As we begin the Lenten Season, we might ask ourselves, how much of my following Jesus is at a distance? After Jesus’ arrest, we read in the Gospel of Mark, “Peter followed at a distance right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself by the fire.” (Mark 14:54)
Like Peter, we may profess our allegiance to Jesus that “even if all fall away, I will not,” or we may recite the Creed every Sunday in our church declaring that we believe in “God the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only son.”
Yet, we keep our distance from Jesus, failing to keep our appointment with him each day in prayer or putting a higher priority on our comfort as Peter did when he sat with the guards and warmed himself by the fire.
Like Peter, we may be thrust into circumstances where we are reluctant to be identified with Jesus. In Peter’s case, it was the guards, the elders, and the mob. For us, it may be a boss who has disdain for God, or social friends who consider any reference to Jesus as foolishness or it may be our yielding to that little temptation that never seems to go completely away.
Early in my career when I would attend a company meeting followed by cocktails and dinner, the conduct could sometimes get a bit macho and boisterous. It was not unusual for the conversation to involve exaggerated exploits, the building up of self and the putting down of others, off-color stories, gossip, and the fawning over whoever might be the most senior person present. At some point I began to realize that when I engaged in this kind of conduct I was distancing myself from Jesus. It was so easy to go with the flow and so tempting to want to be a part of the group. It required a decision on my part not to participate.
Just as Peter’s faith was tested, so may our faith be tested. The world inclines us to keep our distance from Jesus, while Jesus bids us to draw near. He says, come to me all who are burdened from the cares of this world and I will give you rest. Come to me all who are thirsty for meaning in life and I will give you understanding. Do not fear those who do not follow me for I have overcome this world. Step across the distance that separates us, and you will experience my love, my strength and my peace.
Do your daily choices distance you from Jesus? How can you shorten the distance?