And Peter had followed him at a distance … Mark 14:54
Do you ever have a lightning bolt moment when you’re reading your Bible? I did this morning, as I was finishing up Mark 14. This chapter in Mark's gospel is filled with so much action, I've been taking my time to read through it.
Jesus had been arrested earlier in the Garden of Gethsemane. (Mark 14:46) In a flash, Peter’s life was in chaos. His teacher, friend, master, the One he’d declared was the Christ now stood as a criminal before the high priest. Peter, who’d stubbornly insisted he would stay with Jesus through thick and thin was sure he could take what was coming. He'd even whacked off the ear of the high priest's servant. Peter was serious. Then he ran away, like everyone else.
After his initial flight, he changed his mind. He turned around and began following from a distance. Afraid to commit to Him all the way. Afraid of what might happen. He could be arrested or worse. Peter had already forgotten the teaching he’d heard from Jesus a short while before His arrest.
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5
Abiding is staying close. Really close. And Peter was now following from a safe distance, or so he thought. Not too involved. On the fringes. He was afraid to abide … remain … sojourn … endure with Jesus. That decision brought him to probably the lowest point in his life. He denied the Savior three times, refusing to acknowledge he knew Him or was associated with Him in any way. And the rooster crowed, a second time just as Jesus had told him. Peter realized his folly too late. He’d distanced himself physically and spiritually. No longer brash and confident, he was a traitor and a coward.
The good news is that Jesus forgave Peter and restored him to minister. (John 21:22) What lavish love! Jesus does the same for us, time and time again. But His words to the disciples are just as true today. We must abide in Him. The abiding life is full of good fruit, despite the chaos around us. Following Jesus at a distance gives us a lot of space to fill. We stuff it with pride, fear, self-sufficiency, control, doubt, and anger. Bitter fruit. The fruit that Jesus had in mind is so much better.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23.