We all know Peter’s story! He is adamant in his profession of faithfulness to Jesus, but when that loyalty is put to the test, he is quick to deny. The title of this chapter is based on the passage following Jesus’ arrest found in scripture, “Peter followed at a distance (LK 22:54).” After Jesus is led away, Peter does not abandon him, but follows at a safe distance. Gray makes an interesting observation that “if we follow Christ in a discipleship that is comfortable and easy—from a distance—we’re setting ourselves up for a discipleship that will end in denial.” He goes on to explain that being at a distance may seem to work for a while, but it can lead to being separated from Christ. Gray then turns that question on each of us. How do I follow Christ? Closely? At a distance? Maybe there is a little distance…then a little more…and a little more. Gradually and without realizing it we can find ourselves separated from Christ and lost.
Even when we follow at a distance, God can use our half-hearted discipleship as a pathway back to him. Peter denied Jesus, but yet it is Peter who will lead his church. Gray says, Peter will be a great leader, a great shepherd, because he has personally encountered the mercy and forgiveness that Christ offered. The denial and the distance, are transformed by Christ to a closeness and intimacy. The parable of the prodigal son illustrates that point well. After squandering his inheritance, the son realizes the serious mistake he made. So too, it can be in the depths of our sinfulness, that we realize the distance we have put between ourselves and God and open ourselves to the outpouring of grace and forgiveness, to restore that relationship to a closeness and intimacy that we have not experienced before.
– Deacon Ralph
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