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"But He Is Strong"

Presented on The Lutheran Hour on March 21, 2021
By Rev. Dr. Michael Zeigler, Lutheran Hour Speaker
Copyright 2021 Lutheran Hour Ministries

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Text: Mark 14:10-72

There's a part of me that really doesn't like that song, "Jesus Loves Me." Don't get me wrong, I am all about the fact that I'm the kind of person Jesus would love and does love. That's not the part that bothers me about this song. This song, you've heard it before even if you're not a church-going person, "Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so." I'm all good with that part. It's the part that comes next. You remember how it goes? "Little ones to Him belong, they are weak, but He is strong." And what I find offensive about that is that I want to see myself as strong, and I want other people to see me as strong. And I really don't like that word applied to me, weak.

And maybe that's why the title of that article jumped out at me. The title of the article was "Six Verbs That Make You Sound Weak." It was written by a business leader. And the unspoken assumption was that sounding weak was something that any smart person would want to avoid, especially in the workplace. And so the writer urges us to avoid using namby-pamby words to express ourselves—words like need and hope and want—because these words undersell your potential. They undercut your influence. They undermine your personal brand. They make you sound weak. Saying the words "I need" conjures up a feeling of dependency on the part of the speaker, says the author. Saying, "I hope," sounds too much like a prayer. It suggests that you have little control over the outcome. "Six Verbs That Make You Sound Weak." It's a catchy title. It caught my attention.

Another thing that caught my attention was how similar I am in this to the first followers of Jesus. I've been listening to one of His biographies, Jesus' biography. It's called the Gospel according to Mark. It's one of the four ancient biographies of Jesus recorded in the Bible. And what's amazing to me as I listened to it is how similar I am to the first followers of Jesus. They also wanted to see themselves as strong, and they wanted other people to see them that way, too. But the fact is they're all a bunch of wimps. They left their Friend, their Teacher, their Master in the hour of His greatest need. When He was crucified, they just left Him hanging.

And what's amazing about this is that they're the ones who told us so. These accounts of Jesus, they all come from firsthand eyewitness accounts of His first followers, the disciples. And Mark's account specifically comes from the disciple, Peter. If you remember, his original name was Simon, Simon Peter. He's the one who said to Jesus, "You're the Messiah. You're the Christ." And Jesus said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, you're now going to be called Peter." Peter means rock. "And on this rock, I will build My church." So Peter, he stands out right away as a strong leader, but if you read the rest of the story, Peter's job performance is a total embarrassment. And he made sure that Mark wrote it all down.

And Mark seems to have put himself in there, too. Mark wasn't one of the original twelve disciples. But he might've been part of this larger group around Jesus, and some people think that Mark put himself in the story, that he's the young man, the total embarrassment mentioned right there in the middle of chapter 14—the one who ran away. Well, you'll hear about it in a moment. And again, what's amazing about this is that they're the ones who told us so. Something happened to them, and they stopped caring about sounding strong. Mark wrote a book about it to share with the world, not just six words, but 16,000 words that made them sound weak. But for some reason, that didn't stop them from sharing them.

Listen to how it goes in Mark 14. Now Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to hand Jesus over to them. And they, when they heard it, rejoiced and promised to give him money. So he began to seek how he might hand Him over to them at an opportune time.

It was the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread when they were slaughtering the Passover lamb for sacrifice. His disciples say to Him, "Where do You want us to go to prepare for You to eat the Passover?" And Jesus goes on to send two of His disciples with a commission and to say to them, "Go into the city and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, and wherever he goes, enter and say to the master of the house, the Teacher says, 'Where's My guest room where I may eat the Passover with My disciples?' He will show you a large upper room furnished and ready there prepared for us." And they went out and into the city and they found it just as Jesus had said, and they prepared the Passover.

When it had gotten dark, Jesus comes with the twelve, and while they were reclining at the table and eating, He told them, "I'm telling you the truth, one of you will betray Me. One who eats with Me." And they began to be grieved and the say to Him, one by one, "It's not I, is it? It's not I, is it?" And Jesus said to them, "One of the twelve. One who dips bread with Me in the common bowl, because on the one hand, the Son of Man is going away just as it is written concerning Him. But on the other hand, woe to the one who betrays the Son of Man. It would be a good thing for him if he had not been born, that man."

And while they were eating, when He took bread, He blessed it and broke it and gave it to them and said, "Take, this is My body." And when He took a cup giving thanks, He gave it to them and they all drank from it. And He said to them, "This is My blood of the covenant, which is going to be poured out on behalf of multitudes. I'm telling you the truth. I will not drink of this fruit of the vine again until that day when I drink it in a new way in the rule and reign of God." And after they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. And Jesus goes on to say to them, "All of you will stumble and fall. As it is written, 'I will strike the Shepherd and the sheep will scatter,' but after I arise, I will go before you into Galilee."

But Peter declared, "Even if they all stumble and fall, I most certainly will not." And Jesus said to him, "I'm telling you the truth. You, this day, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times." But he kept on declaring. "Even if I have to die with you, I will not deny you." And they all said the same thing. And they come to the place called Gethsemane. And Jesus says to them, "Sit here while I pray." And He takes with Him, Peter and James and John. And He began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And He says to them, "My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death. Wait for Me here and keep watch." And going on a little further, He proceeded to fall on the ground and to pray that if it were possible that this hour might pass by Him. He actually said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup from Me, yet not My will, but Thy will be done."

