Think about your own weakness. What is weak about you that thwarts your spiritual ambitions? What weaknesses keep you from being the Christian you aspire to be? Having this in mind will help you connect to what we’re about to see in Mark 14.
And Jesus said to [the disciples], “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”– vv. 27-28
Jesus tells the disciples that every single one of them will fall away. That phrase “fall away” is the same Jesus used in the parable of the sower, describing people who were initially enthusiastic about Him – but as soon as persecution or tribulation came, they would fall away.
Peter replies to Jesus: “Even though they all fall away, I will not” (v. 29). Knowing Peter, this kind of response should not come as a surprise. Jesus answers that he’s wrong, but Peter says “emphatically, ‘If I must die with you, I will not deny you'” (v. 30).
Peter’s Willingness and Weakness
You can see Peter’s willingness – he was extremely willing to follow Jesus and not fall away even if it meant death. He had the will, but he had a lot of weakness as well. We see this in the next few verses when Jesus goes to Gethsemane:
And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed … And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”– vv. 33-38
This is an extremely important juncture for Jesus and all of God’s people – and He just wanted the disciples to “Remain here and watch.” When Jesus got back from praying, He found His disciples sleeping. Peter, who had said emphatically that he would never fall away, could not stay awake for Jesus. As Jesus put it, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Peter vs. Judas – What’s the Difference?
To understand Peter a little better, it might help to contrast him with Judas. Both left everything to follow Jesus, and both failed Him. But Judas’s story ended in hopelessness and suicide, whereas Peter’s story ended in his redemption – he became a leader of the apostles and wrote two of the New Testament books. So what made the difference between these two people?
Judas perpetrated an intentional betrayal and rebellion against Jesus. He planned it out and saw it through with a hard heart. Peter, on the other hand, had a soft heart that wanted to do right by Jesus – but his weakness tripped him up and he failed.
This is a really important distinction. As you think about your own weakness, the question isn’t “Are you perfect or imperfect?” (we’re all imperfect, that’s why we need Christ). The question is: do you have a hard heart that ultimately doesn’t really care about Jesus and His ways, or do you have a soft heart that wants to honor God through your faith and allegiance to Jesus?
Peter Denies Jesus
In the next verses, we read that Jesus went off to pray and came back two more times to find the disciples still asleep (vv. 39-42). Then Jesus is betrayed, arrested and dragged before the Jewish officials for His first trial. All the disciples scatter except for Peter, who followed along at a safe distance.
Zooming ahead to verses 66-72, we see Peter’s ultimate weakness. A servant girl recognizes him as a follower of Jesus, but Peter denies it. He even “began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, ‘I do not know this man of whom you speak'” (v. 71).
It would have made sense for Peter to slink away and go back to fishing, ashamed of himself and hoping people would forget. But he didn’t. He went on to meet Jesus after the resurrection, received the Holy Spirit, became the leader of the apostles and wrote two letters that are included in the New Testament – even after his falling away.
Takeaways for Us
Jesus knew Peter’s weakness, and He knows our weakness (Psalm 103:14; Hebrews 4:15). He also uses weak followers (Romans 5:6; 1 Corinthians 1:27; 12:22). He didn’t just discard Peter after he denied Him. With these two truths in mind, there are two applications for us:
- Don’t mistake weaknesses for hopelessness.
- Don’t throw away weak Christians.
How do you respond when your weaknesses thwart your willingness to follow Jesus Christ? Do you try to justify yourself or compare yourself to others? Do you try to blame something or someone for it? Or are you like Peter, who “broke down and wept” after his moment of weakness (v. 72)?
When we think about our weakness, we should think about our brokenness and humility before God and the mercy, grace and forgiveness we’ve received through Christ.
- What weaknesses keep you from being the Christian you want to be?
- Why do you think these weaknesses exist?
- Discuss what “soft hearts” and “hard hearts” are. What kind of heart do you think you have?
- What did Pastor Matt mean by “Don’t mistake weaknesses for hopelessness”?
- How might we be tempted to “throw away weak Christians”?
- How do you respond when your weaknesses thwart your willingness to follow Christ?