Are You A Distant Disciple?

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Another Holy Week blog updated a bit

Mark 14:43-65

Betrayal and Arrest 43 Immediately while He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, *came up accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs, who were from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. 44 Now he who was betraying Him had given them a signal, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him and lead Him away under guard.”45 After coming, Judas immediately went to Him, saying, “Rabbi!” and kissed Him. 46They laid hands on Him and seized Him. 47 But one of those who stood by drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. 48 And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me, as you would against a robber? 49 Every day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me; but this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures.” 50 And they all left Him and fled.

51 A young man was following Him, wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his nakedbody; and they *seized him. 52 But he pulled free of the linen sheet and escaped naked.
Jesus before His Accusers 53 They led Jesus away to the high priest; and all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes *gathered together. 54 Peter had followed Him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the officers and warming himself at the fire. 55 Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, and they were not finding any. 56 For many were giving false testimony against Him, but their testimony was not consistent.57 Some stood up and began to give false testimony against Him, saying, 58 “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.’” 59 Not even in this respect was their testimony consistent. 60 The high priest stood up and came forward and questioned Jesus, saying, “Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?” 61 But He kept silent and did not answer. Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” 62 And Jesus said, “I am; and you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING WITH THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.” 63 Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? 64 You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?” And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death. 65 Some began to spit at Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him with their fists, and to say to Him, “Prophesy!” And the officers received Him with slaps in the face.

I am haunted by that phrase that Peter “followed at a distance.” At this point in his life Peter wanted to follow Jesus from a safe distance. He wanted to be close enough to hear what Jesus had to say, close enough so he could see what Jesus was doing but far enough away that he wouldn’t be seen by others as a Christ follower, far enough away so following Christ wouldn’t cost him, endanger or inconvenience him.

There is a long but not proud tradition of following Jesus at a distance that stretches back to Peter. Following Jesus at a distance is about wanting discipleship without a cost. Its about wanting a form of discipleship in which Jesus never calls on you to pick up your cross and follow him. Following Jesus at a distance is about wanting to live a Christianity with no personal cost, no real danger and no sacrifice beyond a little inconvenience.

One of my personal heroes is Dietrich Bonheoffer, a German pastor and theologian who when the Nazi Party came to power refused to follow Jesus at “a distance.” Despite knowing all about the Gestapo and Concentration Camps Bonhoeffer did everything in Nazi Germany that Peter didn’t do in our passage. Bonhoeffer publicly identified with Christ, he defended Christs cause, he spoke out against injustice and the result was that it eventually it cost him his own cross. In the dying days of WW2 the Nazis hung this disciple who would not follow Jesus silently from a safe distance and who willingly accepted the cost of discipleship.

Before he was killed Bonhoeffer wrote one of the all time classic Christian books, a book whose title was to be prophetic for this shy academic, it was called in German “Discipleship” (& in English ” The Cost Of Discipleship”) In it Bonheoffer attacks what he calls “cheap grace” which he describes like this “Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.” He attacked the majority of German Christians of his generation who would only follow Christ from a safe distance, who wanted a Christianity with no cross for them to have to pick up and follow Jesus with. Who like Peter were silent when they witnessed injustice and brutality.

I have discovered that the temptation to “follow at a distance” and to want “cheap grace” are perennial problems in the church ………… And in my heart.

We shouldn’t be too hard on Peter. Unlike so many he learned from his previous failures. Peter eventually came to the point in his life where he too followed Jesus closely whatever the cost. This morning I recommit myself to following Jesus from the distance that Peter and Bonhoeffer did, to follow him where ever he leads, whatever the cost.

What about you, can I ask you, what distance are you following Christ from?

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