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R. T. France: The sense of foreboding which has resulted from Jesus’ words at the supper about betrayal and death is now underlined as the group makes its way out of the city. But the focus is now not so much on what is to happen to Jesus but on the effect it will have on his disciples. The scriptural pattern which is to be fulfilled includes not only his own death but also their failure, and the imagery of shepherd and flock shows how closely the two are related. Their inability to grasp the seriousness of the situation shows up by contrast Jesus’ own awareness and acceptance of his messianic destiny.

Donald Hagner: With the arrest of Jesus and the prospect of his death, his disciples—the ones closest to him—will scatter. Despite their protestations of loyalty, their courage will fail them and they will desert their Lord. The imminent failure of Peter, the first of the apostles, is focused upon, finding its corresponding fulfillment at the end of the chapter. The humanity of Peter and the disciples together with the very real frailty of every profession of commitment will be revealed. Despite the best of intentions, the disciples will not be able to be true to their deepest convictions (cf. v. 56). They, like Peter, will have disappointed themselves as much as Jesus. But in the same breath Jesus gives notice that they will yet have a future with Jesus (v. 32). All is not lost; the setback is only a temporary one though nonetheless serious for that. There is a way back from this failure. God’s faithfulness to these vexed disciples remains unshakable just as his forgiveness and restoration are available to every follower of Jesus.

Stu Weber: We must not underestimate our own ability to betray Jesus.  Judas’s treachery had already been revealed. But Jesus then told the remaining eleven disciples that they would also become disloyal, though not to the point of betraying him to his enemies. Jesus’ careful delineation of these events was one more indication that he was not a blind victim. His was a sovereign and voluntary sacrifice.

Van Parunak: He will show them that at this stage in their growth, they still love their own lives more than they love him. Judas actively opposed him, but all of them abandoned him.


A.  (:31) Prophecy of Imminent Failure by the Fearful Disciples

  1. Imminent Failure of All the Disciples Prophesied

Then Jesus said to them, ‘You will all fall away because of Me this night,’

Grant Osborne: It will not be just Judas who fails; Jesus now expands his prediction to “you all,” a revelation that must have shocked them to the core.

Fall away” (σκανδαλίζω) has been used several times with respect to leading one to sin (5:29, 30; 18:6, 8, 9), being offended (13:57; 15:12; 17:27), and falling away from one’s faith (11:6; 24:10). Here the first and third are intended, especially the “falling away.” The disciples are going to desert Jesus completely (v. 56); and even when Jesus appears to them on the first night of his resurrection, they will still be cowering behind closed doors “for fear of the Jewish leaders” (John 20:19). That very night they will fail “on account of me” (causal ἐν [“because”], see BAGD, 261, 3).  They will perceive that following Jesus is dangerous and run for their lives, leaving Jesus to face the fury of the Jewish leaders and of Rome.

D. A. Carson: The intimacy of the Last Supper is shortly to be replaced by disloyalty and cowardice. The disciples will all “fall away” on account of Jesus. They will find him an obstacle to devotion and will forsake him. As the quotation from Zechariah makes clear, their falling away is related to the “striking” of the Shepherd. Jesus has repeatedly predicted his death and resurrection, but his disciples are still unable to grasp how such things could happen to the Messiah to whom they have been looking (16:21–23; 17:22–23).

  1. Importance of the Leadership of the Good Shepherd

for it is written,

‘I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered.’

R. T. France: The shepherd in Zech 13:7 is described as God’s shepherd, the man who is God’s “associate” (“who is close to me,” NJB, TNIV). That so exalted a figure should nonetheless be struck down, and indeed by the sword of God himself, expresses in a remarkable way the paradox of a Messiah who is to be killed in accordance with the will of God declared in the scriptures. The sheep in the prophecy are the people of God (as in Ezekiel 34), scattered when they lose their leader, but destined to be refined and restored, even if only one third of them (Zech 13:8–9). So for Jesus his disciples form the nucleus of the new people of God under the leadership of the Messiah. The fact that the following clause in Zech 13:7 refers to them as “the little ones” may have appealed especially to Matthew (cf. 10:42; 18:6–14).

B.  (:32) Promise of Future Restoration by the Risen Savior = the Good Shepherd

But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.

R. T. France: Galilee, the place of Jesus’ first preaching (4:17) is also to be the place for a new beginning which will spread out to “all the nations.” And in that process the disciples, restored after their imminent disgrace, are to have the leading role.

Donald Hagner: This parenthetical statement provides the consoling thought that the smitten shepherd and the scattered sheep will be reunited. After his death, a theme that still dominates, Jesus is to “be raised” to new life (other occurrences of ἐγείρειν in reference to the future resurrection of Jesus are in 16:21; 17:9, 23; 20:19; cf. 27:63). And then like a shepherd leading his sheep, he will go before them into Galilee (cf. 28:7, 10; for the imagery of shepherd going ahead of the sheep, cf. John 10:4). Authoritative leadership may be alluded to here (see Evans). The meeting in Galilee after the death and the resurrection of Jesus is recorded in the last pericope of the Gospel (28:16–20; cf. 28:7).

