First Focus


Jesus was under surveillance during the last week of his life. So many people watched, but few followed. Each one was an eyewitness to Jesus’ last hours, but few obeyed him. One betrayed him, another denied him, several plotted to arrest him, several ran away, but only two responded publicly to his work.

For instance, an unnamed woman interrupts a dinner party with a beautiful performance. She pours perfume on Jesus, anointing his body, and becomes the greatest evangelist of the Gospel—without saying a word. A centurion, member of the ruthless Roman military, testifies publicly that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God. By contrast, the disciples closest to Jesus run away. An unnamed disciple in Gethsemane flees when Jesus is arrested; one of the twelve named Judas betrays him. Peter, the lead apostle, denies Jesus. The women at the tomb run away in fright.

According to Mark 14-16, eyewitnesses had four reactions to Jesus: watch, oppose, flee, or follow. Two unnamed eyewitnesses—the anointing woman and the centurion—get it right. The disciples—the ones who were supposed to be following Jesus—fail miserably. As David Rhoads suggests, the problem with the disciples is not that they were against Jesus. At the cross, they just weren’t really for him either. They had somehow watched, gone out on mission, healed, and taught. In the end, they were still trying to decide if they were all in for the “Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

Lent reminds us how vulnerable we are, and humble we must be, as Jesus’ followers. Even the presumed best among us have deep flaws. Lent offers us a season to examine our lives as disciples. We realize that once we’ve agreed to follow Jesus, another round of testing begins. We would not dare to oppose Jesus, but are we all in for Jesus? Are we willing to “deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, follow him?” That’s the invitation Jesus gives us at Lent.

As we follow, we realize that disciples like you and I bring a mixed bag of success and failure to the cross. Jesus forgives it all and pays for everything. Then he rises again, sending us back to our Galilee—Tallahassee—where he sees us forgiven, alive, and reborn. In worship in the season of Lent, we’ll focus on the eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life. These characters can be like microscopes for our lives. By looking through them, we are able to see our hearts and behavior better. We take our spiritual heroes off the spiritual pedestals and look to Jesus for guidance. We learn to use patience with fellow stragglers along the journey. As we do, we remember that just on the other side of the empty tomb, the crucified and risen Lord can’t stop watching us.

Join us each Sunday in Lent for these messages:

  • March 1–A Beautiful Performance: The Anointer (Mark 14:1-9)
  • March 8–Fleeing Disciple: The Fugitive (Mark 14:43-52)
  • March 22–True Confessions: The Denier (Mark 14: 66-72)
  • March 29–Eyewitness Testimony: The Soldier (Mark 15:33-47)
  • April 5–Proclaiming The Crucified and Risen Jesus (Mark 16:1-8)