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Peter crowed like a rooster, but you have to give him credit. When he disagreed with Jesus he said it to his face, not behind his back like Judas.
When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus told them, "This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: "'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.' But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee."
Peter replied, "Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will." "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times." But Peter declared, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." And all the other disciples said the same.
Matthew 26:30-35 NIV
Surviving a Fall
Who writes the script? Did you every look at your situation and ask, "Who wrote this thing!" The disciples were having such a moment. The end was closing in quickly on this small band of brothers. After singing a Psalm, they walked into the night. Through the crowd of pilgrims filling the streets of Jerusalem; down the eastern side of the slope; across the Kidron Brook and up the other side to the mount called Olivet.
From that peaceful vantage point they could look back over the bustling city. When in Jerusalem, Jesus frequently sought refuge there. It would not be difficult for Judas to find them.
But first, a few more words with his disciples before a prayer for strength. There was no painless way to say it, so Jesus crouched it in a word picture from Scripture. "I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will scatter." That verse said it perfectly. In other words, "Tonight you will all put as much distance between you and me as possible!" Quickly he added the consolation that he would meet them again in Galilee after his resurrection.
Two hours ago in the upper room, it was "One of you." Now the number snowballed rapidly to include all of them. They didn't have to wonder who anymore; there were no scapegoats. The agony they had felt at mealtime returned and deepened.
Peter, always quick to reply and often disagreeing with Jesus, said, "Absolutely not!" In his mind, there was no way Jesus' words could be true. Even if all the others fled in fear, he certainly wouldn't. "No, sir! I would never do that to you." You gotta' love this guy. He's so authentic. A real work in progress.
Peter's story comes to us unvarnished. Not only would he turn and run, he would deny knowing Jesus. Not once, but three times. Tonight! Before morning! I picture Jesus speaking sadly and tenderly, in sympathy with the pain and shame Peter would experience. And Peter swelling with pride and stretching to his full height as he contradicted the words of his beloved Master. Invincible Peter intended to stand firm and even go to the death with Jesus if necessary. The others echoed his noble words.
Did Peter think himself better armed against temptation than the other disciples? Or immune to the transgressions common to his brotherhood? Peter, the big bold fisherman, spent most of his life at the controls. He was passionately loyal, his speech fiery and full of lofty intentions. But he was not prepared for the test that was to come. Although there would be but one traitor, they would all be deserters. Peter protested loudly. Before this ordeal was over he will fail miserably, swear profusely, and weep uncontrollably.
"I will be faithful and never leave you." That expressed the intent of their hearts and the commitment Jesus and all the disciples had made to each other. In this week of his Passion, Jesus succeeded while Peter and the others failed. Why the difference? Peter fought to write his own script; Jesus accepted the lines God wrote for him. Submission gave him the peace, unity and strength to survive the night.
Here's the scope--Yes, you will get spooked and scatter. I'm telling you this ahead of time so you'll know that's not the end of our story. There's going to be another chapter and always another one after that. Regardless of what you do or fail to do, God's mercy endures forever, without end! When all your bluster is silenced, when you are lost and afraid, ashamed or disconnected--know this--I will find you again.
Amazingly, Jesus was still counting on them. While their whole endeavor seemed to be crumbling, Jesus was already looking beyond the cross to the day he will take this rag-tag army of followers back to Galilee. There on a mountain he would commission them to take his gospel to the whole world. Proving once again the good news--every failure, every loss, every grief, can be redeemed.
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: Think of a time you feared for your life? Describe what you did to try and save yourself?
Name something which you have done which was either brave or cowardly. Does bravery mean you were strong and cowardice mean you were weak? Or is it more complicated than that? What does it mean, or what is required, to be heroic?If you can't remember any bravery or cowardice, what does that say about you?
Confident of his own invincibility, Peter sounded like the deck hand on the Titanic who bragged, "God himself could not sink this ship!" What claim have you heard lately that sounded just as overly-confident? When someone makes a boast like this, what are they overlooking?
Peter was in denial before he disowned Jesus three times. In this text, what was Peter denying? Why were these words of Jesus so offensive to him? What "life lesson" did Peter need to learn?
Someone has said the first step to acquiring strength is admitting your weakness! Do you agree or disagree? Explain your answer.II Corinthians 12:9 quotes God's response to the prayers of the apostle Paul--"My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." What hope does this verse give to you?
Make a list of the ways in which Christians today deny their Lord and distance themselves from the tenets of their faith. Note which ones apply to you. Are there certain sins you feel confident you would never commit?Are you encouraged or discouraged when you study the failings of the disciples?
What words do you use to express your commitment to God? What have you promised? What has God promised you?
Do you believe that no matter how lost and afraid, ashamed or disconnected we are, Jesus will find us again? How has that been true, or untrue, for you?
Think of your life as a book. How many chapters does it have? Why do you like or dislike what you read? What do you wish to add or delete? Who writes the script? Have your sorrows been redeemed? What remains to be told?