Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” ~ John 13:36
I set out to read some chapters in John this morning and I didn’t get far when the weigh and beauty of this verse overwhelmed me. It’s possible this is the only situation where Jesus said, Uh, no, you can’t follow me right now. This seems so odd because He just spent the last 3 years telling people to follow him, listen to him, believe him, receive him, etc. There it is…”you cannot follow me now…” Now, when Peter is finally fully on board and confesses he is ready to die for Jesus, he is refused momentarily. This leads me to one horrifically amazing conclusion. Jesus was going somewhere that only he could go. Period. Let the weight of that soak in for a moment. ”…you cannot follow me now…”
Flash over to your favorite novel or movie. The hero or heroine reaches the climax of the story and has that moment of reckoning when he realizes he has to go forward to save the critical situation that is arising. And he’s the only one who can press through and make the sacrifice. The other story characters are there, but he or she is the one that has the power to make that choice. The weight of victory is in his hands.
Another thought is that Jesus is walking out what every good parent or chaperon would do. Think about life with a very small child. No, no, you can’t cook with me at the stove. It’s hot, you could burn yourself. No, you can’t be in my lap as I drive the car. It’s not safe. Jesus knows that eventually Peter would be able to follow him; that there would be a time for him to do as Jesus did. That eventually, Peter (we) would grow up and be able to function in the result of these things that he was about to do. But Jesus had to go ahead of him (us) and do a work that only he could do. Jesus had to establish the doing of the work, perfectly, before he could allow any one else to follow after him.
The weight and reality is that this “…you cannot follow me now, but you will follow later…” sets Jesus apart in such an unfathomable way. Consider that he is the ultimate Hero of history and that the work he was getting ready to do was so epic that he couldn’t even take his best team with him on the conquest. He had to go it alone. Period. But when that work was completed, he would return the victor and that would allow for us to follow him still. And it would be a work already accomplished, a battle fought and won, a vindicated hero’s work.
Jesus, I want to thank you for your work on the cross. For going to a place for me that I could not go for myself. For conquering death and hell and the grave and coming up victorious. For making a path for me that is perfectly finished so that I can now follow you. Amen.