Predicting the Great Failure: John 13:31-38

Focus Passage: John 13:31-38 (NIV)

31 When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.

33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

36 Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”

Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”

37 Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”

38 Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!

Read John 13:31-38 in context and/or in other translations on!

One of the greatest examples of failure in the entire Bible comes through what happens to Jesus’ “star” disciple. Simon Peter was one member of Jesus’ inner circle of three disciples, and he was way more vocal than James and John, who were the other two members in this group.

During the supper Jesus had with His disciples on the night He was betrayed and arrested, John tells us that Jesus let the disciples know that He is going away, and He is going to a place they cannot come. Simon Peter speaks up and asks, “Lord, where are you going?” (v. 36a)

Jesus answers, but doesn’t really answer, Peter’s question by saying, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” (v. 36b)

In this response, Jesus hints at Him facing death, and it seems as though Peter picks up on this with his follow-up statement, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” (v. 37)

As I read this event in the other gospels, I imagine that Jesus’ next statement is the one Luke records at this point in his gospel. Luke tells us Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32)

According to Luke, Simon Peter next responds by saying, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” (Luke 22:33)

In our blend of these two gospels, Simon Peter emphasizes his loyalty to Jesus twice, in two different ways, in about as devoted as he knows how to say it. Peter tells everyone present that he is willing to give his life for Jesus.

But Jesus’ final words are among the most challenging for Peter to hear. Jesus responds to Peter’s declaration saying, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!” (v. 38)

What Jesus predicted happened. Peter ran away with the rest of the disciples when Jesus was arrested, and when He follows at a distance, he also distanced himself from Jesus three times that night out of fear.

But Peter’s story doesn’t end negatively. Jesus’ prayer in Luke’s gospel is answered, and following Peter’s denial and Jesus’ resurrection, Peter is found with the rest of the disciples, and Jesus forgives him.

When we stumble, fall, fail, and mess up our walk with Jesus, it helps to know that Jesus has prayed for us. Our real failure never comes from falling down or messing up, it comes from not stepping back up, not forgiving ourselves, and not recommitting to continue moving forward towards Jesus. God is ready to forgive us when we stumble, but we must be willing to get back up and continue moving forward with Him!

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Looking Past Our Failures: Mark 14:17-31

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We have arrived at the place in Mark’s gospel where he begins describing the evening of Jesus’ betrayal and arrest. During the night before this event, Jesus shares a special meal with the disciples, and during this meal, Jesus shares and does some things that surprise the disciples.

Let’s read what happened and discover what we can learn from this last night Jesus spent with His disciples leading up to His crucifixion. Our passage is found in Mark’s gospel, chapter 14, and we will read it using the Good News Translation. Starting in verse 17, Mark tells us that:

17 When it was evening, Jesus came with the twelve disciples. 18 While they were at the table eating, Jesus said, “I tell you that one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.”

19 The disciples were upset and began to ask him, one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, do you?”

20 Jesus answered, “It will be one of you twelve, one who dips his bread in the dish with me. 21 The Son of Man will die as the Scriptures say he will; but how terrible for that man who will betray the Son of Man! It would have been better for that man if he had never been born!”

22 While they were eating, Jesus took a piece of bread, gave a prayer of thanks, broke it, and gave it to his disciples. “Take it,” he said, “this is my body.”

23 Then he took a cup, gave thanks to God, and handed it to them; and they all drank from it. 24 Jesus said, “This is my blood which is poured out for many, my blood which seals God’s covenant. 25 I tell you, I will never again drink this wine until the day I drink the new wine in the Kingdom of God.”

26 Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.

Pausing our reading here, it is interesting in my mind that Mark really abbreviates this special meal Jesus shares with the disciples. While Mark’s gospel is known in part for summarizing events and moving at a faster pace, what we can discover from Mark’s summary are big, important details that we should pay attention to.

At this supper, Jesus openly declares that one of the disciples would betray Jesus, and this visibly upsets all the disciples. Jesus also uses this as another opportunity to share about His upcoming death, and Jesus tied this death to the scriptures predicting this.

Mark describes how Jesus would identify the betrayer, but we are left to simply wonder if this actually happened. Mark describes Jesus telling the group that He would dip the bread at the same time as the betrayer, but nowhere do we read in Mark’s gospel that this happened, that Judas Iscariot was identified, and we don’t even know when Judas Iscariot leaves to assemble the mob, soldiers, and people to arrest Jesus.

In Mark’s gospel, he also shares a brief, four-verse summary of the last supper and the details of Jesus breaking bread and sharing it with the disciples, passing a cup around, and giving a symbolic meaning to both the communion bread and communion wine.

However, what Mark shares next is powerful. After the group of remaining disciples leave with Jesus for the Mount of Olives, continuing in verse 27:

27 Jesus said to them, “All of you will run away and leave me, for the scripture says, ‘God will kill the shepherd, and the sheep will all be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised to life, I will go to Galilee ahead of you.”

