DUNCAN/The disciples will flee
If you have your Bibles, I’d invite you to turn with me to Matthew 26 verses 30 – 35. We will examine this passage under two headings. In verses 30 – 32, Jesus gives a word of warning and encouragement. Secondly, in verses 33 – 35 Peter responds with words of obstinance and pride. Let’s look at these two sections together.
I. Jesus’ Words of Warning and Encouragement
Jesus in verses 30 – 32 comes to the disciples and says, “In fulfillment of God’s certain word, the Father is going to strike Me down, and He is going to scatter you.” Jesus, in verse 31, tells the disciples that all of them are going to fail Him that night. All of them are going to fall away. All of them are going to desert him. He says to them, “All of you are going to be untrue to your Master tonight, the one whose name you have professed; the one whom you have befriended, the one who has befriended you; the one with whom you have been serving and ministering in the kingdom of God in these last three years.” That’s what Jesus was facing that night, and He knew it, because it was His Father’s will.
By sharing this prediction with the disciples, he teaches them something about themselves. He teaches them that they are all too self-confident, that they are all too self-trusting, that they’ve made idols of their own commitment and of their own faithfulness to Christ. They need to understand that apart from Him they are nothing, and that they need to depend completely upon Him because the things that they are going to face in the next hours are literally going to unman them, and they are going to flee. Jesus is issuing a warning here. It’s a warning designed to help His struggling disciples in a time of need. If they would only listen. Jesus knows them better than they know themselves, and He knows their faith is weak. And so He warns them about their impending failure.
We as Jesus’ disciples are weak, and we are susceptible to sin; and we ought never to reject His rebuke. We ought never to reject the warnings of the scriptures. Jesus’ words should have awed His disciples. It should have led them on the one hand to say, “You have got to be kidding. God the Father loves us so much that in order to forgive our sins, He’s going to give You on the tree. You’re out of your mind. This is beyond our grasp. This is the most glorious thing ever.” They should have been awed by that declaration, but they missed it. And they should have been awed by that fact that Jesus was willing to lay His life down for them, but they missed it. And they should have been humbled by the fact that they themselves were going to desert Him.
But Jesus doesn’t only have a word of warning here, He has a word of encouragement. Notice verse 32. “After I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” He is reminding them of the resurrection, and He’s speaking of that resurrection with certainty. That should have given them great comfort. Though they will certainly be scattered, they were to be regathered by the Lord Jesus Christ. He’s also giving them their marching orders. This is what they are supposed to do. Post-crucifixion. Post-burial. Post-resurrection. They are to go to Galilee. They are to start again, just where they started before. And it should have been a comfort to them as it is to us. God’s words are to be anchors in a storm, something to hold on to when we can’t see our way.
II. Peter’s Words of Obstinance and Pride
Now verses 33 – 35 are a living illustration of how not to respond to the word of God. I want you to see three things that Peter did wrong. First of all, he disbelieved. The Lord Jesus Christ did not only say, “You are going to flee,” but He had quoted Scripture from Zechariah 13, and Peter still says, “No, I’m not. You’re wrong.” He disbelieved the word of God. Secondly, he disdained his brethren. He said, “Look, Lord, these guys may desert You but I’m never deserting You. These men may not be men of substantial character. They may not have obtained the spiritual maturity that I have. They may desert You, but never me.” He disdained his brethren and preferred himself over them. Thirdly, he was overconfident in himself. “Oh no, Lord, I will never desert You. I know myself. I’m not one to go back on my promises. I’m committed. I’m committed to this thing to the end.” He disbelieved the word of God. He disdained his brethren, and he was overconfident. When we are in that position, we are set up for a fall.
Then in verse 34, Jesus kindly, but firmly, reiterates His prediction. He said, “Peter, listen to me. It is an absolute certainty that before the rooster crows, you’re going to deny Me three times.” And so with real specificity, He makes it very clear that God’s word is not off here, and that Peter should have received the rebuke. So Jesus had to explain to these men, before they were in the thick of it, that they were up against something that was far greater than their own natural abilities. Unless they were trusting in Him alone, and unless they were distrusting their own strength and their own tendencies and their own inclinations, then they were not going to be a match for the day to come. And friends that is a message that we need to learn as well. We must be sure today that our confidence is in the Lord Jesus Christ alone.
Yet, from Peter’s response in verse 35, we see that he confided in his own strength, believing that he was more powerful than sin. Though Peter promises that he’ll never, ever desert the Lord Jesus Christ, we know that he does. He will deny Him, finally denying Him with cursing before the rooster crows. And you might wonder, “How is this any different than what Judas does?” Well, Jesus tells us the difference between Judas and Peter. In Luke 22 verses 31 – 32, Jesus says, “Peter, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you.” He had prayed for him specifically that he would enjoy the presence and the fellowship with God forever. Jesus, the Pastor, through His intercession on the cross and His intercession in prayer is the difference between Peter and Judas.
Ultimately, you see, the ground of the disciples’ confidence was not in themselves or even in their faith, but in the object of their faith and in what He had done for them. And that is what makes a difference. That is what will make the difference for all of us.