Imagine that we are in Bridgestone Arena and I’m on the ice in full hockey gear. Pekka Rinne is in goal displaying his usual amazing stops. I skate over to him, look him straight in the eye and say that I can score 3 goals on him like in a shootout. Pekka smiles at me and says, “Really?” I insist I am confident I can score on him. Pekka says that he knows I can’t. In fact, he says he is confident that I will not. He is confident and I am confident. What’s the difference? Pekka’s confidence is based on reality, the facts. Mine is based on wishful thinking and false confidence. If Pekka Rinne and I were to have a shootout, I would get beaten very badly!
In Mark 14:27-31, we also see two types of confidences: Jesus’ and Peter’s. Peter believes that his own strength of character will be strong enough to stay with Jesus no matter what. Jesus knows that the only way Peter is going to be strong is to recognize his own weakness. Jesus could have dismissed Peter’s false bravado, but instead works with Peter to break him completely so that he and the other disciples can eventually be restored fully again. Let’s read Mark 14:27-31.
I. Jesus’ prophecy is seen in verses 27-28.
Jesus and the disciples have now finished the Passover meal and are making their way to the Mount of Olives, which is across the Kidron Valley from Jerusalem. As they are walking to Gethsemane, Jesus says: “You will all fall away.” Now remember that they had just shared the Passover, and that had been disrupted by Jesus telling them that one of them would betray him. Now Jesus tells them that they will all abandon him which must have been even more devastating to hear!
To add emphasis and the ring of authority, Jesus quotes the prophet Zechariah, “For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’” In this prophecy in Zechariah, God has just assured his people that they will be cleansed from their sin and that God will remove impurity from the land. Then God says that he will strike the shepherd causing the sheep to scatter. This refers to the people being taken into exile after the king is struck down. However, in this section God is also promising that a remnant will be restored.
For next Jesus speaks wonderful words of comfort in verse 28: “But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” This is very significant! Jesus had been speaking a lot about his death which had greatly disturbed the disciples. Now he speaks very clearly of his resurrection even though the disciples were likely so distraught that they didn’t really understand what Jesus had said. These words are also comforting in that he tells them that they will meet in Galilee. Galilee was the place where it began for them when Jesus called them. Now Jesus will start over with them once again, only now with a completely new basis of their relationship: Jesus’ death and resurrection.
These words would be said by the angel after Jesus’ resurrection. After telling the disciples that Jesus had indeed been raised from the dead, the angel told them to go to Galilee. This would be the place of restoration, healing and forgiveness. The disciples fail to see this and instead challenge Jesus, based on their false confidence.
II. Let’s look at the confident words of Jesus and Peter in verses 29-31.
Peter finds Jesus’ statement offensive and he responds with confident disbelief. In chapter 8:32, Peter had denied Jesus’ statement about his suffering and death. Evidently, Jesus’ words have sunk home for now he believes that Jesus will indeed suffer and perhaps even die. But Peter refuses to accept the statement that he will abandon Jesus. And even more than that, Peter also separates himself from the other disciples. “They may all run away, Jesus, but I won’t!” He not only is falsely confident, he also disdains the others and their weakness.
Jesus’ true confidence is seen very clearly in verse 30. In a most emphatic manner, Jesus announces that in spite of all of Peter’s good intentions, Peter will find himself as the stumbling block and the offense. Jesus says, “Truly I tell you” or literally “Amen. I tell you,” using a word that he often used to introduce very solemn and serious pronouncements. Within just a few hours, before the coming of the next dawn, Peter will not only run away, but will deny Jesus three times. Denying Jesus three times emphasizes the completeness and thoroughness with which he will refuse to even acknowledge Jesus. Instead of staying with him to the bitter end, Peter will not even acknowledge Jesus’ name.
Again we see Jesus’ grace and love here for he is getting Peter ready to be restored. He is preparing Peter for what he must eventually learn. When Peter heard the rooster crow, it would be the beginning of his healing.
