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Peter’s Denial Foretold
31 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters because of me this night; for it is written,
‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’
The Apostles' Cowardice Foretold.
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.
We have here Christ's discourse with his disciples upon the way, as they were going to the mount of Olives. Observe,
I. A prediction of the trial which both he and his disciples were now to go through. He here foretels,
1. A dismal scattering storm just arising, v. 31.
(1.) That they should all be offended because of Christ that very night; that is, they would all be so frightened with the sufferings, that they would not have the courage to cleave to him in them, but would all basely desert him; Because of me this night, en emoi en te nykti taute—because of me, even because of this night; so it might be read; that is, because of what happens to me this night. Note, [1.] Offences will come among the disciples of Christ in an hour of trial and temptation; it cannot be but they should, for they are weak; Satan is busy; God permits offences; even they whose hearts are upright may sometimes be overtaken with an offence. [2.] There are some temptations and offences, the effects of which are general and universal among Christ's disciples; All you shall be offended. Christ had lately discovered to them the treachery of Judas; but let not the rest be secure; though there will be but one traitor, they will be all deserters. This he saith, to alarm them all, that they might all watch. [3.] We have need to prepare for sudden trials, which may come to extremity in a very little time. Christ and his disciples had eaten their supper well together in peace and quietness; yet that very night proved such a night of offence. How soon may a storm arise! We know not what a day, or a night, may bring forth, nor what great event may be in the teeming womb of a little time, Prov. xxvii. 1. [4.] The cross of Christ is the great stumbling-block to many that pass for his disciples; both the cross he bore for us (1 Cor. i. 23), and that which we are called out to bear for him, ch. xvi. 24.
(2.) That herein the scripture would be fulfilled; I will smite the Shepherd. It is quoted from Zech. xiii. 7. [1.] Here is the smiting of the Shepherd in the sufferings of Christ. God awakens the sword of his wrath against the Son of his love, and he is smitten. [2.] The scattering of the sheep, thereupon, in the flight of the disciples. When Christ fell into the hands of his enemies, his disciples ran, one one way and another another; it was each one's care to shift for himself, and happy he that could get furthest from the cross.
2. He gives them the prospect of a comfortable gathering together again after this storm (v. 32); "After I am risen again, I will go before you. Though you will forsake me, I will not forsake you; though you fall, I will take care you shall not fall finally: we shall have a meeting again in Galilee, I will go before you, as the shepherd before the sheep." Some make the last words of that prophecy (Zech. xiii. 7), a promise equivalent to this here; and I will bring my hand again to the little ones. There is no bringing them back but by bringing his hand to them. Note, The captain of our salvation knows how to rally his troops, when, through their cowardice, they have been put into disorder.
II. The presumption of Peter, that he should keep his integrity, whatever happened (v. 33); Though all men be offended, yet will I never be offended. Peter had a great stock of confidence, and was upon all occasions forward to speak, especially to speak for himself; sometimes it did him a kindness, but at other times it betrayed him, as it did here. Where observe,
1. How he bound himself with a promise, that he would never be offended in Christ; not only not this night, but at no time. If this promise had been made in a humble dependence upon the grace of Christ, it had been an excellent word. Before the Lord's supper, Christ's discourse led his disciples to examine themselves with, Lord, is it I? For that is our preparatory duty; after the ordinance, his discourse leads them to an engaging of themselves to close walking, for that is the subsequent duty.
2. How he fancied himself better armed against temptation than any one else, and this was his weakness and folly; Though all men shall be offended yet will not I. This was worse than Hazael's, What! is thy servant a dog? For he supposed the thing to be so bad, that no man would do it. But Peter supposes it possible that some, nay that all, might be offended, and yet he escape better than any. Note, It argues a great degree of self-conceit and self-confidence, to think ourselves either safe from the temptations, or free from the corruptions, that are common to men. We should rather say, If it be possible that others may be offended, there is danger that I may be so. But it is common for those who think too well of themselves, easily to admit suspicions of others. See Gal. vi. 1.
III. The particular warning Christ gave Peter of what he would do, v. 34. He imagined that in the hour of temptation he should come off better than any of them, and Christ tells him that he should come off worse. The warning is introduced with a solemn asseveration; "Verily, I say unto thee; take my word for it, who know thee better than thou knowest thyself." He tells him,
1. That he should deny him. Peter promised that he would not be so much as offended in him, not desert him; but Christ tells him that he will go further, he will disown him. He said, "Though all men, yet not I;" and he did it sooner than any.
2. How quickly he should do it; this night, before to-morrow, nay, before cock-crowing. Satan's temptations are compared to darts (Eph. vi. 16), which wound ere we are aware; suddenly doth he shoot. As we know not how near we may be to trouble, so we know not how near we may be to sin; if God leave us to ourselves, we are always in danger.
3. How often he should do it; thrice. He thought that he should never once do such a thing; but Christ tells him that he would do it again and again; for, when once our feet begin to slip, it is hard to recover our standing again. The beginnings of sin are as the letting forth of water.
IV. Peter's repeated assurances of his fidelity (v. 35); Though I should die with thee. He supposed the temptation strong, when he said, Though all men do it, yet will not I. But here he supposeth it stronger, when he puts it to the peril of life; Though I should die with thee. He knew what he should do—rather die with Christ than deny him, it was the condition of discipleship (Luke xiv. 26); and he thought what he would do—never be false to his Master whatever it cost him; yet, it proved, he was. It is easy to talk boldly and carelessly of death at a distance; "I will rather die than do such a thing:" but it is not so soon done as said, when it comes to the setting-to, and death shows itself in its own colours.
What Peter said the rest subscribed to; likewise also said all the disciples. Note, 1. There is a proneness in good men to be over-confident of their own strength and stability. We are ready to think ourselves able to grapple with the strongest temptations, to go through the hardest and most hazardous services, and to bear the greatest afflictions for Christ; but it is because we do not know ourselves. 2. Those often fall soonest and foulest that are most confident of themselves. Those are least safe that are most secure. Satan is most active to seduce such; they are most off their guard, and God leaves them to themselves, to humble them. See 1 Cor. x. 12.