29 Peter answered, “I will never leave you, even though all the rest do!”

30 Jesus said to Peter, “I tell you that before the rooster crows two times tonight, you will say three times that you do not know me.”

31 Peter answered even more strongly, “I will never say that, even if I have to die with you!”

And all the other disciples said the same thing.

In this last portion of this passage, I am amazed that Jesus clearly restates His imminent death, and that He will be raised back to life. He tells the disciples that after He has been raised to life, He will return to Galilee ahead of them.

However, it really appears as though Peter missed Jesus’ statement about resurrection, that he ignored yet another prediction of Jesus’ upcoming death, and he devoted his focus onto Jesus saying that all the disciples would leave Him.

Peter, being as outspoken as he is described in all the gospels, boldly makes the claim that he would die with Jesus and that he would never deny Him. However, Jesus counter challenges Peter with the prediction that before a rooster had crowed two times that very night, Peter would openly say three times that he didn’t know Jesus.

Mark also adds that Peter wasn’t the only one to make this promise to Jesus. All 10 remaining disciples make this promise to Jesus as well.

The amazing part of Jesus challenge is that, while all 11 disciples promise Jesus they would stick with Him to the end, only Peter is challenged and warned about openly denying Jesus. I go back and forth in my mind if this challenge is a positive one or not.

While Jesus does challenge Peter in this way, simply receiving this challenge implies that Peter will be in a place where people would recognize he is a follower of Jesus. This means that Peter will not have abandoned Jesus as significantly as the other disciples will. It is implied that the other disciples go into hiding – avoiding everyone – while Peter will be in a place where he could be recognized and singled out.

The challenge Jesus gives Peter does sound negative. After all, who wants to be told they will deny the person they looked up to and were friends with for over 3 straight years. The disciples’ response to Jesus telling them they will scatter is where our focus is drawn to in this passage, because it is what the disciples focused in on.

However, I believe Jesus told the disciples this not because He wanted them to obey His prediction, but because He wanted them to look past their upcoming failure to His upcoming triumph. While this weekend marked the triumph of sin and sinners, Sunday would open a new week, marking the triumph of Jesus and the ultimate defeat of sin.

It is in the resurrection Jesus’ disciples missed seeing predicted that Jesus wanted them to focus in on. With less than 24 hours before His death, Jesus wanted the disciples to look past their failure and His death and onto the resurrection.

In a similar way, while we are able to look back and see the crucifixion and resurrection clearly, when we face struggles, trials, and challenges in our lives today, let’s remember to look past our failures and these challenges, and forward to our future resurrection and recreation when Jesus returns to end this age in history and take us home!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, intentionally seek God first and place Him first in your life. When facing failures in our present or past, choose to forgive yourself and move forward, focusing on what Jesus accomplished and what He has promised each of us when we accept the gift of His life and death on our behalf.

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself to learn, grow, and open your heart to God, to Jesus, and to the Holy Spirit. Through prayer and Bible study, discover firsthand what God wants to teach you through the pages of His Word and discover how we can claim the promise and hope for a future, eternal life with God.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or deviate away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year in Mark – Episode 39: When describing the Last Supper and what Jesus tells the disciples as they make their way to the Mount of Olives, discover in Jesus’ prediction and warning a promise that we can claim and apply in our own lives today!

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His Story Includes Our Story: Matthew 24:26-35

Focus Passage: Matthew 24:26-35 (NIV)

 26 “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.

 29 “Immediately after the distress of those days
     ‘the sun will be darkened,
      and the moon will not give its light;
   the stars will fall from the sky,
      and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’

 30 “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. 31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

 32 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 33 Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. 34 I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

Read Matthew 24:26-35 in context and/or in other translations on!

Today’s entry focuses on a small part of a much longer teaching of Jesus about the state of the world. This broader teaching is so significant that Matthew, Mark, and Luke all include it their gospels. There is a lot we can uncover or focus on, but in today’s entry, we will zero in on a phrase that boggles my mind, and one that could easily be misunderstood.

Near the end of this teaching, Jesus told His disciples, “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.”(v.34)

This phrase baffles my mind because now, close to 2,000 years later, it has appeared to us living on earth that everyone from that generation, and dozens of later generations since that time, have died. This makes me wonder about what this phrase means, and after thinking about it while studying, I believe there are three possible conclusions I can see being meant here:

  1. The traditional Christian view is that following Jesus’ resurrection, followers of Jesus never die, but rise to be with Jesus in heaven. This is one text that on the surface could support this idea, but when we look a little closer and ask a few questions, applying this idea to that belief does not work well.

    The generation Jesus was talking to was filled with more people who didn’t believe in Jesus than who did, and there were also those who were extremely opposed to Jesus. It doesn’t make sense for Jesus to promise them heaven. However, if we look closely, this text also isn’t promising never-ending life, but a delay of “passing away”, so we must then move to the next possible conclusion.

