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The Weakness of Man

Luke 22:21 -- 62

Lesson audio

One of the cheeriest facts of Christianity is the very sour picture it paints of human beings. All of us, with the exception of our Lord, are sinners. We just can’t help it. But with Christ we can do something about it.

Today we will read a rather lengthy passage – in which Luke gives us a very good sense of the confusion and haste at the end of the Last Supper. We shall then examine the weakness of man in three examples:

  • The disciples as a whole
  • Simon Peter
  • Judas Iscariot

"But behold, the hand of the one betraying Me is with Mine on the table. "For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!" And they began to discuss among themselves which one of them it might be who was going to do this thing. And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest. And He said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called 'Benefactors.' "But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. "For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves. "You are those who have stood by Me in My trials; and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." But he said to Him, "Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!" And He said, "I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me." And He said to them, "When I sent you out without money belt and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?" They said, "No, nothing." And He said to them, "But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one. "For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, 'AND HE WAS NUMBERED WITH TRANSGRESSORS'; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment." They said, "Lord, look, here are two swords." And He said to them, "It is enough." And He came out and proceeded as was His custom to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed Him. When He arrived at the place, He said to them, "Pray that you may not enter into temptation." And He withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, "Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done." Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground. When He rose from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping from sorrow, and said to them, "Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not enter into temptation." While He was still speaking, behold, a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was preceding them; and he approached Jesus to kiss Him. But Jesus said to him, "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?" When those who were around Him saw what was going to happen, they said, "Lord, shall we strike with the sword?" And one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus answered and said, "Stop! No more of this." And He touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders who had come against Him, "Have you come out with swords and clubs as you would against a robber? "While I was with you daily in the temple, you did not lay hands on Me; but this hour and the power of darkness are yours." Having arrested Him, they led Him away and brought Him to the house of the high priest; but Peter was following at a distance. After they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter was sitting among them. And a servant-girl, seeing him as he sat in the firelight and looking intently at him, said, "This man was with Him too." But he denied it, saying, "Woman, I do not know Him." A little later, another saw him and said, "You are one of them too!" But Peter said, "Man, I am not!" After about an hour had passed, another man began to insist, saying, "Certainly this man also was with Him, for he is a Galilean too." But Peter said, "Man, I do not know what you are talking about." Immediately, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, "Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times." And he went out and wept bitterly.

(Luk 22:21-62 NASB)

The Disciples

One of the most curious things about this passage is Christ’s direction that the disciples were going to need the very things he had forbidden them on their missionary training. It seems a contradiction; but consider: he is preparing them for the short time he will not be with them. And what should we do when Christ is not with us?

  • Grab the money. Take along the bag used by the heathens to beg money for their gods. (Or, today, start the telethon).
  • Bring your weapons, for the power of Christ will not assist you, and there is no other option than the power of this world.

For three days this is what the disciples would have; it is no surprise they locked themselves away in hiding.


Luke says they were “sleeping from sorrow.” Mark tells us that Jesus had to wake them three times. How often we excuse ourselves by saying, “I’m too tired to pray tonight.” Pray, then, in company with each other, so that one can always wake the others.

Indeed we are to “get up” to pray. Prayer should not be the item that lulls us to sleep, but that which awakens us to duty.

The Greatest

There is a deep difference between the world’s measurement of the greatest and the measurement of God.

  • In the world’s measurement, we honor the biggest check. If you want to be a benefactor, write a big check. (Remind me to tell you about the school which wants to build a new chapel…. Naming opportunities, they call it).
  • Why do we do it this way? Because the end justifies the means. You need to be a benefactor, we need a stained glass window.
  • The plaque on the wall tells us all: we are willing to pay handsomely to be praised and honored. It goes along with being accepted in the upper circles of society.

Christ calls his church to a different method.

  • We like those over us to be “public servants” – think of the fireman, for example. We accord them authority over us not on their monetary contributions but by their actual benefit to us.
  • How much more, then, should the benefactors of the church be those who serve? Christ set this example; we should follow it.

Simon, Simon

Let us begin by stating the obvious: Peter has a big mouth. That’s one reason he’s the leader of the disciples. The boy can talk.

  • But as he shoots his mouth off, do you see how little he really knows of himself? We think such people to be “open” or “transparent”; sometimes they are just ignorant of themselves, not knowing any better.
  • One might suspect Peter of a lack of courage. How so? Have you ever heard a teenage boy tell you what he’s going to do – as a method of bucking up his courage?
  • Often enough, everyone looks to the leader to have the answer to any problem. There’s a lot of pressure on Peter to “say the right words.” He did.

Despite this, Christ tells Peter that his story will not end in failure; he will lead again. Jesus works even in broken hearts and lives.

The sword

It goes along with the territory: the man is a violent man. He knows he is a sinner, but he lets his anger rule over him. Sound familiar? Yet the Christian knows better than this – if only for this example.

There is something else behind it. If perfect love casts out fear, we also believe that perfect fear casts out cowardice. Peter is a man who does not want to have appearances taken the wrong way.

He’s also a man who likes to be in control – and this night the situation is anything but in his control.


It never fails: the guy we can count on to be handy with the sword has no defense against social intimidation. Even after his promise to die for him, Peter fails.

And he fails in such a little thing! How often we think we will do well in the big things but fail in the little. Still true: faithful in little, faithful in much. But we say that little things don’t really matter. Really? A little bullet can kill you.

What does it here? It is our desire to be “in.” Suddenly Peter is alone, and his Lord cannot help him; he wants to be part of the group around the fire – not the one standing in the cold.


Judas stands as a mystery to most of us. Even the writers of the Gospels could not explain it except to say “Satan entered into him.” The matter is one of the heart. Some have suggested that Judas was a little short in the moneybag; this might have looked like a good way to balance accounts. If so, the amount proposed is interesting. It is exactly the price the law of Moses set upon a servant who dies.[1]

The style of evil

Have you noticed? There is a certain style to this evil betrayal, and it has not left us yet. You see it now in the sneering sophistication of those who are pious on Sunday after being “sophisticated” on Saturday night. There is a reason that the snake is the symbol of Satan.

Better not born

As for Christ’s statement that it would have been better for Judas not to have been born, I can but echo Linus van Pelt (of Peanuts) when his sister Lucy announced that she wished that he had never been born: “The theological implications are staggering!” And I shall leave it at that.

Christ the example

We are not entirely bereft of example in righteousness. All are sinners – except the Holy One. See how he handles this night of terror and pain:

  • He encourages the disciples. He paints the picture of their future reward as judges of the twelve tribes. He tells them that they will feast at the King’s table forever. He brings to their mind how God provided for them during their missionary journey, with the obvious conclusion being that God will continue to supply his church.
  • He leads them in prayer. He prays for Peter, personally. Yes, Peter has a problem, but Christ goes to the Father on his behalf. He commands his disciples to pray – to avoid temptation. He sets the example in the Garden of Gethsemane. It is a noble example; even the perfect man knows fear and the wish to avoid suffering. He also knows God’s answer.
Not my will

Christ is not afraid to show the agony of his soul on this night of nights. He is afraid and he does not want to do this. He asks to be relieved of the problem.

The answer is “no.” It is the measure of the perfect man in touch with God the Father, asking desperately for relieve – only to end his prayer with “not my will, but yours be done.” It is the finest example.

[1] Exodus 21:32

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