Peter Followed at a Distance

It was more than likely past midnight when Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. John tells us that they bound Christ before leading Him across the Kidron Brook to the Palace of the high priest on the west side of the Temple area. Annas had been high priest for ten years, and the position was supposed to be for life, but he had been deposed by the Roman procurator Gratus. The son-in-law of Annas, Caiaphas, held the title of High Priest, but he was more a puppet of Annas (Acts 4:6). Annas was still seen as the most influential in much of the political and social life of the nation of Israel. Both Annas and Caiaphas lived in the palace compound of the High Priest’s residence, with a courtyard separating them. Living lavishly by their various money-making schemes, they were well protected with walls, gates, servants and guards to protect them. Let’s first read Luke’s account, remembering that, to arrive at a complete picture of all the drama, we will also look at what the other Gospel writers record.

54Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. 55But when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them (Luke 22:54-55).

As well as Luke, both Matthew and Mark note that Peter followed the “large crowd” (Matthew 26:47) at a distance. Can I stop for a moment, and ask you, dear reader, are you following at a distance? How close are you to Christ? Are you ashamed to be known as a disciple and follower of Jesus? You may reply that it was not wise for Peter to be following too close. As we have already noted in our daily meditation (scroll down), there were more than 450 Roman soldiers plus the temple guards that, it is estimated, brought the number to around 600 people. Following Christ at a distance will lead us to sin, and I would not have you deny your Lord like Peter did.

After Jesus was arrested, the eleven disciples had scattered, but we are told that two of them found one another on the way and followed the large crowd. We are not told who the other disciple was, but it was likely the Apostle John. In typical fashion for John, he rarely spoke about himself.

15Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, 16but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the girl on duty there and brought Peter in. 17“You are not one of his disciples, are you?” the girl at the door asked Peter. He replied, “I am not.” 18It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself (John 18:15-18).

As Peter followed at a distance, getting closer and closer to the high priest’s palace, what kind of thoughts were on his mind? It is likely that he thought about his words to Jesus just a few hours earlier at the Passover meal. He had said that he was ready to go to prison and to death. He was too confident of his own abilities and character. He had to prove the Lord wrong when Christ prophesied that he would deny Him:

31“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. 32But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” 33But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” 34Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me” (Luke 22:31-34).

Simon Peter was still not yet ready for the responsibility that God would put upon his shoulders. He was too overconfident in himself. So, the question that is before us over the next few days is how does God bring change to our lives when we fall short of what He is making us to be? The drama of what took place in the high priest’s courtyard with Peter will help us to see how God works to prepare him for the responsibilities that God has for him. We’ll carry on this thought tomorrow.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 61, Peter, the Broken Disciple (Luke 22:54-62). Keith Thomas