“Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later.” Peter said to him, “Master, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” (John 13:36-37)
You have to feel for Peter on this Holy Thursday night. He tried.
Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. (John 18:10)
Peter tried to lay down his life for Jesus, in the way he knew how: a valiant death in battle, protecting his Lord with his last strength. Perhaps it is this exuberant stab at self-sacrifice to which Jesus later alludes when He says, “Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted” (John 21:18a).
But Jesus was paving the way for a different sort of sacrifice, so difficult for the man who wished not to suffer the Lord to wash his feet: “when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go” (John 21:18b).
So the band of soldiers, the tribune, and the Jewish guards seized Jesus, bound him, and brought him to Annas first. (John 18:12-13)
I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do. (John 13:15)
To follow Christ, one must let Him go first and lead the way.
In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
Peter first had to suffer being saved by Christ’s loving sacrifice before he could offer his life for Christ in the weakness that is strength.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-11)
Image: Duccio di Buoninsegna, Christ Taken Prisoner (detail)