And He comes and He finds them sleeping. And He says to Peter, "Simon, Simon, are you actually sleeping? Were you not strong enough to watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you do not fall into temptation because on the one hand, the spirit is willing, but on the other hand, the flesh is weak." And He goes again and prays, saying the same words. And again, He comes and He finds them sleeping. Their eyes were weighed down. They didn't know what to say to Him. And He comes the third time, and He says to them, "Sleep, finally, and rest because he is far off. The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up! Let's go! Look, the one who is about to betray Me has drawn near and is at hand." And straightway, while He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, appears on the scene with a crowd with swords and clubs from the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes.

Now, the one who was going to betray Him had given them a signal saying, "Whomever I kiss is the Man. Grab Him and take Him away safely." And he comes and straightway goes to Jesus and says, "Rabbi." And he kissed Him. And they put their hands on Him and grabbed Him. And one of those who was standing by, upon drawing his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, took off his ear. And in response, Jesus says, "Have you come out against Me as a bandit, with swords and clubs to capture Me? Day after day, I was with you in the temple teaching and you did not seize Me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled." And they all left Him and fled.

And some young man who was following Him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth to cover his nakedness, they grabbed him, and he left his linen cloth and ran away naked. And they lead Jesus to the high priest and the chief priests and the elders and the scribes all come together. And Peter followed Him from a distance right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was there with the attendants, warming himself by the fire. Now the high priest and the whole council began to seek witnesses against Jesus in order to put Him to death. But they just couldn't find any. For many were bearing false witness against Him, but their testimony did not agree. Some stood up and bore false witness against Him saying, "We heard Him say, 'I will destroy this temple that is made with hands and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.'" But even in this, their testimony did not agree.

And so the high priest stood up in their midst and questioned Jesus, "You do not give any answer? Why do these men bear witness against You?" But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. And the high priest proceeded to question Him. And he says to Him, "You are the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" And Jesus said, "I am. And you are going to see that the Son of Man is seated at the right hand of power and He is going to come with the clouds of heaven." And the high priest tore his tunic and says, "What!? What further witnesses do we need? You have heard His blasphemy. What is apparent to you?" And they all condemned Him as deserving death. And some of them began to spit on Him and to put a covering around His head and to strike Him and to say to Him, "Prophesy! Prophesy!" And the guards received Him with their fists.

And Peter, while Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest comes. And when she saw him warming himself, she looked at him and says, "You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus." But he denied it. He said, "I don't know. I don't understand what you're talking about." And he went out into the gateway. But again, she saw him and she started saying to those who were standing by, "This man is one of them." But he kept on denying it. And after a while, those who were standing by began to say, "Surely, you are one of them because you're a Galilean." And he began to curse and to swear, saying, "I don't know this Man that you're talking about." And straightway the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered the words that Jesus had said, "Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times." And focusing his attention on this, he began to weep.

My brother-in-law, Eric, died of cancer this last year. He had spent the last ten years of his life sober as a recovering alcoholic. He didn't hide this about himself. He'd often introduce himself saying, "Hey, I'm Eric. I'm a recovering alcoholic with Stage IV cancer." And Eric was one of the most influential leaders I know. He told me once, "Michael, lead from your weakness."

It's counterintuitive. Isn't it? Wouldn't you want to lead from where you're strong? Wouldn't you want the people who are supposed to be following you to see you as strong? But you see, Eric, he's a follower of Jesus. And that's not the way of Jesus. You heard it in the Garden of Gethsemane. When everything was on the line, when the world's salvation was hanging in the balance, and in this moment more than any other we needed Jesus to be strong for us, to bravely bear the cross for us, to suffer the judgment of God for us. How did Jesus lead? With His own human weakness. He, as the Son of God, became a human being, came to His Father weak. He said, "Abba, I am weak, but You are strong." See, there's something about human weakness that goes deeper than sin, because Jesus didn't have any sin. Jesus is showing us what it truly means to be human, even without sin. That we were never meant to be independent, self-sustaining, standalone beings. But we were meant to be strong in the strength of another—like a tree is strong only in the soil, sun, and water. Like the heat is strong only in the fire. Like the Son is the Son only in the Father.

So what happened to Peter and Mark and the other disciples? What happened when they didn't care about sounding strong anymore? What happened was Jesus. They left Him hanging, but God raised Him from the dead. What happened is Jesus living now in human flesh, in the strength of God. Jesus is what happened. He forgave them and He offered them God's strength instead of theirs. And His offer still stands today. This is what Jesus offers you. You don't have to fight for your influence. You don't have to try to control the room. You don't have to pretend that you're strong. You can be honest about your weakness and let your weakness keep leading you back to Jesus. There's a song about that, "Little ones to Him belong. They are weak (I am weak), but He is strong." Would you pray with me?

Abba, Father, I don't want to live in my own strength anymore. By faith, let me be crucified in weakness with Jesus. That I no longer live, but He lives in me. And let the joy of knowing that He loved me and gave Himself for me, let that joy be my strength, because He lives and He reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever. Amen.

No Reflections for March 21, 2021

Music Selections for this program:

"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.

"The Tree of Life" by Stephen Starke & Bruce Becker, arr. David von Kampen. From We Praise You and Acknowledge You, O God: Hymns of Stephen P. Starke
(© 2011 Concordia Publishing House)

"On My Heart Imprint Your Image" From O Lord, Open My Lips (© 1995 St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Ft. Wayne IN)

"O Sacred Head, Now Wounded" arr. J.S. Bach

Change Their World. Change Yours. This changes everything.

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