Why did Jesus’ closest friends desert him in his greatest time of need? When life gets hard, what do you do with Jesus? Ultimately for the disciples and for us, it comes down to a choice. Will we choose Jesus over comfort and security? Will we choose Jesus over ourselves? Will we choose Jesus over money? When the heat is on…When the testing comes…how will you answer life’s ultimate question? How will you respond to Jesus?

Pr. Todd Mathison

Deserted By Friends

The Ultimate Question
Matthew 26:36-46
March 10, 2024
Why did Jesus’ closest friends desert him in his greatest time of need? When life gets hard, what do you do with Jesus? Ultimately for the disciples and for us, it comes down to a choice. Will we choose Jesus over comfort and security? Will we choose Jesus over ourselves? Will we choose Jesus over money? When the heat is on…When the testing comes…how will you answer life’s ultimate question? How will you respond to Jesus?

This whole season of Lent, we’re considering the ultimate question. What is your response to Christ and His cross? Well, we’ve been looking at it as really almost from Jesus perspective, even from His cross, as He sees different people and their responses to Him. He sees the soldiers who dismiss them as they’re rolling dice for his clothing. He sees his own people who rejected him as they shouted crucify him. Last weekend we considered Jesus seeing the Romans who tortured and beat him severely. But you know perhaps the response that might have been most troubling to Jesus was that of his closest followers. All apart from John deserted him and abandoned him. For several years they had never left the side of Jesus and they had left everything to follow him. But now in his greatest hour of need they were nowhere to be seen. When things got really hard the disciples, his friends, deserted him. And maybe some of you here today can relate to being deserted even by a friend. Maybe you heard about the desert storm soldier a number of years ago. who received one of those Dear John letters back from his girlfriend in the States. In this letter, she said she’d met someone else and they were getting married. But to add insult to injury, she writes, Will you please return my favorite photograph of me? I need it for my engagement picture in the local newspaper. Ah, ouch. I mean, talk about feeling rejected and deserted. And this poor guy was devastated, but his comrades came to his rescue. Story is, they went throughout the camp, collected pictures of all the guy’s girlfriends, stuffed them in a shoebox, and sent it to the girl, along with a note from the guy saying, Please find your picture and return the rest. Because for the life of me, I can’t remember who you are. Yes! Payback. Mmm. No one likes to see someone else betrayed or rejected, let alone experience that yourself. Especially when the, when the rejection comes from someone to whom you felt very close. You know, for Jesus, it’s one thing for the soldiers or the crowds to turn against him.

But where were his friends? Where were his disciples? Apart from John, they’re nowhere to be found. Their response to Jesus changed. You When life got hard and I think it’s the in the challenging times of life That our true response to jesus our true heart condition can be revealed So today we’re going to consider the ultimate question in the context of life’s hardships when life gets hard What do you do? And you know, when we talk about the disciples deserting Jesus, we, we go to kind of the big two, Peter and Judas, and we’ll do that. But all of the disciples are just as indicted in their own desertion of their Lord and Savior. And their desertion really is surprising. I mean, they’d seen Jesus do incredible things. They watched as Jesus made the lame to walk, the blind to see, how Jesus turned funeral processions into family reunions. Why would friends leave such a man after all of this? Seems incredible, doesn’t it? Until, if we’re honest, We examine our own hearts and histories and realize that we’re probably not much different than they were then. So what I want to do in the next few minutes is consider a few of the disciples stories uh, and why they might have deserted Jesus. And then I’m gonna give you three, uh, uh, some words to affix to each of the story that might reveal what made them desert Christ. at such a desperate time. So first we’re gonna consider just the disciples story. The disciples, plural possessive. So if you have your Bibles or devices with your Bible apps, I invite you to turn to Matthew 26. We’re gonna begin reading at verse 36. Matthew 26, beginning at verse 36. Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to them, Sit here while I go over there and pray.

He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me. Going a little farther, He fell on his face to the ground and prayed, My father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet, not as I will, but as you. Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour? He asked Peter. Watch and pray. So that you will not fall into temptation. The Spirit is willing, but the flesh, the gospel of our Lord. Let me pray as we continue. Lord Jesus, we don’t want to desert you. I’m sure your disciples back then didn’t either. But help us to hear from you now. Consider even our own hearts. Send your spirit so that you might help us hear your words and understand your will. And for your desire for us to not just follow you even when life is hard, but even when we fail, how you still hold us close. I ask this in your precious name, Jesus. Amen. Dear friends, grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. As we read, Jesus praying during his greatest hour of need. And his disciples can’t stay awake to watch and pray with him. This happens two more times in the same chapter.

