36 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.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times. (John 13:36-38)
“I will lay down my life for you.” Peter will, but not now. Peter understands what Jesus is saying about going where he can’t follow now. Jesus doesn’t want Peter to follow. There is a time for us to follow. We will follow afterward. Just as Peter followed all those many years later just outside the city of Rome.
Peter wants to follow. Jesus is right, Peter will deny him three times before the rooster crows. Peter will also draw blood and take on Roman guards before Jesus makes him put his sword away. It isn’t that Peter is disingenuous, but that he misreads the situation. And that his will isn’t Jesus will.
We could often wish to be with Jesus now, to follow him now. And when it does come time to follow then we often don’t want to follow.
But as long as we are here it is His will that we remain. He doesn’t want the disciples to follow, because he wants to point others to the path, the way of the cross. If they go now they will have no opportunity to spread the word of Christ’s death and resurrection. They don’t get to go out in a blaze of glory as other messianic figures of the time and their followers. No, they stay in this world, and suffer in this word. But in this they get to share in his work, and share in his glory, their own life denied their own desires squashed for the love of Christ and those whom he loves. Yeah, Peter stays, Peter lives and has to watch the death of Christ because of Christ’s love for you.