1 June 2023 Anno Domini, the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
“Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest’s house. And Peter followed afar off.”
(Luke 22:54; all scripture quoted is from the King James Version)
It is possible to be Christian but also to have wondered afar from the will and presence of the Lord. The most illuminating example is the Prodigal Son who, while remaining a son, nonetheless went into a far country out of the will and presence of his father. He did not receive the blessings of a son until his penitent return.
The manly fisherman, Peter, was courageous in the presence of our Lord, but once separated from Jesus in the Garden at Gethsemane, Peter became a frail and cowardly denier of Christ. Even in the courtyard of the High Priest, though very close to Christ physically, he was afar off spiritual as he denied the Lord the third time. “And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. 62And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.” (Luke 22:61-62) Though near as a congregant at church. Like many congregants, they are far removed from our Lord spiritually.
A demon-possessed man saw Jesus from afar and came running to Him: “But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him” (Mark 5:6) Regardless how far away we are from our Lord, the way is always open for us to come running to Him with our hurts and sorrows.
Though our sins are as filthy rags, our Lord is forever willing to wash us clean with the redemptive blood He shed on the cross for us. “And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” Luke 17:11-13
Even those who express no gratitude receive the blessings of our Redeemer, but only one out of the ten returned to express gratitude and to worship the Lord. The same is true in our society at large. Many blessings of the faith are enjoyed by members of society who fail to acknowledge Him in all things.
Our beginnings in Christ must, by the nature of our sinful dispositions, originate in a place afar off from Him. Sin separates us from God as far as the east is from the west, yet, our first step to bridge that distance is to acknowledge our wretched conditions as the publican who came to the Temple to pray along with a Pharisee who, those closer in proximity, was further away from God than the poor, sinful publican: “Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 13And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.” (Luke 18:10-13)
Both Jew and Gentile are afar off from God without Christ to redeem them from their wretched and sinful natures: “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” (Acts 2:39) Note: God calls those who He is pleased to call and the Holy spirit quickens their dead hearts to life. “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Acts 2:13), and Paul adds, “And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.” (Acts 2:16-17)
Remember the events of Mount Calvary. The disciples whom our Lord considered His close friends fled afar when He was taken. This must have happened of necessity for He must have died alone! Even the women who loved our Lord dearly watched from afar: “And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him.” (Matthew 27:55) These latter were women of his native province of Galilee who removed from standing by as He died for them. But love compelled the beloved disciple John to stand with the very women who loved Christ more intimately at the very foot of the cross. “When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, “Woman, behold thy son! 27Then saith he to the disciple, “Behold thy mother!” (John 19:26-27)
Our last “afar off” example comes from the Old Testament Saints beginning at Abraham to whom the promise of a Messiah was clearly given. He believed by faith on the future promise and was as much a Christian as any living: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” (Hebrews 11:13+
Has His promise escaped your notice being a promise fulfilled at Calvary’s Mount?