27 Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will have your faith shaken, for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be dispersed.’ 28 But after I have been raised up, I shall go before you to Galilee.” 29 Peter said to him, “Even though all should have their faith shaken, mine will not be.” 30 Then Jesus said to him, “Amen, I say to you, this very night before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times.” 31 But he vehemently replied, “Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all spoke similarly.
The meal concludes with a hymn before Jesus and the disciples leave for the Mount of Olives. As they depart, Jesus warns the disciples that they will desert him (v. 27). Like the prediction about betrayal, this warning takes the form of a citation from Scripture (Zech 13:7). In this OT passage, God commands that the shepherd be struck down that the sheep may be scattered as an integral part of a refining process which will result in the creation of a new people of God. This action is associated with the opening of a fountain for the cleansing of sin on behalf of “the house of David and Jerusalem” (Zech. 13:1).
Desertion is not the last word, however, as Jesus immediately promises to “go before” the disciples to Galilee after his resurrection (v. 28). The verb used for “go before” (proagō) is the same word Jesus uses as part of the prediction of his passion as he goes before them to Jerusalem (10:32). Even in the midst of this dire prediction of desertion, it clear that restoration of the relationship between Jesus and the disciples is intended. The fear that takes hold of them during the passion will be overcome. Once again, the events surrounding the crucifixion are not the last word.
Peter boldly insists that even if everyone else deserts Jesus, he will not. He almost gets this part right. Peter will not run away with the others in Gethsemane, but his attempt to follow Jesus will lead to something worse: denial that he even knows Jesus (v. 30). When Jesus predicts Peter’s denial (v. 30), Peter again protests, this time insisting that he will die with Jesus rather than deny him (v. 31). The other disciples agree. But Jesus knows what will come to pass.
As Pheme Perkins points out, the apostles did speak some truth. In the end all but John die a martyr’s death. In the end they did not abandon Jesus. They did not deny him.
- William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark in The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974) 510
- Pheme Perkins, The Gospel of Mark, vol. 8 of The New Interpreter’s Bible (Nashville, TN: Abington Press,1994) 8: 705
- The New American Bible available on-line at http://www.usccb.org/bible