36Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward.” 37Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.
Someone has to ask the question – they are all puzzled, looking at one another. It is Peter who asks; he always seems to say just what he is thinking! And so, Peter asks, “Lord, where are you going?” In Chapter 14, Thomas also will ask, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” The disciples are confused. Again, Jesus is speaking of “going” with more than one meaning. He is “going” to Jerusalem; they are going with him to Jerusalem – so they are confused. He is “going” to his death, showing them the full extent of the love he has been talking about, how much he really loves them. This is something only he can do; they cannot come with him in that; and they do not yet fully understand the depth and significance of his love for them. He is “going” to the Father – that is where he is telling them he is going and they cannot follow, yet, but can follow later. Jesus is returning to full relationship with the Father, opening the Way for the disciples and us to follow, but he must do this before they, and we, can follow him.
Peter says he would lay down his life for Jesus – but Jesus is not a “Jim Jones”, asking his followers to die needlessly to glorify him. Sacrifice may be called for, but not without purpose, not without a reason. Peter will need to stand up for Jesus but he has a lot to learn yet. One of those things he must learn is that he can fail. Fear can grip him and cause him to say things he will regret. All of that is yet to come. And Jesus tells him about it, so he will know it when it does – “Before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.”
It is the last night; they have finished the supper – do they still sit around the table? Or have they left the Upper Room and begun to walk down into the valley, through the vineyards, towards Gethsemane?