They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law came together. Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire.
The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.
Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.’” Yet even then their testimony did not agree.
I would like to make an observation about today’s text, which I think holds the key to most discipleship failures. It’s right there in verse 54.
Peter followed him at a distance . . .
Just a few verses back we saw Peter run for the hills with the rest of the disciples. Apparently, somewhere between fourth and fifth gear, he remembered the loyalty pledge he made to Jesus a few short hours earlier.
Just as his oath was fueled by his best intentions and the strength of his ego, so was his half-hearted return from his terrified retreat. There’s a way of following Jesus from the strength of the Holy Spirit, and there’s a way of following Jesus from the strength of the human spirit. The interesting irony of the latter is the way these Peter types have all the appearances of being all in, when the truth of the matter is they are really only following him from a distance.
I have a friend Lauren, who categorizes people into two basic groups: the people who have dealt and the people who have not dealt. What does she mean by this? I’m glad you asked. She’s talking about people who are stuck somewhere between forgiveness and freedom. Many, if not most, people stop growing when they receive the first gift of salvation’the forgiveness of their sins. For many reasons, all of which will be profoundly unsatisfying in the end, they fail to press on from the gift of forgiveness to greater gifts of freedom in Christ and the fullness of the Holy Spirit. The result is that they tend to follow Jesus at a distance. As we discussed the other day, they put on a show of commitment, which masks their deficit of devotion.
And that’s the crazy thing about it. No one would have ever accused Peter of following at a distance. He looked to the world like disciple 1A.
The truth? Following from a distance isn’t really following at all. When we follow from a distance we trade in our discipleship for a place in the crowd. We will see soon how distance fosters denial, which is the recipe for a discipleship failure.
So who follows Jesus up close? It’s the ones who have dealt. It’s the people who have broken through the barrier of their brokenness only to discover their blessedness. They are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the ones who hunger and thirst for righteousness beyond religiosity, who crave mercy, whose hearts radiate the pure love of God, who breathe peace everywhere they go, and who receive the persecution of enemies as a badge of honor.
Those who follow Jesus up close have come to the realization that it’s the only way they can make it.
All of this has me asking myself, Where am I in the mix? It probably looks like I’m following pretty closely, which is what scares me. How about you?
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
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