Holy Wednesday • Distraction and Failure

“If the churches came to understand that the greatest threat to faith today is not hedonism but distraction, perhaps they might begin to appeal anew to a frazzled digital generation.”

Andrew Sullivan

Mark 14:26-52 is a painful testimony of the numerous and repeated failures of the disciples to serve Jesus when he was at the most important stage of his ministry on earth. We often focus on the failures of Judas and Peter, which are significant, but we lose sight of the ways in which many more of the disciples failed Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemane. Take time to read the text together.

Read Mark 14:26-52

Discussion Questions about the Scripture

  • What does Jesus know that the disciples do not (vv. 27-28)?
  • How are Peter and the other disciples overestimating themselves (vv. 29-31)?
  • Why does Jesus go to pray (vv. 32-34)?
  • What is Jesus’ prayer (vv. 35-36)?
  • How have the disciples failed Jesus (vv.37-41)?
  • What is Judas’ betrayal (vv. 42-50)?
  • How do the disciples respond to Judas betrayal?
  • How does Jesus respond to his betrayal?

The disciples were so focused on not betraying Jesus that in their distraction they abandoned Jesus. Peter, James, and John don’t sell Jesus out for money, they sell him out for some sleep.

The quote at the top of the discussion is written by a non-Christian political columnist. I include it because I think he has hit the nail on the head of how the Western church most often fails. We spend most of our energy trying to avoid the “big” sins of drugs, sex, and greed. But mostly we miss following Jesus because we are simply too busy and distracted by life to pay attention to what Jesus wants us to do.

This Scripture should lend itself to a lot of uncomfortable self-reflection for us as Christians. While very few of us can fathom rejecting and betraying Jesus in the manner that Judas did, I don’t think there is a Christian alive who should not identify with Peter and the other disciples. What were their great failings? Too much belief in themselves. Distraction. Sleep. Righteous anger that was misplaced. 

When we let ourselves down in the way that the disciples did, we often end up feeling like the young man in verses 51-52. We set out to follow Jesus and see where he is going, only to end up exposed and running away ashamed of ourselves. But these failures and feelings of shame end up being critical moments of teaching and reflection for the disciples. They fail Jesus in his greatest hour of need, but he doesn’t fail them. He forgives their failures and covers their shame. He loves them when they don’t even have a clue how to love him properly.

Life Application Questions

  • In which ways do you identify with the disciples in this story?
  • Do you agree or disagree that distraction is the major sin of Christians today?
  • How has distraction negatively impacted your life?
  • Why do you think we all find prayer to be difficult?
  • How do we overestimate our faith?
  • In which ways do we underestimate our faith?