Sabbath, February 4, 2017
“Brethren, we must sink the shaft deep in the mine of truth. You may question matters with yourselves and with one another, if you only do it in the right spirit; but too often self is large, and as soon as investigation begins, an unchristian spirit is manifested. This is just what Satan delights in, but we should come with a humble heart to know for ourselves what is truth. The time is coming when we shall be separated and scattered, and each one of us will have to stand without the privilege of communion with those of like precious faith; and how can you stand unless God is by your side, and you know that He is leading and guiding you? Whenever we come to investigate Bible truth, the Master of assemblies is with us.” –This Day with God, p. 93.
A test ahead
1. Having in view the events of the last days of the Messiah’s life, what prophecy did the prophet Zechariah record? How did Jesus put the fulfillment of this prophecy in context?
Zechariah 13:7 Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.
Matthew 26:31 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.
“Of the multitude that followed the Saviour to Calvary, many had attended Him with joyful hosannas and the waving of palm branches as He rode triumphantly into Jerusalem. But not a few who had then shouted His praise, because it was popular to do so, now swelled the cry of ‘Crucify Him, crucify Him.’ When Christ rode into Jerusalem, the hopes of the disciples had been raised to the highest pitch. They had pressed close about their Master, feeling that it was a high honor to be connected with Him. Now in His humiliation they followed Him at a distance. They were filled with grief, and bowed down with disappointed hopes. How were the words of Jesus verified: ‘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.’ Matthew 26:31.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 743.
“We are now living in the last days, when the truth must be spoken, when in reproof and warning it must be given to the world, irrespective of consequences. If there are some who will become offended and turn from the truth, we must bear in mind that there were those who did the same in Christ’s day….” –Selected Messages, book 3, p. 422.
2. Having the above prophecy in mind, what did the Master tell Peter? For whom would the coming crisis be especially severe?
Luke 22:31 And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.
“The disciples listened in sorrow and amazement. They remembered how in the synagogue at Capernaum, when Christ spoke of Himself as the bread of life, many had been offended, and had turned away from Him. But the twelve had not shown themselves unfaithful. Peter, speaking for his brethren, had then declared his loyalty to Christ. Then the Saviour had said, ‘Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?’ John 6:70. In the upper chamber Jesus said that one of the twelve would betray Him, and that Peter would deny Him. But now His words include them all.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 673.
“The reason so many of Christ’s professed disciples fall into grievous temptation is that they have not a correct knowledge of themselves. Here is where Peter was so thoroughly sifted by the enemy. If we could understand our own weakness, we should see so much to do for ourselves that we would humble our hearts under the mighty hand of God. Hanging our helpless souls upon Christ, we would supplement our ignorance with His wisdom, our weakness with His strength, our frailty with His enduring might. Peter fell because he did not know his own frailty. He thought himself strong.” –Sons and Daughters of God, p. 91.
Assistance in crisis
3. Did He only tell the disciples about the coming crisis, or did He provide something to protect the disciples?
Luke 22:32 But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
“To us, as to Peter, the word is spoken, ‘Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.’ Luke 22:31, 32. Christ will never abandon those for whom He has died. We may leave Him and be overwhelmed with temptation, but Christ can never turn from one for whom He has paid the ransom of His own life. Could our spiritual vision be quickened, we should see souls bowed under oppression and burdened with grief, pressed as a cart beneath sheaves, and ready to die in discouragement. We should see angels flying quickly to the aid of these tempted ones, forcing back the hosts of evil that encompass them, and placing their feet on the sure foundation. The battles waging between the two armies are as real as those fought by the armies of this world, and on the issue of the spiritual conflict eternal destinies depend.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 175, 176.
Confidence that cannot be trusted
4. Was Peter conscious of his human weakness? What was his reaction to Jesus’ words of warning?
Matthew 26:33 Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.
Luke 22:33 And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death.
John 13:37 Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake.