Stu Weber: Of course, the disciples did not know enough at the time of Jesus’ death to go on to Galilee. In fact, the Lord did not want them to go before they had proof of his resurrection—the empty tomb. At that time he would remind them of his instructions (28:7, 10).

William Barclay: We see the sympathy of Jesus. He knew that his disciples were going to flee for their lives and abandon him in the moment of his deepest need; but he does not rebuke them, he does not condemn them, he does not heap reproaches on them or call them useless creatures and broken reeds. Far from that, he tells them that when that terrible time is past, he will meet them again. It is the greatness of Jesus that he knew human beings at their worst and still loved them. He knows our human weakness; he knows how certain we are to make mistakes and to fail in loyalty; but that knowledge does not turn his love to bitterness or contempt. Jesus has nothing but sympathy for those who in their weakness are driven to sin.


A.  (:33) Big Words from Self Confident Peter

But Peter answered and said to Him,

‘Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.’

Grant Osborne: Peter displays his typical false bravado once again (see 14:28–31; 16:22, 23; 17:4; 19:27) and impulsively declares an absolute confidence in himself that he will never join the others in apostasy; there is one exception to the prediction, and he is it!

Jeffrey Crabtree: Peter adamantly rejected the idea that Jesus’ words included him (v. 33). So confident was he of his own stability and loyalty that he assured Jesus he would be true to Jesus even if he had to stand alone. He would accompany Jesus to prison or even to death if necessary (Lk. 22:33). Peter’s attitude toward Jesus’ death was different from what he voiced in 16:22 where he rebuked Jesus.

Warren Wiersbe: Peter thought he was better than the other men, and Jesus told him he would be even more cowardly than the others.

D. A. Carson: On the one hand, he has learned more about Jesus than he knew at Caesarea Philippi (16:21–28); as a result he is able to accept the idea of suffering for both Jesus and himself. On the other hand, his notion of suffering is bound up with the heroism of men like the Maccabean martyrs, not with voluntary sacrifice—hence v.51 (cf. Jn 18:10). He is prepared for suffering but is not yet ready for what he thinks of as defeat. More important, he reacts on a primal level to Jesus’ prediction in v.31a: “It would be natural for him to be too taken up with the implied slur on his loyalty to pay much attention to anything else” (Cranfield, Mark, 429).

Van Parunak: Peter is the most prominent of the disciples, but with this position comes temptation. Note the pride in his response. He does not humbly pray that the Lord would protect him in his weakness, but asserts that he is superior to the other disciples.

Let’s set Peter in perspective. He is an example of fleshly confidence that crashes and burns. At the other extreme, we have Moses, who was so aware of his weakness that even when the Lord promised to help him, he still was unwilling, and incurred the Lord’s anger:

Exo 4:10 And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. 11 And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD? 12 Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say. 13 And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send. 14 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and he said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee: and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart. 15 And thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth: and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do. 16 And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God.

Isaiah got it right. He recognized his unworthiness for the burden laid on him, but accepted the Lord’s provision.

Isa 6:5 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. 6 Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: 7 And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. 8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.

David Thompson: Peter’s problem is twofold:

1)  He is not honest with himself;

2)  He has self-confidence in himself.

These are two things that will ruin any person. Be delusional with yourself and have strong self-confidence in your own abilities and strength and you will go down in a hurry.

B.  (:34) Epic Failure Will Be Peter’s Reality

Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I say to you that this very night, before a cock crows,

you shall deny Me three times.’

William Barclay: The Romans and the Jews divided the night into four watches – 6 pm to 9 pm; 9 pm to midnight; midnight to 3 am; 3 am to 6 am. It was between the third and the fourth watch that the cock was supposed to crow. What Jesus is saying is that before the dawn comes, Peter will deny him three times.

J. Ligon Duncan: You know the early church fathers said that Peter, for the rest of his life, could not hear a cock crow without his tears welling in his eyes.

Charles Swindoll: Two wills collided that night: the sovereign will of the God-man who knew the future even more clearly than we know the past and the impetuous and presumptuous will of Peter, who didn’t grasp his own weakness. Jesus refused to let Peter get away with that unchallenged statement, so He drove home the ugly truth with a very specific prophecy directed toward Peter himself: Before the rooster crowed at dawn, Peter would deny Him not once, not twice, but three times (26:34). In response to this embarrassing prediction, Peter doubled down, going all in with a promise that, even if it came to dying with Jesus, he would stay true to his Master (26:35). Then, not wanting to be outbid by Peter, the ten other disciples chimed in and made the same bold promise to stay at Jesus’ side till the very end.

C.  (:35) Self Confidence Ignores All Warnings of Inherent Weakness

  1. Doubling Down by Peter

Peter said to Him, ‘Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.’

D. A. Carson: The language of Peter’s protest (the rare subjunctive of dei) shows that he does not really think that Jesus’ death is likely; he still has his visions of heroism. Nor is he alone in his brash protestations of loyalty—only quicker and more vehement than his peers.

  1. Disciples Concur with Similar False Bravado

All the disciples said the same thing too.