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THEY FORSOOK HIM AND FLED

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, March 29, 2015

“But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled” (Matthew 26:56).


Jesus ended His lonely time of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. He awakened the sleeping Disciples. He said, “Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me” (Matthew 26:46). Then Judas came leading “a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders” (Matthew 26:47).

All the Disciples must have looked alike there in the darkness of Gethsemane. Judas had told the Temple guards, “Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast” (Matthew 26:48). Judas kissed Jesus on the cheek. “Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him” (Matthew 26:50). “Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus” (John 18:10). Jesus “touched his ear, and healed him” (Luke 22:51). Then Jesus told Peter to put away his sword. Jesus said to him, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?” (Matthew 26:53-54). Jesus then turned to those who had come to arrest Him and said, “Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and [clubs] for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me” (Matthew 26:55). This brings us to our text,

“But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled” (Matthew 26:56).

These events were described by the prophets hundreds of years earlier. Dr. R. C. H. Lenski said, “This whole thing has occurred for one reason and for one alone: ‘in order that the Scriptures of the prophets...should be fulfilled.’ Here are the real forces at work in what is taking place this night: God is carrying out his prophetic plans, Jesus is thus voluntarily putting himself into his captor’s hands...Now verse 56 was fulfilled. As Jesus is led away, all the disciples fled” (R. C. H. Lenski, Ph.D., The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel, Augsburg Publishing House, 1964 edition, p. 1055; note on Matthew 26:56).

“But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled” (Matthew 26:56).

It is my purpose, in this sermon, to delve a little deeper into this verse, to dig out some of the reasons the Disciples “forsook him, and fled.” According to Dr. George Ricker Berry, the Greek word translated “forsook” in the KJV means “abandon” (A Greek-English Lexicon and New Testament Synonyms). Here are several reasons why the Disciples forsook Jesus, as they abandoned Him and fled.

I. First, they forsook Jesus and fled to fulfill the scriptures of the prophets.

Our text says, “But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled...” This includes the prophecy of the Disciples forsaking Him and fleeing away. Zechariah 13:6-7 says,

“What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends... smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered” (Zechariah 13:6-7).

Concerning those words, “smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered,” Dr. Henry M. Morris said, 

This verse is quoted in Matthew 26:31 and Mark 14:27 by Christ Himself. He, the Good Shepherd, would give His life for the sheep (John 10:11), but in the trauma of these world-changing events, His sheep would be scattered for a while (Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., The Defender’s Study Bible, World Publishing, 1995 edition, p. 993; note on Zechariah 13:7).

The Lord Jesus Christ Himself said that Zechariah 13:7 prophesied the Disciples forsaking Him and fleeing. In Matthew 26:31 Christ said,

“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).

Again, in Mark 14:27,

“Jesus saith unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered” (Mark 14:27).

The Disciples forsaking Him and fleeing was a fulfillment of that prophecy in Zechariah 13:7.

“But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled” (Matthew 26:56).

II. Second, they forsook Jesus and fled because they were members of a fallen race.

The human race is a fallen race. We must never forget that,

“By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men” (Romans 5:12).

That is why all people are born “dead in sins” (Ephesians 2:5). That is why all people are “by nature the children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). Don't blame everything on the Devil! The Devil could not enslave us if we were not sinners by nature. All of Adam's descendants are sinners by nature. 

The Disciples were no better than the rest of mankind. They, too, were “by nature the children of wrath.” They, too, were “dead in sins.” They, too, were sons of Adam. As an old New England children’s book put it,

“In Adam’s Fall
 We sinned all.”

The Disciples had carnal minds which were “enmity against God” (Romans 8:7). Thus they rejected the Gospel each time Christ preached it to them. Dr. J. Vernon McGee said,

[Christ] repeated five times the fact that He was going to Jerusalem to die (Matthew [16:21]; 17:12; 17:22-23; 20:18-19; 20:28). In spite of this intensive instruction, the disciples failed to grasp the significance of [the Gospel] until after His resurrection (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, volume IV, p. 93; note on Matthew 16:21).

Why didn’t the Disciples “grasp the significance” of the Gospel? The answer is simple,

“If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost
             (II Corinthians 4:3).

