Luke 22:54 “Then took they him, and led him, and brought him unto the high priest’s house. And Peter followed afar off.”
“And Peter followed afar off.”
Following afar off//Backsliding
If we will look honestly at this portion of scripture and consider it well, we can see ourselves in it, we must look at it honestly, though. In truth, this verse is a picture which resembles too well what we see in the typical Christian in our day. It is a shame, and well it should be, but we must examine ourselves honestly and admit it. We are talking about saved folks here; those of us who do belong to Jesus. What we see of ourselves upon examination should shock us into realization of how utterly and absolutely worthless we truly are without Him.
Peter is no different than the rest of us in his following afar off, and we need to keep this in mind. This is a picture of one who is back- slidden: Still following, but at a distance so as not to be perceived by lookers on that we are following.
It is good to have an understanding about just what back sliding is. In Hosea 4:16 we read “For Israel slideth back as a back-sliding heifer:” According to Matthew Henry this term is misunderstood in our day. There are many men in many pulpits who preach backsliding in many a different way. Matthew Henry, though, is one of the only reasonable commentators on this term. He taught that it pictured a young heifer which was under the yoke. When a young ox was being broken to the yoke it was placed in the yoke with an older, stronger, more experienced ox. The yoke was adjusted in such a way that most of the burden was placed upon the stronger and more experienced beast. The picture of this back-sliding heifer is of one who is under the yoke and trying to hold back while being dragged by the other, hooves sliding. She is under the yoke. Only when under the yoke can one back slide; and backsliding is a choice, a conscious and deliberate choice, as is well pictured in this.
When we personally fail our Saviour we are backsliding. Our times of voluntary, deliberate resistance are just that, voluntary and deliberate. Back sliding is nothing short of rebellion against God’s will.
Jesus has already promised us that He won’t overload us. “For my yoke is easy and my burden light.”
Look at Peter’s situation. He was just with the Lord in the garden when they took Him prisoner. He has just shown all about him that he would gladly lay down his life for the Lord. He drew his sword and cut off the ear of Malchus. He was ready to fight and die for Jesus. This is that same Peter who walked on water, that same Peter! He who would have died a short while ago was now backslidden and he was trying to conceal just who he was. With this in mind we should note that, if Peter was capable of backsliding, any one of us is just as capable of doing it. No child of God is immune to this condition.
Look at Abraham. He took Hagar to bring children into the world because he was tempted by his own lack of faith in the promise of seed. He took matters into his own hands and his descendants have been paying the price ever since.
Moses was tempted by his own pride and lack of faith and he smote the rock the second time. Because he feared what the people might think of him, he sinned and back slid. He did not get to go in with Israel into the promised land because of this.
David, because of his own lust took the wife of another man to himself and suffered greatly because of it.
Balaam sought reward instead of honest service to God.
And here we are studying Peter, denying Christ 3 times.
And you and I are just as guilty sometimes. We are just as likely to back slide as they were. And it is usually about the time that we are ready to snap our spiritual suspenders over some victory or success that we are most likely to fall into this rut.
1Cor. 10:12 “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”
How does this happen? Backsliding is nothing less than sin and sin is a result of falling to temptation. Though it is a conscious and deliberate it is a yielding of ourselves to temptation. That temptation may be of ourselves, or the devil, or another person, yet it is there and we fall to it.
And the result is misery.
Proverbs 13:15 “Good understanding giveth favor: but the way of transgressors is hard.”
In verse 62 Peter went out and wept bitterly. We should learn from his example that, even though we feel that it is hard sometimes to obey, repentance is much more painful and we are left scarred by failure to obey. Obedience is easier to live with in the end. We may tell ourselves that we are too weak to do the right thing. We may say that the temptation is too great, but it is always easier on us if we will just do right.
We also find that there seems to be no lasting joy, peace, relief or pleasure in sin, that it is only for a short season, and how short the season.
I believe that we see in this passage, one fine bible example of the truth in Psalm 1 and the first couple of verses. “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful,” Peter, had he not walked in the wrong counsel, would have prepared himself and stayed faithful, he was warned by Jesus that he would deny Him. In our text, however, we see him walking according to the counsel of another, was it all his own heart, was it of temptation of the devil, or a little of both that Peter did what he did? Either way, he followed it, and it cost him.