Matthew 26:33
Peter said to Him, "Even if all fall away on account of You, I never will."
Sermons
JudasMarcus Dods Matthew 26:14-25, 47-50
Strength and WeaknessJ.A. Macdonald Matthew 26:31-35
Dangers of ImpulsivenessAnalyst., A. Barnes, D. DMatthew 26:33-35
Enthusiasm and its DangersCanon Liddon.Matthew 26:33-35
Fickleness of the Human HeartScriver.Matthew 26:33-35
HawthorneMatthew 26:33-35
Lie Following LieF. Jacox.Matthew 26:33-35
Peter's Self-ConfidenceJ. H. Smith.Matthew 26:33-35
Protesting Too MuchF. Jacox.Matthew 26:33-35
Truth not in Need of an OathOwen Feltharn.Matthew 26:33-35
After the admonitory incident of the last Passover, which separated the unhappy Iscariot from the apostleship, Jesus, journeying with the eleven towards the Mount of Olives, proceeded to caution them against the weakness which he discerned in them. He is not our truest friend who conceals from us our faults.

I. IN JESUS WE SEE THE ENSHRINEMENT OF DIVINE STRENGTH.

1. In his all-comprehensive knowledge.

(1) What was "written" was perfectly familiar to him. He was supremely "mighty in the Scriptures." The "Sword of the Spirit" is a trusty weapon, both for defence in parrying the thrusts of Satan and for offence in putting the armies of the aliens to the rout.

(2) He knew himself to be the "Shepherd" of Israel. That Shepherd is Jehovah (see Psalm 23:1; Psalm 80:1). That Shepherd is Messiah (see Isaiah 40:11; Ezekiel 34:23; Zechariah 13:7). Jesus identifies himself as that glorious Personage (see John 10:11; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 5:4). As the Shepherd here is the "Fellow" of the "Lord of hosts," he only can be intended who is "equal with God."

(3) He knew everything about his sheep. He could foretell the incident of the denial by Peter. He could oppose the limit before the second cock-crowing of that night to Peter's "never." He could forecast his desertion by "all." He knows us infinitely better than we know ourselves.

(4) Knowledge is power. Perfect knowledge can never be taken at a disadvantage. It cannot be surprised. It has boundless resources.

2. In his all-enduring compassion.

(1) With what patience does he endure the unfaithfulness of his disciples! Though he knew they would desert him, yet does he not spurn them from his presence. His kind heart can see, even in the excess of their self-confidence, a sincere and warm affection. The case is different from that of Judas. His sin was deliberate; Peter's was a sin of surprise. That of Judas arose from the state of his heart; the act of Peter was against his habitual feelings and principles. Though he foresaw that all the disciples would leave him to tread the winepress alone, his gentleness made no rejoinder to their protestations of devotion to him even to the death.

(2) The Shepherd submits to be smitten for the sheep. For himself he had no need to die. The formidableness of that "sword" of Divine justice now "awaking" from its slumber of forbearance was fully in his view. He saw the malignity of those human hands into which it was given to be wielded against him. Yet did he not seek to evade its edge. He could already see those "wounds in his hands" with which he was to be "wounded in the house of his friends" (see Zechariah 13:6). He could have avoided them; but his sheep must be redeemed.

(3) The "scattered" ones must again be gathered into their fold. To this end the smitten Shepherd must rise again from the dead. "But after I am raised up I will go before you into Galilee." This implies that he would deliver himself out of the hands of his enemies and theirs. "I will go before you," equivalent to "I will bring my hand again to the little ones" (see Zechariah 13:7). "I will go before you," viz. as the Shepherd before his gathered flock (see John 10:4). "Into Galilee." He even mentioned the particular hill which was to be the place of their meeting (see Matthew 28:16).

(4) We have "strong consolation" in the "mercy" which "endureth forever."

II. IN THE DISCIPLES WE SEE AN EMBODIMENT OF WEAKNESS,

1. Their weakness appears in their self-confidence.

(1) Peter had more faith in himself than he had in the Scriptures of God. They anticipated the offence which the sheep were to take when the Shepherd should be smitten. In the face of this Peter said, "If all shall be offended in thee, I will never be offended." It is easy to talk boldly and carelessly of death at a distance.

