The Striking of the Shepherd
Text: Mark 14: 26 – 41
Proposition: God’s perfect purposes in both the striking of the Shepherd and the scattering of the sheep prove Christ and winnow the disciples.
Introduction: I remember that one of things that I liked the least about myself when I was younger was the way I would blush for almost no reason. My face gave me away, it told anyone who noticed that there was a sense of shame inside my mind and my soul. We were at a dinner party last week and one of the things that came up in the conversation with all the people seated around the table was the way that failure and shame can block us from moving forwards, from making better choices in our lives. So I thought about that, not just because I have felt those very things, the feeling of shame because of failure, but also because we all have. Shame and failure are throughout the pages of Scripture because they are common to us.
I read a quote by a counsellor named John Bradshaw that I thought was insightful. He explains in very simple terms the difference between guilt and shame. “Guilt says I’ve MADE a mistake; shame says I AM a mistake. Guilt says what I DID was not good; shame says I AM no good.” I believe that God directs us with conviction when we make mistakes. Guilt is good in that sense. But Satan has a counterfeit for guilt, he uses shame. Shame tears down but the conviction of the Holy Spirit extends a hand to lift us up. Turn with me to Mark 14:26-41.
I. The Scandal of God As He Strikes The Shepherd.
It is early Friday morning possibly around midnight. The supper is over and Jesus and the disciples are making their way through the dark streets of Jerusalem when Jesus says to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, And the sheep will be scattered.’ “But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.”
Three things catch our attention.
1. All the disciples will be made to stumble. The word that is translated ‘made to stumble’ or ‘be offended’ or ‘fall away’ is the Greek word ‘skandalizo’. It literally means, ‘to cause to fall away’. They will be made to fail, to fall away.
2. It is the fulfillment of prophecy. Jesus is referring to Zechariah 13:7, but His greater point is that God the Father will strike the Shepherd and the Shepherd is Jesus. This striking will be to cause death and it will scatter the disciples.
3. Afterwards Jesus will rise. It is a reference to rising from the dead and He will meet them in Galilee. The promise of reunion comes immediately after failure.
The scandal of God is that He will be the One Who causes the failure in faith among the disciples, He will be the One Who strikes the Shepherd. If you read the Zechariah 13:7 passage it begins by saying, “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, against the Man who is My Companion, says the LORD of hosts.” The scandal of God is that He has intended this from the very beginning. Of all the three things that Jesus has just said, ‘Jesus will die; they will be made to stumble, Jesus will rise again’, which is it that Peter fixes upon? Though you would think it would be Christ’s prediction of His death or even the wonder of risen from the dead, what Peter hears of greatest concern is that he would be made to stumble. Look at verse 29, “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be.” This is more than just an assertion of him being faithful, it is also an assertion that he is better than the others, it is an assertion that he can’t be made to fail even if it’s predicted in Scripture. It’s an assertion that I know myself better than God knows me. Peter sees himself as an oak tree, Jesus sees him a willow bush. If you try to make an oak bend it will snap off but a willow bends and then springs right back up. So Jesus tells him just how God would prove to Peter what being made to stumble will look like. Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.”
The scandal of God as He strikes the Shepherd is that the sheep must be scattered. Their faith must be pressure tested, the supremacy of Christ must be made evident, the exclusive death of Jesus must be known as the plan of God in salvation just as the exclusive resurrection of Jesus seen as the first fruits of our promised resurrection and reunion with Him. The scandal of God is that He uses failure and even shame to bring us to where we could never have gotten as people who now absolutely love and obey and glorify Him.
II. The Striking of the Shepherd Begins in Gethsemane.
They walk the darkened streets of Jerusalem, like the dark streets of Egypt that Passover night. In verse 32 it says they arrive at a garden at the base of the Mount of Olives, a garden of olive trees called Gethsemane. Gethsemane, the name literally means oil pressing, a place where crushing happens. In verses 32, 33 it says, “He said to His disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” And He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be troubled and deeply distressed.” There are two words used here that would be easy to underestimate. One is the word we translate as ‘troubled’ or ‘sore amazed’ or ‘deeply distressed’. It’s the Greek word ekthambeō and it can mean, ‘to throw into terror’, ‘to terrify’. The second word that we could easily miss is similar to it. We translate it as ‘very heavy’, or ‘ deeply distressed’ or ‘troubled’. It is the Greek word adēmoneō and it has the meaning of great anguish. It is the closest word that we could use for the heaviness of depression. In verse 34 Jesus describes what it feels like, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death.” The striking of the Shepherd is to such a degree that Jesus prays at least twice, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.” Look at how Jesus moves into this place despite the terror in His soul, despite the great heaviness. He draws near to the Father, Abba Father. He acknowledges not only the omnipotence of the Father, all things are possible for You, but also the perfect sovereignty of the Father, yet not My will but Thy will be done. The terror that Jesus now faces is the sure reality of the imputation of mankind’s sin being put upon Him. Jesus knows that there is no other way for the cup of God’s wrath against sin to be propitiated, to be drank to it’s dregs. No other human being could ever do this except the sinless Son of God. The absolute full wrath of the Father against sin is the terror Jesus feels. The presence of all the sin of all mankind for all time being put on Him is the great distress. It is where holiness receives sin and takes it to death. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Cor. 5:21 Though Jesus knew this was the plan from the very beginning, Gethsemane is where the Shepherd is first struck, Gethsemane is where the crushing of Christ for our sin began.
III. All of Us Will Be Made To Stumble Because of Jesus Christ.
Paul quoted Isaiah in Romans 9:33, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, and whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” So how is that we are made to stumble because the Shepherd has been struck? We stumble in failures and shame and a wrong understanding of who we are. We stumble in an arrogance and pride that seeks to hide that shame. We stumble in not seeing the way temptation comes close and we underestimate it. What did Jesus say twice to Peter, James and John in Gethsemane, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” It was the Peter who had said though all fail you I won’t. It was the James and John who had come to Jesus and said when You come in your kingdom let us sit on the left and the right to be your chief counsel. They had a pride that gave them a distorted identity. They were made to stumble in order to bring that identity to a place of truth. We stumble when we don’t watch, when we don’t pray and when we enter into the temptation to run away, to strike out at others, to deny that we know Him.
In short it is a very, very good thing to be made to stumble in our pride. He is our stone of stumbling and that is good for whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame. Jon Bloom, writer for Desiring God Ministries writes, “The key to breaking the power of pride-fueled shame is the superior power of humility-fueled faith in the work of Christ and the promises of Christ. Shame pronounces us guilty and deficient. Jesus pronounces us guiltless and promises that His grace will be sufficient for us in all our weaknesses.