The night before Jesus crucifixion he gathered with the disciples to celebrate the Passover meal. He told them he would soon be betrayed into the hands of the authorities and put to death. He also told them that they would abandon him. Peter boldly protested, declaring that even if everyone else betrayed him, he would stand with Jesus and never run away. Jesus told Peter that he would indeed deny him three times before the rooster crowed. Later that night in the Garden of Gethsemane Peter took his sword and whacked off the ear of a Roman soldier who had come to arrest Jesus. Standing there close to Jesus he proved his willingness to fight for Jesus freedom. Jesus put a stop to any violent protest and immediately went willingly with the soldiers to the house of the high priest, but Scripture says, Peter followed at a distance. This man, who moments earlier, was willing to die to protect Jesus is lagging back keeping his distance from his Lord and Master. We know from reading Luke’s account (Lk 22:54-62) that Peter soon denied Jesus three times, just as Jesus foretold.
Lk 22:54-62; Jn 21:5-6, 15, 17; 1 Co 10:12; 2 Co 5:17; 1 Pe 4:16
Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past if forgotten, and everything is new. (2 Co 5:17)
If you think you are standing firm you had better be careful that you do not fall! (1 Co 10:12)
But if you suffer because you are a “Christ-follower,” don’t be ashamed. You should praise God for that name. (1 Pt 4:16)
We cannot imagine the fear that gripped the disciples seeing their teacher, leader, Lord taken away for trial, and execution. Claiming any association with Jesus could mean death. But still, three years of affirmation that Jesus is the Christ, three years of validation through his miracles, what happened? Peter obviously didn’t recognize the extent of his weakness. He could not envision himself denying the Lord; yet he did! While he was close to Jesus he exhibited confidence, determination and faithfulness, but when Jesus was led away and Peter fell back, the distance between him and Jesus formed a gulf. Peter was weakened, vulnerable and susceptible to failure. When we underestimate our weakness and allow distance to come between us and Jesus, things can go south pretty fast. Walking with Jesus on a daily basis, talking with him, reading his word and listening to the Holy Spirit means living in a place of strength and comfort. But when you allow distance to come between you and Jesus, you miss things. You can’t hear or sense the Holy Spirit as well; you are disconnected. The kingdom of God is more than staying out of hell and spending eternity in heaven; the Kingdom of God is here and now. Life can be so much more when you follow Jesus closely. No matter how you’ve failed, Jesus is waiting and willing to make all things new! Draw near to Jesus. Stay in step with him. Allow God’s Kingdom to pervade your life in the here and now!
Give an example of following Christ at a distance? Why would someone choose distance? Do you recognize your weaknesses, areas of vulnerability? How does closeness to or distance from Jesus affect your weakness? Jesus makes all things new, but everything doesn’t necessarily get “fixed”. Explain. Do you believe you are as close to Jesus as you need to be? Why or why not? What are you not doing that you should do to get closer? Is there anything or anyone closer to you than Jesus? Is living close to Jesus scary? Why or why not?
Examine your activities, life style, habits, hobbies and friends. Decide what needs to change in order for you to draw closer to Jesus. Determine the steps you need to take to move closer. Track your progress.
Lord, allow my eyes to clearly see the distance between you and me. Give me the wisdom and courage to close the gap and draw near to you. I want to live in your presence. Please dispel my fear and give me strength to do your will and walk with you daily, closely, always. In Jesus Name I pray, Amen.