Summary: Why did Jesus' disciples desert Him in His hour of need?
As Jesus hung on the cross, He saw the soldiers who had dismissed Him, the Romans who had tortured Him, and His own people who had rejected Him. But perhaps the response most troubling was that of His closest followers. With the exception of John, His disciples deserted Him. In His greatest hour of need, they were nowhere to be seen. When things got hard the disciples deserted Him.
It was one thing for the crowd to turn against Jesus, but where were the disciples? Nowhere to be found. Their response to Jesus changed when life got hard. When life gets hard what do you do with Jesus? Let’s see what we can learn from the disciples’ stories.
1. The Disciples’ Story - Matthew 26:36-46
A. Fatigue - Jesus asked His disciples to pray. But after a big meal and a long day they began to zone out. He asked them to pray, and they tried, but they just couldn’t do it. When Jesus requested their prayers, they wanted to comply, but they were too tired.
Have you ever felt so tired that you couldn’t stay awake? Maybe during an interview with someone, or perhaps with a date during a movie. Maybe you had a class where you just couldn’t keep your eyes open. Maybe it was a more recent time . . . like right now.
“The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” - Matthew 26:41 (NIV)
Often, our intentions are good, but we’re too tired to do what we know we should. Instead of thirty minutes in prayer; we spend thirty minutes watching TV. We intend to wake up early to read the Bible, but we hit the snooze button. Sometimes we desert Christ because of fatigue. And often, it is fatigue brought on by priorities that are out of whack.
Just like the disciples failed to recognize the seriousness of the situation, we fail to recognize the seriousness of trying to live our lives without factoring our relationship with Christ into the equation. So we wear ourselves out, maybe even doing good things, all the while
ignoring the best thing - our relationship with Christ.
B. Fear - Verses 45-46 says the disciples were awakened by a crowd who came to arrest Jesus. Torches, soldiers, and weapons surrounded them. When they had the chance, they ran out of fear to save their hide. They had been close to Jesus. But when it appeared the future meant bleeding with Jesus instead of leading with Jesus, they faltered.
“Then all the disciples deserted Him and fled.” - Matthew 26:55
Like the disciples, maybe you desert Jesus when you are afraid He’s demanding more than you want to give. You want a relationship with Jesus, but you don’t want it to cost you anything. If it’s convenient, comfortable, and to your advantage, you’re in. But if following Him starts to take you down an unpredictable path of sacrifice, you bail.
2. Peter’s Story - Matthew 26:33-35
Do you hear the number of times Peter uses the word “I”? It’s as if he looks at the rest of the crew and says, “These guys might disown you but not me. I am above that.” And he truly meant it. But there were no soldiers and there was no mob. There was just a group of people who loved Jesus. It’s fairly easy to talk boldly about your commitment to Chris while sitting in your Sunday school class.
Pride makes us overestimate ourselves and underestimate our need to depend on God. Dealing with pride is difficult because few people
recognize it in their own lives. We have no trouble spotting this in others - but rarely see it in ourselves.
“The pride of your heart has deceived you.” - Obadiah 1:3
In other words, what’s keeping you from seeing the pride in your life is the pride in your life. If you say, “I don’t have a problem with pride,” understand that it’s pride that’s making you say that. Pride kept Peter from recognizing his vulnerability.
The Bible says pride comes before a fall (Proverbs 16:18). God will often allow us to fall in order to reveal our pride and call us to humility. When challenges come, the source of our confidence is exposed. This is what happened with Peter. (Matthew 26:69-75)
Luke 22:61 says when Peter denied Christ the third time, Jesus turned and looked at him. Evidently, Jesus was being led from Caiaphas’s house and it was God’s timing that at that moment their eyes met. What do you think Peter saw in the eyes of Jesus? Could it have been an “I told you so,” look? Was it a look of surprise? Was it a look of disappointment. I don’t think it was any of these, because Jesus knew full well what Peter was going to do. No, I think Peter saw a look of love in Jesus’ eyes, which is why he went out and wept bitterly, but later repented and was restored to a place of usefulness in God’s work.