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The Disciples and the Death of Jesus

How did the disciples respond as Jesus’ life on earth drew to a close? Steph Nickel discovers that they behaved much like we might have.

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How Did the Disciples Respond?

One Easter, I was considering who is just like us in the story—and sadly, the thought came to consider how the disciples responded at the end of Jesus’s life here on Earth.

In Matthew 26:31, Jesus makes a statement the disciples didn’t understand and couldn’t accept. After celebrating the Passover with them, He said, “You will all fall away because of me this night” (ESV).

steph beth nickel

the disciplesJudas Iscariot – One of the Disciples?

You likely know the story of Judas Iscariot, who denied the Lord and sold Him out for 30 pieces of silver. You may also know the story of Peter, who boldly proclaimed, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away” (Matthew 26:33 ESV).

Verse 35 goes on to say, “Peter said to him, ‘Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same” (ESV).

All The Disciples

It’s easy to miss that last part. All the disciples thought they were ready to die with their Master, but every one of them, except for John, fled when Jesus most needed companionship and support. Yes, He had come to die for our sin. Yes, He was fully God as well as fully man. And yet, we know that Jesus experienced the emotions that come with being human. And when we face devastating circumstances, we want—we need—someone to come alongside us.

the disciplesIt’s so easy to scoff and point fingers.

“I’d never have betrayed Jesus for any amount of money.”

“I wouldn’t have denied knowing Him.”

“I wouldn’t have fallen asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane while Jesus was pouring out His heart in prayer.”

I’m Just Like the Disciples

I don’t like to consider in what ways I’m just like the disciples, but truth be told, I am. Maybe you’ll be able to relate in some ways as well.

While I can’t imagine handing over Jesus to those who wanted to kill Him, I get distracted by day-to-day pursuits. I don’t make the study of God’s Word and prayer my top priorities. I busy myself earning and spending money. Plus, I spend far too much time plopped in front of the television.

I’ve never drawn a parallel between myself and Judas before—and I would rather not do so now. But, as I’ve said before, when the Holy Spirit convicts us of something, He always shows us how to do better. Plus, He gives us the motivation and strength to obey.

the disciplesPeter, One of the Disciples

I can relate to Peter. I’ve made some lofty spiritual claims—if not to others, at least to myself. However, I have, too often, kept quiet about knowing that Jesus is who He says He is. For years—yes, years—I have planned to reach out to my neighbours, to invite them over for supper, to invite them to church. Have I done so? I haven’t.

And what about falling asleep in the garden? I have lost sleep sitting at my computer, playing games on my phone, and watching TV (although I often fall asleep sitting up). Have I lost sleep digging into the Scriptures and praying? Not for several years.

It seems, in more ways than I care to imagine, I am just like the disciples. I am incredibly thankful that the disciples’ story doesn’t ends there—and neither does mine.

No Going Back For Judas

While there was no going back for Judas, after Jesus’s resurrection, Peter went on to preach a sermon that saw 3,000 people come to faith. The gospel spread—and continues to spread to this day—because God used those who fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane and those who abandoned the Saviour for fear they, too, would be beaten and put to death.

I can’t help but think of the disciples’ response a short time later, after they were beaten for proclaiming that only through faith in Jesus could anyone be saved.

Let’s read excerpts from Acts 5:33-42.

When they [the religious leaders] heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. And he said to them, ‘Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. … keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!’ So they took his advice, and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus. (italics mine)

the disciplesDid you catch that? These men who abandoned Jesus were the same men who, a short time later, actually rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for Him.

Like the Disciples, We Have Hope

There was hope for the disciples. And there is hope for us. We need only pray that God would increase our love for Him, that He would give us the wherewithal to make His priorities our own, that He would fill us to overflowing with His Spirit.

That’s the thing about Easter. There’s the heaviness of the crucifixion—and there’s the wonder of the resurrection.

Many Christians love Christmas, but, to me, this is my favourite time of the year. I am reminded of what the Saviour accomplished—and I’m challenged to make that truth known.

May we recognize how we are just like the disciples and may we, like them, come to realize what we can accomplish in His strength.

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Images courtesy of:

Cross and Tomb –  congerdesign

Jesus –Timeship

Sleeping Woman – Engin_Akyurt

Man looking up – LOVE-X

Steph NickelSteph Beth Nickel

Stephanie is a freelance writer and a contributor to our Christian internet radio station, HopeStreamRadio.  Read and hear more from Steph Nickel on the contributor’s page or at Steph Nickel’s Eclectic Interests.

Stephanie’s show, “Family Life Lessons,” airs from Monday to Friday on HopeStreamRadio.

hopestreamradio podcastYou May Also Enjoy These Podcasts:

Lynda Lewis – Stay Focused

Mike Dilione – Focus on Ephesians

Mike Donahue – Evangelizing By Your Work

Nan Jones – Hope Springs Eternal


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HopeStreamRadio has been a huge blessing to me. Since I moved away from an area that had a lot of good Christian radio I have been looking for a station that I could listen to and be encouraged by. HSR has filled that void and it has also been exciting to be a part of the team that contributes to HSR.

Mike from MS