Perspectives on the Passion of Christ: Part 2 – How Close Do We Follow?
Rev. Dr. Mark Raeburn Johnston
Having arrested Him, they led Him and brought Him into the high priest’s house. But Peter followed at a distance.
(Lk. 22:54 NKJ)
According to the Scriptures, during the first night of the Passover, our Maundy Thursday, all the disciples abandoned Jesus when He was seized and taken to the house of the Caiaphas, the High Priest. This fulfilled the prophecy from the Psalms;
“Because of my condition,even my friends and acquaintances keep their distance;my neighbors stand far away…” (Psalm 38:11)
But, unlike the others, Simon Peter dared to follow the crowd as they hurried to the house of the High Priest. We’re told that Peter ‘followed from a distance,’ a safe distance, as Jesus was pushed and shoved by the arresting party.
Arriving in the cold darkness of that terrible night, Peter warmed himself by a fire as Jesus was interrogated, abused and beaten. (Matthew 26:74)
Earlier that same evening, Peter was told that he would deny Jesus three times before the crowing of the rooster. Peter had protested saying that he would be willing to die for the Lord rather than deny Him (Luke 22:33).
However, the circumstances of Jesus’ arrest and the fearful uncertainties surrounding the Lord’s fate caused Peter to say some three times; “I don’t know the man!” Upon his third denial, the rooster crowed, reminding Peter of the Lord’s awful prediction. We read that Peter went out from the courtyard and wept bitterly!
What can we learn from this heart breaking experience? How can we prepare ourselves when we face the same trials that Peter and the other disciples experienced? How do we stand and give the ‘good confession’ when persecution may await?
Let’s begin with this important lesson;
The proximity of our walk will determine the power of our witness!
I am convinced that the Christian faith is first and foremost driven by relationships. We begin with the relationship that comes through faith in the Person and Work of God the Son. The salvation experience of the believer includes the Presence of the Holy Spirit who is instrumental in convicting, converting and counseling those who call upon the Name of the Savior. We are privileged to pray in Jesus Name to our Heavenly Father, calling Him ‘Abba’ and make petition for ourselves and others.
Christians are relationally driven by our connectedness in the Body of Christ, the Church. We are interrelated by the Holy Spirit, and our walk with God is reflected in the communion we have with those who profess His Name.
A second lesson we can learn from this story concerns our accommodation and compromise with an unbelieving and persecuting world. When things get cold and dark, when our faith is questioned or mocked, do we turn to the warmth of the world’s fires for our comfort? Do we allow our Lord to be abused while we choose the security of silence, the pretense of some denial?
We might summarize this second principle as; ‘the world’s comforting fires will cool our conviction and faith’
To deny our relationship with God in exchange for the pretentious peace of a hostile world is a betrayal of both the Lord and ourselves! Know this, the world will not die for you. But God the Son has died for you so that you might live with Him.
Peter not only mourned the betrayal of his best friend, but he realized that he had not been true to himself. He had betrayed everything he believed when he said, “I don’t know the Man!”
Later, following the Lord’s physical Resurrection, Peter was restored through a series of three questions.
“Peter, do you love Me?” Jesus repeatedly asked.
Peter’s answers and the Lord’s affirmation included the command; “Then feed my sheep!”
Again, an emphasis on a relational faith that is meaningful in a religious world.
Our closeness with the Lord comes from a daily effort to know and serve God. This closeness results from dedicated times of prayer, bible reading, church fellowship, and service.
Our witness to the world is a natural consequence of our walk with God. If we walk with the Lord from a distance, chances are that our witness will be non-existent. But what would happen if people knew you were a Christian simply by the way you live your life, by the way you ‘walk’ your faith?
Then, and only then, they will know that you follow Jesus ‘up close.’ Let’s commit this day to follow the Lord wherever He leads. Then, let’s testify to the world, “Yes, I KNOW THE MAN!