And We All Fall Down
Preached by Pastor Jason Abbott
Many of you might recognize this title as a line from the children’s song: “Ring Around The Rosie” and, if you did, you were right to make that connection. I definitely had the song in mind when I titled the sermon.
Some of you might also know that the song has often been connected with the Great or Black Plague that began to ravage western Europe in the year 1347 and within 3 years had killed nearly a third of the population. Yet, if you believed that explanation, then it’s you rather than those in the rhyme who’ve fallen down. For, it is almost certainly not true.1
Now, why do I point this out?
I do so because it highlights well our tendency to believe such fabrications. We believe them and then act on them as if they were certainly God’s own truth. Adam and Eve did it in Eden and fell down. The disciples do it here and fall down. And, we do it all the time and fall down.
Yet, in the midst of all these false truths comes Jesus speaking the true truth. And here he reveals—through his words and through his actions—that he is the central figure, the main character, in God’s redemptive plan.
Let’s read the passage together and pray for God to teach us.
12 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”
13 So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. 14 Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15 He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.”
16 The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.
17 When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. 18 While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.”
19 They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?”
20 “It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. 21 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
22 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”
23 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it.
24 “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. 25 “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
26 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
27 “You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written:
“‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.’
28 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”
29 Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.”
30 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.”
31 But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the others said the same.
1. Food for thought…(vv. 12-25). 2
On Wednesday nights, I have the privilege of working with the middle school boys of our church, and I can say without reservation that they would love what Jesus does here because it lines up precisely with what they regularly do. That is—Jesus thinks and talks a lot about eating in this passage, which is exactly what our middle school boys think and talk about most of the time.
Thankfully, Jesus has a slightly different purpose in view here than they do. Jesus, through this discussion of food, is drawing together his heavenly Father’s redemptive purposes in order to teach his disciples (including us) about:
a. A meal remembered
Clearly, there is a festival in this passage. And, it is a remembrance feast. Passover celebrates God’s deliverance of Israel from bondage or slavery in Egypt. It was a traditional and highly scripted or liturgical celebration; it was planned out. Listen to how one commentator describes it:
The holiest festival of the Jewish year, Passover commemorated the deliverance from Egypt when the angel of death “passed over” the firstborn in Jewish homes with lambs’ blood on the door frames (Exodus 12). As the eldest male interpreted the feast, accents fell on remembering their past deliverance from Egypt and on anticipating the future redemption of the Messiah….The actual meal was divided into four parts, each concluding with the drinking of a cup of wine.3
There was a definite roadmap for this meal, and it was intended to lead participants systematically through the history of God’s great saving of his people. So, it was scripted and was practiced almost every year for around 1,400 years. (Remember that! We’ll come back to that in a moment.)
For now, just recognize that all these preparations are being made in order to celebrate and to commemorate God’s saving intervention on his people’s behalf. God defeated his people’s enemies! God graciously freed them from slavery!
b. A meal anticipated
During all this remembering, did you catch Jesus anticipating another feast? I hope so because it’s an immensely important piece of God’s redemptive timeline. Look at what Jesus says:
Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God (v. 25).
What is this celebration which Jesus is looking forward to on “that day”? Well, it’s the celebration usually referred to as the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. You can read about it in Revelation 19 where there is rejoicing and exultation because God has rescued all his people and his union with them is likened to a marriage and their eternal joy to a wedding feast!
In this image, the Lamb (Jesus) is the groom and all those who have faithfully followed him are his bride! What an eternal celebration that will be!
I find it interesting that Jesus here has his eye on this ultimate celebration. He knows well that very soon he will march toward mocking, torture, and death; yet here, before all that darkness, for a moment, he thinks upon the ultimate glory that awaits him—he remembers what’s on the other side of it!
Jesus must instruct us at this very point; Jesus must be our perfect example. We will all face dark times in this fallen world—some of us are in them currently. We lose our loved ones; we lose our jobs; we lose our health—we lose and lose! Yet, we can lose everything and not lose hope if we have trusted Jesus and, here, learn from him, for (if we are in Christ) this great eternal feast awaits us as well—we know the darkness will not win!—and that makes all the difference.
Heather and Holly are sisters; Holly graduated from high school with me. Within a span of nine months, they lost their dad (just 49) to a sudden hearth attack and both their husbands in a tragic canoeing accident on the Missouri River. Despite these terrible events, neither one ultimately lost their faith or hope or joy. How is that so? Because, in the midst of the sorrow, in the midst of the devastation, they believed in a God who would in the end “make all things new.”4
c. A meal instituted
Remember how I explained a moment ago that the Passover Feast was a highly scripted freedom meal which had been observed annually for 1,400 years. In the same stages, with the same rituals, through the same story every single year! So why was that important for us to remember?
It’s important because it provides the backdrop against which we’re able to see just how radical—just how jaw-dropping—Jesus’ actions are in this passage. What do I mean?
Look, every year on July 4th Americans cease to work, gather for barbeques, put on red, white and blue clothing, hang American flags and banners everywhere, and explode fireworks to celebrate our independence from brutal English tyranny! And, we’ve done such things for a couple hundred years.
Now, imagine I invite you to my house for a 4th of July barbeque this year. We begin the normal Independence Day rituals and are having a really good time. However, as it begins to get dark outside and we begin setting off some fireworks, I start to say some rather strange things about the various 4th of July festivities—things like:
- These firecrackers are my power; when you explode them, remember the full liberty I provide for you.
- This flag—this Old Glory—is my new glory; when you fly it, remember the ultimate, endless victory I give you over the greater English tyranny that is to come.
What would you do? How would you react at this point in our celebration? Probably, you would—as discreetly as possible—begin to gather your kids and things and then—as quickly as you can—get the heck out of Dodge!
Jesus does something not terribly unlike this during the Passover celebration. He says:
- This is my body, and this is my blood (vv. 22, 24).
- This meal, this freedom celebration, is really about me.
- I am the true Passover Lamb, and I host the eternal wedding feast.
Do you see now just how radical Jesus’ actions and Jesus’ words are here? He’s reinterpreting over 1,000 years of Jewish tradition and saying it points to me! I am its fulfillment! I am its purpose! I am!
All this talk of food ultimately tells us of God’s great plan of redemption—it’s foreshadowed at Passover, it’s consummated at the Lamb’s Wedding Supper, and it is both remembered and anticipated in the institution of the Lord’s Supper. And all three find their fulfillment in Christ Jesus!
2. Do all fall down (vv. 26-31)?
Well, certainly the disciples do in this text (and, if we’re honest, we do too). How do the disciples fall down?
All the disciples fall down because they buy into the lie of self-sufficiency. They buy into the false truth of self-assurance or self-dependence or self-reliance. Simply consider what they say to Jesus when he tells them that they will all abandon him:
[Peter says emphatically:] “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.”
[Then Mark tells us:]And they all said the same (v. 31).
- Ashes…Ashes…We all fall down, says the nursery rhyme.
- All have sinned and fall short (Romans 3:23), says Paul.
- You will all fall away (v. 27), says Jesus.
Every one of the disciples says: No I won’t! I’ll not fall down! But, they did.
Every day I wake and think: Today’s the day I’m not going to lose my temper with my kids or today’s the day I’m going to love my wife as I’m supposed to even as Christ loves his church. I won’t fall down today! But, I invariably do.
Every day: Ashes…Ashes…
But though the disciples’ fall down and though we continually fall down, there is one who does not—Jesus, the Lamb of God.
He did not fail to live a life of perfect faithfulness even in the face of death. He did not fall down even when all around him fell away.
And because he loves the Father and you, he gave his body and his blood!