in our car.

But how often do things like that happen? Do you know that everyday you and I are confronted by what can be "scary situations"?

We might be afraid of how another person will see us; of rejection. We might be afraid of losing our job. We might be afraid of making a bad parenting decision. We might be afraid of an uncertain fate in terms of our marriage. We might be afraid having some kind of accident. We might be afraid of a bad diagnosis. We might be afraid of loneliness. We might be afraid of living a wasted life.

Every single day you and I are confronted with choices and circumstances that can be scary. All of us are afraid of something. But how will we respond to such fear? How have you been responding?

This morning, God's word is going to give us an incredible picture, a picture of two responses to fear set in stark contrast to one another.

Turn with me to Mark 14:27 as we continue our study through Mark's Gospel, this amazing account of Jesus Christ.

II. The Passage: Facing the Coming Darkness (Mark 14:27-52)

If you were with us last week, then you'll know that we are in the last days of Jesus' earthly ministry, only hours away from his death. Jesus has just eaten his final meal with his disciples, a Passover meal, and at that table he revealed to them that one of their own number would betray Him.

So from verse 26 we know that the meal has ended and Jesus and his followers are making the twenty minute walk from Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives, to the southeast of the city.

Let's begin with verses 27-32. Listen as I read:

A. Jesus' Knowledge of Our Weakness (14:27-32)

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."

After three years at his side, Jesus makes a startling prediction here about the twelve. All of these men will abandon him. Jesus makes this clear generally and specifically. He tells the group that they will turn from him, and then predicts Peter's coming denials, in spite of Peter's confessions of commitment and loyalty.

What is confirmed in these verses is Jesus' knowledge of our weakness. Jesus knows the difficult times ahead. He has revealed his fate to these men on numerous occasions. But they don't understand, and therefore, they are not prepared for what is to come.

Notice in the midst of all of this depressing talk, he does point them toward hope: "But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee." No matter what happened to him, Jesus would rise up and return the familiar setting of Galilee. Galilee was where they were from; where most of Jesus' ministry took place.

But why is Jesus' telling them about this "falling away" that's about to take place? Is he trying to change their response? No. He knows they'll fall away. I think he wants them to know that he knows. After they have fled, in the coming hours, days, months, years, they will look back and say, "he knew that we'd fail him, and yet, he still loves us. He restored us."

Peter's words here a good reminder for us. How often do we boast in our own strength when times are good? How often do you and I act like we have it all together and tell ourselves that if and when difficult times come, we will be, in the words of Bob Seager, "like a rock"?

But look at how Jesus' words are, once again, fulfilled perfectly. Drop down to verse 43...

B. Jesus' Words Are Proven (14:43-52)

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.

A quiet Passover night in the garden has just taken a very ugly turn. What the disciples should have expected, in light of what Jesus had revealed, what they should have expected has caught them off guard.

Judas has returned. And with him, an armed mob. In the darkness of the garden, the normal sign of greeting and respect, a kiss on the cheek, would become the means of marking Jesus as Jesus.

The events that would eventually lead to Jesus' death were set in motion. The plans of the "chief priests and the scribes and the elders" (v. 43) were being carried out. Jesus would be finished off. At least that's what they thought.

But did you see how the prediction of Jesus was fulfilled here? Did you see how his words were proven? What was at first a serene night of camping in the garden among other Passover pilgrims has just turned into a very scary situation. An armed mob has come under the cover of darkness. They are going to arrest Jesus. Add to that the fact that the short fuse of one disciple has left "a servant of the high priest" maimed. These men know that there will be consequences for this and for their relationship with Jesus of Nazareth.

So how...how do they face this frightening situation? They run. They flee. And notice who fled: "all left him and fled". Mark even recounts a strange incident involving a young man who was following Jesus, a young follower who might have heard that something was happening and was roused from his bed in the night. He probably went out in haste, since he only had a sheet wrapped around him.

But Mark tells us about him in order to communicate a sense of the frightening chaos that ensued when Jesus Christ was arrested. The followers of Jesus were so scared, this young man was so scared that he barely escaped capture by slipping out of this sheet and fleeing naked into the night.

