“You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written:
“‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.’[d]
28 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”
29 Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.”
30 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice[e] you yourself will disown me three times.”
31 But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the others said the same.
I don’t think a person can lose their salvation, but I do think a person can fall away in a couple of different ways. I do not think that a true follower of Jesus can fall away and be happy they have done so. There is a discomfort and a chill in knowing Jesus and then living as though he did not exist. It is just a principle of relationship. To deny that you know someone who you have claimed to love is not a comfortable place to be. If you have let the relationship slip in importance, you constantly know that you need to address the condition of that relationship and I believe someone who truly belongs to Jesus may have a season of estrangement, but it could never be permanent. The second way for a person to fall away, is for the facade of a false relationship to fall away. We can see all the time people who claimed to have ‘been’ Christian because they prayed a prayer at some point in childhood live now as though Jesus does not exist. Such people do not have a prick on their conscience because the truth is that they never really had anything qualifying as a daily relationship with Jesus at all. They had Jesus as an idea or they accepted Jesus so that he would grant them all the things that they wanted in life. Jesus was never meant to come cap in hand to us, or to serve as merely an idea. It is easy for relationships based in selfish ends and false relationships just to melt away like the morning mist in the rising sun.
Despite their many protestations of friendship, the disciples’ relationship had not been sealed by the Spirit. They had a misguided view of Jesus and still believed him to be a revolutionary king who would serve each of their needs. Some would fight for Jesus for a moment in the Garden of Gethsemane, but ultimately no-one was yet connected to Jesus with a cord that could not be cut or taken away. It would take the resurrection and the coming of the Spirit to create martyrs. Each of us does not know how we would fare in the ultimate test. Would our faith be shown as a shallow affair or would it be shown to be deep and enduring? We should pray that we would have the faith to endure persecution and hardship for the sake of our relationship with Jesus, but the surest defence against deserting Jesus is to embrace him with a deeper and searching understanding; to submit to him with a selfless obedience and a self-denying devotion. Then, like any lover whose love demands the ultimate sacrifice, we may have the strength of relationship required to give our all.
I can’t say that if all fell away on account of you I would be there. There are uncomfortable times when I have lived as though I didn’t know you. I didn’t know how to develop a relationship that would endure because I did not know how to develop a relationship at all. Now I pray that you would not let me go. I pray that you would not let me be one who falls away in times of trial. May my faith be cultivated so that it is eternal.
- What does Jesus claim will happen after this moment in the story?
- What do all the disciples claim?
- Why do suffering disciples of Jesus in the first century need to hear these words?
- Have you see sincere followers of Jesus struggle in times of trial? How did they endure?
- How can you cultivate a relationship that has a chance to endure the worst hardships?