Sermon: Knowing the Future

I invite you to open your Bibles with me to Mark 14. Mark 14:12-31. Mark is the second book of the New Testament – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. This Lenten season, we are listening to the last three chapters of Mark as they tell us of the days and hours leading up to the crucifixion and then resurrection of Jesus Christ. Last week, we hear how a woman anointed Jesus’ head with costly perfume and how what the world called wasteful, Jesus called beautiful. We pick up the story the next day, at Passover. As always, you are invited to leave your Bibles open as we read and study God’s word together. I will be using a different translation than your pew Bibles, but before we hear God’s word, please take a moment to pray with me:

Prayer

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks, ‘Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.”

The disciples left, went into the city, and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.

When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me – one who is eating with me.”

They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?”

“It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man. It would have been better for him if he had not been born.”

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them and they all drank from it.

“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them, “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the Kingdom of God.”

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.”

“Truly I tell you,” 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.

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

How many of you love to watch the weather? I know some of you follow it closely. At my parent’s house, the weather channel seems to be the one channel that is always on. The job of meteorologists, people who study the weather, is to predict what kind of weather we will have in the future. They use lots of data and formulas, look at the weather patterns, wind direction and speed, to try and tell us what the weather will be tomorrow. Do they ever get it wrong? I haven’t lived here that long, but how many times has there been a report that a storm is going to hit Brantford and it simply misses us. I’ve stopped counting. Often the weather report is great for the next couple days, but ten days out? Plus 1?

The point is not the meteorologists are not good at their job, far from it. But even with all these smart people doing good work, the best they can give us is what will probably happen. Often they are wrong, because they cannot predict the future, because they don’t know the future.

Or consider how many people are tasked with trying to predict how the economy is going to look in three to six months. The kind of complicated math that goes into predicting stock prices and market fluctuations is impressive, but as we know all too well, they cannot predict the future. Even the best economists find things happen that they simply did not see coming. They do not know the future. At best they could give what will probably happen.

Or lastly consider that on day after our oldest daughter, Moriah, was born, lots of people in one industry lost their jobs. Riah was born the day before the 2016 US Presidential election. Pollsters, whose job it is to predict the way that people would vote in a particular demographic or district, were simply wrong. Regardless of how you feel about the outcome, the fact is that the people whose job it was to predict the future simply got it wrong. For all their sophisticated measurements, they do not know the future. At best, they could give what would probably happen. 

How different this is from what we see from Jesus in our passage this morning. Jesus Christ knows the Future. Not just what will probably happen or what is likely to happen, but five times in our passage, Jesus predicts exactly what will happen and it happens just as Jesus tells them.

First, there were the preparations for the Passover. In verses 13 and 14 Jesus told his disciples “Go into the city and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks, ‘Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.”

The disciples left, went into the city, and found things just as Jesus had told them. These are specific and unlikely details. It was not typical for men to carry jars of water. But Jesus tells them they will see a man carrying water. Not only that, this man will lead them to a house where the owner will have a room already prepared and be willing to let Jesus use it simply by the disciples asking for it in the ‘Teacher’s’ name. This is no vague prediction, no ‘this will probably happen.’ They disciples go and find things just as Jesus had told them.

Jesus knows the future. He also predicts his betrayal. Verses 17 and 18: When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me – one who is eating with me.” He goes on to say specifically that it will be one of the Twelve and the one who dips bread into the bowl with Jesus. The other gospels have even more specific detail that points to Jesus knowing it was Judas. Jesus predicts his own betrayal and it happens just as he said.

Jesus also predicts – perhaps that’s the wrong word here – Jesus also knows that the disciples will all fall away. Verse 27: “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.”

This is exactly what happens. Jesus is betrayed by Judas, one of the Twelve disciples, before the night is through and all of the disciples run away. Jesus knows the future.

