Then Jesus said to them, “Tonight all of you will run away because of Me, for it is written: I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered. But after I have been resurrected, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.”
Peter told Him, “Even if everyone runs away because of You, I will never run away! ”
“I assure you,” Jesus said to him, “tonight, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times! ”
“Even if I have to die with You,” Peter told Him, “I will never deny You! ” And all the disciples said the same thing. (Matthew 26:31-35 HCSB)
You Will Run Away
Jesus knew what was going to happen. There was no doubt in his mind. He predicted his betrayal. He predicted his abandonment by the very men closest to Him. He predicted His resurrection. And He predicted their reunion in Galilee.
Jesus knew what was going to happen. He knew they would run alway. When He told them, the disciples couldn't accept this. They flatly told Jesus He was wrong, that no matter what, they would stick by His side–even to death.
Even though we are blinded by our capacity to abandon the very God we emphatically say we live to serve, Jesus knows us–every single part. He knows His plans risk our running away. We want to believe we are willing to follow Jesus, to sacrifice everything, but God's plan and our plans conflict.
His plans include words like:
- love your enemy
- submit to one another
- lay down your life
- forgive as I have forgiven you.
- Loving an enemy sounds good and fine until an enemy wrecks our life.
- Submission is easy until we don't fully agree.
- Laying down your life is something we can sing about in church, but it is harder when that includes laying down the life we envisioned in exchange for the one He has given as His plan.
- Forgive as I have forgiven you is hard on all fronts–especially when the wounds cut deeply. We all know the pain we feel, but we can never fully comprehend the suffering of Christ on our behalf. I wonder if we could bear knowing the full measure of our own depravity. Most of the time, I am quite content pointing a finger and completely miss the ugliness of my thoughts, words, and actions. I justify sin and miss the real meaning of “as I forgave you.”
When the sacrifice is something other than what we planned, we are apt to run. God knows, but His plan remains. In the garden, He gave us a clue on how not to run.
Going a little farther, He fell facedown and prayed, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39 HCSB)
If you cannot lay down your will, as Jesus did, you will run away when your will and His will clashes. It is impossible for us to do as Jesus did apart from the inner working of the Holy Spirit.
What shocks me is Jesus' plan for them afterward. He knew what they would do (fail miserably), and He knew what He was going to do after the resurrection.
He goes ahead
Jesus knew what was going to happen. He knew they would run alway. When He told them, the disciples couldn't accept the message. I wonder at what point the disciples pieced together the conversation in the upper room. At what point did they remember and understand? Peter remembered–after the rooster crowed the third time–but did he understand? We know there is a point when the scattered sheep stopped scattering and then came back together. I wonder what hope it gave them that He would be there ahead of them.
When we fall apart, when we cut and run, when we desert, Jesus is already ahead of us. He is ready to restore and redeem. Jesus already planned ahead for our failures–on the cross. He already planned for our frailty–by sending the Holy Spirit.
He never runs away
We may run away from Him, but never runs away from us. The disciples ran away as their world came crashing down in front of their eyes, but Jesus never abandoned them. He told them what was going to happen, but He knew, in the face of the immense difficulty, they would fall apart. He didn't run from them. And when we fall apart, He doesn't run away from us.
What encouragement do you have knowing God doesn't run away from us?
I would give up on me. I am glad God doesn't. I find that encouraging.