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Under Pressure

Everything came to a head during the events recorded in Mark 14. On the eve of his death, the pressure Jesus experienced was immense. But he wasn’t the only one under pressure.
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His disciples were, too, including Peter and Judas, the two mentioned in particular in the chapter. Also, the chief priests and scribes were under pressure to do something about Jesus of Nazareth, who was threatening their authority.

It is when we are under pressure that things like character and motivation show themselves.

The chief priests and scribes had to do something about the man from Nazareth who was threatening their religious world. Mark records,

“And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him” (v1).

Did they ever stop to think about what they were doing? They were going to kill someone. Didn’t they ever say, “Wait a minute, that would be disobeying one of the Ten Commandments!” But, despite their outward piety and adherence to the Law, their true motives were being forced out of them by the increasing pressure. The next verse says, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar from the people.” It was a balancing act for them to keep their position intact while making the people happy.

We can hide behind the veneer of outward righteousness for a while, but when the going gets tough, what’s inside becomes apparent.

On the one hand, they needed to get rid of the man who had exposed their hypocrisy. But they needed to save face with the people too. What became more and more evident was their desire for power and control above everything. When that was threatened, they gave in to the pressure and put Jesus to death.

Then we have Judas, a greedy man who couldn’t resist the temptation to gain something in the short term and lose the opportunity for eternal life. He was taken advantage of by the chief priests, but he had no excuse. The lure of money was too much for him, and he gave in when the opportunity arose. It is the story of Esau all over again, the man who couldn’t control his urges when the pressure of his stomach saying “feed me!” got too much for him, and he traded eternity for short term satisfaction.

But it wasn’t just those who betrayed Jesus and put him to death who were guilty. The disciples, no doubt fatigued by the pressure they could sense in the upper room, couldn’t help but fall asleep and fail to support their Lord in his darkest hour. And then there’s Peter, expressing his loyalty to Jesus but later, when pressure arose from those who recognized him, denied his Lord three times.

The events surrounding the final hours of our Lord’s death exposed the thoughts and intents of everyone’s hearts

What do we do when we are under pressure? Do we become defensive, wanting to save face and hide the evidence of our failings? Or do we humble ourselves? And what about when we’re faced with the lure of the riches of the world? Or when spiritual fatigue comes upon us? So often we’re like Peter or the other disciples, or worse Judas and the chief priests.

The events surrounding the final hours of our Lord’s death exposed the thoughts and intents of everyone’s hearts. And yet, through it all, the one under the most pressure of all was Jesus himself. He had the fate of the world on his shoulders. Soon, he would be arrested, tried, falsely accused, scourged, nailed to a cross and left to die like a common criminal. None of us face pressure even close to what he experienced. And yet even the smallest things in our lives can cause us to stumble under pressure.

When we’re under pressure, think about what our Lord went through, how he always kept his integrity intact. We can hide our weaknesses away when things are easy, but what we’re really like comes through in those difficult situations, which is why God lets us face pressure. He wants us to learn, change, and grow to become more like his son. We want to develop the integrity of our Lord so we will also remain faithful no matter what pressure comes our way.

Richard Morgan
Simi Hills, CA

Suggested Readings
In Matthew 16 Jesus is two-thirds of the way through his ministry. The pressure was building because, as John records in the parallel chapter, “many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” (John 6:66).
If we’re facing pressures, we are in the company of the finest women and men of faith ever.  And in the company of all humanity.
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