Mark 14:27-31, 66-72
And Jesus said to them, All you shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd…
The painful declaration that the words of the prophet, "I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered abroad," would find their fulfillment in them, and in "All ye shall be offended," roused Peter's spirit, and with a bold but mistaken estimate of his own courage and devotion, he fearlessly, even presumptuously, affirmed, "Although all shall be offended, yet will not I." St. Luke has preserved for us words which throw much light upon the incident of Peter's fall, and upon the position which Peter held amongst the disciples: "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan asked to have you, that he might sift you as wheat: but I made supplication for thee, that thy faith fail not: and do thou, when once thou hast turned again, stablish thy brethren." So Satan, the enemy of man, the agent for testing his religious character, has made demand to put all the disciples into his sieve. Men sift wheat to reveal and separate the useless from among the valuable - the bad from the good. Such is the good end of temptation. Brought to bear upon the great Master himself, it was powerless. He could say, "The prince of the world cometh: and he hath nothing in me." There was no chaff mingled with that pure grain. Assailing Judas - alas! how little of any thing but husk! In Peter how strange a mixture! In each of us? Peter, warned by the first prophetic admonition, by the parabolic words of Jesus, and by the yet more definite assurance that ere "the cock crow twice thou shalt deny me thrice," repeats his boast of fidelity with an emphasis, "If I must die with thee, I will not deny thee." The sieve is ready. Peter is accosted by a woman, "one of the maids of the high priest." "Thou also wast with the Nazarene, even Jesus." The story is well known, and needs not to be repeated. The word of Jesus found its exact fulfillment. "Thrice" did he deny, "and straightway the second time the cock crew." "And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter." It was enough; with broken heart he "went out, and wept bitterly?" Let us learn:
1. Our constant liability to be tempted to evil. Go where we will, temptation assails us. Amidst the blessedness of Eden or the sanctities of the temple, the tempter hides. The felicities of home, the marts of trade, the seclusions of contemplation, are all as open to the evil presence as to the air of heaven. Our steps are dogged, our life assailed. Surely for this - for such an exposure of the precious life-a sufficient justification can be adduced.
2. One end of temptation is to search out existing evil for its exposure and destruction. On the elevated plateau, over the hardened and smooth floor, the wheat is shaken from the sieve. The gentle winds blow aside the chaff, for which the consuming fire is prepared, and the pure grain falls to the ground. Peter little knew that cowardice and fear lay lurking beneath the folds of his dress; but temptation revealed them. As men pass the magnet through the metal dust to discover and separate the particles of iron from more precious metals, and those particles respond, leaping up to the attractive force; and as men test the strength of iron beams by means of heavy weights or blows; so the wily temptation tests the purity of our hearts and the strength of our principles, and draws forth the lurking evil, that, being exposed, it may be separated ere it ruins the whole life.
3. If by temptation a weakness or flaw is discovered, our wisdom is, by penitence and contrition, to return for recovery and healing. We may be sadder and humbler, but we shall be wiser. Happy for us if we have strength so to do, and not, Judas-like, in blank self-despair and self-disgust, sink to rise no more.
4. But a further lesson is to guard against those evils which are the especial cause of danger to our spiritual life. Each has his own especial liability. Peter's was not covetousness; Judas was not in danger from pride of power. Our danger is always as the amount of alloy in our character - the amount of chaff amongst the wheat.
5. Again, let us seek the removal of our own peculiar faults by the winnowing fan and purging fire of the Spirit, that we may not be exposed to the destructive surprises of sudden temptation.
6. An additional lessen is so to guard our spiritual life that the current of our thoughts be pure. How often a colored stream, or one holding earthy salts in solution, gives its own tint to the banks, or determines the growths on either side! Well also is it for us to separate from those habits of life which are condemned by any conviction of right.
7. The great lesson, on the surface of this incident, is the necessity for humility - that we beast not of our religion, that we presume not on our power; but, in lowly dependence on the strength of Divine grace, walk warily, watching lest we enter into temptation. - G.
Parallel VersesKJV: And Jesus saith unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.