“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”‘” ( Mark 14:27-28).
Imagine you are a shepherd, quietly watching your flock grazing on a hillside. It would be so easy to doze off in the warm afternoon sun and gentle breeze. But something catches your eye, the sheep begin to bleat and you rush to intercept a coyote rushing towards a lamb. You jab at him with your staff but feel his teeth sink into your leg. You grab a rock and try to smash his head but he’s decided it’s not worth it and runs off. You’re down, you’re bleeding and bruised, and the sheep have all run down the hillside into the valley. Once you wrap some cloth around that wound, it’s going to take some time to gather them all up again.
Jesus lets his disciples know what is about to happen to them. It’s going to be a rough night. The chief priests and scribes are going to make their move. They have Judas to help them find Jesus. He’ll be taken away while the disciples all escape to safety. These were the words of the prophet Zechariah (Zech. 13:7). Now we know he was talking about Jesus.
Jesus would indeed be the one stricken, smitten and afflicted. He would be the one nailed to the cross. Everyone else would get away. Everyone meaning you and me. We get away forgiven, while Jesus is wounded, bleeds and dies for us.
In that moment as Jesus and the disciples head to the Mount of Olives, it sounds like Jesus is speaking of their cowardice, unfaithfulness and desertion. His words are about so much more. He’s talking about His faithfulness, their deliverance, and the fulfillment of the mission.
One of the amazing and unbelievable realities of forgiveness is that you and I are guilty, but we get away with it. And so do others. In Christ we are reconciled with God and he does not count our sins against us. Big sins. Little sins. Secret sins. Public sins. Jesus redeems us from them all. We owe nothing. We are justified by faith in him. Yes, we are free to go!
But he’s still the shepherd. And the bible is filled with images of our Lord gathering his people together again. In Galilee, where the risen Jesus appears to his disciples on the beach. In the church, where we gather together in worship. In heaven, too, where countless numbers from every imaginable group gather around the throne of the Lamb who was slain.
Heavenly Father, gather your scattered sheep together again, both around your altar and your throne. Amen.