Matthew 26:31-35

Then Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters because of me this night; for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” Peter said to him, “Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you.”

Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And so said all the disciples. Matthew 26:31-35

And so said all the disciples” – and then they all deserted him anyway. But we’re not there yet. We know what eventually happens. We know the end of the story. But Matthew hasn’t taken us there yet. For now, we accept the words of the earnest disciples at face value. They promise to stay with Jesus.

It is hard to read the gospel stories with fresh eyes, to hear the Jesus story as if for the first time. But isn’t this how they are intended to be heard? Not to be scoured for every textual tidbit but to elicit a reaction, to move people, to “do Jesus” to people? But if we could go back to the first time we ever heard this story we would be right there with the disciples.

They have followed Jesus, thus far, through thick and thin. They too have been criticized and challenged. They have had their own hardships along the way. Their own disappointments. They left everything behind when they got up to follow Jesus. They too have made sacrifices. Yet they are still with him.

If we heard this story for the first time we would admire the disciples for their courage, their commitment, their dedication. And we would completely miss the deeper point – they were following Jesus because they hoped to get something out of him. They were following Jesus like a celebrity posse. Just being close to greatness made them feel just a little greater. And just imagine how great it will be when he sets up shop, raises his army, builds his palace, and rules the world!

But that night at dinner they weren’t thinking about any of that. They were just nervous about being in Jerusalem. But don’t worry Jesus, we’re right there with you.

I hate to admit this but there is little doubt that my own discipleship, such as it has been, has been largely self-serving. When I came to a new place in my faith back in college, I have no doubt there was a part of me that wanted my life to be better, and that getting back into God’s good graces was my ticket to insider status, VIP treatment, and earthly success. In far too many ways, I have probably been chasing something like that my entire life. In that, I’m not alone.

No, the disciples would prove not to be super heroes. They would prove to be, just like us, cracked pots of human foibles, failures, and follies. But Jesus saw something in them that they couldn’t yet see in themselves – the glory of God that sparks within every human being and all creation. Like a sculptor looking at a pile of scrap iron and thinking “I can do something with this” the good news is that, while the disciples couldn’t keep their promise, Jesus kept his.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, in our following we often wander, we falter, we drop into the ditch. Remind us again and again that it isn’t always about us or up to us – that while we struggle in our following, you are constantly pulling us along. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


One Response to “Matthew 26:31-35”

  1. Dave Armstrong Says:

    Thank you for the reminder about our foibles and for the reminder that Jesus always keeps his promises.

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