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Why Did Jesus’ Disciples Abandon Him in His Last Hours?

By Wizened Sage (Galen Rose) ~

There is much in the New Testament to cause one to question whether the Jesus story(s) of the Gospels ever really happened. For example, in several places in the Gospels Jesus is quoted as saying this or that, but he was alone at the time according to the text. So, how could anyone know he said those things? There are also all those conflicts in the resurrection story, like how many women went to Jesus’ tomb that Sunday, and how many men were in the tomb when the women arrived? The Gospels disagree on these and numerous other details.

One of my own favorite sticky questions is why did all of Jesus’ disciples abandon him the night before his crucifixion? As far as I can see, this makes no sense at all in view of what they should have known about Jesus by that time.

Consider that, according to the Gospels, these guys had followed Jesus around for 3 years. They had seen him perform dozens, perhaps hundreds of miracles; healing the sick and crippled with a touch, walking on water, changing water to wine, feeding thousands with a few fishes and loaves of bread, bringing the dead back to life, etc. Pretty amazing stuff, huh? That would have been more than enough to convince me that this guy was god, the son of god, or both.

But that’s not all! Three of the apostles witnessed Jesus “transfiguration” on a mountain top. On the mountain, Jesus begins to shine with bright rays of light. Then the prophets Moses and Elijah appear next to him and he speaks with them. Jesus is then called "Son" by a voice in the sky.

And that’s still not all! According to Matthew 10:1, when Jesus
“had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.”
So, now the apostles also had miraculous powers. And, Acts 8:5-8 tells us that they actually used these special powers:
“Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed.”

Why did all of Jesus’ disciples abandon him the night before his crucifixion?Yet, after all this, on the night before his crucifixion, all of Jesus disciples abandoned him, denying they knew him and staying away. Contrast this with the Jim Jones of Guyana story where, according to numerous eyewitnesses, many of his followers willingly drank the Kool-Aid. They obviously believed Jones was a legitimate prophet who was in god’s inner circle. Yet, Jones never showed them any miracles, was never transfigured, and never passed on any special powers to his followers. How much more evidence did the apostles have of Jesus importance to the cosmos? Yet they still abandoned him.

Is this believable to anyone who has ever given it any real thought? To further confound things, it is claimed that the apostles were staunch supporters and proselytizers for Jesus after his resurrection, some claiming the apostles all died violent deaths rather than recanting their belief in Jesus. Some turnaround, huh?

So, why would the Gospel authors tell the Jesus story in this way? I suspect that Jesus’ abandonment by the apostles was merely a literary device to increase the readers’ sympathy for Jesus. This left Jesus truly alone in his darkest hour, deserted by even his closest friends. Yet, Jesus keeps faith with god. He becomes an even greater hero through this device; even more deserving of our admiration and worship.

So, what’s my point? Well, my point is that this is one more reason to doubt the Jesus story as told by the Gospels. Given what they knew of Jesus, and their own powers given them by Jesus, there was every reason for them to stand by him in his darkest hour; more reason, by far, than Jim Jones followers had to stand by him. I think the Gospel writers seized on this literary device without thinking it through. By using this device they increased our sympathy for Jesus, yes, but they simultaneously cast a very deep shadow of doubt on the whole story – for those of us who actually bother to think about what the Bible says.