November 5, 2014
Mark 14:53, 54
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
Mark 14:53 and 54:
And they led Jesus away to the high priest; and with him were assembled
all the chief priests, the elders and the scribes. But Peter followed Him at
a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he sat with the
servants and warmed himself at the fire.
This passage concerns Peter, and how he reacted when Jesus was arrested by the temple police in the Garden of Gethsemane and hauled off to the house of the high priest Caiaphas. I want to emphasize what it says in verse 54, “But Peter followed Him at a distance….” Two questions: Why was Peter Following At A Distance? And what was the result of Following At A Distance? Answering these two questions will help us as Christians to be properly living out our faith.
• Why did Peter Follow At A Distance? Peter was scared – as were all the disciples. Jesus had told them in John 16:32, “Indeed, the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone.” He specifically told Peter in Mark 14:30, “Assuredly I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” But Peter “…spoke more vehemently, ‘If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!’ ” (Mark 14:31).
Peter thought he was living up to the name given him by Jesus in John 1:42 (NIV): “‘You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas’ (which, when translated, is Peter).” ‘Cephas’ is of Chaldee Aramaic origin, and means ‘rock.’ ‘Peter’ is Greek, and means ‘a large piece of rock.’ Apparently, Peter was trying to live up to his name as a ‘rock solid’ follower of Jesus – as well as trying to keep his promise to the Lord, “If I have to die with You, I will not deny You! ” – when he drew his sword and sliced off the high priest’s servant Malchus’ ear! (See John 18:10). Having done that damage, and seeing the “…great multitude with swords and clubs…” (Matthew 26:47) who came with “…a detachment of troops and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees…” (John 18:3) to apprehend Jesus, Peter – as well as the rest of the disciples – fled for their lives! No wonder he was Following At A Distance!
• What was the result of Following At A Distance? When, as it is commonly said, “push came to shove,” Peter denied his Lord three times – the last time, it says in Mark 14:71, “…he began to curse and to swear, ‘I know not this Man of whom you speak!”
And immediately a rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus
who had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows [twice], you will deny Me three
times.’ Then he went out and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26:74 and 75).
Bitter tears were the result of Following At A Distance!
But at least Peter followed with genuine, if shaky, faith! Judas Iscariot also followed Jesus, but at an even greater distance – a distance that lacked any real faith at all! The scripture does not say that Jesus’ betrayer shed any tears, but I suspect there were rivers of them as he “…departed, and went and hanged himself,” (Matthew 27:4). What was the result of Judas Following At A Distance? Physical and eternal death!
So let’s apply this. When Jesus, in Matthew 4:18 and 19, chose His first disciples, “…Peter, and Andrew his brother…He said to them, ‘Follow Me….” He meant for them – and all His disciples, including you and me – to follow Him closely! They were to follow the Lord so closely that He could impart Himself into them, making them one with Him! He prayed in John 17:22 and 23,
…the glory which You gave Me I have given them; that they may be one, just
as We are one: I in them, and You in Me, that they may be made perfect in
one, that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them,
as You have loved Me.
Are you following the Lord Jesus Christ so closely that He is imparting Himself into you, making you one with Him? Or are you Following At A Distance? Even as His child and Following At A Distance, you will have tears – tears of heartache in this life because you are missing the abundant life He came to give (see John 10:10). And you will have tears at the Believer’s Judgment because you will finally see the eternal rewards you could have had, but do not (see I Corinthians 3:11 through 15). If you are Following At A Distance as an unbeliever, you will have the tears of a wasted life here and now, and eternal tears of “…weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; Luke 13:28).
The choice is yours!