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, our Lord.”
Yet, like Peter, there may also be times when we keep our distance from Jesus. We may fail to show up for a daily prayer or quiet time with the Lord that we have intended for the beginning of each day. After a busy week of work, and a Saturday filled with our kid’s sports activities, we may let a round of golf take precedence over our attending church on Sunday.
We may fail to respond to a friend’s request for help because it is not convenient. We may put 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.
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 jokes, gossip, and the fawning over whoever might be the most senior person present. At some point I began to realize that when I went along with this kind of conduct I was distancing myself from Jesus. It was so easy to go with the flow and 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 is our faith tested in numerous ways, some obvious and significant, and some subtle and small. From a faith perspective, the latter can cause as much harm as the former because of their corrosive effect on our relationship with Jesus.
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. He warns us that in the world we will have trouble, but assures us that he has overcome the world.
He says step across the distance that separates us, and you will experience my love, my strength and my peace.