“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, NIV)
There is a prominent theme in Mark’s account of the first Good Friday, which is sometimes missed. It is that Jesus was entirely alone in what he did.
This is what Zechariah had prophesied, centuries before: God would strike his shepherd, and the sheep would be scattered. By the time he got to the cross, not one of Jesus’ followers was with him.
He was alone when he prayed in Gethsemane, for his disciples had fallen asleep. He was betrayed by a kiss: a symbol of friendship twisted to treachery. When the soldiers came to arrest him, everyone fled. At his trial, not a single person identified with him or spoke in his defence. When Peter was asked if he knew Jesus, he disowned him, despite promising not to. He was alone as he was spat on by the soldiers in the Praetorium. No-one tried to stop him being led away to his death.
Looking back, the disciples must have been humbled as they thought of how they’d deserted their Lord and Master. Peter wept bitterly. But there was a deeper lesson, too: they would have realised that they had not in any way contributed to their salvation. All that Jesus did, he did on his own.
As they enjoyed access to God, and looked forward to heaven, they looked back to that first Good Friday. They knew that alll that he achieved on the cross, he did without any help from them of any kind (apart from their desertion). There was no sense at all that they had contributed to their salvation.
Nor have we. We do not and cannot join Jesus’ team to help him in his work! All we do in serving him starts with an acknowledgment that we depend totally on him; our salvation is his achievement, not ours. Toplady’s 1776 hymn Rock of Ages expresses this:
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.
Moreover, think of this: He died alone, that we might never die alone! His saving death brings us into fellowship with God for all eternity. And membership of his family, the church. This Good Friday, as we meet together as church, look around you. Think of the wonder of this vast, growing, world-wide family that owes its whole existence to one man, alone, on that cross.