- Nothing New Under the Sun
- Mark 14:17-26
- Lyndol Loyd September 21, 2020
Certainty in Uncertain Times: Nothing New Under the Sun
One of the most dramatic moments, certainly in the Bible, but maybe in all of human history, took place in an environment that we have come to in our culture as the upper room.
It took place towards the end of Jesus’ ministry. They were going to celebrate Passover together. It was a remembrance meal where the Jewish people would get to together and remember what had happened hundreds of years earlier when the Israelites were in Egyptian slavery. They had their last meal in Egypt and the next morning they were all going to get up and walk out of Egypt.
They had been in Egypt for 400 years as a group of people. It started as a family that became a nation and all they had known, their whole history as a nation was that they were slaves. Since the very beginning, they had prayed and prayed and prayed to God and for 400 years, their prayers went unanswered and God finally sent them a deliverer, Moses. Moses said tomorrow, we’re leaving and tonight, an angel of death is going to pass over the land of Egypt and kill every single first born, every single family that does not have the blood of the lamb on the door post.
That night the angel of death passed over the land of Egypt and the next morning, the Pharaoh said, you may go now. That was the last meal, that was the last time that Israelite families gathered in Egypt and the next day, they packed up everything they owned plus everything the Egyptians gave them. They left Egypt and headed to what would be known as the Promised Land.
Now 1400 years after that event, Jesus is going to gather with his disciples to have the Passover Meal. They had done this before, but this was different. There had been a time when they gathered for the Passover meal and things had been great because Jesus was a cultural icon, thousands of people gathered to hear him speak. The disciples were feeling like things are going great and there’s a lot of momentum. The crowds are getting bigger and bigger and the miracles are getting bigger and bigger but as they were about to gather for this, we call it the Last Supper, because it was the last time he would share Passover with them on this Earth, things weren’t going well.
The momentum had turned around. There were rumors that there was a group of people trying to arrest Jesus and trying to isolate him from the crowd, get him alone and arrest him and accuse him of all kinds of things. The disciples knew that if Jesus went down, they would go down with him.
Then he began talking about his death and he talked about being taken and they sort of just filtered all of that out. In their way of thinking, much like our way of thinking, if God is with you and if God is working with you wherever God shows up there is more certainty, not less certainty but they found themselves at a time where things just weren’t going well.
In fact, generally Jesus would tell them we are going to celebrate Passover in this city and you guys go get ready. Here they were the afternoon of Passover and Jesus still hadn’t even told them where they were going to celebrate Passover.
They were going to Jerusalem and he said when I go to Jerusalem, things are going to get really, really bad and of course, they’re like us, so why are we going there. It was as if he had a death wish. It was as if he was going to walk right into the jaws of death. Things are going to be bad when we get to Jerusalem, follow me.
So they sneak into Jerusalem under the cover of night, not a big celebration, not people shouting, not all of other things they had experienced. They go to this home, go upstairs, and they gather in this upper room and it was just strange. And there was no certainty. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Jesus begins the conversation this way . . . I’m in Mark, Chapter 14, if you want to follow along.
Mark 14:17 says, “When evening came, Jesus arrived with the 12 and while they were reclining at the table eating, he said, ‘truly I tell you one of you will betray me.’”
Literally, one of you is going to hand me over and nobody in the room raised their hand and said “hand you over to who?” They already knew the answer to that question. The momentum had shifted, things were not going well. “One,” he says, “who is eating with me.”
They are in the most intimate setting possible in that culture, much like our culture. He says not only is it one of you, it is one of you that has chosen to gather around this sacred table to celebrate this amazing thing that God has done. One of you who is eating with me is going to betray me.
They were saddened or disappointed and one by one they said to him, “Surely not I. Surely not I.”
“It is one of the twelve”, he replied. “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 be better for him if he had not been born.”
This book, the Bible, is full of stories and full of narratives written and taking place in the midst of extraordinary uncertainty. In fact, I would say this, as we as families and people and as a nation and as a culture face uncertainty like we’ve never faced it before, is the perfect place to run because your favorite Bible story, the story that you were raised with that you loved to hear repeated again, your favorite passage of scripture, your favorite Psalm, perhaps even your favorite Proverb, if you have one of those, was written and reflected a time of extraordinary uncertainty.
