Mark 14:26-31 26 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 29 Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” 30 And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31 But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.
If only the disciples knew where Jesus was leading them to would they have been so ready to follow Him over three years earlier? Every person who is willing to surrender their life to Jesus Christ and to follow Him for the rest of their lives must count the cost. There is a sacrifice required but rarely do we know what this cost will actually mean to us personally. This is by design. It is not that God is trying to trick us who enter into the covenant of grace but there are trials and sacrifices that He will lead us into in the future that if we knew what they were we in all likelihood would run from them instead of running to them. What a difference with the Lord Jesus Christ. Even before entering into creation as a man, the Son of God knew full well what was required of Him. And as the time approached for Him to die for our sins, He did not run from the cross but rather set His face towards it:
Luke 9:51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.
Not so with the disciples. On the night before Jesus’ crucifixion the disciples were reluctant followers. As the events were unfolding this was not what they had expected. Jesus, as the Christ, was supposed to defeat His enemies and rule from Israel from Jerusalem. The disciples were supposed to rule with Him and they fought amongst themselves who might have the greatest place of honor in Jesus’ Kingdom. In spite of the fact that Jesus had told them multiple times before that He would be killed they could not believe this. It did not fit their preconceived ideas of the Christ who was to come and save them.
But, in spite of not believing that Jesus would die, they did fear that they might die. As the religious leaders in Jerusalem became more hostile against Jesus, the disciples had no interest in going anywhere near Jerusalem. They would prefer to stay in Galilee where Jesus had performed most of His public ministry over these three years. As Lazarus had died in Bethany, just outside of Jerusalem, the disciples had no interest in going to see him or his sisters. Jesus had intended to raise Lazarus from the dead foreshadowing His own resurrection and so He took the disciples with Him to Bethany. Thomas replies showing the fear that the disciples had that they might be killed for following Jesus. But Thomas’ statement wasn’t a statement of loyalty to Jesus but rather of pessimistic fear. This fear likely played a major reason as to why Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus.
John 11:16 So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
Still, as they continued to follow Jesus to Jerusalem in the days leading up to His crucifixion, the disciples had been safe. The week had started off great. Jesus had permitted the people to worship Him as the Christ as He entered into the city on a donkey’s colt (Mark 11:1-10). He had cleared the Temple again showing His authority over all the religious leaders (Luke 19:45-47). He had defeated the religious leaders in a war of words in the Temple (Mark 12). But then things went in a direction that the disciples had not anticipated. Jesus prophecies the destruction of Jerusalem (Mark 13) signifying that He was not going to rule from Jerusalem any time soon. Jesus is anointed for His burial (Mark 14:3-9). And then Jesus reveals at the last supper that one of the twelve disciples will betray Him to death. The disciples could no longer deny that Jesus was going to die and so Peter makes the statement in verse 31, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.
On the surface this statement seems like a sign of great bravery. All of the eleven disciples were willing to die if Jesus was going to die (Judas Iscariot had already left to bring the soldiers to arrest Jesus). But Jesus did not say that they were going to die. He said that they would be scattered. But not according to Peter. Peter and the ten other disciples agreed that if Jesus would die, then they too would die. They all claimed to have a strong faith in Jesus Christ which in reality they did not yet have. They were still weak and yet claimed to be strong. That very night they all indeed would flee Jesus and Peter himself would deny even knowing Jesus.
Why were the disciples so weak in spite of claiming to be so strong? Fundamentally we can see their weakness in comparison to the strength of Jesus Christ. Jesus went willingly to the cross. At this point the disciples had been forced to go with Jesus towards the cross and they were reluctant and unwilling in their hearts and souls. The disciples had just that night, the very night before Jesus’ crucifixion, finally understood that Jesus would physically die. Their theology and their understanding of God’s plan of salvation was very faulty and incorrect. They could not stand on the rock of their salvation because they didn’t understand what God was about to do. Jesus on the other hand knew perfectly what was required of Him. He, also as the Son of God in the God-man, could complete what was necessary for our salvation where any other man would fail. The disciples still had many sinful tendencies in spite of being true followers of Jesus Christ. They tended to compete with each other instead of doing all things to the glory of God and His Kingdom. Jesus always reflected the glory of God and the will of His Father. The disciples still were afraid to die for Jesus Christ in spite of their claims otherwise. Their eternal reward in heaven was not at the forefront of their minds and they were still looking for glory here on earth. All of these factors and more contributed to the weakness seen in the disciples. But Jesus would not abandon them after their failure. Rather He intended to use the events surrounding His own death to lead His disciples in becoming His apostles- His special messengers who would be sent by Jesus to proclaim the Gospel to the entire world.
Can you see the purposes of God in how Jesus Christ taught His disciples? Can their failure give you hope that God can still use you in spite of your own failures in serving Him as you should? He will raise you up for His glory if you are among the children of God! Let Him shape and mold you into the man or woman of God that He has called you to be! But do not be like Judas Iscariot who did indeed deny Him forever. Keep seeking Him even if you fall!
Pastor Murray Hack