Today: [Matthew 26] The Disciples Scatter as Jesus is Betrayed: In the conclusion of chapter 26 of Matthew Jesus warns the disciples that every one of them will forsake Him, even impetuous Peter. The Master takes them to a garden to pray and the disciples, overwhelmed with sorrow fall on sleep as Jesus prays alone until the soldiers come to take Him. What about you? Have you ever been a sleeping sentry, unable to tarry even one hour with the Master? As the curtain rises on this final episode of Jesus’ earthly life may we transparently see ourselves and our own weaknesses in contrast to the price that was paid to deliver us from them all.
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[Mat 26:31-75 KJV] 31 Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. 32 But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee. 33 Peter answered and said unto him, Though all [men] shall be offended because of thee, [yet] will I never be offended. 34 Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. 35 Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples. 36 Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. 37 And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. 38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. 39 And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou [wilt]. 40 And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed [is] willing, but the flesh [is] weak. 42 He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. 43 And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. 44 And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. 45 Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take [your] rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me. 47 And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people. 48 Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast. 49 And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him. 50 And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him. 51 And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out [his] hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear. 52 Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. 53 Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?
In verse 31 we find that the Last Supper is concluded and Judas has gone out on his dastardly errand to betray Jesus. The disciples are still troubled by the news that there is a betrayer among them, although they apparently are still not sure exactly who the traitor is because they think Judas has gone out to make a contribution to the poor. The remaining disciples therefore are casting in their minds who the betrayer is, and Jesus tells them that they shall every one of them be offended because of Him this very night, in fulfillment of Zech. 13:7 where the prophet declared that the Messiah would be a shepherd smitten and all the sheep, not just Judas, would scatter. It is certain that the disciples were deeply troubled because of this, and of Jesus’ insistence that He will be crucified by the Romans. Nonetheless Jesus inexplicably tells them that He will rise again and meet them in the Galilee afterward. These words don’t exactly register on their thinking however, and Peter interrupts with the protestation that though all men would forsake Jesus that he, the mighty Peter would never forsake Him. Jesus in patient response, firmly tells Peter who presumes to correct the Master once again that before the cock crows this very night that he will deny Him three times. Peter is undeterred, correcting Jesus in no uncertain terms, assuring him that though it cost him his life that he would not deny Jesus, as all the other disciples affirm that they likewise would remain faithful, which of course they all fail miserably.
Have you ever made promises to God that you found you cannot keep and could not make good on? Peter was relying on brash emotional angst, and sheer willpower to buttress his commitment to Christ. This is why John affirms in John 1:13 that we are not born again by the will of the flesh or the will of man, but by the will of God. Will power alone is not sufficient to render a person clean or in a state of grace. Peter had to learn this as a bitter lesson, just how far short he fell from measuring up to a total commitment to Christ. We can strive and make resolutions, and promise to stay faithful to God no matter what, but outside of the enabling grace of the Holy Spirit no man seeks after God, every heart is turned toward mischief and it is only by the power of the Holy Ghost working in us enabling faith does any man stand fast in his commitment to Christ. This lesson is underscored for us and the disciples at Gethsemane when they cannot tarry with Jesus in prayer at His most vulnerable moment in life. Jesus looks upon the sleeping sentries and in utter kindness and compassion remarks that their spirits were willing but their flesh is weak.
We might ask ourselves the question that Jesus asked His disciples that night: Can we not tarry one hour in prayer? Prayerlessness is the terminal disease of Christian culture. We know we ought to pray, we have a conviction that prayer changes things, but yet prayer eludes us and we live lives very far beneath the privileges of saints because we will not pray. Can you not tarry one hour? As Jesus longed for the disciples to join with Him in prayer, is it not true that He is ever interceding at the right hand of the Father? How often have we joined Him in prayer? How often has He looked over the ramparts of glory, in the throes of intercession at the right hand of the Father and been disappointed to see so many sleeping sentries. Indeed we long to pray in our spirits but our flesh is weak and dominates the outcome. Is there not a cause? Can change not become our reality? Let us resolve that if we fail a 1000 times to resort to what the hymnist called the “Sweet Hour of Prayer” that we would rather fail a million times to find the place of prayer than to succeed in ignoring it and forsaking that sacred altar of intercession altogether.