Contained in this is also the fourth prediction of Jesus – his own death and resurrection. He quotes Zechariah 13:7 as referring to himself, I will strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered. Striking the shepherd was a way of talking about killing him. Jesus is saying that he will be killed and they will flee. But he goes on to say that after he has risen he will go ahead of them into Galilee. Jesus knows that the cross and the resurrection lie before him. And it happens just as Jesus said.

Lastly, Jesus knows that Peter will disown him or deny knowing him. After Jesus tells them that they will run away, Peter claims that everyone else might, but he won’t. Jesus say that before the rooster crows twice, Peter will disown him, deny him three times. And it happens just as Jesus said.

Five times in this passage, Jesus’ knowledge of the future is shown to us. Why is this important? Well, it is a demonstration of his power – He is God, and God knows all things, past, present, and future. He holds all things past, present, and future in his hands. There is nothing that happens outside of the control of God, even if we do not always understand how that works. So Jesus’ knowledge of things that no one else should know is a demonstration of his divine nature. Additionally, the fact that Jesus’ words come true should give us confidence in the truth of all that he says. In particular, Jesus said he would die and rise again, and since Jesus’ word is true here – where it seems least likely, least possible – we should listen to everything he says.

But in the context of the very night where Jesus is betrayed and will lead the next day to the cross, Jesus’ knowledge of the future takes on even greater significance. Everything Jesus spoke of – the Passover room, the betrayal, the falling away, his death and resurrection, and Peter’s denial – None of this surprises Jesus, none of it catches him off-guard. Jesus knows where this path will lead and he goes down it willingly.

Maybe an example will help us get a sense of just what this means. Imagine I knew for certain that I would trip going down these stairs at the end of the sermon. I didn’t just feel weak in the knees and think it was likely to happen, but I knew, absolutely knew. If so, I would probably go a different way. I might take the other steps or not take the steps at all. I certainly wouldn’t walk down those steps knowing I would trip. I would seek to avoid the pain and embarrassment.

This is what is so stunning about Jesus here. None of what will happen in the next couple days is a surprise to Jesus. He already knows. He knows that the road he is on will lead to the cross and instead of avoiding it, or trying to find a different way, like we would, Jesus heads there willingly and intentionally.

Jesus knows where this path will lead. He goes there willingly. As we think about what is soon to come in the life of Jesus, how powerful is it to know that Jesus willingly and knowingly endured this for you. The cross was not an ‘oops,’ it was not even a ‘if I keep going this way, this will probably happen,’ but as certainly as Jesus knew that there would be a man carrying a jar of water who would lead the two disciples to a room where they could eat the Passover, Jesus knew that this path would lead him to the suffering, shame, and death of the cross. He knew it, and he still did it for you. He chose that path. He chose it with full knowledge of what he would endure.

Jesus knows the future. He knows the future for him contains the cross, but he still walks that way. He knows the future holds abandonment by his disciples and betrayal by one of his own. He knows that at this crucial moment, he will have to go alone. But even knowing this, Jesus walks forward to the cross for the very ones who abandoned him.

What incredible love! It is one thing to walk into danger and suffering unknowingly, but quite another to do it know just what you are about to suffer. We see the great love of Jesus is magnified by the fact that he knew – he knew – and he still went to the cross for us.

Jesus knows the future, which highlights the amazing love that he has for us that he would knowingly and willing endure the cross for us and for our salvation. But Jesus also knows us far better than we know ourselves.

In this passage, Jesus reveals not only that he knows the future, but that he knows the hearts of his disciples. He says one will betray him. Each of them asks if it is him, hoping against hope that it is not. But Jesus is right. Jesus knows them far better than they know themselves. He says they will all fall away, and Peter denies it and later the others echo him. But Jesus is right. Jesus knows them far better than they know themselves. Jesus tells Peter that Peter will disown him, but Peter denies it. But Jesus is right. Jesus knows the disciples far better than they know themselves.