Jesus had asked his closest companions to be in prayer. I don’t know, maybe it’s, maybe it’s a big meal, Passover. Stressful, long day, certainly. But they began to zone out in the darkness of that garden. Jesus asked them to pray, and I would guess they tried to. But they just. So, a phrase that I want you to write down and remember connected with the disciples story is this. What might have caused them to desert Him? Might have been fatigue or fear. Fatigue. Perhaps that’s why they deserted Christ. When Jesus requested their prayers, they wanted to comply, but they were just too tired. And have you ever felt so tired that you had a hard time staying awake? Maybe you felt like this. You can think back to either like an interview you’re conducting with someone or, or perhaps you think back to like you’re out on a date with someone you don’t really want to be at a movie with, or maybe you had a long wait in some waiting room in some health facility and you start even nodding off, you just couldn’t keep your eyes open. Maybe it was a more recent time. Maybe right now? Wake up! And you know, when the disciples awoke, what a scene! A crowd of people who’d come to arrest Jesus. Torches, soldiers, weapons surround them. So much so, when they woke up to this, it appears that when they had the opportunity, they just fled to save their own hide. Later in this chapter, the Bible continues by saying, In that hour Jesus said to this crowd that had shown up, Am I leading a rebellion that you’ve come out with swords and clubs to capture me?

Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching and you did not arrest me. But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled. And then there’s this simple sentence. Then all the disciples deserted him and fled. All deserted, fled. I mean, these guys had been bosom buddies with Jesus. And inwardly, I think they probably enjoyed all the popularity. Some had even longed for positions of power and prestige when Jesus would come into his kingdom. And yet, it appears that when the future meant bleeding with Jesus rather than leading with Jesus, Their commitment faltered. Jesus said to his sleeping disciples, The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. And perhaps you can relate. Might sound familiar. Our intentions are good, but often we’re just too tired to know to do what we should do. Like for, instead of spending 30 minutes in prayer, we end up spending 30 minutes on Facebook or watching our favorite social media feed. We intend to wake up early to spend some time in scripture, but just keep hitting the snooze button till we just have to get up and get after it. Fatigue may be one of the reasons Jesus disciples deserted him, but maybe it’s not as much fatigue for you as it might be fear, as it was for them also. Like the disciples, perhaps you desert Jesus when you fear. That he’s going to demand from you more than what you really want to give. There’s this fear of commitment we can have.

We want a relationship with Jesus. But not if it costs us something, especially something dear. As long as it’s comfortable, convenient, working to your advantage, you’re in. But when following Jesus starts to take you down an unpredictable path of sacrifice, you’re tempted to bail. The disciples did, and perhaps Jesus disciples today still do. The disciples story is one of fatigue and fear. How about you? Let’s consider the second storyline, Simon Peter’s story. Simon Peter, he’s kind of the leading spokesman for the disciples. He’s essentially their unofficial lead disciple. And along with James and John, they’re part of that inner three. They’re very close to Jesus. Earlier in this chapter, just before Jesus prayer time in the garden with his disciples, Jesus said to them, You’re all going to fall away and desert me tonight. That was back in the upper room where they had the first communion. And they can’t believe Jesus saying this. You’re all going to fall, fall away and desert me tonight? Bible says Peter replied even if all fall away on account of you, I never will. Truly I tell you, Jesus answered, this very night before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times. But Peter declared, even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you. And all the other disciples said the same. Notice how many times Peter’s just talking about himself. It says, if he’s looking at the rest of the crew and says, you know what, those guys, they might disown you. Me, I’m above all that. And you know, I think he truly meant that in that moment. But there were no soldiers there at that moment.

There was no rob, a mob at that moment. There were no swords or whips. It At that moment, just a group of guys who love Jesus. And I think part of Peter’s story can be found in the word arrogance. He’s essentially saying, they might, but I won’t. To which my counsel in this matter would be, never say never. The Bible says in Proverbs 16, Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. I think pride, it can cause us to, Overestimate ourselves and underestimate our need to depend on God. But dealing with pride, it’s a tricky thing. Because very few people acknowledge or recognize it in their own lives. We have no problem seeing it in someone else. But rarely, I think, do we see it honestly in ourselves. Because pride is blinding. In Obadiah, verse 3 of the Bible says, The pride of your heart has deceived you. So, note this word next to Peter’s story. Pride. Pride keeps Peter from recognizing his own vulnerability to desertion. The disciples, Peter, and then there’s the poster child of deserting Jesus and betraying him, Judas. And yet, you know, I think a fairly good case can be made that until the betrayal, Judas. was one of Jesus closest friends. Don’t know if you ever thought about this. He was put in charge of the money bag. And if we understand the seating arrangements in Jewish culture, and if you look at the studies of the conversations that they had at the Last Supper, it would appear that John was at Jesus right hand, Judas was at his left.

