Following from Afar
Good Friday 2010
by Governor Mays
John 18:12-18, 25-27
This past summer my wife, Ollie, and I, were blessed to have all five of our grandchildren with us here in Kansas. They range from ages four through twelve--three girls and two boys; what energetic ages! One Saturday morning we planned for a fun day at the new City Water Park.
As we arrived, the parking lot was already crowded with cars. I had to park a distance from the main entrance. As we got out of the car, the eight- and twelve-year-olds started running toward the entrance of the park. The two four-year-old girls had earlier told me they were "big girls," so I was to treat them as big girls. As they walked, I noticed both of them were distracted by their surroundings which caused them to follow from afar. One of them was gathering stones and the other one was trying to catch a grasshopper. I called back to them and said, "Hurry up girls!" They both said, "Okay, Granddad," but continued with their stones and grasshopper.
Being a grandparent, I could only think of a parked car backing out or someone abducting the girls or any of a number of things that could happen. All because they were following from too far away. They are so young and can't understand the danger of following too far behind. I gave the older children instructions, and they went a short distance ahead to wait. After convincing one of the four-year-olds that a stone was more important that day than a grasshopper, she started picking up stones. I had to agree to keep their stones for them, and we were able to catch up with the others and have a safe and fun time in the park.
In this lesson, we see Jesus being taken away from his disciples in the middle of the night to the high priest's home. Later Peter is found standing at a palace whose outer walls enclosed a courtyard where servants and soldiers are warming themselves around a fire. Peter is standing with them. Only a few hours ago, Peter said he would die for the cause of Christ. Now Peter is faced with a test that is accompanied by fear and stress, and he is uncertain of the outcome. Under intense pressure to identify himself, Peter is broken (John 18: 26-27).
He weeps bitterly, full of guilt and shame because he denied Christ, the Son of God. Peter and the disciples had witnessed numerous miracles (Luke 19:37), but Peter's faith failed. At this moment in Peter's faith journey, he was following Jesus from afar--there was too much distance between him and Christ.
As we near the end of our Lenten season, a spiritual journey that spans 40 days, I trust it was a time of prayer, fasting, self-denial, and self-examination. My prayer is that when we encounter a test or pressure concerning our faith, we are not found following from afar. We should always be mindful of the dangers of following Christ from too much of a distance.
I believe today is one of the greatest hours for the church to stand bold in Christ. There will be opportunities to see many who are distracted by the things of this world. Some will even think there is no need to have Christ in their lives. If we encounter such persons, we should stop, take time, and try to convince them that Christ is more precious than this world.
In conclusion, as we celebrate Easter, let's pray for those who follow Christ from afar. Let's also pray that our faith does not fail. Be assured that having faith in God, we can stand on Jesus' promise that he would be with us always, to the very end of the age. That alone is reason why we should never deny him. We should follow him daily and never from afar.
Governor A. Mays is a United Methodist missionary assigned by the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church to the Flint Hills District of the East Kansas Annual Conference.
Date posted: Mar 31, 2010