Mark 14:43-72 (NKJV)
43 And immediately, while He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. 44 Now His betrayer had given them a signal, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him and lead Him away safely.” 45 As soon as he had come, immediately he went up to Him and said to Him, “Rabbi, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. 46 Then they laid their hands on Him and took Him. 47 And one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. 48 Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me? 49 I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” 50 Then they all forsook Him and fled. 51 Now a certain young man followed Him, having a linen cloth thrown around his naked body. And the young men laid hold of him, 52 and he left the linen cloth and fled from them naked.
53 And they led Jesus away to the high priest; and with him were assembled all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes. 54 But Peter followed Him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he sat with the servants and warmed himself at the fire. 55 Now the chief priests and all the council sought testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but found none. 56 For many bore false witness against Him, but their testimonies did not agree.
57 Then some rose up and bore false witness against Him, saying, 58 “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.’ ” 59 But not even then did their testimony agree. 60 And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, saying, “Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?” 61 But He kept silent and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” 62 Jesus said, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” 63 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? 64 You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?” And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death. 65 Then some began to spit on Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him, and to say to Him, “Prophesy!” And the officers struck Him with the palms of their hands.
66 Now as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came. 67 And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with Jesus of Nazareth.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you are saying.” And he went out on the porch, and a rooster crowed. 69 And the servant girl saw him again, and began to say to those who stood by, “This is one of them.” 70 But he denied it again. And a little later those who stood by said to Peter again, “Surely you are one of them; for you are a Galilean, and your speech shows it.” 71 Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know this Man of whom you speak!” 72 A second time the rooster crowed. Then Peter called to mind the word that Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” And when he thought about it, he wept.
Years ago the Army recruiting slogan was this: “In the Army, we do more before 9AM than most people do all day.” Jesus is not most people. Before the rooster even crows twice (which is long before 9AM), Jesus is betrayed by Judas, arrested by an armed crowd, abandoned by His supporters, tried by the Sanhedrin, slandered by false witnesses, condemned wrongly as deserving death, spat on, blindfolded, beaten, mocked, and denied by Peter. The day is still young, and this is only Mark chapter 14; we know what follows in chapter 15: Jesus’ trial before Pilate, His crucifixion, and His death. The recruiting slogan for Jesus’ army at this point could only be this: “Come suffer with us”—“Take up your cross and follow Me.”
From the betrayal of Judas to the denial of Peter, we clearly see that even the very best of humanity—those specifically chosen by Jesus Himself for this very task—are woefully inadequate, unreliable, and untrustworthy. By contrast, Jesus proves Himself fully adequate for the task, fully reliable, and fully worthy. Despite all that is thrown at Him in opposition, nevertheless He continues His course, to complete the task assigned by the Father—that Jesus fulfill all righteousness for us by keeping God’s holy law in complete and total perfection, and then by being the sacrifice paid for us, for all the sins, for all the times when we too proved to be woefully inadequate, unreliable, and untrustworthy.
Judas “goes his way” because he dies apart from faith in Christ, but Peter is later forgiven and restored, as he receives that in faith. We too look to Christ who forgives and restores us any time that we fail Him, by our own types of denials. We come to Him in repentance, admitting our sins, and He is quick to forgive, fully and completely, which we receive in faith.
Let us pray: O almighty God, mercifully look on Your people, and by Your great goodness govern us in body and preserve us in soul; through Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.