However, in spite of Jesus’ words, Peter still maintains his loyalty to Jesus. Peter is abhorred at such a thought and vehemently states that he will die with Jesus! In a few hours, Peter will, with equal vehemence, deny that he ever knew Jesus. It will be brought home so hard how weak his loyalty really is. It will be brought home clearly that Peter cannot rely on his own strength. Now the other disciples chime in as well with their own brave promise of loyalty.
It is important to note here that Jesus is not condemning their loyalty but, with great sadness and compassion, is pointing out they don’t really understand what they are saying. No one can face what Jesus had to face on his own human strength. Not until God has done everything that needs to be done through the cross and resurrection is the grace given that enables people to follow Jesus in cross-bearing discipleship.
Until the disciples fully accept what Jesus offers, they will be making empty boasts and will not be able to do what they say they want to do. The week before last I was laid out with the flu that seems to be hitting everyone. After about the third day, I thought I was strong enough to do something more than just read. I was wrong. My strength wasn’t there and I retreated to the couch. Until they receive the Holy Spirit, the disciples could make many claims but wouldn’t be able to follow through on them; they cannot follow Jesus on their own.
Our source of strength cannot ever be in ourselves. We like to think that we would stand strong for Jesus. We think that if we were ever forced to make a choice between choosing Jesus or denying him, we would easily choose Jesus. If someone told us, “Renounce Jesus or die,” we would say, “Shoot me!”
Or we think that we are able to be an obedient Christian in our own strength. In his book “The Jesus I Never Knew” Philip Yancey talks about how so many have tried to live keeping Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount perfectly. No matter if you try to rationalize it or do your best to obey what Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, you will fail in following these words. And Jesus knows that we cannot live for God on our own strength and ability.
The good news, however, is that God forgives our sin-weakened condition. Just as Jesus patiently worked with the disciples to help them to eventually see their weakness, God understands our weaknesses. And God not only knows our weaknesses, God is willing to forgive. In fact, God sent Jesus to this earth to take on our sin. Indeed, God struck the Good Shepherd so that our sins may be forgiven.
More importantly, let’s hear a word of reassurance that God also restores us. In Zechariah’s prophecy, God promised to restore his sinful people. Jesus is offering the same restoration to those who have run away. Remember that Jesus speaks these words in love and grace, setting the stage for forgiveness and restoration later on.
Perhaps some here today need to hear God’s words of forgiveness and restoration. Perhaps some have run away when the pressure became too great. Maybe it was when someone was asking you about your faith and you became scared of this conversation and you ran away from confessing your Lord.
Perhaps you have even denied our Lord. You said things that implied that your faith was not that important. Or perhaps completely denied Jesus by doing something that you knew was wrong but you did it anyway and in so doing denied your faith and your Lord. Maybe you grew up believing and then you drifted away and decided that the Christian faith wasn’t for you after all.
Whatever the case, hear above all else this morning Jesus’ words of reassurance. First, hear his words of confidence regarding his resurrection. Jesus knew he would suffer and die to pay for our sins. Jesus also knew that he would rise again to win the victory over sin and death. The main message here is not our frailty, but the power and grace of God. God sent Jesus to overcome our sinful condition by raising him from the dead.
Second, hear Jesus’ invitation to the disciples to meet him in Galilee. If you have denied, run away or abandoned your faith, hear Jesus’ call to you to meet him in Galilee and be restored once again and to have real fellowship. Not fellowship based on how good we are or how many good things we can do. No, our fellowship is based on our need for his salvation and strength. He went ahead to Galilee to start over the relationship with his disciples. He is inviting us to base our relationship with him on the right thing as well.
The disciples learned that to rely on themselves alone will bring failure. But God restored them and used them to do great things for his Kingdom using the strength from God himself and his Spirit. People, we have been redeemed from sin and death through Jesus Christ, so we can do great things for God. Are we willing to admit our own weaknesses so we can be used by God to do great things for Him?