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. (Matt. 26:31-35)
It is interesting to see what scripture Jesus is quoting. It comes from Zechariah 13:7:
Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.
If you take the time to look at the context of Zechariah 13, this verse comes in the middle of prophecies about the second coming of Christ. The context maeks it confusing, but evidently Jesus had such a firm testimony of His coming sacrifice that He knew exactly what it was about.
Of course, when He tells His disciples, they can’t imagine any of it happening, even though He’s told them a number of times He’d be killed. When He tells them they will be offended because of Him, they deny it.
This causes me to ask, “Why even tell them they will deny Him?” If He were a manipulative person, it would have been to bind them even closer to Him through their protestations, but He’s not manipulative, so that can’t be it. In some way it must actually benefit them.
The way they react with horror, we can see they think He means they will be permanently offended, but you can see that at the same time He warns them He also promises to lead them again to Galilee after He was risen. ("after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee") He was trying to show them that they were going to act in an aberrational manner because of what would happen to them and Him. He anticipated not only their self-preservational fear and scattering and Peter’s denials, but also He anticipated the shame and self-reproach that they would go through when they later considered their actions. He wanted to comfort them ahead of time that they would re-commit to be true. I think He hoped they wouldn’t cut themselves off from Christ, thinking He couldn’t forgive them.
Imagine if after He was resurrected, His disciples were reluctant to believe He could receive them because of their defection at His arrest? What if they left their callings forever because of feeling unworthy? I think that is precisely what Jesus hoped to avoid.
I think it also would help build their faith in Him because it showed He did know how the prophecies would be fulfilled, that He fulfilled them, so He was the Messiah. Even prophecies that seemed to show them in a bad light while He suffered would be fulfilled.
Many of us are hesitant to share unpleasant truths with our friends and family, but Jesus seems never to have shrunk from it. (I think His demonstrated love played a big part in that in anyone being able to receive those things.) His commitment to truth and His mission was paramount, and He always seemed to share those things in such a way as to benefit His listeners most.
What’s kind of sad is that any way you look at it, the way His disciples protested their faithfulness would be painful to Jesus when He know they wouldn’t hold out. It hurts to not be able to believe your friends. But if He let Himself believe them, it would be much worse because He’d find Himself watching them run away and feeling bitter, saying, “They said they would never be offended or deny me!”
Another thing this story shows is the human tendency to disbelieve warnings when they indicate imminent dangers that are a reversal of our experience. But our disbelief means we will be doomed to suffer for our lack of preparation unless we can have the faith to prepare for dangers we hadn’t ever imagined.
Also, this story makes me question how true to the Lord I can be. I can’t condemn the disciples because I, like them, don’t yet know to what extremities I shall be brought to prove my faithfulness. I do know, however, that if I am to make it through and remain true, it will be by relying on the Lord and not on my own strength.