  2. The next view we could use when looking at this passage is a lot stronger, because it says that this generation won’t pass away because it lives on through the written words collected together and called The Bible. We know more about that generation in history from what was written than really any other time period. There is ample evidence (5,686 Greek New Testament manuscripts) that the generation Jesus was talking about lived, and every time we open the New Testament and read about what happened, they live on.

    What still challenges me about this view is that there were thousands of people in that “generation” who never were recorded about in the Bible. The generation was much larger than what the Bible can record, which prompts us to the third view.

  3. The third view is a matter of perspective, and instead of looking at this phrase from our human perspective, we should imagine looking at it from Jesus’ (or God’s) perspective, and meld it with the following verse: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (v. 35)

    In this view, we are looking at the universe and history outside of the span of time. Jesus says that “this generation” won’t pass away until the things He previously talked about happens, and this passing away will be the same type of passing away that heaven and earth will do when God recreates the universe. Looking at the timeline of history from God’s perspective (outside of that timeline), every generation that has ever lived has not yet “passed away” because they are awaiting the Day of Judgment (or “Last Judgment”), which happens at the end of time. After that last judgment, sin and its history can truly “pass away” along with all the evil deeds of that generation.

I still have questions about this idea, however what all of these ideas tell me is that Jesus holds history (“His Story”) in His hands, and history includes our story!

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Three Angles of Temptation: Matthew 4:1-11

Focus Passage: Matthew 4:1-11 (GNT)

Then the Spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the Devil. After spending forty days and nights without food, Jesus was hungry. Then the Devil came to him and said, “If you are God’s Son, order these stones to turn into bread.”

But Jesus answered, “The scripture says, ‘Human beings cannot live on bread alone, but need every word that God speaks.’”

Then the Devil took Jesus to Jerusalem, the Holy City, set him on the highest point of the Temple, and said to him, “If you are God’s Son, throw yourself down, for the scripture says,

‘God will give orders to his angels about you;
    they will hold you up with their hands,
    so that not even your feet will be hurt on the stones.’”

Jesus answered, “But the scripture also says, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Then the Devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in all their greatness. “All this I will give you,” the Devil said, “if you kneel down and worship me.”

10 Then Jesus answered, “Go away, Satan! The scripture says, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only him!’”

11 Then the Devil left Jesus; and angels came and helped him.

Read Matthew 4:1-11 in context and/or in other translations on!

While reading what the gospels share about Jesus’ temptations at the start of His ministry, I am amazed to see three distinct types of temptations present. These three temptations mirror three broad areas of life, and when looking at Jesus’ temptations with this framework, we are able to see how Satan tries to knock us off course and out of God’s will.

In the first temptation, Satan challenges Jesus by saying, “If you are God’s Son, order these stones to turn into bread.” (v. 3b)

This first temptation challenges Jesus regarding His immediate, physical need. After fasting for 40 days and nights, Jesus was hungry, and this temptation was simply to use some of His creative power to provide food for Himself.

Satan’s temptations often come to us in ways that focus on helping ourselves in the moment or challenge we are in. Satan’s temptations try to get us to shortcut and give up what is best for us in the long term.

The second temptation Satan challenges Jesus with in Matthew’s gospel is, “If you are God’s Son, throw yourself down, for the scripture says,

 ‘God will give orders to his angels about you;
    they will hold you up with their hands,
    so that not even your feet will be hurt on the stones.’
” (v. 6)

This second temptation challenges Jesus’ acceptance (or lack thereof) with the spiritual leaders, and it is a challenge for Jesus to take advantage of God’s protection. This temptation comes when Satan and Jesus are standing at the highest point of the temple, and if Jesus had jumped off and God had kept the promise to protect Him, Jesus would have been using this knowledge to draw attention onto Himself.

We could then categorize this temptation as a social, intellectual, or mental temptation. Jesus did not come to draw a crowd or to draw attention onto Himself. He came to glorify God and to give His life for our sins. Satan’s temptations towards us often come in ways that make us want others to focus and pay attention to us instead of getting others to look through us to Jesus/God.

The third temptation Matthew shares Satan challenging Jesus with is, “All this I will give you, if you kneel down and worship me.” (v. 9)

The third temptation is a spiritual one. In a potentially supernatural way, Satan has taken Jesus to a high mountain and shown Him all the kingdoms of the world, and the offer is one to shortcut His spiritual mission. Satan wanted Jesus to deviate from the path of the cross – which was the path God had placed before Him.

In a similar way, Satan challenges us to shortcut, deviate, or give up the mission God has placed before us. If Satan can get us to give up on God’s plan and His will, then he will throw spiritual temptations at us to do so!

In these three temptations are three types of attempts to get Jesus to deviate from God’s will and to draw attention to Himself. Satan uses these three types of temptations against us as well, but with God’s help, we can avoid falling for his tricks, and we can continue pressing forward on the mission He has given each of us to live.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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