We all live in the presence of deluded friends.
Some have an inflated view of their own character, talents, and accomplishments due to the constant press coming from parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, coaches, ministers, peers, and groupies. From the outside, they consistently hear how sharp they are, and they believe what people are saying.
Other deluded friends need not such external affirmation. They are their own best cheerleader when it comes to evaluating their performance. In their own eyes, they are acceptably hitting the mark, and no one can tell them otherwise.
This leads us to some questions. Are we numbered amongst the deluded individuals who wrongly assess their keeping of God’s Law? Are we part of the ignorant group who continue to have an inflated view of their own righteousness due to the false press of their neighbors? Worse yet, are we of the arrogant class who continually laud themselves despite that declared by the Holy God and his Holy Word?
Friends, read the scripture with me, and let us be reminded of our true condition. Let us be deluded no more. There is none righteous; no not one; not even the disciples; not even Peter; not even you and me.
Matthew 26:20-35 When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me.” … And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then 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.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.
Peter and the fellows were fervent
The Twelve were exemplary disciples. They were so impressed with Jesus that when they heard his call, they forsook normalcy, left their businesses, and said “farewell” to family and friends. For three years they went to the school of Jesus and made progress in understanding Scripture, thinking properly, praying regularly, loving dearly, teaching excellently, and healing miraculously. They were men who majored in communion with Jesus and seeking to keep his holy commandments.
They did so though thick and thin, and this was proven by their present location. For them, Jerusalem was the most dangerous city on earth. It was filled with Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Herodians, and Romans, all wanting Jesus and his movement squelched. They were plotting against him. However, Jesus had told his men to go, gather, and prepare for the Passover, and they proved to be obedient. They were not fair weather fans. No, they were fervent disciples willing to fall Jesus into the lion’s den.
Well, on that particular evening, as Jesus was in the upper room with his men, he said something horribly shocking, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” One of those who were walking, working, and worshipping Jesus was going to:
- Not deny himself
- Not take up his cross
- Not follow him
- Not keep his hand to the plow
- Not be faithful
- Not love Jesus with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength
- Betray Jesus
- Break Jesus’ heart
- Break Jesus’ Law
Peter and the men with him were bothered and broken. They loved Jesus. They loved Jesus’ Law, and they understood the seriousness of such a sin. Immediately, everyone in the room became sorrowfully inquisitive. Each said, “Lord, are you talking about me?” None wanted to be the one found faithless, unrighteous, or lawless.
Jesus knew well the sin in Judas’ heart, the silver in Judas’ pockets, and the Satan in Judas’ future. And in the ensuing conversation, he outed his fraudulent friend.
It goes without saying that Peter and the others were confused, sorrowful, speechless, and relieved. Everyone was glad they were not the one; they were thankful they were not like Judas. It gave them pleasure to think they were not lawless rebels like their friend. At least for the moment, they concluded they were the faithful ones.
Peter and everyone continued worshiping Jesus, and following their Passover “celebrations” they went for a hike. Together they headed towards the Mount of Olives. It was at that point they heard more unfortunate information.
Peter and the fellows were personally instructed
Jesus told his eleven remaining disciples, “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.”
What did they learn from the mouth of their teacher? Bottom line, they would all be like Judas. They would all:
- Not deny themselves
- Not take up their crosses
- Not follow him, but fall away, and be scattered
- Not keep their hands to the plow
- Not be faithful
- Not love Jesus with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength
- Betray Jesus
- Break Jesus’ heart
- Break Jesus’ Law
According to Jesus’ instruction, there would not be one righteous disciple; no not one.
Peter and the fellows were deluded
Peter responded, and his heart-attitude must surely be appreciated. He boldly made the proclamation, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” He is to be applauded for his zeal and desire.
However, Peter was ignorant, deluded, and arrogant. He really thought he was spiritually strong. He was sure he was better than Judas. As a matter of fact, he claimed to be stronger than all the other disciples. So arrogant was Peter that he argued with Jesus. He heard revelation from the Omniscient One had just quoted sacred scripture, and still he rebuked Jesus for his proclamation. Other men may prove to be faithless law-breakers, but not Simon Peter — the Rock.
