Jesus Is a Karma Buzz-Kill
During the Last Supper (Mark 14:12–25) with his disciples, Jesus talks about his impending death and initiates the practice of communion. Jesus says in Mark 14:27–28, “You will all fall away…But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”
Failure Doesn’t Change God’s Plan
This is remarkable. Jesus doesn’t yell at them or condemn them. He simply states the truth about their failure and he states the truth about his faithfulness to them despite them. That’s because his focus is not on them (either their faithfulness or failure) but on what he is doing (dying and rising again). Their failure didn’t change his plans.
What does Peter do with this grace? He responds, “Even though they all fall away, I will not” (Mark 14:29). He makes promises of his faithfulness. He is vehement in his proclamation.
Jesus tells Peter that before the night is over he’ll deny Jesus multiple times. Peter goes nearly crazy at this point claiming, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you” (Mark 14:31). His pious declarations got the others disciples going too. It was a riot of declarations of faithfulness.
Jesus is about to suffer a brutal, excruciating death for his disciples and the world, and they are cheering themselves on. Jesus is arrested (Mark 14:43–50) and stands before a jury stacked against him (Mark 14:51–65). He is put under oath and asked, “Are you the promised Messiah?” When Jesus says he is, the people around him beat him up for blasphemy. They blindfold him, spit on him, and mock him.
All It Took Was a Little Girl
While all of this is going on, Peter is watching from the courtyard. His determination to show himself faithful to Jesus brought him into the courtyard of the high priest where he is warming his hands around the fire with the very guards that arrested Jesus. That was a brave thing to do. But all it took was a little girl to connect him to Jesus, and Peter ran away in fear (Mark 14:66–69).
His only way out is to place himself under oath and swear that he doesn’t know Jesus. Remember that when Jesus was under oath he spoke the truth about himself, which caused him to get beaten. Now Peter is putting himself under oath (Mark 14:71) so he can lie and avoid a beating.
This is not just. But this is a picture of mercy, of substitution, of the gospel. The innocent get punished while the guilty are pardoned. Jesus freely opens his face to mocking, beating and spitting; and when the rooster crows, Peter covers his face in shame.
At this moment, Peter “broke down and wept” (Mark 14:71). The word for “broke down” is the strongest word possible in the Greek. He was unhinged. He lost it. He almost heaved his guts up in sorrow. Peter literally went out and threw himself down on the ground in agony, remorse, and repentance.
Grace Upon Grace
What is Jesus’ response to Peter’s failure? It is in Mark 16:6–7. On resurrection morning, an angel met the women at the tomb and said, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”
Did you see that? He says, “….and Peter.” He singles out Peter, the failure, for this grace. This is a glimpse into the heart of God. All disciples needed to hear this good news, but especially Peter. Instead of getting him kicked out of Jesus’ favor, Peter’s failure got him special attention.
You can imagine Peter singing Psalm 30:11: “You have turned my sobbing into dancing. You have removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.”
Jesus is a karma buzz-kill, because it’s the failure who gets grace upon grace. Paul is the same: “If you are faithless, he remains faithful” (2 Tim 2:13).