Monday, February 05, 2018

"Following at a Distance"

Matthew 26.58 NIV

“But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.”

Peter was fooling himself. He thought he was a fully devoted follower of Christ, yet he “followed” the Lord at a safe “distance.” Peter tried to make himself indistinguishable from the crowd when he entered “the courtyard of the high priest” and “sat down with the guards.” He had an sincere interest in Jesus, but that was all. 

Like so many others, Peter was curious to “see the outcome” of Christ’s arrest. But when recognized as a disciple of Jesus, Peter denied it, just like Jesus said he would. Peter was an ‘arm’s length’ follower of Christ. Even after a few years of personal involvement, he was not committed in his pursuit of the Lord. The disciple was not fully invested. He was unwilling to risk his life for Jesus. When faced with a decision he lied, “I do not know the man” (Matthew 28.72).

I am a follower of sports, and yesterday’s Super Bowl 52 was no exception. The Eagles’ win over the Patriots was a stunning upset. As great as the game was, nothing compares in my mind to the Giants vs. Patriots Super Bowl faceoff on on February 3rd, 2008. According to Aaron Fentress of the Oregonian, a certain end of game play could well “go down as one of the greatest in Super bowl history.[1]

That day, I was an avid follower of Eli Peyton. I watched “at a distance” as he skillfully avoided what I thought was a guaranteed sack and make an incredible 32 yard pass to David Tyree. Then with only 59 seconds left in the game and trailing by 4 points Manning completed the game winning touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress for a Giant upset at the University of Phoenix Stadium. New England could not score for the perfect 19-0 season they hoped for. The Giants regained the football and, with only one second on the clock, Eli Manning knelt to win both the game and an MVP Trophy. It was an afternoon of amazing football. 

For a few hours each year, I am a follower of football. But my allegiance quickly wanes. I am an occasional adherent of the game. Ten years ago I was an avid supporter of Eli Manning.  To show you just how fickle I am, 24 hours ago I was a bigger fan of the halftime entertainer, Justin Timberlake, than quarterback Nick Foles. I watched Justin “at a distance” from the comfort of a soft living room couch. I was glued to the television and, like Peter, “sat down… to see the outcome.” Do I know Justin Timberlake or Nick Foles? No. I never met the men. Neither do I qualify as a fully devoted follower of Russel Wilson, Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Aaron Rodgers, John Elway, Brett Favre, or any other winning Super Bowl quarterback. 

Sometime after Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and came to know intimately the man he initially “followed… at a distance.” He became a fully devoted follower of Christ and leader of the early Jesus movement. 

There is a difference between following Christ at a distance and being His fully devoted follower.

[1] “Super Bowl: Giants sack Tom Brady five times”, Aaron Fentress, The Oregonian, Sports, section D, page 9, Monday February 4, 2008.

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