Leaving the disciples in sleep, Jesus agonizes alone before the Father, beseeching that if it were possible the cup of suffering before Him could be avoided.
Nevertheless, knowing that the cross was His only way forward He prays “not My will but thine” and returns to the disciples. What a travesty that unbelieving hearts have taken this “not My will but thine” prayer of Jesus and twisted it into a justification for unbelief regarding the merits of the provisions of Calvary. We dare to question His will even though Jesus took stripes for our healing and suffered the rigors of the cross and men obscenely question in prayer whether or not the merits of the cross will be denied us by questioning “not my will but thine” as though God would give His only son for us, but then for some reason to justify our lack of faith we tell ourselves He might not make good on His promises. Let us resolve never again to question the goodness of God where the word has made His will so abundantly clear to us. It is His will to heal, and to save and to deliver and to provide. The blood of the cross and the suffering of Calvary establishes forever that these promises are ours and we will never again question them by any means whatsoever.
55 In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me. 56 But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled. 57 And they that had laid hold on Jesus led [him] away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. 58 But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest’s palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end. 59 Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; 60 But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, [yet] found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, 61 And said, This [fellow] said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days. 62 And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what [is it which] these witness against thee? 63 But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. 64 Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. 65 Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. 66 What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death. 67 Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote [him] with the palms of their hands, 68 Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee? 69 Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. 70 But he denied before [them] all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. 71 And when he was gone out into the porch, another [maid] saw him, and said unto them that were there, This [fellow] was also with Jesus of Nazareth. 72 And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. 73 And after a while came unto [him] they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art [one] of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee. 74 Then began he to curse and to swear, [saying], I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. 75 And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.
Ending His prayer time, Jesus rouses the disciples just as Judas shows up with a band of soldiers to take Jesus by force. Can you imagine the demonic hold that Satan had on Judas in that moment that he would kiss the face of our savior in the very act of betraying Him? Oh, that one day you and I have the opportunity to give a 1000 kisses of adulation and worship where Judas gave this one poisonous osculation. Peter, still convinced of his own strength and ability to control the outcome draws a sword and maims the servant of the high priest.
Jesus calmly stills Peter’s assault and restores the man’s ear in a final miracle of grace at the very moment He is taken into custody. He could have called in that moment 12 legions of angels to defend Him, but He didn’t – so that you and I could because of what He did for us on the cross. Jesus refused to defend Himself, He refused angelic assistance, so that you and I in our hour of need could call on angels to come to our aid. It has been suggested that it is sinful to call on angelic assistance, but if Jesus could then you and I can likewise because the Father has delivered to you and I all the privileges of the Son, so go ahead and call the angelic hosts to come to your aid when you are in need and see the deliverance that is wrought as a result.
Jesus is led away to the council of the chief priests and elders who in spite of false witnesses and many lies can scarcely come up with charges sufficient to take Him before Pilate, craving His death upon the cross. The high priest rails against Him, adjuring Him in the name of God to answer the false witnesses, to which Jesus simply answers that all they are accomplishing is the installation of the son of God at the right hand of majesty on High. The high priest tears his clothes and the men gathered lose all composure and strike Jesus and spit on Him, mocking the son of God, goading Him to say just who struck Him last.
Peter, we find has followed at a distance and is recognized by a young maid who questions him as being one of the disciples. Peter, of course denies it, and in fact denies it swearing profusely just as the cock crows, fulfilling the prophecy of Jesus and the curtain falls as Peter runs away in shame and bitterness.
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