(2) "If all shall be offended." Those who think too well of themselves are apt to be suspicious of others (see Galatians 6:1).

(3) Peter's self-confidence grew with his unbelief. For when Jesus said unto him," Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. Peter saith unto him, Even it I must die with thee, yet will I not deny thee." He should have been diffident in respect to words which never failed when the most stupendous miracles depended on them.

(4) The foremost in self-confidence are the first to fall. Such was the case with Peter. Then -

"Beware of Peter's word,
Nor confidently say,
I never will deny thee, Lord,
But, 'Grant I never may.'

Man's wisdom is to seek
His strength in God alone;
And e'en an angel would be weak
Who trusted in his own."

2. Their weakness appears in their unbelief.

(1) They could see that Jesus was in peril of his life. This they inferred rather from their knowledge of the hostility of the rulers than from their faith in the Scriptures of prophecy or from the prophetic words of Christ. They could not see who it was that was in peril. Had they seen the Father in the Son, the peril would not have affrighted them. Note: Offences will come among the disciples of Jesus in times of peril. The cross of Christ is evermore the stumbling block (1 Corinthians 1:23). Satan is busy when our faith is weak.

(2) They could not see what it truly is to die with Christ. To die with him is to die to self and the world - voluntarily to crucify our entire evil nature. Because, for lack of faith, they were unprepared thus to die with Jesus, they "forsook him, and fled." The heart can await the hour of temptation when the truth is rooted in it.

(3) They could not see that their Lord would rise again from the dead. This unbelief was not for want of being told about the Resurrection, either by the prophets or by Christ himself. They were foolish in the slowness of their hearts to believe (see Luke 24:25, 26). Had they understood and realized the resurrection of Christ on the third day after his Passion, their faith would have steadied them (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:58).

(4) If all the apostles forsook their Lord, who has not reason to fear? Did not the apostles represent all the flock which they were afterwards to bring together? Who can boast? The Lord permits us to be tried, that we may see ourselves as we are, and be humbled by our experience. The strength of pride is but for a moment. - J.A.M.







Though all men shall be offended because of Thee, yet will I never be offended.
I. THE CONFIDENCE OF INEXPERIENCE, AIDED BY LACK OF IMAGINATION. How often is this repeated before our eyes! Castles in the air are built by inexperienced virtue, to be demolished, alas! at the first touch of the realities of vice. The country lad who has been brought up in a Christian home, and is coming up to some great business house in London, makes vigorous protestations of what he will, and will not, do in a sphere of life, of the surroundings of which he can, as yet, form no true idea whatever; the emigrant, who is looking forward to spend his days in a young colony, where the whole apparatus of Christian and civilized life is as yet in its infancy, or is wanting altogether, makes plans of a situation, of which he cannot at all as yet, from the nature of the case, take the measure; the candidate for holy orders, who anticipates his responsibilities from afar, gathering them from books and from intercourse with clergymen, makes resolutions which he finds have to be revised by the light of altogether unforeseen experiences.

II. AN INSUFFICENT SENSE OF THE POWER OF NEW FORMS OF TEMPTATION. A man living in a comparatively private position is exemplary. His little failures do but serve to set forth the sterling worth of his general character. He seems to be marked out for some promotion. All predict that he will be a great success, since he has shown on a small scale excellencies which will certainly distinguish him, and will adorn a larger sphere. He is promoted, and he turns out a hopeless failure. "How extraordinary!" cries out the world. "Who could have anticipated this?" exclaim his friends. And yet the explanation may be a very simple one. He may have been brought, by the change of circumstances, for the first time in his life, under the influence of a temptation hitherto unknown to him. He may have been tempted in his earlier years by appeals to avarice, illicit desires, or personal vanity; but never, as yet, has he felt the pressure of the fear of man. In that place of prominence he, for the first time, feels the fear of a mass of human opinion which he does not in his conscience and his heart respect, but which he fears only because it is a mass. And this fear is too much for him, too much for his sense of justice, too much for his consistency and his former self. Alas! that new temptation has found a weak place in his moral nature; it has sprung a leak in him; and the disappointment is as keen to-day as the expectations of yesterday were unduly sanguine.

