Then they seized [Jesus] and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house. But Peter was following at a distance. Luke 22:54
Today we’re starting a new series to turn our hearts and minds toward Easter. But it’s Easter at a distance. Some are at a distance by choice. Others because of circumstances. (Incidentally, this was in the queue well before Covid-19 required everything be at a distance.)
Temple police had just caught up with Jesus and his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. Matthew tells us there was a brief scuffle, an ear was sliced off, and miraculously restored. Jesus then challenged their cowardice. “Am I some dangerous revolutionary, that you come with swords and clubs to arrest me? Why didn’t you arrest me in the Temple? I was there teaching every day.” But even Zechariah in 13:7 foretold what happened next. Jesus’s disciples forsook Him and fled.
But Peter followed at a distance.
He ended up in the courtyard at the high priest’s house. He was close enough that he could still keep tabs on what happened to Jesus but far enough away that he wouldn’t get dragged into the mess.
He was close enough to satisfy his conscience without endangering his reputation (or himself).
He tried to blend in with the servants of the high priest while denying that the last three years of his life had even happened.
It was dark. It was cold. And he was alone in the crowd.
It is here the story gets uncomfortable. We don’t have to read all the way through the denials and the rooster and the look that passes between Jesus and Peter before things start to feel a little too familiar.
You see, Peter wanted to control how closely he identified with Jesus. Moments earlier, he brandished a sword and pledged to die at Jesus’s side. But then, when it looked like surrender was, in fact, the plan, he bailed. He wanted the glory. He wanted it on his terms.
We can’t follow at a distance.
We cannot dictate the terms of our discipleship to the Savior who bought us. We can’t simply coddle our conscience without causing any distress or discomfort. Jesus loved Peter deeply, but He didn’t hesitate to expose Peter’s heart. He can also expose ours.
As we consider the cross and the empty tomb, let’s resolve NOT to follow at a distance. Let’s go all in. The world needs Jesus. And the world needs His followers to genuinely follow.