Growing up, I always wanted to be like one of the disciples. I always admired the boldness of Peter to proclaim that Jesus was the Messiah. But the more I read the gospels, I began to be disappointed. The disciples are a hot mess most of the time. When Jesus is teaching the parables, he asks them if they understand and they don’t. Jesus teaches them about who he is and that he will suffer on the cross and be raised, but they don’t get it. They want to know who gets to his chief lieutenants when the kingdom comes. Peter proclaims Jesus as the Messiah and then two seconds later rebukes Jesus for speaking of the cross. And everything that Jesus says in this passage will, in fact, happen. They will all run away, Peter will deny Jesus, Judas will betray him, and resurrection morning will find them moping and hiding in a house, despite Jesus’ clear promise that he will be raised to life on the third day.

The disciples are a mess. They often don’t understand Jesus. They are, at times, weak and confused, and, at times, full of zeal. They ran away when the going got tough. There was nothing to be admired in them other than their faith in Jesus, and even that seemed so weak at times.

I used to want to be the disciples, then I became frustrated and disappointed in them, but now I find myself comforted by the fact that Jesus chooses them. They squabble and miss the point, but Jesus doesn’t give up on them. They are weak, they are misfits, and they struggle with doubts, but Jesus calls them anyway. He knows them far better than they know themselves and yet there is a place for them among Jesus’ disciples.

I am comforted because following Jesus, belonging as his disciple, is not just for the best and brightest, but for the rest of us, for the weak, the misfits, those who struggle, those with a tendency to run, those who like Peter talk a big game, or like most of the other disciples, we never hear from at all.

Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves. He already knows you – your doubts, your weakness, your struggle, your sin – he knows you even than you do. So there is no reason to hide. Yet, he calls your name and says ‘Come and follow me.’ Let him heal and change you, let him sanctify you and wash you clean. Let him forgive and call you his own. The disciples were a mess, were not all put together, that there was nothing really in them to be admired, yet Jesus counted them among his disciples. Jesus willingly went to the cross for them. So don’t let your mess, your sin, your struggles or doubts be a barrier to coming to Christ, the Savior. If Jesus welcomed the Twelve, there is space for you, for me, for all who repent and believe in Jesus Christ.

Just as stunning as the fact that Jesus knows the future, knows the cross lies before him and still walks toward it, is the fact that Jesus knows the hearts of these disciples, knows them better than they know themselves and still gives himself to them.

At the heart of this passage is what is known as the Last Supper, the Passover meal that Jesus eats with his disciples. Jesus takes bread, breaks it and gives it to the same disciples who will betray, run away, and deny him in a few hours. Jesus takes a cup, gives it to the disciples, and they all drink from the same cup – Judas and Levi, Peter and Thomas.

And when Jesus gives the bread and the cup to them, he tells them that he is giving himself to them. Take it; this is my body. and This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Jesus knows them better than they know themselves, and he still gives himself to them, gives himself for them. He breaks bread with the weak and foolish, with the runners and deniers, even with the betrayer himself. He shares a cup with them, not because of anything good or righteous or laudable in them, but because of his great love for them. They are welcomed because of his grace and love and compassion, not because of them.

What a stunning enactment of the gospel. Jesus the beautiful, the worthy, the holy, the righteous, the perfect Son of God, eating with them, with us.

Jesus knew the future, that it lead to the cross and chose to walk willingly toward it, for you, for me. Jesus knew the hearts of his disciples, and yet he chose to break bread and drink the cup with them.

While we are not headed to the Lord’s Table this morning, I want to end with an invitation. If you fear you are not good enough to be a Christian. If you wonder if your life is too mess, your past is too difficult, or your faith is too weak. Don’t be afraid. Come to Christ, for it is for just such as these, for the humble in heart who come in faith, that the table was set. It is for just such as these, for the weak and heavy-laden, that Christ knowingly and willingly went to the cross. In short, for you and me.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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