“When Peter said he would follow his Lord to prison and to death, he meant it, every word of it; but he did not know himself. Hidden in his heart were elements of evil that circumstances would fan into life. Unless he was made conscious of his danger, these would prove his eternal ruin. The Saviour saw in him a self-love and assurance that would overbear even his love for Christ. Much of infirmity, of unmortified sin, carelessness of spirit, unsanctified temper, heedlessness in entering into temptation, had been revealed in his experience. Christ’s solemn warning was a call to heart searching. Peter needed to distrust himself, and to have a deeper faith in Christ. Had he in humility received the warning, he would have appealed to the Shepherd of the flock to keep His sheep. When on the Sea of Galilee he was about to sink, he cried, ‘Lord, save me.’ Matthew 14:30. Then the hand of Christ was outstretched to grasp his hand. So now if he had cried to Jesus, Save me from myself, he would have been kept. But Peter felt that he was distrusted, and he thought it cruel. He was already offended, and he became more persistent in his self-confidence.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 673, 674.
5. Although he absolutely refused to believe that he would ever deny his Master, what did the Lord tell him? Was he really prepared to give his life for Him?
Matthew 26:34 Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.
Luke 22:34 And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.
John 13:38 Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice.
“We see how human nature can be deceived, how human nature can be misled, because Satan is allowed to step in between the human soul and Jesus. The word of Christ needs to be spoken with authority, ‘Get thee behind me, Satan.’ Let Me come close to My servants, that they may not be overcome, that they may believe My words rather than the words of deceivers, for what I speak is truth and righteousness….” –Christ Triumphant, p. 275.
“Had Peter walked humbly with God, hiding self in Christ; had he earnestly looked for divine help; had he been less self-confident; had he received the Lord’s instruction and practised it, he would have been watching unto prayer…. Had he closely examined himself, the Lord would have given him divine help and there would have been no need of Satan’s sifting…. There is no power in the whole satanic force that can disable the soul that trusts, in simple confidence, in the wisdom that comes from God.” –Sons and Daughters of God, p. 91.
6. What did Peter reaffirm even more vehemently? Did the other disciples feel less secure than he? What counsel did Jesus give them, in view of their natural human weakness?
Matthew 26:35 Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.
Mark 14:31 But he spake the more vehemently, If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise. Likewise also said they all.
Matthew 26:41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
“The watchcare of Christ for Peter was the cause of his restoration. Satan could do nothing against the all-powerful intercession of Christ. And the prayer that Christ offered for Peter He offers in behalf of all who are humble and contrite in heart…. Peter sinned against light and knowledge, and against great and exalted privileges. It was self-confidence that caused him to fail, and it is this same evil that is now working in human hearts. It may be our purpose to be right and to do right, but we shall most surely err unless we are constant learners in the school of Christ. Our only safety is in walking humbly with God.” –Sons and Daughters of God, p. 91.
Tested but not abandoned
7. Although the sheep were scattered at the time of trial, what did the Lord tell them for their encouragement? Does God leave His children alone in the moment of temptation?
Matthew 26:32 But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee.
1 Corinthians 10:13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
2 Peter 2:9 The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.
Psalm 34:17-19 The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. 18The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. 19Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.
“Jesus looks with compassion on His disciples. He cannot save them from the trial, but He does not leave them comfortless. He assures them that He is to break the fetters of the tomb, and that His love for them will not fail. ‘After I am risen again,’ He says, ‘I will go before you into Galilee.’ Matthew 26:32. Before the denial, they have the assurance of forgiveness. After His death and resurrection, they knew that they were forgiven, and were dear to the heart of Christ.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 674.
- Can we imagine what our tests will be in the future and how we will face them?
- Are we more aware of and prepared to deal with a crisis than were Peter and the disciples?
- What do you believe is necessary to keep from leaving Jesus, as did Peter and the other disciples?
For additional study
“The Saviour’s manner of dealing with Peter had a lesson for him and his brethren. Although Peter had denied his Lord, the love which Jesus bore him had never faltered. And as the apostle should take up the work of ministering the word to others, he was to meet the transgressor with patience, sympathy, and forgiving love. Remembering his own weakness and failure, he was to deal with the sheep and lambs committed to his care as tenderly as Christ had dealt with him.” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 516.
“To every Christian comes the word that was addressed to Peter, ‘Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.’ Luke 22:31, 32. Thank God we are not left alone. This is our safety. Satan can never touch with eternal disaster one whom Christ has prepared for temptation by His previous intercession, for grace is provided in Christ for every soul, and a way of escape has been made, so that no one need fall under the power of the enemy.” –That I May Know Him, p. 286.