Rabbi, Rabbi
Based on Series of Sermons on the Repetition of Name and Titles
Preached in PCC Worship Service, 1 January 2017
Part 2 of 3

In our previous study on Mark 14, where the title Rabbi is repeated in verse 45, we looked at the plot of the chief priests and scribes to kill Jesus and of Judas Iscariot’s willingness to betray Jesus for a small sum of money. In this article, we will consider the prediction of betrayal, desertion and denial.

The Prediction of Betrayal, Desertion and Denial
(vv. 17-21, 27-31)

It was the evening of the Passover. The Lord and all His 12 disciples had gathered in a large upper room to have the Passover meal. In the midst of the meal, verse 18 says, “And as they sat and did eat, Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, One of you which eateth with me shall betray me.” What a way to begin the account of Last Supper – on a note of betrayal!

Now remember that the Passover celebration was basically a family or household affair. Each family would gather together on that night to recount the wonderful mercies of God in delivering His people from their bondage in Egypt. This was meant to be a very precious and joyful time in the religious life of God’s people and of each household. But sadly, on the night of that Last Supper, the Lord Jesus had to inform His beloved brethren that there was one in their “family” who would betray Him.

When the Lord said those words, those who were present began to be very sorrowful and they said to Him one after another, “Is it I?” Now we need to understand that there were probably other people besides the Lord and the twelve disciples that were gathered in the upper room that night. Some of the women who had followed Him from Galilee and some of the other disciples besides the 12 were probably present as well, which explains why they needed a large upper room.

And so when the Lord said, “one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me,” all who were present that evening began to question if he was the one. As an aside, this reminds us of the importance of self-examination when we come to the Lord’s Supper. Or as one writer says, “the time of drawing near to the Lord’s table should be a time for diligent self-inquiry.”

Well, in response to the question that everyone was asking, namely, “Is it I?” the Lord said in verse 20, “It is one of the twelve, that dippeth with me in the dish.” By those words, He was limiting the culprit to those who were the closest to Him and were dipping bread in the bowl with Him. The betrayer would not be found among the women or the other men, who may have been there. Instead, he would come from among the twelve – those who were closest to Him. What a terrible thing to happen!

Quite clearly, the Lord was alluding to Psalm 41:9, which speaks of the righteous man being betrayed by a close friend, “Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.” Now while it is true that Jesus was talking particularly about Judas Iscariot, yet in a sense all the twelve disciples, who were eating bread with Him at the same table, would betray Jesus in that they all forsook Him.

The Lord then went on to say in verse 21, “The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born.” Here is yet another clear passage of scripture that affirms both the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. The Lord Jesus, the Son of man, is about to be delivered into the hands of wicked men to be tortured and eventually executed. That is all part of God’s eternal decree and plan for the redemption of His people, and that is prophesized in the Old Testament, particularly in Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53.

But even though the Son of man goes in accordance to divine foreordination, that does not in any way relieve the betrayer of any responsibility or guilt. That act of betrayal was a very grave evil indeed and Jesus pronounced a frightening woe or curse upon the man who was responsible for it. It would have been better for him if he had not been born. In other words, his punishment in hell would be so severe that he would wish he had never been born in the first place.

Now Judas Iscariot heard all these words of the Lord and he knew that the Lord was talking about him. And yet, His words did nothing to change his heart or mind. His mind had been made up. His heart had been so hardened by the deceitfulness of sin that he would not take heed to the words of Christ. What a frightening picture, isn’t it, of someone with a wicked, unbelieving, hardened and reprobate heart?

In verses 22-26 of Mark 14, we have the familiar account of the institution of the Lord’s Supper. Then from verse 27 and onwards, the Lord predicts the desertion of the disciples and the denial of Peter. Notice how the section on the institution of the Supper from verses 22-26 is flanked or sandwiched by one section on betrayal and another section on denial and desertion. Here we see the self-sacrifice and faithfulness of Christ in sharp contrast to the unfaithfulness and selfish or self-serving behaviour of the disciples. 

It is not just Judas Iscariot who was guilty of selfishness and unfaithfulness to the Lord. The other disciples too were all guilty of those things to some degree. This reminds us that the Lord did not die for those who are worthy and good but for wicked and depraved sinners. Romans 5:8, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

In verse 27, the Lord said to His disciples, “All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.” Now remember that by this time, Judas Iscariot had already left them to go to the chief priests to arrange for the Lord’s arrest, so the Lord was now addressing just the eleven. He told them plainly that all of them without exception will be offended or fall away because of what would happen to Him that night, and He follows up that prediction with a quotation from part of Zechariah 13:7. “I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.”

The shepherd refers to Christ and the sheep to His disciples. When the shepherd is struck down, the sheep will scatter in every direction because they have lost their rallying point, and will thus panic and flee. But who is the “I” of Zechariah 13:7 – I will smite the shepherd? Well, it can be none other than God the Father Himself. Isaiah 53 says that He will lay on Him the iniquity of us all. He will bruise Him and put Him to grief and make His soul an offering for sin. Romans 8:32 says that it was the Father who spared not His own Son but delivered Him up for us all.

Thankfully though, this smiting of the shepherd and scattering or desertion of the sheep will only be for a season and not forever because in verse 28, the Lord goes on to say, “But after that I am risen, I will go before you into Galilee.” The shepherd will rise again and He will go ahead of them into Galilee, where they, the scattered sheep, will be gathered together and will meet with Him again.

At this point, Peter jumps in and says, “Although all shall be offended, yet will not I.” Instead of humbly accepting the Lord’s warning and prediction, and thanking Him for it, Peter responds with self-confident and proud words. Peter is confident that none of them would actually fall away but even if some or all of them do, still he would be found standing firm and strong. He will not fall. Peter was guilty of not taking the words of the Lord seriously and of having too high a view of himself. He was blinded to his own weakness and thought himself superior to his fellow disciples.

The Lord goes on to give a further word of warning to Peter in verse 30, “Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.”

Notice three things about this statement. First, the Lord told him that he would fall away very soon. It was not as if it would take place 20 years down the road when Peter would have long forgotten what he had just said about standing firm and not falling away. No, his falling away would come very soon. In fact, it would happen that very night or in just a few hours’ time.

Second, notice that his falling away would come in the form of denial. Peter would not only simply run away or desert the Lord, but he would go so far as to actively deny him by his words and actions.

Third, we note that Peter’s active denial of the Lord will not be a mere momentary slip of weakness and fear. Rather it would be a deliberate act on his part for he will do it not once or even twice but three times! And he will do all that before the cock crows twice. What this means is that the cock will crow once as a kind of warning to him but he will not take heed to it. Instead, he will continue in his denial until the cock crows twice before he remembers the Lord’s word to him.

We read of Peter’s response to this second warning of the Lord in verse 31, “But he spake the more vehemently, If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise. Likewise also said they all.” Not only does he deny that he will fall away, but he goes on to confidently declare that he would be willing to give up his life rather than deny the Lord in anyway. The other disciples followed Peter’s lead and all of them said the same thing.

It’s important to take note of the word “all” in these verses. In verse 23, we read that they “all” drank of the cup. In verse 31, they “all” confessed their wholehearted allegiance to Christ. We will read of a third “all” in our next article

…to be continued, next Issue

—Linus Chua