Forming Faith Blog

A Tough Path to Follow (John 18:12-27)

Even though Peter denied Jesus, he was able to overcome his denial and follow Jesus. It is difficult, but we can do it, too.

Standing on a road. Some paths are difficult to follow.
Photo by revac film’s&photography on

In middle school, I liked quite a few things that people might consider nerdy or strange. One big one was Pokémon. I thought it was such an interesting game and world. But when everyone asked me about it, I denied it. I lied about liking it because I didn’t want to be made fun of. This was a minor thing that would have led to a minor inconvenience, and I couldn’t just say, “Yes, I like that video game and cartoon.” So, I cannot even imagine if I could even get as far as Peter does in the Gospel reading for this week.

Being made fun of is one thing, your life being on the line is another. Peter knows that threat of death has been looming, and this fear leads to lying for self-preservation. Even as another disciple is doing the work to find Jesus, who Peter tags along with, he works to hide his relationship to Jesus.

It’s Not Always Easy to Follow Jesus

While the guards take Jesus for interrogation, Peter and the other disciple find a way into the courtyard of the high priest. While inside, a woman questions whether Peter is a disciple of Jesus. Peter replies, “I am not.” While this is happening, the high priest questions Jesus. Jesus answers that his ministry has been a public one, teaching and preaching in public spaces including the synagogues and temples.

While Peter is denying his relationship to Jesus, trying to keep secret his connection, Jesus reminds the high priest (and us) that his ministry has been public, and for doing so, he is struck by a guard. Peter’s self-preserving actions are placed against Jesus’s admission of his public ministry and mission.

Follow Jesus in Public

Even though another of Jesus’s disciples helped Peter into the courtyard, Peter was afraid to acknowledge he was a disciple. Peter had already faced the high priest’s henchmen. He even injured a slave in fear that they might harm him or Jesus.

While most of us do not face the dangers that Jesus and his disciples faced for being public about their ministry and faith, it’s still a tough act to follow. The expectation to imitate the life of Jesus, to share God’s love publicly in word and deed, and to do what God asks of us can be difficult in a world that often pressures us to be selfish, greedy, or to hide our real selves.

A commitment to loving our neighbor in the ways Jesus asks is not always popular. The ministry of feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, or visiting the sick takes time, money, and commitment in a world where our attention and resources are often pulled toward entertainment. Even harder is Jesus’s call for us to share our faith and to encourage others to follow Jesus with us.

The Church Can Help Us Follow Jesus

One way we can make sure we follow Jesus is through accountability. This might be through a prayer partner or even a small group. The disciples regularly participated in ministry together so they could support one another and keep each other strong. Church is a wonderful place to work on accountability. These few suggestions offer ways to engage in accountability, support, and confession around following Jesus.

Finding a Partner or Group

One key thing we can learn from the disciples about following Jesus is that having a partner helps. Jesus regularly sends the disciples in pairs or groups to do ministry. As part of a small group or worship service, encourage people to spend time seeking out an accountability partner.

This might be done through random pairing through drawing names, but perhaps allowing people who are most interested in this come forward either during or after the service to help find partners for this. Then, the partners (or groups) can work to regularly hold each other accountable. This website offers suggestions for this type of group.

Make a Plan

Just finding a partner is one thing, but continually striving to follow Jesus requires a plan that might include prayer, devotion, and action. Encourage those who are seeking to deepen their relationship with Jesus to not only join a group but to take on a prayer practice or a challenge that makes sense for them.

It may be intentionally taking time to read Scripture and ask what God is calling them to do through this Scripture. It may also be seeking spaces to serve regularly, whether in the church or in the local community such as volunteering at the hospital, school, or local food pantry.

Sharing Our Successes and Struggles

We often learn how to follow Jesus by listening to other followers. Whether in worship or small groups, having time for testimonies of both the successes and failures of various followers helps others feel as if they too can really follow Jesus. Make sure to include young people, especially children in times of sharing. Children can teach us a great deal about following Jesus.

Follow Where God Leads

One key thing to discipleship is knowing that Jesus’ love is more powerful than any of our shortcomings. Peter becomes one of the most important leaders of early Christianity. He stumbled, but—through God’s grace—he got back up and kept going. We can, too.

Cheers friends,

Jonathan LeMaster-Smith

Jonathan LeMaster-Smith lives with his wife, Shannon, in Hildebran, North Carolina (District 12 of The Hunger Games movies). He holds a Ph.D. in Christian Education and Congregational Studies from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary with a focus on Rural Ministry and Methodist Studies. His work includes presentations on Dolly Parton, articles on ditch lilies, and musings about the genius of mayonnaise.

Free Resource

During the main Narrative Lectionary year (this year: Sept 12 to June 5), we provide a free resource download from one of our products to help you in your faith formation ministry. This week, download a free activity “The Cock Crows” from our youth curriculum Living the Word: Youth (NL) designed to be used in middle or high school faith formation!

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