This is not a book about rich people having fun. This isn’t a book about things went great and then Monday they went even better. Then Tuesday you got a job and Wednesday you got a raise and Thursday you got a bonus and my kids all became professional athletes and went to medical school on a scholarship. Those kinds of wrinkle free life things and then they live happily ever after and there was no divorce in the land. It is not in there.
Every single narrative, every single passage, every single thing that we draw hope and security from all of those come from times, trouble, troubled, troubled times, from the lives of people who discovered that in the midst of uncertainty, God was still certain. In the midst of uncertainty when you couldn’t even trace God’s hand, when it seemed like he was absent to the tenth power, they discovered that God was still trustworthy.
If ever there was a time for us to pick this up and read it, it is now:
- I think about Joseph in the Old Testament sold into slavery by his own brothers. — And you think you have sibling rivalry.
- I think about King David’s own son raising up an army to try to conquer him. — And you think you have problems with your children.
- I think about Moses’ mother placing him in a basket and floating him down the Nile River hoping Pharaoh’s daughter will find him and take him in.
Every single story where it seems like things have spun out of control and all of the momentum is backwards momentum, and all God’s activity has ceased and the bad guys won and the evil king won and the gods of the Pagan empires had won, you read those stories and you discover in midst of that extraordinary uncertainty, there’s God and nothing has changed. He is still in control.
Mark 14:22, “And while they were eating, Jesus took the bread and when he had given thanks, he broke it and he gave it to the disciples and he said . . .” oh yea, by the way, this isn’t what you think it is. You have been eating the Passover meal since you were children, but from now on when you eat it, this is my body. Jesus said “…This is my body that has been broken for you”.
What do you mean this is your body, this is all that death talk again. This is all that negativity. Don’t want to hear it. If you are from God then things have to turn around. If you are from God, there needs to be more certainty, not less certainty.
Then he took the cup and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them and they all drank from it and he said this “This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many” and he foreshadows what is going to take place hours later when he is going to be nailed to a cross and die in front of their very eyes.
Then they leave that room and they are going to the Garden of Gethsemane where there is so much drama and he is eventually arrested and along the way, the news got worse. In V. 27 he says this, “You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written: “‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.”
Peter is following along and he is thinking, enough of this, enough negative, enough bad news, enough about death, enough about arrest, enough about betrayal, there is no way we are going to allow this to happen because of God is with you and if you are the Son of God, this isn’t how the story goes. There is more certainty, there is more faith, there is more miracles, there is more activity, there is more intervention.
In V. 29 he says, “Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.” because that’s not how the story is supposed to go. Even if everybody abandons you, I’m not going to fall away. I’ll stick with you through the end and later, that very same man with all of this faith, would listen to a young girl accuse him of being one of Jesus’ followers and he would deny him three times.
Now, here is my question for you, and for me, as we move into this series and as we continue to experience extraordinary uncertainty in our families, in our jobs, with our children, with our culture, with our leadership, with our Congress, with our Senate, with our government leaders and our state leaders, with our economy, with our retirement, with our ability to go to school, continue school, with all of that uncertainty, here is the question. Can you trust God?
Can you maintain faith in God when there is absolutely no evidence of his activity in your life? Can you continue to embrace faith in God as a personal heavenly father when there is absolutely no evidence of his activity in your life, in your culture, in our country. Seemingly at time, in our world.
Your answer to that question will determine your response to the continual and continuing uncertainty in our country. Your answer to that question, my answer to that question will determine our response to the uncertainty our lives, with our children, with our families, with our parents.
The strange thing is this, especially for Americans that equate God with prosperity and why shouldn’t we, we’ve been so incredibly prosperous, who equate God with forward motion and why shouldn’t we, most of us have experienced, primarily, forward motion; that equate God and God’s blessing with physical, tangible blessing, and why shouldn’t we, that’s been the experience for many of us, for generations.
But I imagine if you were to go to the disciples, these men gathered at this table, that months later and asked them this question: “Guys, when was the darkest moment as you followed Jesus? When was it darkest, when did you have the least amount of hope? When did you begin to wonder, when did we make a mistake in following him?
