We are now in the last week of Jesus’ life. His entry into Jerusalem, his final instructions to the crowds and to the disciples. In this final week, Jesus predicts his death by crucifixion in two days. This is followed by the details of the sham trial to be conducted by the religious leaders to trap and murder Jesus. Now Jesus makes two shocking predictions – the one who will betray Him, and the one who will deny knowing him! If ever a spiritual movement looked destined for failure, it would be this last week of Jesus – the leader killed, the followings betraying Him or denying him as they scatter. Three shock waves in this final week.
33 Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” 34 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times. 35 But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same. Matthew 26:33-35.
1. Failure and Collapse Among the Disciples. Jesus correctly predicted that Peter would soon desert him – would deny any knowledge or association with Jesus – and this during this most critical of times where Jesus’ life hung in the balance, humanly speaking. But all of the disciples reaffirmed Peter’s pledge. They would never disown Jesus. Yet the following narrative is clear. Then all the disciples deserted him and fled. Matt 26:56.
2. Understanding the Nature of Spiritual Failure. Certainly, we all fail. How does that happen? At its core, failure and sin in the life of the believer is rooted in our sinful nature, which comes from our continuing humanity marked out as fallen from the garden of Eden.
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. James 1:13-15.
Though redeemed, such that the sting of death is defeated, the struggle to do what is right, what is the bidding of the Spirit of God, remains. And James is clear: by [our] own evil desire.
3. The Encouragement that Failures are Followed by Success. Certainly was true of Peter and the disciples. They did not let their wholesale denial and desertion of Jesus mark the last chapter of their lives. They recovered, gathered together, and went out preaching Jesus and the Resurrection. And this is consistent with what Jesus wanted for Peter.
31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32.
Do you see it? The words that should burn themselves into our souls, stamped over and covering the fears and struggle of our failures, are twofold: (1) But I have prayed for you, and (2) when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers. Our divine advocate is not only the Holy Spirit but Jesus himself, praying for us, believing in us and the work we do for the Kingdom. And failure is not the end of our lives. There are needs in the world and opportunities to reach out to others. Don’t let your legacy end in failure. Every great man and woman in the Bible was marked not by failure, but by getting back up after their failures, and committing themselves to faith and obedience – to serving others. God’s best to you this week. Make this a core theme in your life. It is in my life.