Just as Jesus predicted, they have all abandoned him.

What do you do when you're scared? When something frightens you?

Well the disciples were not the only ones who had to face fear that night. Jesus himself also wrestled with fear. Let's look back to the verses we skipped over.

C. Jesus' Example Stands in Contrast (14:33-42)

Look at what we read between Jesus' prediction and the point when his words were proven:

33 And [coming to the garden] 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."

Sometimes we picture Jesus more like some stoic angel, like a heavenly Mr. Spock than we do as a real human being. But what we see here, very clearly, is that Jesus is 100% human. Jesus' knowledge of what was to come did not make him insensitive to the grim reality of what was to come. Jesus is wrestling here with fear: the fear of intense physical suffering and, even more so, the fear of separation from His Father.

He, the Son, the object of God's divine affection would become on the cross the sin-bearer, the object of God's divine wrath.

He understood the horror of this plan. That is why He was "sorrowful, even to death" (v. 34). That is why he prayed, on his knees, in anguish. That is why he asked if this hour might pass (v. 35). The cup was waiting for Him, that OT image of God's wrath; this was the cup he was called to drink. Could there be a more frightening situation?

But look at how Jesus' example stands in stark contrast to the disciples. In the verses that we've looked at this morning, both Jesus and his disciples have been confronted with the frightening prospect of suffering. Even here, in the midst of these verses we just looked at, we see the disciples' failure confirmed. When something in Scripture is described in a pattern of three, that is an emphasis of confirmation. Three times Jesus found the disciple asleep.

Their failure to pray with him was a confirmation of their failure to recognize the seriousness of their situation. They had abandoned him even before they fled into the darkness, even before Judas arrived with the mob.

But notice how Jesus responded to this situation. He struggled with fear. But this fear was not a fear rooted in doubt about God or God's plan. It was that normal, human fear that is hard-wired into us; part of our God-designed, internal system of self-preservation. As Paul put it in Ephesians 5: "For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it". And because Jesus understood that "man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God", his fear of being forsaken also fed his anguish.

But his fear does not drive him to flee. It drives him to this knees. He prays. He turns to God. He pleads with God. And in the end, He submits to God.

III. Fighting by Surrendering

This morning, I believe God has given us a vivid picture of facing fear. And what I think we
see here is that this fear is further defined for us. This isn't simply the fear of bodily harm or public humiliation. This is not merely the fear of alienation or unrealized hopes. What we're talking about here is the fear of doing God's will.

Do you ever find that will of God is scary? I do. When God says "go", it can be scary. When God says, "stay", it can be scary. When God says, "no", it can be scary. When God says "yes", it can be scary.

The will of God can be scary because God always desires that we look outside ourselves, that we look to him in each and every circumstance.

Do you recognize that every scary situation you can imagine, every scary situation that you have found or do find yourself in, that every one involves a choice: God's will or my will.

We might be afraid of how another person will see us; of rejection. We might be afraid of losing our job. We might be afraid of making a bad parenting decision. We might be afraid of an uncertain fate in terms of our marriage. We might be afraid having some kind of accident. We might be afraid of a bad diagnosis. We might be afraid of loneliness. We might be afraid of living a wasted life.

All of these involve decisions: decisions to speak, or act, or wait, or step out. But all of them, all of them involve a decision to trust. But will we trust in God, or in ourselves.

I think sometimes we believe that following Christ should come natural to us; after all we're Christians, right? I think sometimes we believe something is wrong with us if were scared to do, or give, or wait, or go for God.

But Jesus leaves us an example here. Even though our fears are often inspired by doubt, we can and should still look to Christ. When it comes to the doing of God's will, there are only two responses: fight or flight.

I think we all know what it looks like to run from God. Maybe this morning you're running from Him, from his desires for your life. But on the other hand, this ‘fighting' is not what we might think of in terms of fighting. As we observed here, one of the disciples thought the kind of fighting that involves a sword would solve something. It didn't.

The fighting we're talking about here sounds like a contradiction in terms: it is fighting by surrendering. It is fighting to stay faithful to what God wants; to be submissive to his plan. That's how we see Jesus fighting here, isn't it. He is fighting on his knees.

