Then said Jesus to them, All you shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd…
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.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.