You Will All Fall Away — Failure Does Not Have to be Final — Mark 14:27-31

In the intensity of warfare there is nothing more disturbing and discouraging than to have a comrade in arms turn tail and become a deserter in the face of the imminent danger.  Warfare forges a bond with deep roots where every soldier has the back of every other soldier.  I was just watching a Mel Gibson film about the Vietnam War – We Were Soldiers – and thankful that I did not have to serve in that bloody conflict.  Jesus and His disciples were united together in a far more dangerous and far more significant warfare – that between the kingdom of God and the domain of Satan.  As the intensity ratchets up with Jesus just hours away from going to the cross, there never was a time when loyalty and courage would be more in demand.  Sadly there never was a time when Jesus would end up being more alone on the battlefield.

John Mark knew what it was like to be labeled a “deserter” and a “failure” in Christian ministry.  After he had left the Apostle Paul and Barnabas in the lurch and run back home from Pamphylia (Acts 16:36-41), he was later rejected by Paul for inclusion in the next round of missionary visits.  Barnabas was more forgiving and encouraging … so there was a split between Paul and Barnabas and two different teams were formed – Paul and Silas and Barnabas and Mark.  Subsequently Mark proved his loyalty and devotion to Christ so that even Paul approved of him in the end.

Certainly Peter also knew what it was like to be labeled a “deserter” and a “failure” in Christian ministry as we are reminded in our present passage in Mark’s Gospel.  Remember: Mark got a lot of his material from Peter who was the actual eyewitness to these events of Christ’s earthly ministry.  It must have been crushing for Peter to go through the embarrassing episodes of denying Christ – as we will study in coming weeks.

But both Mark and Peter also knew what it was like to be forgiven and restored to positions of ministry and influence by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.  They had not been permanently cast aside because of their failures.  But their faith had actually been strengthened and they were able to minister even more effectively after they had come to grips with their weakness.  They understood that reliance on Christ alone and boasting in him proved the sufficiency of His grace – that His power is actually perfected in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).

WE CANNOT GUARANTEE UNBROKEN LOYALTY TO OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

People make all types of claims and promises they cannot keep – “I will follow Christ anywhere

Look at God’s covenant people in OT times pledging to keep all of God’s laws – how did that turn out?

Transition Verse (:26)  Coming from the spiritual high of celebrating the Lord’s Supper

Hiebert: Mark and Matthew agree in placing the warning on the way to Gethsemane, but Luke and John record the warning as given in the upper room. . .  It seems best to accept that two different warnings were given, one before and one after they left the upper room.

I.  (:27) DESERTION/DENIAL WAS PREDICTED BY JESUS ACCORDING TO OT PROPHECY

Certainly not what the apostles expected to hear from their Master in the last hours before his death

Background:

Perseverance is the opposite of DesertionJohn 15 – Christ commanded His disciples to Abide in Him …  Significant that this prediction on the part of Jesus should follow that teaching;

We know that Judas did not Abide – he had gone out before the institution of the Lord’s Supper to start things in motion for his betrayal later that night in the Garden of Gethsemane. But the desertion of Judas was on a different level than the desertion of Peter and the rest of the 11 apostles.

MacArthur: The shame of Judas was the shame of unbelief. The shame of the eleven was the shame of weakness. The shame of Judas was irretrievable, without remedy. The shame of the disciples was temporary and could be turned to faith.

A.  Shocking Prediction

And Jesus said to them, ‘You will all fall away,’

all, without exception

What does it mean to fall away?

William Barclay: The Greek verb is skandalizein, from skandalon or skandalethron which meant the bait in a trap, the stick on to which the animal was lured and which snapped the trap when the animal stepped on it. So the word skandalizein came to mean to entrap, or to trip up by some trick or guile. Peter was too sure. He had forgotten the traps that life can lay for the best of men. He had forgotten that the best of men can step on a slippery place and fall. He had forgotten his own human weakness and the strength of the devil’s temptations

  1. What Jesus does not mean – fall from grace or lose salvation

John 10:27-30  “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.”

2.  What Jesus does mean here —

Lawson: Momentarily and temporarily fall from their commitment of loyalty and allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ;

B.  Scriptural Fulfillment – Analogy of the Shepherd and the Sheep

because it is written, I will strike down the shepherd,

        and the sheep shall be scattered.

Zech 13:7 – God’s Word is always literally fulfilled; you cannot thwart God’s agenda

Who is the “I” referenced here as the one doing the striking?  Not the Jewish religious leaders or the Roman authorities … but the person of God the Father Himself;

Just look at the 2 most famous OT prophecies regarding the death of the Suffering Servant, the Messiah:

Ps. 22:1My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?

Ps. 22:13My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws; and You lay me I the dust of death.”

Is. 53:4  “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.”

Is. 53:10But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief

He is the Good Shepherd – distinction from under-shepherds; he doesn’t run like the hireling when the wolf comes; He loves the sheep to the extent of laying down his life for the sheep

What a sad state of affairs for the sheep to be scattered

Jer. 23 rails against the false prophets and describes the chaos that ensues when the sheep are scattered and without a shepherd; but the same context promises the ultimate eschatological restoration when the Messiah, the Righteous Branch will return and fulfill his role of reigning as king and shepherding his sheep wisely

II.  (:28) THE LOVE OF JESUS CAN RESCUE AND RESTORE DESERTERS    

A. Promise of Resurrection

But after I have been raised,

Jesus is going to the cross for their benefit:

  • it is the love of God that has driven Him to humble Himself;
  • divest Himself of the manifestation of His glory in heaven;
  • take on the limitation of humanity and come to earth to live a righteous life
  • and then submit to the death on the cross as our sacrifice for sins

But the Cross is not the end of the story —  Here Jesus very explicitly promises that God the Father will be satisfied with His sacrifice; His wrath will be propitiated; He will raise His Son from the dead so that Jesus can be the victorious Savior with all power and all authority on heaven and earth

So Desertion will not be the end of the story of the apostles; this same Jesus will meet them in Galilee just as He had promised

B.  Promise of Restoration

I will go before you to Galilee.

