Today’s reading recounts the events of the last few days of Jesus’ life on Earth: His run-ins with the religious elite, the last Passover meal, the betrayal, mock trials, and His crucifixion and resurrection.
One of the things that always draws my attention in this story is the response of the disciples. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ; I am a follower of Jesus, just as the original disciples in this story. For that reason, I often find myself identifying with their perspective.
In this story, I’m struck with how much confidence the disciples have in themselves, and how little confidence Jesus has in them. After the Passover meal and the clear prediction of His upcoming betrayal and murder, Jesus declares, “You will all fall away”. Jesus knows them. He knows their fickle hearts and the weakness of their flesh. He knows that they will not stand strong, but will buckle at the first sign of trouble. But the disciples do not know this. Instead, we see their strongest (their leader), demonstrating a very high level of confidence in his ability to stay faithful and true to Jesus no matter what level of violence results.
Clearly, Jesus’ low esteem of the disciples resolve to remain true to Him was correct, and the disciples’ high esteem of themselves was not. They all did indeed “fall away”.
In the subsequent scene, Jesus explains why,
“The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak”
We often convince ourselves of the exact opposite. We develop a high degree of confidence in our own abilities. We trust ourselves to make the right decision and to stand firm against the onslaught of temptation.
Our trust is woefully misplaced.
We are not to be trusted. The moment we begin to trust ourselves to make the right decisions or to remain faithful when the heat is turned up, is the moment we are most vulnerable to falling into sin and practically denying the Lordship of Jesus Christ over our lives. What is our track record in these situations? Should we really think that we will be standing firm on our own?
Jesus didn’t think so. Jesus knew the disciples would fall away, and they did. Jesus also knows that if I put my confidence in my flesh, that I will fall away from Him as well….I will likewise deny Him. For this reason, we must take the counsel of the apostle Paul who said,
“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Rom 13:14, ESV)
Let us learn to be suspicious of the evil and impure motivations of our flesh. Let us learn to stop trusting ourselves to do the right thing (and not do the wrong thing). Instead of trusting self, let us “put on the Lord Jesus Christ”, and trust in Him alone. In Christ alone will we find the strength and resolve to stand firm in the face of persecution and temptation.