This morning, if God's desire for you life, His will, in some specific area or decision or relationship, if it seems scary, are you ready to fight that fear by looking to Jesus Christ? There are three things I'd like to point out in regard to how Jesus fought his fears, and they all flow from what I believe is the central verse here, verse 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."

The three truths I'd like to draw out this morning are all found here in the context of prayer. Do you respond to your fears about following Christ with prayer?

If so, look at what should be shaping those prayers:

Notice first that Jesus knew God's love. He addressed God as "abba", the Aramaic word for "father". As best as we can tell, this word had a certain intimacy about it, as if Jesus were addressing God as "papa".

Jesus came to God, in sorrow and distress, not to talk with some distant deity, but with a loving Father. He could pray about God's will with a sense of openness before this caring Father, and even more importantly, with a trust that His Father's will was shaped according to what was good and right.

God is not a masochist. He does not enjoy seeing us suffer. His will for us always describes what is ultimately best for us. It often may be hard, but it is always good. How many of you have learned that the hard way, that it's always better to obey God. I have.

But you might say, "well Jesus could come to God as Father because he was the Son of God. What about us?" Well remember the privilege in prayer that Jesus gave to any who have been adopted in grace through faith. Remember what he taught his followers to pray: Our Father in heaven...may your name be revered...may your kingdom come...may YOUR WILL be done on earth, just as it's done in heaven."

When we are scared to do what God wants us to do, we need to remember that we can trust that God is our "abba" Father, and that as a Father who loves perfectly, He will take care of us. We don't need to be scared.

The second thing I want you to notice about this prayer is that Jesus knew God's power. Jesus prays, "all things are possible for you". Jesus confirmed God's power as a part of his plea for escape from what was to come, but this truth must have undoubtedly affected his ultimate submission to God.

So often we are scared to do what God wants us to do because we are scared of losing control, of not being able to control the outcome of our decision. But if God is loving and powerful, we can trust that things will work out for our good. Guaranteed!

Do you believe God is powerful enough to hold you, to heal you, to fill you, to lead you, to satisfy you, to change you? We need to trust him in the face of our fears, just as Jesus did.

Finally, I want you to see that, from this prayer, Jesus knew God's plan. Jesus' prayer for release from God's cup tells us that he understood God's cup, God's plan. This is obvious throughout Mark's Gospel. Jesus knows he will be rejected and mocked and beaten and killed. He also knew that God would raise Him up, from the dead.

He struggled with God's will in terms of what he had to face, but he knew God's will.

Oftentimes, we are scared to obey God because we really don't understand His plan for our lives. We might know God's will in terms of his commandments, the do's and the don'ts. But sometimes we miss the bigger picture.
I Thessalonians 4:3 is a good example of both aspects of God's desire for us. Paul writes:

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality...

There is certainly a "don't" here, a command from God, but there is also an affirmation of God's ultimate aim: our sanctification. God wants us to make us more and more like Jesus. And like the sculptor who works with the slab or marble, shaping us will involve a lot of chipping away. And that's not always easy.

But it's so good. To be refined, to be purified, to grow in our love for God through Christ. It is so good.

Brothers and sisters, we need to pray like this. We need to face our fears and pray like Jesus. To pray in light of God's love, His power, and His plan.

IV. Conclusion

When doing the will of God scares us, when following is frightening, what will be our response? Will we run or kneel?

If we want to be a church that makes an impact in this community and in this world for the kingdom of God, we can't run from what God has revealed.

Like Peter we often convince ourselves that we're fine and will be fine when the tough times come; when it gets hard. But Jesus' knows our weakness. That's why He has left us an example.

If you're running this morning, as all of us probably are in some area, I want to pray for you. I want to pray for all of us, that God would be honored through our fighting, and that we would fight be surrendering to His perfect will.


More in Who Do You Say I Am? (The Gospel of Mark)

July 19, 2015

Some Really Great News (Mark 1:1-13)

July 5, 2015

The Jesus Who Offends (Mark 6:1-6)

May 27, 2012

Questioning God (Mark 2:1-3:6)