You cannot follow me...

03-04-18 Week 10, Day 2

Peter said, ‘I am not.” John 18:25

“Where I am going, you cannot follow me now”, Jesus told his disciples. “But you will follow afterwards.” Peter will have none of this. “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”

No doubt he meant it. He had responded to Jesus’ “Follow me” call by following. And, as with the others, his was a costly response. Home and family and business were left behind so he could wander Palestine with this poor rabbi who was, at the very least, an unknown quantity. He had taken a chance.

And the risk seemed to be paying off. He had seen remarkable things. His heart told him this was the right choice.

In for a penny, in for a pound. He had given himself to Jesus. He believed he would be willing to give himself for Jesus—give his life for his teacher. “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”

(Think about that for a moment. For what would you give your life? For what would you even imagine giving your life?)

The experience of faith—of trusting some one or some thing, pulls us into a life we might, in our more cautious moments, not even consider. Love, like trust, does the same thing. We are drawn toward what we love; drawn to care for and protect what we love. And we freely accept the cost. “I will lay down my life for you...”

But such is the reality of human being—we protect what we love (to paraphrase Dr. Seuss) “until we don’t; because sometimes we won’t” (1)

"Will you lay down your life for me?” Jesus asks Peter. “Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times”.

The experience of betrayal—of betraying someone we love, is known too well by too many of us. Why do we do it? Sometimes the motive is greed. Often it is jealousy. Peter was driven by naked fear.

Jesus was going down fast, Peter realized. He had tied himself to a sinking ship. To offer his life to a winning cause, as he had just hours before, made some sense. But this—submitting himself to the wrath Rome, turned his heart to ice and his knees to jelly. Three times he is fingered by the crowd. “Are you not one of this man’s disciples?”

“I am not!”

The rooster crows.

The truth comes out.

“Where I am going, you cannot follow me now”. Peter, and all the others, prove him right. Their love, while true, was not enough. They can’t go there.

Yet Jesus leaves a trail of hope—one we need to see lest our own betrayals drive us to despair. You may fail; in fact you most certainly will. “You cannot follow me now”.

“But you will follow afterwards.”

Do you see it—the “afterwards” to our failure? The worst thing we do is never the last thing we do. This is the meaning of grace. Grace enfolds redemption in failure. Unseen for a while (sometimes for a long while) it won’t stay hidden forever. “I will not leave you orphaned”, Jesus tells his disciples, and us. (John 14.8)

Don’t fear the darkness. You’ll get through. Not unscathed, of course. You will bear your wounds. But “you will follow afterwards”.

Prayer: Help us to follow, as close as we can, through light and darkness; and to find, enfolded in our failure, your sufficient grace. Amen.

(1) Dr Seuss, O the Places You’ll Go

The texts for this week are: John 13: 33-38 and John 18: 12-27

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