III. ST. PETER'S OVER-CONFIDENCE WOULD SEEK TO HAVE BEEN DUE IN PART TO HIS NATURAL TEMPERAMENT, AND TO HIS RELIANCE ON IT. A sanguine impetuosity was the basis of his character. In this instance, there was probably a mixture of these dispositions — genuine love of our Lord, stirred to vehemence by the recent defection of Judas, combined with eagerness, the product of temperament. The exact proportions of the combinations we know not; but, at any rate, nature had more to do with his language than grace. And while grace is trustworthy in times of trial, nature may be expected to give way. An instance of this confusion between grace and nature is to be found in the enthusiasm which led to the Crusades. No well-informed and fair-minded man can question the genuine love of our Lord Jesus Christ, which filled such men as Peter the Hermit, and still more that great teacher and writer, St. Bernard. They exerted, these men, some seven centuries ago, an influence upon the populations of Central Europe, to which the modern world affords absolutely no sort of parallel, and at their voice thousands of men, in all ranks of life, left their homes to rescue, if it might be, the sacred soil on which the Redeemer had lived and died, from the hands of the infidel. Who can doubt that of these not a few were animated by a love which is always noble — that of giving the best they had to give from their lives to the God who had made and redeemed them. But alas! who can doubt that many, perhaps a larger multitude, were really impelled by very different considerations which gathered round this central idea, and seemed to receive from it some sort of consecration, and that a love of adventure, a love of reputation, a desire to escape from the troublous times at home, the ambitious hope of acquiring influence or power which might be of use elsewhere than in Palestine, which might found or consolidate a dynasty, also entered into the sum of moral forces, which precipitated the crusading hosts on the coasts of Syria? And how many a crusader could analyse, with any approach to accuracy, the motives which swayed him in an enterprise where there was, indeed, so much of the smoke and dust of earth to obscure the love and light of heaven?

IV. THE LESSON'S TO BE LEANT FROM THIS EVENT.

1. Estimate enthusiasm at its proper value. It is the glow of the soul; the lever by which men are raised above their average level and enterprise, and become capable of a goodness and benevolence which would otherwise be beyond them.

2. Measure well our religious language, especially the language of fervour and devotion. When religious language outruns practice or conviction, the general character is weakened. If Peter had said less as they left the supper-room, he might have done better afterwards in the hall of the palace of the high priest.

(Canon Liddon.)

In a vessel filled with muddy water, the thickness visibly subsides to the bottom, and leaves the water purer and clearer, until at last it seems perfectly limpid. The slightest motion, however, brings the sediment again to the top, and makes the water thick and turbid as before. Here we have an emblem of the human heart. The heart is full of the mud of sinful lusts and carnal desires, and the consequence is, that no pure water — that is, good and holy thoughts — can flow from it. It is, in truth, a miry pit and slough of sin, in which all sorts of ugly reptiles are bred and crawl. Many a one, however, is deceived by it, and never imagines his heart half so wicked as it really is, because at times its lusts are at rest, and sink, as it were, to the bottom. On such occasions his thoughts appear to be holy and devout, his desires pure and temperate, his words charitable and edifying, and his works useful and Christian. But this lasts only so long as he is not moved; I mean, so long as he is without opportunity or incitement to sin. Let that occur, and worldly lusts rise so thick that his whole thoughts, words, and works show no trace of anything but slime and impurity. This man is meek as long as he is not thwarted; but cross him, and he is like powder, ignited by the smallest spark, and blazing up with a loud report and destructive force. Another is temperate so long as he has no social companions; a third chaste, while the eyes of men are upon him.

(Scriver.)

Analyst., A. Barnes, D. D.
I. Prone to over-estimate self, and underrate others — "though all men — yet not I."