Judas would have had what would be called the honored, the place of the honored guest, the place of an intimate friend. He That’s where it’s good to have Roger read for us from Psalm 41, written thousands of years before Christ’s birth, written by David about his situation, but prophetic about Jesus, as if these were also his own words. Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me. Remember the show, Family Feud? Survey says, if they had said a hundred people surveyed, name someone who betrayed a friend. Survey says, I’ll bet you Judas would have been at the top of the list. You may have thought about naming one of your sons after one of the disciples, Peter, James, John, Andrew. But I’ll betcha Judas didn’t make your top five. So when Jesus says to his disciples, one of you will betray me, the eleven didn’t just point at Judas and say, I’ll betcha Judas, look at his eyebrows. It wasn’t like that at all. And yet anytime we see a painting or picture of Judas, he’s kind of looking sinister or dark shadowed as if he’s up to something. It’s really not accurate. Because if you think about it, usually the most trusted individual in a group is the one put in charge of the money. So perhaps what this reveals about Judas is that in the end he did have a love for money. And he ended up deserting Jesus so that he could pursue Money. I mean, I’m sure he was there when Jesus taught you can’t serve two masters, God or money. And yet one of the words to note next to Judah’s story would be greed. Greed. I think another dynamic for Judas Might have been disillusionment. Being disillusioned. I think Judas might have had some unspoken expectations of what kind of king he thought Jesus should become. Not unlike the rest of his countrymen and women in Israel. And Judas perhaps found himself disillusioned because Jesus would not use his power to overthrow the Romans like any good earthly king would do.

Over the years, I’ve seen a number of Christians desert God because they didn’t think God was doing His job the way they thought He should do it. Hey, if I’m a Christian, I shouldn’t have any money issues. If I’m a Christian, I shouldn’t have any health issues. If I’m a Christian, I shouldn’t have to bury my own child. I mean, deep, hard questions. And yet, what is our answer? I think often we expect God to provide us with comfort. And Jesus never promised a trouble free life. In fact, He said in John 10, In this world you will have trouble, but take heart. I’ve overcome the world. So if you see Jesus as some wise counselor who’s gonna Solve all your problems, bring family harmony immediately. Chances are you’ll be disillusioned. I mean, just look at Jesus himself. Even dying on the cross, his mother’s there. Where’s his father? Maybe Joseph had died. But even his brothers didn’t believe in him at that time. If you see Jesus as the great physician who will heal all of your diseases, Chances are you’ll become disillusioned. Again, look at Jesus on his cross. Jesus, who had physically suffered almost as no man has ever suffered, and there he is, dying on a cross at age 33. Disciples,

Peter, Judas, have any of these factors from these disciples stories impacted the way that you’ve responded to Jesus? As we’re considering this ultimate question, fatigue, fear, arrogance, pride, greed, disillusionment. You know what? Truth be told, I think these can be a part of our own stories. And yet what I find remarkable is that despite Jesus disciples failings and betrayal, desertion back then, and even our own weaknesses and failures today. Jesus had given this wonderful promise to his disciples back then and to us today that says this in Luke 12, Fear not, little flock, your father is pleased to give you the kingdom. And Jesus said this, Knowing full well that all of his disciples would desert him then. And know that even his disciples today have those same inclinations. And think on this, just when Jesus disciples were at their point of desperation and failure and desertion, God was actually at his greatest moment of intervention and redemption. Accomplishing the plan of salvation was in place before creation itself. If you know your Bible well, you know that Jesus had a very personal discussion with Peter.

After Christ’s resurrection, where Jesus asked Peter three times, Simon Peter, do you love me? One time each for each of Peter’s three denials. And how wonderful that must have been for Peter to experience. But I am, I would venture to say Jesus would have had a personal discussion with all of those disciples who deserted him. Because all of them would need to know that they also are forgiven, restored, and still called to follow Jesus despite their own failings and fallings. And my dear friend in Christ, it’s the same for you and for me today. Jesus knows who we are just as he knew his disciples back then. And even if you might feel tired or fearful or can identify some pride issues or maybe you’re disillusioned in your faith, Sometimes you might feel like you might be ready just to kind of give up and throw in the towel in your faith. Know this, Jesus has not given up on you, and he never will. Just as he loved his disciples then to the end, so he does for you in your life now, this day. The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 12, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. So even when we fall, stumble, and desert Christ. He does not ever desert us. And that promise is for his disciples back then. And it’s for you and me here today as well. So cheer up, my dear friend in Christ. Your Father in Heaven is pleased to give you the kingdom. Rejoice. Rest. Be renewed. Be refreshed in your call to trust in Christ. No matter what. Not based on who you are or what you do. But who He is and what He has done for you. And He’s promised to see you through to everlasting life. Join me in prayer. Father in heaven, we come before You, humbled and grateful for the depths of Your love. And even in our moments of weakness, we confess that You are the one who is steadfast, faithful, offering grace and redemption. So may we always look to Your unfailing love, knowing that even in our lowest moments, Your grace is more than sufficient to sustain us. I ask in Jesus precious name.