In his note on John 20:22, Dr. McGee said that the Disciples were not born again (regenerated) until they encountered the resurrected Christ, and He breathed on them, and said, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., ibid., p. 498; note on John 20:22). (Click here to read my sermons on this subject – “The Fear of the Disciples”“This Saying Was Hid From Them,” “The Conversion of Peter,” “Peter Under Conviction,” and “The False Repentance of Judas.”

“Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled” (Matthew 26:56).

Some may tell you that I have gone too far by saying that the Disciples were unregenerated and unconverted until after Christ’s resurrection. If that is your thinking, then let us discuss it prayerfully in the light of Scripture.

I greatly admire Rev. Iain H. Murray’s book, The Old Evangelicalism (The Banner of Truth Trust, 2005). Speaking on conversion in general, Iain H. Murray said, “There is an urgent need today for the recovery of the truth about conversion. A widespread controversy on this subject would be a healthy wind to blow away a thousand lesser things” (p. 68). Write to me about this. I want to hear from you, and I will personally answer each person!

“Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled” (Matthew 26:56).

III. Third, they forsook Jesus and fled because they did not have old-evangelical conviction of sin before this.

They had great confidence in their own ability. We see that over and over again before Christ rose from the dead and appeared to them. For instance, when Jesus told Peter that he would deny Him that very night,

“Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples” (Matthew 26:35).

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said,

There is no true evangelism without the doctrine of sin, and without an understanding of what sin is...evangelism must start with the holiness of God, the sinfulness of man and the eternal consequences of evil and wrong-doing. It is only the man who has been brought to see his guilt in this way who flees to Christ for deliverance and redemption (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, InterVarsity, 1959, volume 1, p. 235; emphasis mine).

I believe that the Disciples did not come under old-evangelical conviction of sin until they all “forsook him, and fled.” When the Disciples said a little earlier, “We believe that thou camest forth from God,”

“Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe? Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone...” (John 16:30-32).

I believe that Peter’s sorrow and conviction, after he denied Christ, was also felt by the other Disciples. “And Peter went out, and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62). Dr. W. G. T. Shedd commented, “The Holy Spirit does not ordinarily regenerate a man until he is a convicted man” (Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, volume 2, page 514).

Now, in conclusion, I will go back and apply this to those of you who are still unconverted. Have you felt that you are a ruined sinner, that your own heart “is deceitful...and desperately wicked”? (Jeremiah 17:9). Have you felt, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24). Have you lost all confidence in yourself? As Dr. Lloyd-Jones said, “It is only the man who has been brought to see his guilt in this way, who flies to Christ for deliverance and redemption” (ibid.). Please stand and sing hymn number 4 on your song sheet.

In Jesus’ name, with one accord, Lift up a sacred hymn,
And think what healing streams He poured From every bleeding limb.

Oh, who can tell what woes He bore When that pure blood was spilt,
What pangs His tortured bosom tore When loaded with our guilt?

‘Twas not the insulting voice of scorn So deeply wrung His heart;
The piercing nail, the pointed thorn, Caused not the saddest smart.

But every struggling sigh betrayed A heavier grief within,
How on His burdened soul was laid The weight of human sin.

Thou who hast come down to bear Our sins’ oppressive load,
Grant us Thy righteousness to wear, And lead us to our God.
   (“The Lord Hath Laid on Him” by William Hiley Bathurst, 1796-1877;
      to the tune of “Amazing Grace.”)

Dr. Chan, please lead us in prayer.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Matthew 26:47-56.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Alone” (by Ben H. Price, 1914).


THE OUTLINE OF

THEY FORSOOK HIM AND FLED

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled” (Matthew 26:56).

(Matthew 26:46, 47, 48, 50; John 18:10; Luke 22:51;
Matthew 26:53-54, 55)

I.   First, they forsook Jesus and fled to fulfill the scriptures of
the prophets, Zechariah 13:6-7; Matthew 26:31; Mark 14:27.

II.  Second, they forsook Jesus and fled because they were
members of a fallen race, Romans 5:12; Ephesians 2:5, 3;
Romans 8:7; II Corinthians 4:3.

III. Third, they forsook Jesus and fled because they did not have
old-evangelical conviction of sin before this, Matthew 26:35;
John 16:30-32; Luke 22:62; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 7:24.