The Scattered Sheep

From Mark 14 

 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” But Peter said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.

Jesus knew beforehand that the disciples would scatter when He was arrested. The scripture is very clear on that.

After Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension into Heaven, His closest disciples, who later became known as apostles, were the leaders of the church during its foundational age. But what if they hadn’t scattered? What if they had stood bravely by Jesus’ side that night as they all said they would? They would have certainly been put to death right alongside Jesus. And if that had happened, who would God have used to build His church? Who would have taken the gospel to all the known world? Who would the world changers have been if they had all been as brave as they claimed to be, and had died with Jesus? I’m certain God would have found someone else to do all of that. But He didn’t have to because……..He chose THOSE men. I believe that before the world was created, Jesus knew that those ten men would take off running for their lives on the night of His arrest, and that another would deny Him three times. Do you think God, in His infinite wisdom, knew it was absolutely necessary for them to scatter like sheep? I think the answer to that question is YES! Not only did Jesus know they were going to run, He knew it had to be that way. Those 11 men, along with Mathias and Paul who would come along later, would play vital roles in the growth of the early church, and their impact on the church is still being felt centuries later. I think God chose them not because of their strengths, but because of their weaknesses.

When Paul asked God three times to remove the thorn from his flesh, God answered,  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Yes, Jesus knew the disciples would be weak at the most crucial moment. He knew they would run. But it was all part of God’s plan because God used their weakness and fear that night to preserve and protect them for the greater things He had planned for them in the future. He used their weakness to accomplish His will. Yes, they ran that night and I can’t help but wonder if Satan was gloating as they scattered. But in the decades that followed, I imagine Satan was wishing they would have stood firm. He might have wished they had been as brave as they said they were. He probably wished they had gone to their deaths with our Lord, because the disciples worked fearlessly for the gospel of Jesus Christ for the remainder of their lives.

We all have our weaknesses. And it’s tempting to tell ourselves that God cannot use us because of our flaws and failures and weaknesses. But the Bible says we’re not to think that way. After God refused to remove the thorn, Paul concluded, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Your weaknesses cannot hinder the plan of God for God is stronger than our weakness. (That’s not saying that God will use you if you’re deliberately living in sin. That’s another matter entirely.) But if there is a weakness in any area of your life, acknowledge it and give it to God. You’d be surprised how God responds when we admit our flaws and weaknesses. And you might be surprised at how He can use those weaknesses to accomplish His purposes. So pray over it and ask God how He might use you, weaknesses and all. It might be that He’s simply been waiting for you to ask!