I believe they would have said to you, it began when we gathered around the dinner table and realized things aren’t going to get better. Its when we gathered around the table that night and he promised us things would get worse and that not only would one of us betray him, all of us would fall away and within a few hours, all of us had fallen away and the one man that said he would never fall away had denied him three times and then hours later we saw him arrested, we saw him tried, we saw him die.
You want to know when the darkest hours were for us, it was those hours that we realized that we have completely wasted our time and God isn’t up to anything here.”
And then if we had said “where in your time with Jesus do you think God was doing his greatest work? Was it healing the lame guy, what about healing the blind guy? That was pretty amazing. Or maybe it was standing outside the tomb of Lazarus come forth, he had been in there literally four stinking days and he came out of the tomb, was that the time when you saw that God’s presence was most with you? When was God doing the most?”
They would have said “those same hours when it seemed to us that he was doing the least. Those very same hours when it seemed like he was absent, when he was missing, those darkest, darkest hours, God was doing his greatest work and those darkest hours when it seemed he was completely inactive, he was most active because those darkest hours were the epicenter of the salvation of humanity that God was . . . these would be the hours that for literally thousands of years, people all over the world would look back to and rejoice in God’s goodness and grace but if you had asked us in the moment, we would have said Game Over, wasted time, not a man of God, we have wasted our lives.”
That’s a difficult message for American Christians and yet, it is our story for those of us who have chosen to follow God and specifically for those of us who’ve decided to place our faith in Jesus and it’s not only your story because we’re reflected in the story of the Gospel, it’s our story because for many of us that’s our experience.
That God seems to take broken things and do his most amazing work. God seems to wait for the last minute to do his amazing work. That God seems to take broken up hopeless situations and show up in a way, not the way we would choose because we would never allow things to get as bad as often times they get but this is God’s way, the greatest things begin in the biggest messes. The most amazing works of God generally are launched at a time of personal or national brokenness. This is what God does.
But the question for you and the question for me is will we maintain faith when we cannot see His hand? As our faith begins to shake a little bit and as our faith begins to waiver and we begin to look at circumstances and we begin to doubt, now more than ever, this is the place to go because all of these stories and all of these words and the story of our salvation was birthed at a time of extraordinary darkness and extraordinary uncertainty.
You might feel like “That’s neat and its even a little bit inspirational, but that’s not going to help me get a job and that’s not going to get my kids back in school and that’s not going to change anything tomorrow when my wife goes back to work and we find out whether or not she is going to be able to keep her job and that won’t get me a commission and that won’t change anything about my prodigal son or prodigal daughter and that doesn’t make me well” and you’re right.
Never has there been a time as a pastor or church leader that I haven’t wanted to figure out faster or quicker how we could do practical things to help people more, but here’s what I know, because this is our message.
Although that idea, that insight, that truth about the scripture doesn’t change anything in our circumstances, here’s what it does. It allows you to embrace uncertainty with the certainty of knowing that God is still in control. That although life is uncertain, God is not uncertain. Although life is uncertain and family is uncertain and the economy is uncertain, the world seems to be uncertain, God is not uncertain. He still has the whole world in his hands and this knowledge and embracing it, even if its just with our fingernails holding on, it keeps us from making decisions that even further complicate the difficulties that we are facing.
It allows you to go to bed at night and discover that there is a way to have peace even in the midst of this storm. It will teach us to keep an eye out for the activity of God that may take us by surprise, as it often took the characters of scripture by surprise.
When life is uncertain, God is not and he still has the whole world in His hands and he still has your world and your family in His hands. And he still has your personal fiancés and all the things that are worrying us to death and the reality of that in His hands and I just met a man who maintained faith through things I can’t even imagine and here he is in his mid-70s who is able to say with absolute confidence that our God works, is active, is present, is evident in all things . . .fill in the blank any way you want to . . . for those who love him. And he didn’t finish the verse “and who are called according to His purposes.”
My friends, I don’t know what the future holds for us as a nation or families or as a city any more than anyone else does. Here’s what I know. Although life is uncertain, God is not. And He still has the whole world in His hands. That even though life is uncertain, God is not and He still has your world in his hands.