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Whether you are new in faith or are seeking to deepen your walk with Jesus, we are eager to connect with you.

Don’t hesitate to reach us out at (480) 830-5024, or message us filling the form below.

GriefShare

The GriefShare Program is a 13-week series of videos that we watch each week of the meeting. Each weekly GriefShare group begins with a 30-minute video featuring respected experts on grief-related topics and helpful stories from people who have experienced loss. Their insights will help you manage your emotions, gain clarity, and find answers to your questions as you walk through the grief process. We welcome everyone who has a loss; whether it be a child or a parent or spouse.

The videos are followed by discussion. Talking with other people who understand what you’re experiencing brings great comfort, normalizes the grief experience, and offers a supportive environment to work through your grief.

Each session stands alone, so you can join anytime. Consider a single session to learn about the program.

We meet every Monday from 12:30-2:30pm here at Victory.
Check out the schedule.

Sign up today!

Do you have more questions? 
Don’t hesitate to reach us out at (480) 830-5024, or message us filling the form below.
Learn more about GriefShare at their webpage: www.griefshare.org.

WOMEN’S MINISTRY

We meet throughout the year on the 2nd Tuesday of the month for Bible Study.

Summer Schedule (May-Sept): 2nd Tuesday of the month all groups meet together on campus at 9:30am

Winter Schedule (Oct-April): 2nd Tuesday of the month

Esperanza Bible Study – 9:30am

Mary Bible Study – 1:30pm (in home)


Women’s Ministry

PURPOSE STATEMENT

As a community of women created in the image of God, called to discipleship in Jesus Christ, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we commit ourselves to grow in faith, affirm our gifts,  support one another in our callings, engage in ministry and action, and promote healing and wholeness in the church, the society, and the world.

We meet throughout the year on the 2nd Tuesday of the month for Bible Study:

Summer Schedule (May-Sept)

2nd Tuesday of the month all groups meet together on campus at 9:30 am.

Winter Schedule (Oct-April)

  • 2nd Tuesday of the month
  • Esperanza Bible Study - 9:30am
  • Naomi Bible Study - 2:00 pm
  • Mary Bible Study - 1:30 pm (in-home)
  • Women’s Ministry

    PURPOSE STATEMENT

    As a community of women created in the image of God, called to discipleship in Jesus Christ, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we commit ourselves to grow in faith, affirm our gifts,  support one another in our callings, engage in ministry and action, and promote healing and wholeness in the church, the society, and the world.

    We meet throughout the year on the 2nd Tuesday of the month for Bible Study:

    Summer Schedule (May-Sept)

    2nd Tuesday of the month all groups meet together on campus at 9:30 am.

    Winter Schedule (Oct-April)

  • 2nd Tuesday of the month
  • Esperanza Bible Study - 9:30am
  • Naomi Bible Study - 2:00 pm
  • Mary Bible Study - 1:30 pm (in-home)
  • Stephen Ministry

    Stephen Ministry equips lay people to provide confidential one-to-one Christian care to individuals in our congregation and community who are experiencing a difficult time in life, such as grief, divorce, job loss, chronic or terminal illness, or relocation.

    Stephen Ministers are trained by their congregation’s Stephen Leaders using resources from Stephen Ministries St. Louis. The training they receive in the congregation equips them to provide high-quality care to people who are hurting.

    Care receivers are individuals in the congregation or community who are going through a crisis or life difficulty. Potential care receivers first meet with a pastor or Stephen Leader, who assesses their needs for care and matches them with a Stephen Minister.

    After being matched with a person experiencing a life crisis, the Stephen Minister meets with that person on a weekly basis for about an hour to listen, care, encourage, and provide emotional and spiritual support. The caring relationship lasts as long as the need for care exists.

    “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2, NRSV)

    FAMILY PROMISE

    Four times a year we host families experiencing homelessness at Victory for a week at a time. Volunteers needed to set up rooms, preparing a meal, serve/clean-up dinner or stay as an overnight host.

