On the way, Jesus told them, “All of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say, ‘God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I am raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there.” [Mark 14:27-28 (NLT)]
In the days leading up to his crucifixion, the people who claimed to love Jesus the most failed him in many ways. When Jesus asked Peter, James and John to keep watch with him in the Garden of Gethsemane, they fell asleep, not once but twice! During the Last Supper, Peter vowed he’d never deny Jesus, even if it meant his death. The rest of the disciples echoed this pledge. Yet Judas had already arranged to betray Jesus and, within a matter of hours, Peter would deny Jesus three times. When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, most of those brave disciples deserted Jesus and ran away.
When the mob shouted they wanted Barabbas to be freed, where were the disciples? Did no one ask for Jesus to be saved? No, the mob called, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” More important, where were all of those people who had been healed by Jesus? Just a few days earlier, a crowd had shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Where were they? Why were they silent?
The disciples weren’t even there to carry the cross for Jesus; that task fell to Simon, a stranger. Only His mother, some of His women followers and John stood at the foot of the cross when Jesus was crucified. The other disciples were absent; disillusioned and fearful for their lives, they had scattered. It was a dying criminal who showed his faith in Jesus when he said, “Remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” Once Jesus took His last breath and died, it was a Roman soldier and not a disciple who declared, “This man truly was the son of God!” The disciples were not even there to help bury their teacher. That responsibility was taken by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, members of the Jewish high council and secret followers of Jesus.
The disciples, confused and frightened, lost hope and failed Jesus both as disciples and as friends. In spite of their denial and desertion, Jesus forgave them and charged them with the task of spreading the good news of His resurrection. Jesus knew it is better to be a believer who sometimes fails than not to believe at all.