Locations & Times

Jesus' Response When We're Caught

by John Mehl on February 06, 2024

Absolutely no one likes getting “caught.”

When I was a teenager (whenever I start a story like this, it almost never reflects well on me), I snuck out one night to see some friends. I walked about a mile or so, thinking how clever I was to avoid all the cars that I imagined to be police officers actively on the lookout for me. I arrived early to see my friends so I restlessly meandered a bit. Turns out that that meandering would lead to neighbors somehow catching my ninja-like movements and calling the police.

When those police cars came around the corner and shined their lights on me, it was one of the worst feelings I can recall of my ninja-teenage years.

No one ever likes the feeling of getting caught.

Mark 14 – The last precious hours of Jesus’ earthly life. And how do those around him come alongside of him in these final moments? Rife with betrayal. Judas has made it up in his mind to betray Jesus to the religious figures (14:10-11). And Jesus foresees the desertion of all of the rest of his closest friends (14:27).

As we lean a little further into this account, it becomes pretty remarkable that starting with Judas, Jesus draws attention to the evil motives the man thinks are safely hidden away in his heart. Jesus makes it clear that “one of you will betray me” (14:18), and yet he does not directly “out” Judas. He leaves room for Judas to know that he has been caught. His “safely hidden motives” have been seen. Keep that in mind for a moment.

Furthermore, Jesus foretells the disciples collectively that they will all fall away from him even after his most desperate, lonely hour. Thinking he is surely not so weak, Peter speaks up and professes, “Even though they all fall away, I will not…” only to be betrayed by the failure of his own overblown self-confidence. Jesus knew each of them would fall away, and that included Peter. Even if Peter did not know it at that moment, he, too, had been caught.

No one ever likes the feeling of getting caught.

But the ultimate point must not be found in reflections on Judas, Peter, or even ourselves. The ultimate point must be found in how God chooses to respond right in the middle of all of this. Sandwiched between betrayer and betrayer, God takes the bread of the Last Supper and breaks it for his friends so that all around the table might receive that. Did you catch that, Judas? Did you catch that, Peter? So that ALL around the table might receive it.

Our God’s response to even the most pre-meditated or self-absorbed sin that we entertain, even after we of all people should know better, is that the bread of the Last Supper is still extended to every one of us.

Certainly, this begs the question: If we come to understand this about our God and our betraying sin, why would we ever return to our sin again? If Jesus were to stand before us and let us know that we’re caught — he has seen our hidden motives and he has seen our prideful justification, and still he extends forgiveness and grace (and NEVER shame) — then why would we ever continue to choose to stick with the offenses?

Well, that is not a question that follows with an answer; it just follows with a pause for our reflection. Because it is simply illogical that we would return to our sin. It makes no sense that the very cancer that threatens our health, steals our joy, separates us from our relationships, and is an affront to our God is still what we choose.

No one ever likes the feeling of getting caught.

But this is where the power, not the shame, of Mark 14 shines through the darkness to show us the heart of God. Even when we are caught, even when we illogically fall short, Jesus gave us his body as a full and final word of judgment over us. We do not need to be defined, identified, or caught up in our sin one more moment because of his body being broken for our sake and his blood cleansing us of all unrighteousness. In Christ Jesus, there is therefore now no condemnation (Rom.8:1) because he did not come into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through himself (John 3:17).

One of our named betrayers in the biblical account just could not allow the opportunity of repentance and redemption to outshout his shame. It was not God’s will for Judas to be so overcome by shame. The other one of our named betrayers would go on to have an incredibly rough weekend. After he proved Jesus’ prediction right (and his own self-confidence wrong), Peter likely thought very lowly of himself, doing what he said he would never do. But somehow — way beyond broken willpower — Peter would find the same Jesus that caught him in advance and had extended the piece of bread to him. And slowly, with undoubtedly moments and waves of emotion, Peter would allow Jesus to forgive, redeem, and restore in him what Peter could never do for himself.

No one ever likes the feeling of getting caught.

But beyond the initial terror, and even beyond the ultimate consequences, our God extends to each of us — every single one of us — the unconditional bread of forgiveness and redemption. That is Jesus’ response when we’re caught. That is Jesus’ response to you when you feel convicted and caught. Hallelujah, what Good News!

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