Matthew 26:31b-35

We’re Weaker Than We Think

Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

Matt. 26:31b (Holman) . . .for it is written: I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.

On this evening when the powers of darkness were let loose in the land, it looked like everything was exploding into chaos, but this quote of Zechariah 13:7 shows who was in control. God was seated on His throne. The evil events were no accident, or bad luck, but part of a divine plan that predicted 500 years before.

The disciples had been tightknit at the Last Supper, but everything was about to unravel. Desertion would happen later this night. They would end up hiding their connection to Jesus—a dangerous temptation Christians still face. Our silence about our knowing Jesus can be deafening.

Matt. 26:32 But after I have been resurrected, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.

Happily, not all was doom and gloom. Jesus shared good news; He saw order coming out of chaos. The Eleven’s cowardly scattering will not be the end.

They will forsake Jesus, but He will not forsake them. Jesus knew the worst about the disciples, yet He loved them. Fellow believers, be comforted by this.

He knows all our faults, frailties, foibles, and failures, yet loves us. Even if we’re in sin, Jesus does not love us less. He may not like it, or be displeased with it, but He still loves us, and responds more with sorrow than anger.

Jesus did not let His sheep stay scattered. He went to Galilee before them, as a shepherd gathering his flock behind him. Jesus knew we are better in community.

After Peter denied Jesus, and started climbing back up to make a comeback, John the Beloved was there to welcome and encourage him. Peter, when out of fellowship, needed this touch of community from John. Does someone need you?

John the Baptist needed community. When isolated in prison, and separated from other believers, he doubted. We all need community, a small group we call ours. Any piece of coal that falls away from the other coals always cools quickly.

Matt. 26:33 Peter told Him, “Even if everyone runs away because of you, I will never run away!”

As this night races at breakneck speed toward Peter’s denial, notice five red flags. One, Peter considered himself better than the others: “Even if everyone runs away”. He could not stand being included in the “everyone”. Don’t play the comparison game. We can always find sinners who will cause us to feel good about ourselves, making us smug. Looking down on others may make us feel content about where we are spiritually, but will not help us grow in the Lord.

Matt. 26:34 “I assure you,” Jesus said to him, “tonight, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times!”

Red flag number two. Peter did not know himself. Peter said “Never.” Jesus said, “Before dawn.” Peter thought he would never deny once. Jesus predicted he would do it thrice. Peter had too high a self-image. Seeing himself as the top-dog, successful leader of the Twelve, he felt he could never cowardly deny Jesus.

In nothing do people err more grievously than in self-analysis (Spurgeon). We all have kindlings of sin in us that can easily be sparked at any moment.

Red flag number three. Peter trusted his own strength. We tend to overestimate our strength, and underestimate Satan’s. He has watched each of us for a lifetime. He knows the triggers that can put extreme spiritual pressures on us.

This is why I often say, “The life you’ve always dreamed of lies hidden in the mission you’ve always dreaded.” Satan knows exactly what tasks your personality and gifts would match perfectly in the Kingdom. He has spent your lifetime trying to make sure you disliked that one thing, and never did it.

Our flesh believes it can on its own defeat temptations. Peter was sincere—no doubt about it. He loved Jesus—we can be confident of this. But no matter how sincere we are, or how much we love Jesus, we fail if we do not depend on Him. John MacArthur wells says, good intentions are not strength. Wishing is not doing.

We Christians feel we must tell the lost about causes and consequences of their sins. Sometimes we forget we must tell ourselves too. We are not above sin.

In fact, the better we are, the more we are tempted to be over-confident, to think we are growing stronger in ourselves. Reject self-confidence. Be dependent.

Matt. 26:35 “Even if I have to die with You,” Peter told Him, “I will never deny You!” And all the disciples said the same thing.

Red flag number four. Peter had more confidence in himself than in God’s words. Peter contradicted, rather than listened to, Jesus. Christ, due to His love for Peter, warned the disciple of his weakness, but Peter neglected the warning. Always have an attentive, listening heart. Hear the Lord’s warnings loud and clear.

Heed the Bible, God’s gift of words to us. “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool” (Proverbs 28:26a). “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes” (Isaiah 5:21a). “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

Red flag number five. Peter boasted. The other disciples did too. Peter was the only disciple that verbally denied Jesus this night, but the others also deserted Christ in His hour of need. If all the disciples forsook Christ, we all have reason to fear. If we think ourselves above committing sin, we are sinning the sin of pride.

Their weakness was exposed in their self-swagger. Peter first fell, not when he denied, but when he boasted. This was his first misstep, and once we take one footstep down, we usually lose our footing; the whole world seems greased for the occasion. Ravi Zacharias well said, “Sin will take you farther than you want to go; keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.” Beware bragging. It can start us down a long, time-consuming, costly road.

One of my life verses teaches, “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips” (Proverbs 27:2). Success, to make itself known, does not need the varnish of a brag. When we boast, Satan goes to work.

Castles built on boasting often crumble. Many of our youth go off to college or into the Armed Forces, thinking they can never fall into sin, or doubt the Bible.

Some single adults think they would never marry an unbeliever. Some here are thinking they would never lie, steal, cheat, renounce faith, or have an affair.

We do not know what we will do if our surroundings change. When in our current safe zones, we are all heroes, but beware the danger of new circumstances.

Being strong today in our present setting does not assure us of strength tomorrow in a different setting. It is easy to talk of victory at a distance, but don’t yell defiance at danger. It might hear you and wake up with a vengeance. Always state our intents as humble requests in prayer; never as proud boasts in conversation.