Listen to Mahalia Jackson singing ‘Just a closer walk with thee’.
I am weak, but Thou art strong;
Jesus, keep me from all wrong;
I’ll be satisfied as long
As I walk, let me walk close to Thee.
Just a closer walk with Thee,
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.
Through this world of toil and snares,
If I falter, Lord, who cares?
Who with me my burden shares?
None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee.
When my feeble life is o’er,
Time for me will be no more;
Guide me gently, safely o’er
To Thy kingdom shore, to Thy shore.
“You will all fall away,” Jesus told them.
The word translated ‘fall away’ is from skandalon in the Greek, from which we have scandal in English. It originally described part of a trap. Imagine a bear trap, a cubical construction with one side propped open by a log. The bear enters and the log is pulled away, slamming shut the entry. The log that held the gate open would be a skandalon. Or supposing you were being chased by enemies in a forest; after you had passed them your friends raised a trip wire that bought your enemies down. The trip wire would be a skandalon.
In Hellenistic Greek the word was only used in a figurative sense. Something that brings someone down – but there is always a moralistic overtone. So here, there is not just a sense of the bubble being pricked for the self-important disciples, but also the sense that it is a scandal. They should be ashamed that they would be brought down. Not only are they deflated, they are shamed.
Jesus quotes from Zechariah 13:7, “Strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered.” Jesus tells us who will strike the shepherd; not the chief priests, not the crowd crying crucify, not Pilate, not the Roman soldiers; I will strike the shepherd and from the context in Zechariah it is God the Creator and Father who is doing the striking.
We forget sometimes that Jesus is Prophet as well as Priest and King. Here Jesus is prophesying exactly what will happen in a few hours.
Peter, poor puffed up Peter, denies it. “Even if all fall away, I will not.”
How many of us have such a high opinion of ourselves? When God created Man he saw that it was good. Adam was created perfect – but guess what? Adam fell. David was a man after God’s own heart. David fell. Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. Abraham fell. So did Moses. So did Samuel. So did Elijah. And Peter, brave impetuous Peter; he fell too.
Does anyone think they could do better? Yet we have such high opinions of ourselves and our churches. The most famous pastors have fallen, the bravest missionaries, the most zealous evangelists. It is a scandal.
Peter was not alone among the disciples – verse 31 – “all the others said the same.” Peter, at least, was close enough to demonstrate his disloyalty; the others had fled.
“Before the cock crows twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.” The old English has ingrained it in our memories.
What led to the betrayal? Why, because the sheep were scattered. It is a warning to us. This is why I cited Mahalia Jackson’s ‘Just a close walk with thee’. If we stray from Him we become scattered; we become a scandal. We really are weak. It is only when we know that we are weak that we are strong. It is then that we lean on Him. When we stop holding His hand, like little children on a crowded beach we get lost and wander.
The most optimistic verse comes in the middle, “After I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”
Here is the promise of forgiveness, the promise of redemption. If I falter, Lord, who cares? None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee.
Who struck the shepherd? None but God Himself. Why was the shepherd struck? To take the place of the sheep. There on the cross the price for Adam’s sin, for David’s sin, for Moses’ sin, for Abraham’s sin, for the sins of Elijah, Samuel, Samson, Gideon, and all the Old Testament heroes; for Peter’s sin; for my sin and yours was paid.
That’s why Mahalia could sing, “When my feeble life is o’er, guide me gently, safely o’er to Thy kingdom shore, to Thy shore.”
We, the redeemed, shall be free. He will go ahead of us to Galillee.