Jesus spoke these words to the twelve people who had invested their entire lives to be with Him. He knew that after His arrest, trial, and crucifixion, not one of them would stand by Him. They would all run and hide in fear. He knew this. He told them this ahead of time, despite their insistence that they would be His followers. Peter is told specifically about his denial and he denies that he will deny! (Mark 14:31). These men have strong words but weak hearts (Mark 14:40-42). Jesus understood this about them.
Following Jesus always has this element of battle against my own desires. The result is that I don’t always follow Him like I should. I don’t love Him like I should. I don’t obey Him like I should. I am thus a lot like these men. I talk a good talk. But my feet don’t always match up with my statements.
I am sure that Jesus was disappointed with the inconsistency of these men. But He let them know that He would restore the relationship they had run from. They might run away, but He would go in front of them to Galilee, and there make His post-resurrection appearances in the strongest ways. These men would remember their failures, but only in the light of Jesus’ remarkable work and victory. And they would never be the same men again. Inconsistent faith is challenged by God. Our failures are forgiven when we return to Him. He knows us and He loves us and He reaches us despite ourselves. Leaning on God’s grace gives us the resources to know that it is all up to Him. We simply believe and follow… even after we fail.