Matthew 26:31-46 March 2009

THE UNRELIABILITY OF HUMAN NATURE

I spoke last time about the fallibility and unreliability of human nature. Human nature even in the best of people will always let you down at some point and in this passage we see an example of this in the disciples who made such bold claims of what they would do for Jesus but when the crunch came they failed to live up to those claims.

Jeremiah 17:5 we read “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere human beings and rely on human strength.”

Even Jesus would not put His trust in human nature. In John 2 after Jesus had performed miracles many claimed to believe in Him, but it says in verse 24 “that Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew human nature. No one needed to tell him what mankind is really like.” He knew that most of those people who claimed to believe in Him would turn against Him when the going got tough.

Let’s look at this passage under 4 headings:

The Lord’s prediction

The disciples’ pride

The Lord’s struggle

The Disciples’ slip-up.

THE LORD’S PREDICTION v31-32

This took place on the night before Jesus was crucified and he said to His disciples, “This night everyone of you will desert me and disown me.”

And then Jesus quoted Zechariah 13:7 which is an amazing prophetic verse that can only apply to Jesus. This is how it reads in the Hebrew “Awake O sword against my shepherd, against the man who is one with me, the mighty man who is equal to me!” declares the Lord Almighty, “Strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered.”

Jesus knew that when faced with danger and death even the best of human beings will duck for cover. And He knew that human nature apart from the grace, the strength and the power of God is unreliable, faulty and will always let you down.

THE DISCIPLES PRIDE v33-35

Peter as usual was the first one to speak up and look at what he said, “All the others here might desert you, but I certainly will not.”

First of all, Peter contradicted Jesus. He was saying, “Jesus you are wrong. I know better.” And then he claimed to be better than the others, “Even if they all let you down, I will never let you down.”

Here was weak, faulty human nature making big, bold, boastful claims – I will never fail you, I will always remain true, you can count on me to be there for you 100%.

Most of us believers would like to believe that we would never let Jesus down, that when the tough times come we would be true to him in all circumstances. That we would never be ashamed or embarrassed about being associated with Him – we would like to believe that, but you and I know that it hasn’t always worked out like that.

There have been times when we have kept our Christian identity hidden because we were afraid of being rejected or ridiculed by others. There have been times when we haven’t spoken up for Jesus when the opportunity arose because we so wanted to be accepted by others and not appear different.

The truth is that too often we fear people more than we fear God.

Jesus who knew human nature so very well said to Peter, “This very night, within the next 6 hours, before the rooster crows, you will have denied and disowned me 3 times.”

Peter had a big lesson to learn that night – you can’t rely on fallen human nature, not even your own. Human nature no matter how well meaning, apart from God’s grace and God’s power will always let you down at some point.

That is why the church needs to be a redemptive, forgiving community, not a condemning community because we are all going to fail at some point. That is why Jesus told Peter he would need to forgive his brother 70 times 7, because Jesus knew his brother was going to let him down more than 7 times, he knew how fallible human nature is.

I feel really sad when Christians expect perfection from one another and make no allowances for our humanness.

I know of people who have left churches because of what some Christian did or didn’t do – “I expect better than that from Christians.” They quickly forget that they fail just as often and need forgiveness themselves.

A genuine follower of Jesus does not want to do wrong and does not set out to do wrong – but because we are human it happens. There are times we let ourselves down, we let God down and we let others down. And we feel really stink when we do – but that is why we need to come to cross regularly for forgiveness and restoration. 1 John 1:9.

And we believers need to extend that same forgiveness and restoration to each other.

Ill. Pastor and computer.

THE LORD’S STRUGGLE v36-39

When Jesus and His disciples arrived at the garden of Gethsemane, He took Peter, James and John into the garden with Him. The Bible says here He was so sad and deeply depressed and He shared His heart with them.

“My soul is so overwhelmed with sorrow, I am so depressed I just want to die.” Here we have Jesus making Himself vulnerable and transparent to His disciples.

Some Christians think that we should always appear to be on top of things, to have it all together. Some Christians think that to share their struggles and frailty is a sign of weakness.

Jesus did, and I am so glad He did, because the disciples recorded it. That means that when I am down and going through a hard time I can turn to One who knows exactly what its like to feel discouraged, depressed and sad.

Ill. I remember once when someone very close to me said something very hurtful and I felt deeply rejected. I turned to the Lord and said, “Lord, this really hurts. Do you know what it feels like to be rejected?” And immediately this scripture came to my mind. “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows who experienced the deepest grief.”

What was it that overwhelmed Him with sorrow and deep depression? First of can I say, we could never enter into the depths of His sorrow and grief.

I feel so terribly sad when I see the evil, horrible way people treat each other in this world, I feel deeply saddened by the way so many people treat God – reject Him, mock Him, deliberately break His moral laws and His loving heart.

Jesus felt all of that, but far, far more deeply than I ever could because He was God and this was never what He wanted or planned for the people He created.

It would be like a parent seeing the child they loved destroying their lives with alcohol, drugs and crime.

I believe that as Jesus walked this earth and was exposed to the godlessness and sinfulness of mankind He must have constantly cried inwardly because of how morally and spiritually low we have fallen. [A man of sorrows]

And because of that the only way He could set us free from the destructive power and damning consequences of our sin was for Him to take the full punishment and serve the full sentence for our sin on the cross – and the thought of that overwhelmed Him with deep, deep sorrow.

He would have to shoulder the responsibility for all the crimes and wrongs we have committed. He would have to experience guilt, shame, humiliation, condemnation, alienation from God. He who had never done a thing wrong in His entire existence would now be weighed down with the wrongs of all mankind. He would be falsely accused, unjustly tried and sentenced to death like a common criminal. This is God I am speaking about – no wonder He was overwhelmed with sorrow and deep depression.

