The Sheep Will Scatter

Frontline Devotion for March 20, 2018 (Season of 'Lent')

By: Dennis Luther

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Mark 14:26-31

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. "You will all fall away," Jesus told them, "for it is written: 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.' But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee." Peter declared, "Even if all fall away, I will not." "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "today-yes, tonight-before the rooster crows twice, you yourself will disown me three times." But Peter insisted emphatically, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." And all the others said the same. (New International Version)

After singing, the disciples and Jesus "went out" first downhill from Jerusalem and then uphill to the Mount of Olives to a spot where that breathtaking view of Jerusalem 200 feet below them, straight across the deep Kidron Valley, contrasted so abruptly with the stark white stones of the sepulchers (tombs) not far away. Jesus, knowing human nature so intimately, said, "You will all fall away." As the Interpreter's Bible puts it, the Good Shepherd "knew the stresses his disciples would be under, the pressures they would be exposed to, the bewilderment of quick surprise" upon His capture, suffering, and death. So, Jesus quoted Zechariah (13:7), who prophesied that with the Good Shepherd killed, the sheep will be scattered. This prophecy foretold of punishment for the Israelites' long history of disobeying God's Covenant. Jesus foresaw how vulnerable His disciples would be upon His departure. He foresaw how threatened Jerusalem itself would be because of strife, hypocrisy, and division; indeed, the temple would be reduced to rubble within 40 years.

Without the Good Shepherd, as the Message translates, "You're all going to feel that your world is falling apart and that it's my fault," says Jesus. "Sheep will run helter-skelter," not knowing which way to go, without hearing their shepherd's voice calling their name. Aren't we ALL sheep at some point?

Impetuous Peter blurts out in protest (seeming to ignore Jesus' promise that after rising again He will go ahead of them to Galilee): "All others may fall away, but not me." He has no clarity of selflessness that would illuminate his way forward. He simply cannot foresee a situation in which his confidence could be overwhelmed; in which he would NOT be THE exception.

Jesus knows better. He knows His disciples (and we as His disciples today) would fall into the trap of their (and our) human self-assuredness and self-deception, falling for the allure and lies promulgated by the Evil One. And so, Jesus predicts that Peter would deny Him three times that same night. Could there be anything more devastating to the heart of God's fully human Son than to have His dearest friends disown Him?

And still Peter persists. He and the other disciples SAY they will stick with Him even unto death. But how can they-how can we-do so without humility and dependence upon God alone? We're about to enter with Jesus into the Garden of Gethsemane downhill from the Mount of Olives with sudden and intense agony looming. Do we know, feel, and live within full hearing of the Shepherd's voice?

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, as we recall again the agony endured by Your Only Son, may we repent that we have failed to listen to and heed His voice. Fortified against the arrows of the Evil One solely by Your grace, we cling to the Cross. May we forever honor You with thankfulness and praise You with our love and service to Your creation. May we, as the psalmist says, approach each new day "rejoicing and being glad in it," for You made it. In the name of Your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.