Having arrested Him, they led Him and brought Him into the high priest’s house. But Peter followed at a distance. (Luke 22:54, NKJV)
Earlier that evening, Peter had publicly stated he was ready to go to prison, and die, for Jesus (Lk. 22:33). He had even unsheathed his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant when Jesus was arrested in Gethsemane (Jno. 18:10). Now, Jesus is led bound to a series of trials, leading to crucifixion, Peter followed to see the end (Matt. 26:58). When tested, three times he denied knowing Jesus. Like Peter, we are not immune to thinking more highly of our faith and conviction than we should. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12; cf. Galatians 6:3). Instead of following Jesus “at a distance,” let us follow Him closely, determining to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
36 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.” 37 Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake.” 38 Jesus answered him, “Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times.” (John 13:36–38, NKJV)
Jesus was headed for Golgotha (the place of a skull), there to die a disgraceful death for the sins of the world, and afterward to enter His glory (John 17:4-5). Peter would follow Jesus in life, and in his death he would glorify God (John 21:18-19). But for now, as Jesus was on His way to Golgotha, Peter’s overconfidence would be betrayed by fear and doubt, leading him to deny even knowing Jesus (John 18:15-18, 25-27). And so, we learn to be careful not to become self-righteous and arrogant in our faith. We learn of God’s amazing forgiveness, for Peter went on to be a great apostle of Christ. And, we learn that even when we grievously sin, the Lord will receive us back and use us for His purposes. So, let us follow Jesus in faithful obedience, nothing doubting. He will lead us to heaven, the place He has already gone.
22 … “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” 23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.” (Luke 9:22–24, NKJV)
Being a Christian is not a pain-free zone. Jesus Christ, whose name we wear, suffered enormously to secure our redemption. He suffered injustice, ridicule, humiliation, mental anguish and physical torture unto death, despised as a criminal and rejected by men. Yet still, some Christians find it a burden to deny themselves the simplest comfort in order to serve Christ. Let us be clear: We cannot follow Jesus without taking up our cross daily. That means sacrifice. Self-denial. Total faith and complete obedience. To try to follow Jesus without complete self-denial will cause you to lose your life. Only when you lose yourself for His sake, will your life be saved.
33 Peter answered and said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” 35 Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And so said all the disciples. (Matthew 26:33–35, NKJV)
We are tempted at times to overestimate our fidelity to the Lord. Peter thought himself immune to the temptation to flee when Jesus told His disciples He would be struck down (Matt. 26:31). In spite of Jesus telling Peter he would indeed deny Him three times, Peter still clung to his self-confidence. He would die before he would deny Jesus! All the disciples took courage from Peter’s declaration and joined in with the same pledge. No one is beyond temptation and sin. “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” warns us against self-righteous pronouncements of self-assured resistance of temptation (1 Cor. 10:13). “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding” (Prov. 3:5). He will give you a way of escape that you may be able to endure and prevail in Him. Take the Lord’s way of escape when tempted, and prevail through Him.