“You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.” (Mark 14:27)
Christ knew that there would be no one to hold his hand as he lay dying for the sins of the world. Here is the greatest sacrifice ever made in the history of humanity, the most unselfish, the most disparate comparing the giver to the ones who benefit, the one that achieved the greatest good.
Though it has appropriately been memorialized in art and sermons, and in our hearts, ever since – the cross itself was shameful, lonely, and extremely difficult. And Christ knew this heading into the event.
He taught that this idea was presented in scripture, notably Zechariah 13:7, about striking the shepherd and the sheep scattering. He embraced the cross not because of any ground swell of support for the idea among the disciples. They were appalled at the idea. They assumed he was speaking symbolically because even after he had plainly told them they still had not grasped it.
What we see in these words of Christ is nothing less than the complete agreement in his heart to be obedient to the plan of the Father, to die for the sins of the world. His heart was set on this from the beginning. He was completely committed to do the will of God, from the simplest to the hardest.
As in all of the things that God undertakes, he is completely committed also to our complete salvation and transformation. (See 1 Cor. 1:8-9 and 1 Thess. 5:23-24). God will not take us to heaven and then hold a threat over our heads saying that if we ever fail to measure up, then out we go! If that were the case, then none of us would be secure and heaven and salvation would at best be simply a brief reprieve from eternal damnation.
But we see otherwise in the scripture, that he who began a good work in us through the gospel, namely the Holy Spirit of God, will carry it through to completion until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6). “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10). Note the consistency in the scripture. God does no become our project at our salvation – we become his! We are his “handiwork” and he will remain strong to fulfill his work in us until the end.
This does not mean we have nothing to do – we are to choose him in response to his choosing us. We are to follow him, to love him, to be obedient to him, to daily die to self and to live in him. But it means that the impetus for our salvation, the strength, power, and security of our transformation, is God and not us:
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Philippians 2:12-13)
Thank you, Lord, that the same dedication and commitment you showed to complete the mission of the cross you show also in our salvation, to complete our salvation and transformation. We thank you, Lord, and are comforted by your commitment to us. Amen.