31Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 32But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 33Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” 34Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” 35Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.  Matthew 26:31-35

The end is drawing near. The end of Jesus’ ministry. The end of Jesus’ time with his disciples. The end of Jesus’ life on earth.

It will also be the end of the disciples’ confidence. At least temporarily. But they don’t know that yet. Right now, as they gather around Jesus in their tightly-knit group, they exude their familiar trust in themselves and in Jesus.

Even when Jesus warns them that they will desert him, that they will abandon him and one another, they cling to their pride. They cleave to their conviction. They count on their connection to one another. They count on their intimate connection to Jesus.

But it won’t be enough.

And, once again, at the center of the group and proclaiming his loyalty the loudest stands Peter. Though he is confronted with the details of his denial, he fiercely denies this possibility. He passionately proclaims that if it comes down to it, he will choose to die rather than deny Jesus. Following his lead, the other disciples echo this pledge of devotion.

But then, why wouldn’t they?

They have walked with Jesus for three years. They have witnessed his healing miracles. They have watched him bring a little girl and his good friend, Lazarus, back to life. They have seen him, and Peter, walk on water and they have witnessed him rebuke the wind and the waves during a storm.

Yes, Jesus is a man, like them. But Jesus is also divine. He is God. He is the Christ. He is the Son of Man and the Son of God. And they know this. They believe this.

But it won’t be enough.

Although he has predicted his death, the disciples do not seem to grasp what is coming. He has been with them. He will always be with them, won’t he?

Of course he will. But just not in the way they have grown accustomed to. And before they see him again, in Galilee, they will suffer. They will be sifted by the Enemy who will try desperately to defeat them. When the Enemy realizes once again that he cannot claim victory against Jesus, he will seek victory against his followers. He will strike at the disciples. If he cannot win the final battle, the Enemy will take whatever small skirmishes he can claim.

But it won’t be enough.

the sheep will scatter {photo credit: constantin jurcut on stock.xchng}
the sheep will scatter
{photo credit: constantin jurcut on stock.xchng}

He will strike the shepherd and scatter the sheep.

He will seek to plunge Jesus’ followers into darkness, he will try to shake their faith, he will attempt to steal their joy, their hope, their confidence in Christ.

Listening to Jesus’ words to Peter today, I can’t help but think maybe his words are equally intended for me: You will all fall away. You will be scattered. You will deny me.

And I can’t help but think that these words are equally applicable to every day moments. That they are not just intended for the big moments: You will all fall away. You will be scattered. You will deny me.

As a follower of Jesus, I am a target for the Enemy. He will pursue me passionately. He will seek to sift me and to steal my joy. He will seek to create doubt where I have faith. He will try to cultivate despair where I have hope.

But it won’t be enough.

He will win only if I let him.

He will win only if I ignore Jesus’ warnings. He will win by default only if I am not intentional. He will win only if I waver.

Only if I let him.

But I will not let him. Not today.

Today I will proclaim boldly, Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!

Today I will stand with Peter and the disciples and draw in close to Jesus and pledge my loyalty to him. I will tell him that even though others may fall away, I will not. Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!

But it won’t be enough.

Because even as I proclaim these words I know how hollow they ring. Like the disciples, I have faltered in my friendship with Jesus. And that was when there were no trials. He and I both know that when I face trials, when I struggle, my faith can shift like a wave caught in a gust of wind or fall away like a house of cards.

Even as I promise I will not deny him, my face, my heart, my faith turn away.

But, like Peter and the disciples, I return. I draw close again. I go to Galilee and wait for him. I seek him.

But it won’t be enough.

Even though I know he will never leave me or forsake me no matter how many times I abandon him.

Even though I know he loves me no matter how many times I turn tail and run away from or hide from or deny him.

Even though I know that he defends me. That he prays for me. That he pursues me. No matter how often I ignore him and his truths.

But it won’t be enough. {until}

I turn back. I go to Galilee. I seek him.

And I will find him. I always find him.

Because he loves me that much. Because he loves me too much to abandon me to myself, to the world, to the Enemy.

Because he loves me.

And that is enough. That is more than enough.

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