I will never, I will not

March 28, 2024

Matthew 26:30–35 (ESV)

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.

Dinner had been a disaster. First there was the whole “I’m going to die” thing, which nobody understood. He kept saying it, and getting more and more specific, but how could He really die? Just 3 days ago they had welcomed Him into the city with a gigantic and ceremonial palm parade. Yes, the Pharisees were aggravated, as always, maybe even more than ever, but surely they weren’t going to kill him? He was too popular. He was too powerful. He was who He said He was – the Son of God. There was just no chance that this all ended with Him dying? He must’ve been speaking in riddles again. 

But worst than the death thing, if you could even believe that, was the awkward and maddening exchange between Him and Judas after they had finished eating. First, He had said that ONE of them was going to betray Him, and everyone denied. Next He had made it exceedingly clear that it wasn’t just one of them, it was Judas specifically. In that moment, it was obvious Judas didn’t know what to do, and he got up and tried to leave. Peter got in his way. 

“Let him go…” 

But why? Why if He knew that betrayal, arrest and even potentially death were on the horizon, would He let Judas just walk out the door to do whatever it was that he was supposedly going to do? Why wouldn’t He stop him? Why did He seem so resigned? Why couldn’t He do another miracle, preach another parable, or raise another follower from the dead, to prove once and for all that He was Israel’s coming King? It just didn’t make any sense. 

On their way to Gethsemane, Peter is watching Jesus closely, desperately trying to understand.  He seems preoccupied, perhaps even detached, in a way that none of them have ever seen. He hasn’t spoken in quite some time, until they arrive at the entrance of the garden. Jesus barely has His words out before Peter blurts his reply. 

“You will all fall away.” 

“I will never.”

“Before the rooster crows, three times you will deny me.”

“I will not! Even if I must die.”

Everyone agreed. If something truly was going to happen to Him, they would stick together. Just like they always had. Nothing and no one could separate them now. Jesus, didn’t seem at all convinced. He had asked them to stay awake – He was going off on His own to pray. This was Peter’s chance to prove he could back up his words. 

Now all he had to do was keep his eyes open…

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