In the lingo of the Internet, an “epic fail” is any embarrassing mistake, often brought about because of arrogance or stupidity: the cyclist who crashes because of a premature celebration of victory, the klutz who destroys the television screen because of a poorly performed handstand, or the handicap ramp that leads only to a set of stairs.
Today’s reading might be seen as a set of “discipleship fails.” As Jesus approached the hour of His death, He took His disciples to Gethsemane for prayer. While Jesus agonized over His coming crucifixion, the disciples proved poor companions. Finding them sleeping three separate times, Jesus declared: “Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour?” (v. 37). Despite their failure, Jesus remained faithful to the Father’s will.
Next, Judas arrived with an armed crowd and then betrayed Jesus with a kiss. The response of the disciples? “Then everyone deserted him and fled.” (v. 50). One was so desperate to get away that he left naked. Again, despite their failure, Jesus remained faithful: “The Scriptures must be fulfilled” (v. 49). Now under arrest, Jesus was taken to a rigged trial by the Sanhedrin, full of false and contradictory accusations. Yet Jesus remained silent except to declare His identity as the Messiah, the Son of Man who would come in power. At that, the religious leaders tore their clothes, spit on Him, and struck Him.
Meanwhile, Peter had followed behind in secret. Instead of standing up for his Lord, Peter proved no help at all. Worse still, when those standing nearby identified Peter as a disciple of Jesus, Peter emphatically denied it, just as Jesus had predicted.
Throughout our reading, the disciples failed miserably as sleepy and inattentive companions, betrayers, deserters, and deniers. Jesus alone remained faithful.