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At a Distance

Today is the Maundy Thursday, the day on the Christian liturgical calendar in which we observe Jesus and the washing of the disciples’ feet. The day before Good Friday.

As I read Matthew 26, I begin to think about the disciples’ distance from Jesus, in particular, Peter’s distance from Jesus. Peter's distance from Jesus didn’t begin when Jesus was betrayed and capture; it started in the Garden of Gethsemane. Peter and the sons of Zebedee went with Jesus a little further into the garden until Jesus said to them,

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” As Jesus went a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping (Matthew 26:38-40).

This is where Peter’s (and the other disciples’) distance from Jesus began; at a crucial point where Jesus needed them to pray. Jesus needed the prayers of his disciples because He was well aware of the events that were about to take place. He knew what was about to happen.

Although Jesus tried to tell the disciples on many occasions of his impending death and crucifixion, they didn’t understand. The didn’t interpret the times or the parables correctly.

Prayer is important because it draws us closer to God. Prayer allows us to be in tune with the move of God. It allows us to hear the heartbeat of God. Without prayer, we will find ourselves like Peter and the rest of the disciples, at a distance.

Peter and the other disciples who went with Jesus were sleeping in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus had to speak to them three times about watching and praying.

As the night went on, Peter’s distance grew. Peter followed at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He was close enough to hear and see what was happening to Jesus, but far enough away to turn his back on him and do nothing.

At one point after a servant girl recognized Peter as one of Jesus’ disciples, Peter denied it and went out to the gateway, distancing himself further away from Jesus. Peter moved from being in the inner circle in close proximity, to being in the middle or lukewarm in the courtyard, to being outside the presence and will of God when he denied Jesus a third time at the gateway. It is at the gateway where Jesus looked at Peter as he denied him a third time as the rooster crowed (Luke 22:60-62). It is at the gateway where Peter wept bitterly, and we do not hear about Peter anymore in Matthew’s gospel.

I want us to sit with Peter for a moment. Let’s sit with his distancing and denial without rushing to get past it because truthfully, if Peter’s story was to end here, he would have been stuck in a place of perpetual guilt and shame for his actions. I want us to sit with Peter’s story because it shows how rapidly our lives and loyalties can change if we do not pray and do the work expected for different outcomes.

Let’s sit with it because lukewarmness in our relationship with God can happen suddenly and overtime.

As you sit with Peter’s story in the gospel of Matthew, sit and think about yourself.

Are you at the gateway when it comes to your relationship with Jesus Christ?

Are you sleeping when Jesus asks you to watch and pray?

Have you grown distant from Jesus because others have associated you with Him, and because of what Jesus stands for, being associated with no longer feels good?

Are you at the gateway in your walk with God, acting out character and in denial of Jesus because others have grown comfortable in their sin and there is an enticement for you to do the same?

We want to be careful and to be reminded that we are disciples of Christ; not groupies of trend or fad that is popular for a season. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the eternal Word of God and is Good News. To live by the gospel of Jesus Christ will involve drawing near, following close, obeying His commands and living in a way that pleases God, and not the world.

As we proceed into the days leading up to Resurrection Sunday, be sure to draw near to God so that He may draw near to us (James 4:8). Let’s be certain to worship Him, to honor Him, to praise Him and to seek Him.

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