By: Jeremiah Storkson
Have you ever been to a dinner party that was extremely awkward? Maybe for you, that dinner party is every Thanksgiving. However, there is likely no dinner more awkward than the one I am talking about today. I am referring to the Last Supper. To give you some context, Judas Iscariot had just agreed to betray Jesus and was at this meal. Talk about awkward! With that information in mind, let’s enter this evening dinner party. During this time, Jesus essentially lays the groundwork for what we call communion in the church today. It really is one of the most important moments in Scripture. Go to Matthew 26 to read the whole thing, but the moment I am going to focus on is right as Jesus is finishing up (verses 20-25):
When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?” Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “You have said so.” (NIV)
Jesus straight-up calls out Judas. He says this and incites a bit of chaos among the disciples. I mean, think about the emotional temperature of the room. People are likely angry, feeling betrayed, and disappointed in Judas. Then, awkward moments continue to unfold:
Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: “‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I
never will.” “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” 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 26:31-35 (NIV)
Jesus decides to throw out something surprising for the disciples. He says that they will all be scattered and fall away. Then Peter pipes up. He assures Jesus that he would never disown Him. I mean, wouldn’t we all want to say that after what Jesus said? Peter says that, and Jesus comes back at him with something even more startling. He tells Peter that before the morning, Peter will deny Him. I can just imagine how much higher the awkwardness levels went up after this. As we go further into the night, while Jesus was being arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin, Peter is on a stroll. He is walking around during the night, and the inevitable happens:
Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!” After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.” Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.” Matthew 26:69-75 (NIV)
This part of the passage is almost chilling to me. Consider the feeling of bitter sadness and utter shame as Peter realizes he broke the promise he made to Jesus and denied Him. The question I believe is natural to ask is, why would Jesus tell everyone that they will fall away? What is the reason Jesus would tell Peter he would deny Him when Judas is the one that was the
betrayer? Let’s think about the likely atmosphere in this room. Consider the utter disdain the disciples must have felt for Judas. Also, consider the fact that the disciples likely saw Judas as low and depraved. They may have even felt hatred for him. Maybe that is why Jesus decided to tell Peter and the others what He did. Maybe it is a message to them, and all of us. Peter thought he was above a certain level of sin, but he still denied Jesus. He did the very thing he said he would never do.
How does this relate to you and me? We all have those sins that we would “never” do. Maybe for you, you would “never” have sex before marriage. Maybe for you, you would “never” say that word that you hear others saying. Maybe for you, you would “never” cheat on a paper. What Jesus is communicating through this sobering story in Scripture is that none of us are above a certain sin. It is so easy to condemn based on what we would “never” do. But the truth is that we are all susceptible to giving in to Satan’s schemes and temptations.
The question to ask as you read this is, why is this reality important? First of all, the reality that we are all vulnerable to sin gives us humility and grace towards others. It takes away the ability or excuse to condemn. We are all fallen. We are all also given grace by Jesus. We are offered a relationship with Him. The disciples were all saying that they would “never” go to the level of Judas, but Jesus was telling them not to necessarily see themselves as immune.
Secondly, the knowledge of these vulnerabilities helps us walk in an awareness of what we let into our lives. The most dangerous place to be is in a mindset that says, “I would never do that” to sin. Jesus gave Peter an important lesson. Living in self-righteousness is a dangerous place. It is a place that Satan loves to work in. Resist the urge to think that you are above sinning like someone else.
The message I am giving right now is not one that should make you paranoid that you’ll make a mistake or scared of committing the worst sin ever. The message I hope you get is that we can all walk on level ground, knowing that we are vulnerable to temptation, but also that the grace of Jesus is powerful, and covers even the perceived “worst” sins. Walking on level ground is a place of humility. It is a knowledge that we do not have it all together. That knowledge is both freeing and empowering. It frees us from an expectation of perfection, and it empowers us to live lives fueled by grace, and reflective of the love of Christ. There is a powerful moment out of the Gospel of John that captures the grace of Jesus in this story. Jesus had already died for the sins of the world and came back to life. He comes and eats with the disciples, making an appearance to them before ascending into heaven. As they are eating, Jesus addresses Peter:
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?”He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep…” Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
John 21:15-19 (NIV)
This is such a beautiful passage. Peter denied Jesus three times, and in this moment, sitting over a meal much like that Last Supper, Jesus asks Peter three times if he loved Him. He tells him to feed the sheep, which Peter did. Peter went on to do many amazing things for Christ, eventually giving His life for His cause. The grace Peter was shown is so powerful, but it is not just set
aside for that day or that time in history. You see, as Peter denied Jesus that seemingly fateful night, Jesus was dying for him, and for us. Because of that, the same grace Peter was shown is also shown to you and me. As a result of that grace, we can feed His sheep and love with the same love that we have been shown. The love of Jesus leaves no room for self-righteousness. It only leads us to Him. So today, choose to walk in freedom, but also humility, because we all walk on level ground, and we are also all given grace that robbed the grave and defeated sin.