Lovingly, but seriously, Jesus sought to correct Peter’s sinful lunacy. Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” The Master alerted Peter to the hard truth of his upcoming fall. Peter would fall, three times. He would not even make it through the night without following in the lawless footsteps of Judas.
Peter would not have any of it. He knew better than Jesus. He was confident he could be the faithful disciple. He continued to argue, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!”
However, it was not just Peter alone who was deluded. Listen to the rest of the verse:
Matthew 26:35 Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.
All the disciples thought more highly of themselves and their righteousness than they should have. They were all deceived. They were all lying to themselves and their Lord. Surely they could not fall like Judas.
Peter and the fellows were faithless
Peter stood tall for a while. When men came to arrest Jesus, he grabbed a sword and began to swing away.
However, within only a few hours, all had abandoned their friend. It proved to be a tragic night in the household of faith as all Jesus’ men proved to be faithless, law-breaking sinners. There was no one righteous; no not one.
However, there was a glad ending to this saga.
Peter and the fellows were loved
In his first prediction of falling, Jesus had told them he would meet them in Galilee. He would not abandon them despite their faithlessness.
And despite their failure, Jesus maintained his course. He headed to the Mount of Olives, into the Garden of Gethsemane, to the place of his arrest, which would result in his being crucified for his faithless, unrighteous, law-breaking friends.
Friends … Let us not be deluded
Yes, we are the fervent ones. We are numbered amongst those who have heard Jesus calling and have made a decision to follow. We are they who have been prayed for, ceremonially washed, ceremonially fed, and catechized. We have regularly worshiped Jesus and have gone to work in his name. And yes, we are those who long to “delight in the Law of the Lord.” We want to sin less than we do. We find ourselves hungering and thirsting for righteousness. We do not want to be like the Prodigal Son. We do not want to end like Judas. It is good to be in the camp of the fervent!
However, the Holy God through the Holy Text has spoken. There is no part of our being that is not affected by sin. We must still battle the flesh, and we will not always win. Confession and repentance will be a perpetual practice for us until the day we go to paradise. There is none righteous; no not one; no not the disciples; no not Peter; no not you and me.
However, we are so foolish. We continue to listen to the false press of the devil, our neighbors, and our own hearts. We think we are better than Judas and better than most. Despite what Jesus says in his Word, we think we are holy, righteous, law-keepers.
Oh friends, look how we have fallen in the past. Have we not gone further than we thought’s we’d go, stayed longer than we wanted to stay, and paid far more than we ever dreamt we’d pay?
Can’t we see how we are a fall — to some degree or another — waiting to happen. Who knows what sin, and who knows to what degree, but it is sure to happen. Like Peter and the fellows, we are moments away from breaking the Law and betraying Jesus. We are hours away from falling away, abandoning him, and looking quite a bit like Judas.
Therefore, in light of what we have learned, let us be more humble. Especially we who believe most in God’s Holy Law and Total Depravity.
In addition, let us be less judgmental. We have beams in our own eyes to worry about.
Then, let us be more grateful, for like Peter and the eleven, we are forgiven long before we fall. Jesus knows us, loves us, lives for us, dies for us, intercedes for us, revives us, and preserves us till the end.
Finally, let us be more zealous in our communication of the Gospel. We are surrounded by people who need to hear the good news of the performance of Jesus for those failing to perform. We are acceptable to God not because we:
- Perform well
- Deny ourselves
- Take up our crosses
- Follow him and refuse to fall away and be scattered
- Keep our hands to the plow
- Are faithful
- Love Jesus with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength
- Do righteousness
- Keep Jesus’ Law
No, we are faithless disciples, fervently following him at times, falling more often than we like, immutably loved by the one who performed well for us. We are accepted not because of our faithfulness but because of his. And there are many, in the world and in the church, who need to hear this Good News.
Now, get back up fallen disciples and let us obey the words of Jesus. He had prayed for us. He has revived us. Let us go and restore our brothers.” (Luke 22:32)