II. Natural instability — frequent reactions — can do, but not wait.

III. Violence and rapidity of its changes.

IV. Readiness with which it takes its character from immediately surrounding circumstances. Learn:

1. Let the cool and prudent be gentle in judging of the more fiery.

2. Let the impulsive take warning from this example.

3. Let the man who repents some sin of haste, take encouragement and hope.

(Analyst.)

I. No strength of attachment to Jesus can justify such confident promises of fidelity, made without dependence upon Him.

II. That all promises to adhere to Him should be made relying on Him for aid.

III. That we little know how feeble we are till we are tried.

IV. That Christians may be left to great and disgraceful sins to show them their weakness.

(A. Barnes, D. D.)

It is a common remark that in the absence of danger all men are heroes. Self-distrust does not enter into our calculations. Presuming upon the strength and permanence of present emotion, we hurl defiance at danger, and challenge circumstances to shake our magnanimity. Peter was not alone in this boast, but his conduct was marked by a more signal exhibition, both of self-confidence and of frailty, than that of his fellow-disciples. Fully, however, to estimate his fall —

I. Look at some of THE CONCOMITANT CIRCUMSTANCES by which his offence was aggravated.

1. He was one of the three disciples whom Jesus honoured with a peculiar intimacy.

2. He appears to have had an earlier and a stronger conviction of our Saviour's Messiahship than his brother disciples (Matthew 16:13-17).

3. The particular crisis at which his offence was committed. Almost immediately after another of the twelve had betrayed Him, and when, humanly speaking, his Master stood most in need of his support.

II. These facts serve to illustrate the extent of his self-deception, and to impress more forcibly this most important lesson, that No REASONABLE DEPENDENCE IS TO BE PLACED ON OUR MERE UNTRIED FEELINGS AND RESOLUTIONS; BUT THAT THE ONLY SATISFACTORY EVIDENCE WE CAN POSSESS OF THE GENUINENESS AND STABILITY OF OUR RELIGIOUS PRINCIPLES, IS THAT WHICH OUR CONDUCT AFFORDS. When Peter protested his fidelity, his constancy had not been put to the test. His character rendered him in an especial degree liable to this species of self-deception, still, his case may be selected as a striking illustration of the fallaciousness of mere untried feelings and resolutions, as a satisfactory evidence of religious character, and of the folly and danger of trusting to them as any security for future conduct. Few things are more common. Let us not mistake passion for principle (John 14:21; 1 John 5:3).

(J. H. Smith.)

When the subtle and ambitious John, of Gischala, pursuing his own dark course, as it is traced in the "History of the Jews," joined outwardly the party of Arianus, and was active beyond others in council and camp, he yet kept up a secret correspondence with the Zealots, to whom be betrayed all the movements of the assailants. "To conceal this secret he redoubled his assiduities, and became so extravagant in his protestations of fidelity to Arianus and his party, that he completely overacted his part, and incurred suspicion." His intended dupes began gradually to look with a jealous eye on their too obsequious, most obedient, and most devoted servant.

(F. Jacox.)

remarks that Italian asseverations of any questionable fact, though uttered with rare earnestness of manner, never vouch for themselves as coming from any depth, like roots drawn out of the substance of the soul, with some of the soil clinging to them. Their energy expends itself in exclamation. The vaulting ambition of their hyperboles overleaps itself, and falls on the other side.

Reality cares not to be tricked out with too taking an outside; and deceit, when she intends to cozen, studies disguise. Least of all should we be taken with swearing asseverations. Truth needs not the varnish of an oath to make her plainness credited.

(Owen Feltharn.)

Lie engenders lie. Once committed, the liar has to go on in his course of lying. It is the penalty of his transgression, or one of the penalties. To the habitual liar, bronzed and hardened in the custom, till custom becomes second nature, the penalty may seem no very terrible price to pay. To him, on the other hand, who, without deliberate intent, and against his innermost will, is overtaken with such a fault, the generative power of a first lie to beget others, the necessity of supporting the first by a second and a third, is a retribution keenly to be felt, while penitently owned to be most just.

(F. Jacox.)

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