“My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.” – John 13:33
In John 13 we learn that the hour Jesus has continuously referred to as coming is now here (13:1, 31). Jesus tells the 11 (Judas just left to betray him) that he is going somewhere they will not able to follow. Now if you are a disciple, a follower, of Christ that is problematic. They have been following him through thick and thin to this point and intend on continuing to follow him no matter what. That is what disciples do, after all. In vs. 36 Peter asks the question that was on everyone’s mind, “Lord, where are you going.” and follows it up with a bold declaration of his intention to be with Jesus always, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” (13:37). In other words, because I am willing to die for my faith in you and our friendship there is not a place in this world you can go that I will not be by your side. I would die following you before I would live elsewhere.
Good words. Good heart. Good intentions. But he was wrong. In the very next verse Jesus prophesies that Peter will disown him not one time as Judas did but three times! What follows that prediction are some of the most quoted and most taken out of context verses in the gospel of John (14:1-4) where Jesus tells them more about where he is going and what he will do when he gets there. In John 14 the disciples still don’t get that he is talking about his own death, resurrection and returning to the Father but more on that later.
From these verses we learn that it is possible to be zealous but misguided. Some speculate that was the case with Judas. Some believe he was a zealot who was trying to force Jesus’ hand to restore Israel in a more political than spiritual sense. The question for us is this, How often do we have good intentions that we really do believe are true and right but like Peter are weak on the follow through? Are there times we make promises to God that we don’t make good on or take lightly in a moment of stress, guilt, or anxiety? The example of Peter shows us that there is still reconciliation with God even if we goof it all up but it is certainly not a road any of us should want to travel. This story also teaches us there are some things, many things God understands that we don’t and that it is okay. At the end of the day Christ’s promise of their place in heaven was not dependent upon how well they understood what he was talking about (because they didn’t) but on the fact that Christ is faithful to fulfill his promises so much so he is willing to go to the cross to make these promises possible.