I will meet with you at the place where I called you; 16:6-7 – angel reminded them of vs. 28; You failed me but I will not fail you; He remains faithful;

The sheep have been scattered; there will be a disconnect in the precious union between the disciples and their Master; certainly that disconnect will never be greater than when Jesus is hanging on the cross and being made sin for them; taking on himself the wrath of God that they deserve; in no position to lead them and nurture them and protect them as the Good Shepherd

But the Good Shepherd will fulfill all of His promises by virtue of His resurrection.  He will rise victorious over death; over Satan; over sin; over any temptation that can afflict His sheep

He will finish His work of Training the Apostles and commissioning them for a worldwide ministry of evangelism and disciple making; he will depart and return to His Father in heaven, but will not leave them powerless; He will send the Holy Spirit to empower them and make them effective in ministry

He will rally these men of Galilee around His leadership so that they will appreciate His love and forgiveness and strengthening; they will not be cast aside as rejects and failures

Application: What an encouragement to us today – no matter how we have let Jesus down and not been faithful in our loyalty and service to Him; that doesn’t have to be the end of our story; The love of Jesus can restore us to useful service and fulfilling ministry

III.  (:29-30)  DESERTION CANNOT BE PREVENTED BY GOOD INTENTIONS

A.  (:29) Inflated Opinion of One’s Spiritual Ability

But Peter said to Him, ‘Even though all may fall away, yet I will not.’

Peter is always the first one to speak out; cf. 8:32 – has a pattern of pushing back against predictions of Jesus; his boldness is both a virtue and his greatest vice; he can be stubborn and over confident; here he pushes back against the prophecy that Jesus has just proclaimed

  • demonstrates pride and arrogance to contradict Jesus
  • demonstrates a self-reliant, over confident belief in his own abilities
  • demonstrates a blind spot with respect to coming to grips with his own weakness and sinfulness
  • demonstrates an attitude of superiority as he compares himself favorably to the other apostles – what you are saying about upcoming failure may be true of them, but it is definitely not true of me

Hendriksen: Peter here commits the sin of treating the words of Jesus with disbelief.  At the same time he assumes an attitude of superiority with respect to his fellow disciples.  Finally, he clearly shows that he does not know himself.  He has an inflated opinion of himself, is over-confident, conceited, as events are quickly going to prove.

Ron Daniel: Peter’s strength was boldness. He was the kind of guy that ran headlong into everything without thinking of the danger. That was his strongest quality, and he knew it. But overconfidence leaves us underequipped.

B.  (:30) Deflating Prophecy of Failure and Denial

And Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I say to you, that you yourself this very night,  before a cock crows twice, shall three times deny Me.’

The rooster would crow the second time by 3 AM in the morning, before dawn

Deny Jesus not just once … that would be shameful enough; not just twice; but three times; leave it to Peter to be over the top in everything he did

Hendriksen: this very rooster-crowing is also a means of bringing Peter back to repentance, for Christ’s reference to it becomes firmly embedded in his mind, so that at the appropriate moment this hidden memory will suddenly pull the rope that will ring the bell of Peter’s conscience.

Insight from Luke 22:31-32 — Satan wants to sift all you disciples (plural); then Jesus gets singular – I want you to strengthen your brothers;  Jesus had a plan for Peter; a plan to use him in ministry

How do we deny Jesus today?

  • Unbelievers deny Jesus as the characteristic bent of their lives; they refuse to repent of their sins; to see themselves as God sees them; to embrace Jesus as their Lord and Savior; they live in a constant state of denial – they may say nice things about Jesus but they don’t confess Him for who He truly is; they have no allegiance or loyalty; or they are like Judas who make a false profession but the wickedness of their heart is ultimately exposed; as 1 John 2:19 speaks of apostates who end up going out from the fellowship of believers to be exposed for the Deserters they truly are

But what about for Christians?

  • Being ashamed of Him or of identifying with Him in any context – that can happen in a wide variety of circumstances; we remain silent when we should speak up; we fail to confront sin when we should

IV.  (:31) DESERTION CANNOT BE PREVENTED BY PRESUMPTUOUS SELF-CONFIDENCE

A.  Insistence of Peter

But Peter kept saying insistently, ‘Even if I have to die with You,

        I will not deny You!’

B.  Insistence of the Rest of the Apostles

And they all were saying the same thing, too.

MacArthur: His knowledge is perfect, and it’s set against the background of their ignorance. His courage is magnificent and its set against the background of their cowardice. He stands apart from the ignorant cowards who were the best of men but no match for His character. He is majestic in contrast and His defective disciples cannot diminish the majesty and dignity that we see in His person. Hard to really fathom the disappointment that our Lord must have felt. They were ashamed of Him, ashamed to be identified with Him and yet in Hebrews it tells us that He is not ashamed to call them and us brothers.

CONCLUSION:

2 Tim. 2:13  “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.”

We tend to think too highly of ourselves; let him who thinks he stands, take heed, lest he fall;

Pride goes before a fall – if those closest to Christ are capable of desertion and denial and defection – then we must look carefully to ourselves

The heart is deceitful – tricks us; tells us lies about how strong we are in ourselves

Pathway of self-reliance always leads to spiritual failure

Understand our weakness

But also trust in the Lord’s power to forgive and restore and to once against use us in spiritual ministry – He does not cast aside His children