    Upcoming Host Weeks: April 16-23, 2023 & November 112-19, 2023

    STEPHEN MINISTRY

    Stephen Ministers are lay congregation members trained to provide one-to-one care to those experiencing a difficult time in life. 

    GRIEFSHARE

    A grief recovery support group where you can find help and healing for the hurt of losing a loved one.

    13-week Program: Mondays, 12:30-2:30pm, February 13-May 8, 2023
    (No meeting April 10th)
    GriefShare.org

    LSS-SW

    Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest (LSS-SW)

    I-HELP PROGRAM: We provide a safe and secure place for women who are currently experiencing homelessness the 2nd & 4th Thursday of the month.

    FOOD PANTRY: Food boxes distributed Mondays & Wednesdays, 9:00-11:30am.
    Utility & rental assistance by appointment only 480-654-4539.

    Victory Quilters

    We meet the 3rd Tuesday and Wednesday of the month at 8:30am. Come when you can, stay as long as you can; everyone can cut, sew, pin and tie knots. You do not need to be a church or circle member to attend. Bring a friend! The quilts are donated to Navajo Lutheran Mission, Orchard: Africa and Lutheran Social Ministries. We typically break for the summer. Please check schedule.

    MUSIC MINISTRY

    Ensembles at Victory practice weekly during the high season to prepare for weekly worship and special events. In addition, many people share their talents individually. Click here for our concert line-up!

    NAVAJO LUTHERAN MISSION

    Serving the Navajo community of Rock Point, AZ, a remote, isolated village near the Four Corners. The Mission campus includes a K-2 private Christian school, clinic, cultural center, water project and food bank.  (nelm.org)

    FAIR TRADE

    Victory Women support Lutheran World Relief (lwr.org) by selling Fair Trade hand-made crafts, jewelry, coffee and tea that generates income for small-scale businesses in third world countries. 

    OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD

    A “shoebox ministry” of Samaritan’s Purse, delivering gift-filled shoeboxes to boys and girls around the world.

    ORCHARD: AFRICA

    To equip the church to respond to poverty & injustice, thereby caring for the vulnerable using four programs: Food & Agriculture, Care, Education and Ministry.  (orchardafrica.org)

    Stephen Ministry

    Stephen Ministry equips lay people to provide confidential one-to-one Christian care to individuals in our congregation and community who are experiencing a difficult time in life, such as grief, divorce, job loss, chronic or terminal illness, or relocation.

    Stephen Ministers are trained by their congregation’s Stephen Leaders using resources from Stephen Ministries St. Louis. The training they receive in the congregation equips them to provide high-quality care to people who are hurting.

    Care receivers are individuals in the congregation or community who are going through a crisis or life difficulty. Potential care receivers first meet with a pastor or Stephen Leader, who assesses their needs for care and matches them with a Stephen Minister.

    After being matched with a person experiencing a life crisis, the Stephen Minister meets with that person on a weekly basis for about an hour to listen, care, encourage, and provide emotional and spiritual support. The caring relationship lasts as long as the need for care exists.

    “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2, NRSV)

    WOMEN’S MINISTRY

    Welcome to the vibrant women’s ministry at Victory Lutheran Church! As a community of women created in the image of God, called to discipleship in Jesus Christ, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are committed to growing in faith, affirming our gifts, and supporting one another in our callings. Our purpose is to engage in ministry and action, promoting healing and wholeness in the church, society, and the world. At Victory Lutheran Church, our women’s ministry provides a nurturing and empowering space for women of all ages to connect, grow, and serve together. Through uplifting worship, inspiring Bible studies, enriching events, and impactful service opportunities, we equip women to live out their God-given purpose and embrace their unique gifts. Join us as we journey together, fostering fellowship, spiritual growth, and making a lasting impact within our church, our families, and our wider community.

    PURPOSE STATEMENT

    As a community of women created in the image of God, called to discipleship in Jesus Christ,  and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we commit ourselves to grow in faith, affirm our gifts,  support one another in our callings, engage in ministry and action, and promote healing and wholeness in the church, the society, and the world.

    We meet throughout the year on the 2nd Tuesday of the month for Bible Study:

    Summer Schedule (May-Sept)

    2nd Tuesday of the month all groups meet together on campus at 9:30am.

    Winter Schedule (Oct-April)

    • 2nd Tuesday of the month
    • Esperanza Bible Study – 9:30am
    • Naomi Bible Study – 2:00pm
    • Mary Bible Study – 1:30pm (in home)