And He told Peter, James and John to keep watch while He went a little farther and prayed.

Hebrews 5:7 tells us that He prayed with loud crying and tears.” Luke tells us that His anguish was so intense the blood capillaries on His face burst.

“Father, if it is possible, take this cup of suffering from me. Yet not what I want, but what you want.”

Three times Jesus pleaded with His Father, begging Him not to have to go through with the cross and finally He accepted God’s will. As Jesus persisted in prayer He was able with God’s help to fully accept God’s will.

There is a great lesson about prayer here. Listen carefully.

Prayer is not trying to get God to do what we want.

Prayer is:

1. Spending time in God’s presence until we know what He wants.

2. Then working through our own inner resistance and reticence until we can accept what he wants.

3. Then praying in line with what He wants.

4. Then praying for the strength and resources to carry it through.

When you really get into prayer and start listening to God with your Bible open – you will soon discover what God wants, and then comes the struggle. “Lord I believe this is what you want me to do, but I’m struggling here – perhaps I have other desires and plans, perhaps I am afraid, perhaps I am unwilling to pay the price.

Lord, please help me.

In Luke’s account of this event we read that God sent angel to strengthen Jesus.

If you really want to do God’s will but are having difficulty accepting what it may involve – continue to pray about it, keep hanging in there and he will help you work it through to that place of acceptance.

Hebrews 13:21 May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

THE DISCIPLES SLIP-UP 40-46

Now remember the disciples’ bold claims about supporting Jesus and not letting Him down. Here was the first test.

Jesus asked them to wait, watch and pray.

He opened His heart to Peter, James and John, took them into His confidence and shared His inner struggle with them. They would have heard Him pleading with God and crying and how did they support him? They fell asleep.

Imagine going to a counsellor with some really serious problems and pouring out your heart to them and then discovering that they had dropped off to sleep while you were talking.

Three times Jesus went to His disciples looking for support in His hour of greatest need and each time they weren’t there for Him, they were asleep.

And Jesus said to Peter, the guy who had made the biggest claims of loyalty, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak!”

Before the night was over Peter was going to face a number of temptations and they would all be related to His bold claim never to disown or deny Jesus.

Peter, you cant keep that promise of loyalty in your own strength, you cant resist the temptation to give into fear in your own strength – You may want to be faithful to me in all circumstances but the weak, sinful urges in your own body will bring you down.

The only way you can remain strong in the face of temptation is to stay alert and keep your communication lines with God constantly open.

In the garden Jesus was tempted to avoid the cross – how did he overcome the temptation. He immediately turned to God and prayed persistently until God strengthened Him to over come the temptation.

Peter felt he could handle it on his own, in his own strength and before the night was over he had blown it.

His intentions were noble, but he relied on His own human nature, his own good intentions, his own human resources and they failed him badly – as they inevitably do.

I have pointed out before that when we become followers of Jesus, God’s Spirit enters our lives and our spirits are reborn and recreated and on the inside we are new people with new attitudes, new desires, new loves. But we still have these old bodies. We don’t get the new bodies until Jesus comes back.

These old bodies are part of this fallen world that has been infected and corrupted by sin – so they still have all the weak and sinful tendencies in them. That is why as believers we long to please and obey God with our spirit, but we feel these sinful and weak urges in our bodies pulling us in the opposite direction.

Paul speaks of this in Romans 7:15 “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.” Can you identify with that?

There are times when I set out to please God and do what is right but I end up doing the opposite.

I used to wonder why God has allowed this situation to exist in my life. Why have you given me a new spirit, this new spiritual life within me but left me in my old body with all these weak and sinful tendencies? – To teach me to constantly depend on God, look to God, rely on God, because apart from Him I can do nothing and without His strength and my power I will crash every time.

If that is the case then prayer is not just something we do for a few minutes each day, it is continually looking to God, depending on God, trusting in God, keeping the lines of communication open with God for all the resources He can give for each situation.

It is very hard to give into temptation when you are focussing on God in prayer.

Paul would say I can’t do it on my own, but [Philippians 4:13] “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” On my own I will be defeated every time but [1 Corinthians 15:57] “thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

This passage began with the disciples boldly proclaiming their loyalty, support and devotion to Jesus and ended with them deeply disappointing Him in His hour of need.

Before the night was over these men had disappointed, defected, deserted and denied Jesus.

And yet there is tremendous word of hope and encouragement in this passage and it is found in verse 32, When Jesus had predicted their defection and desertion he said, “After I have been raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there.”

“You are going to disappoint me, desert me and disown me, but I will still come back for you.”

I get so disappointed in myself when I let the Lord down and I have to say that I have let Him down many times and yet I truly want to please Him and do His will. I pray constantly that God would use me for His purposes to bring glory to His name and then I go and blow it by failing Him at some point and I think, “Can God still use me? Have I let Him down once too often?”

And then I look at these disciples – they deeply disappointed Him, defected, deserted and denied Him in His greatest hour of need and yet He came back for them and forgave them, restored them, filled them and empowered them with His Spirit and entrusted them with the work of His Kingdom.

If He did that with them, there is hope me and there is hope for you.

Communion.

Read Adrian Plass.

Lets come and bring all our rubbish, our failures, mistakes, disappointments, blunders, sins, our shameful acts, words and thoughts, our broken promises – bring them to the cross of Jesus, to the One who promised to get rid of them for good.

Come a receive forgiveness, restorations and renewal.