27 “You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written:
“‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.’
28 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”
29 Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.”
30 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.”
31 But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the others said the same.
(Mark 14:27-31 NIV)
In the last passage, we saw Jesus and His disciples celebrate the Passover together, then leave and head for the Mount of Olives for the night.
In today’s text, Jesus tells His disciples that all of them will abandon Him. Jesus uses Zechariah 13:7 as the scriptural prophecy that will soon be fulfilled. The passage in Zechariah tells of a future redemption that will begin with the shepherd being struck down and the sheep scattered but ends in glory and a new people of God being formed.
Jesus then goes on to tell His disciples about their reconciliation and reuniting in Galilee after His resurrection. Peter and the disciples get stuck on the first part of Jesus’ statement, and completely miss the second part.
Peter reacts first, offended by what Jesus has said. Peter pledges 100% loyalty to Jesus, even separating himself in a moment of self-righteous pride from the rest of the disciples. Jesus calls Peter out and tells Peter that before the rooster crows twice, Peter will deny Jesus three times. Peter responds by continually pledging his loyalty to Jesus, along with the other disciples.
Let’s put ourselves in Peter’s place for a moment, as he retells this story and as Mark faithfully writes everything down. As Peter retells this story, we see him re-experience the same passion and intensity that he had when he originally said these words. We also see Peter feel the same heartbreak and tears as he shared this story, knowing that Jesus’ words were indeed true. In the end, we see Peter rest in the second statement of Jesus’ proclamation, knowing that he had indeed been reunited with Jesus after His resurrection, and he had reconciled with Jesus as well.
The phrase “fall away” is the Greek word “skandalizō“, pronounced “skän-dä-lē’-zō“. The meaning of this word is “to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom (s)he ought to trust and obey”. The root of this Greek word is where we get the English word “scandal”. If we think of an elected official whose supporters abandon them after some allegations come out against the official (whether true or not), you have the idea.
So what is the scandal of Jesus in our lives? What would cause us to turn away from Him, to run and hide? Is it the threat of persecution? Or public shame? Or just plain greed and selfishness on our part? Maybe an unanswered prayer on behalf of ourselves or a dear friend or family member? An unresolved injustice in our life?
As we compare Jesus and Judas Iscariot, we see the passionate heart of Peter who pledged his loyalty to the death, and the cold, calculating heart of Judas who willingly betrayed Jesus for money.
As you and I look in the mirror, who do we see – Judas, Peter, or both? The temptation to act like Judas is strong – to betray Jesus and sell my soul for a selfish reason, which ends up unsatisfying in the final analysis. The temptation to make Peter’s words my own are also strong – but in the end, will I hold fast to Jesus, or collapse like a cheap suitcase, just like Peter?
God uses suffering in our lives to reveal our true character and allow us to see our real resolve. God knows our hearts and the degree to which we will stand with Him (or not). The Lord uses hard times in our lives as opportunities for us to grow closer to Him, to rely on His strength, to experience His love, mercy, and grace.
When the scandal of faith camps out at our front door and we let it in during a moment of weakness and turn away from Christ, may we remember that Peter and the other disciples did indeed meet Jesus in Galilee after His resurrection, where He reunited and reconciled with them.
And the disciples, reconciled to Jesus, went out and changed the world through God’s power and direction.
May we do the same, one changed heart at a time.