Matthew 26:31-35 – Right Now, We Are All National Championship Christians, But…

Posted: April 6, 2016 in Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 26:31-35

Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial


As we are now done with college basketball, the other big money making sport in college athletics, for the school year, our focus will now begin the long march til college football season begins. Yes, I know there are those out there that love college baseball and it’s great but you guys who love it so much have to admit that college baseball does not garner the attention that college basketball and college football do. College football season is less than five months away now. As a Clemson Tiger fan, we had a chance to be a great team again this year. But you know, at this time of year, no matter what college team is your favorite, we are all national champions and we are all undefeated – right now. Certainly with the players that Clemson has returning this year, they do have a legitimate shot at being in the national championship hunt again this year. But we have not played a game of the 2016 season yet. Neither has any other team as of today. Right now, we all have hope. Even teams that failed miserably last year are undefeated in early April. At all schools that had losing seasons last year, many made coaching changes. At those schools hope is alive. Even at schools that came up short on conference titles or national titles last year, this upcoming season is a new one and the hope of this time of year is why we all come back and play and that is why we all show up in droves at our favorite school’s first game each fall. Everybody’s a national champion in April. Everyone is undefeated in April. Right now and continuing through the summer, there is a lot of talk. There is a lot of prediction. There is a lot of prognostication. There are preseason top 25 polls. There are recruiting rankings. There are spring games to close out the spring training camps allowed by the NCAA. There are radio pundits on sports radio talk shows that spout off about what they think is going to happen in the fall. ESPN spends a great deal of time on preseason talks and discussions. But that is all it is for all of us. It’s all talk. We will not know who really has what it takes until the games are played between early September and late November. That’s when you know who has what it takes to when a national championship. Sure, you can predict based on last year and based on recruiting and based on players’ maturing and on coaching and  stuff, but you can’t count on chemistry within a team. You can’t count on whether key injuries will take place. You can’t count on luck and the mix of what other teams do. All the talk in the pre-season is just that. Talk. It is the crucible of September-November where the proof comes out. Who has what it takes comes out on the football field. Who has the desire to put in the hard work and sweat and blood and study and attention to detail. It all comes out on the field. That’s why I cannot wait for the next 150 days to pass when Clemson and Auburn tee it up in the Plains of Alabama on September 3, 2016.


It is that idea of preseason football talk where everybody is undefeated and we all have a legitimate shot at a national championship that brings me to today’s passage, Matthew 26:31-35. As the gang heads toward the Mount of Olives, Jesus predicts that Peter will deny Jesus when the pressure is on. We read the following:


31 Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:


“‘I will strike the shepherd,

    and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’[Zechariah13:7]


32 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”


33 Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”


34 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”


35 But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.


As we have said during our six part study on Matthew’s view of the Lord’s Supper, that was to be the last comfortable time for any of the disciples and for Jesus. The events that follow after the Lord’s Supper are dizzying in their speed and intensity. It is during these upcoming events that we find out what the disciples are made of. Each one of them folds under the pressure of preserving their life or standing with Jesus. Each of them behaved cowardly and Peter straight up denied even knowing Jesus when cornered. In this scene, right now, each one and particularly Peter say that they will not betray or desert Jesus. Right now, they are valiant. Right now they are national champions. Right now, they have what it takes to withstand the grind. But when it comes to crunch time, like those crucial moments in football games that determine whether a team becomes a champion or not, will they have what it takes. Right now, with nothing happening, they can say yes. Right now when there is no pressure they can act like national champions. Right now when there is no pressure, they can easily say that they will never deny or betray or desert Jesus. Right now, at the height of popularity of Jesus’ ministry, it’s easy for them to say these things. Everything in their mind is going great. Little do they realize that everything is going to do a 180 degree turn on this night. No longer will they be on the cutting edge of a populist movement. Now, they will be tested as to whether they are true followers of Jesus or not.


And right now, we sit in our homes reading this passage in the comfort of 21st century America with all our technology at hand and knowing how this story goes on and turns out, we can call out these disciples for not following and standing behind this Jesus, the One we know now to be the one true Messiah. We have the Easter proof now. We have the evidence. We can ridicule them. We can make fun of their cowardice. But let’s get real. How would we react if put in the same situation? If Jesus was going to cost us something would we be as quick to stand up for Him. It is easy in America (not as easy as it use to be but not as hard as it is in some places now and not as hard as it going to be here in the future) to worship Jesus. It is easy to go to church. It is easy to be a part of a church. It costs us nothing. It may cause us a little ridicule here and there for being “one of those church people.” But it realllllllly doesn’t cost us anything. We are free to go to church. We are still free to worship God. We are still free to say we are Christian. But what if it cost us something to be a Christ follower like it does in North Korea, any of the Muslim-dominated countries of the Middle East, Africa, or Southeast Asia. What if you lived in China and were Christian? What if being a Christian really did cost you something. What if following Jesus could cost you your job? What if being a Christian could get you excommunicated from your family and charged higher taxes for everything and could result in imprisonment like in Muslim countries? What if being a Christian could have you imprisoned until your renounced your Savior? What if being a Christian could cost you your life or the lives of your wife and children? What if being a Christian caused you to be singled out and have your wife and daughter raped and killed right in front of you? What if…? How would you and I react in those situations much less the subtle ways we deny Him now in our cushy life in America?


We deny Jesus at work because it might make us uncomfortable to be singled out as being one of those Jesus freaks. We deny Jesus when we fail to share the gospel when the opportunity to do so presents itself at work, or when we are out in public because it might make us feel uncomfortable. We participate in degrading conversations about women instead of standing up for their value in God’s eyes so we won’t feel uncomfortable. We say that we would be hand in hand with our brothers in Iraq and Iran and Saudia Arabia, and Malaysia, and North Koread and in China. But would we? We say we would be national championship Christians. But yet we do nothing to assist our brothers and sisters there. We offer up prayers but we do not go there to help them. We offer up talk when action is needed. We say that we would die for Jesus just like our Christian neighbors in those countries are willing to do, but would we?


What if America turns out be a nation where being a Christian is a true liability in social and economic terms? What if we could be imprisoned for being a Christian? What if a gun was to your head? What if being a Christian in America really cost us something? Would we deny Jesus? This is a question that I ask myself as well as ask you? Right now, we like a football team is spring. We are all national champions. We are all undefeated. But the football season is coming my friends. Knowing Jesus will cost us something some day? Will we have what it takes to stand up for Him? Let us begin paying the price in the small things now (not denying Jesus by letting things pass because it makes us uncomfortable to just talk about Jesus) so that when the real heat is on, in the heat of battle, that we will not deny Jesus when it is really going to cost us something. Lord help us to be brave starting now. Lord help us to never deny you even in the smallest of things so that when it does come to something really big that we have the experience and confidence not to deny you.


Amen and Amen.


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