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Tuesday April 21, 2020
Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”
“Follow me.” Peter offered Jesus his love and affection, but Jesus told Peter that he would be asked for much more than that. Peter’s true devotion to Jesus would not be fully revealed in an encounter by the sea, but in the manner of life Peter would live, and the death he would die, following Jesus. Jesus was never one to hide the difficult demands of the life of a disciple from those who wanted to follow Him, and He routinely and intentionally told anyone who would listen that following Him would be costly. In just a small sampling of a few of Jesus’ more difficult sayings, He told people that in order to follow Him they must: deny themselves and take up their own cross; hate their father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sister; sell everything and give it to the poor; renounce all that they had; and let the dead bury the dead. These things were no easier for the people to comprehend and execute in His time than they are for us today. After He fed over five-thousand people with a few loaves of bread and a handful of fishes, the people of Galilee began to entertain loft visions of an earthly utopia with limitless free lunches under the reign of King Jesus. But when Jesus told them that they needed to eat His flesh and drink His blood, nearly all turned away at His troubling words.
Jesus’ words in our passage this morning for Peter were some of His most daunting yet. Jesus had told the disciples, “If you love me, you will obey my commands.” When Jesus commanded Peter to feed His sheep and care for His flock, He was partly revealing the unlikely leadership role Peter would soon assume. Now that his sin was dealt with and he was commissioned by Jesus, it would be only a few short weeks until Peter and the other disciples were given the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. On that day, a forgiven and restored Peter would stand out in the streets of Jerusalem boldly proclaiming the name of his risen Messiah in a sermon that saw three-thousand souls come to faith in Jesus.
Peter and John, two ordinary fishermen from Galilee, emerged as the unlikely leaders of the early Jerusalem church. Jesus’ plans for each of them, history tells us, would take them far beyond Jerusalem. Before John’s gospel was written, Peter was put to death on his own cross in Rome. According to tradition, Peter requested to be crucified upside down because he did not consider himself worthy to die in the same manner that Jesus died, just another example of the total transformation that Jesus worked in Peter’s once proud heart. In life and in death, Peter would follow Jesus.
I’ve long thought that it is would be easier to die for Jesus than to live for Jesus, as giving up your life in martyrdom appears to be a one-time decision, whereas living for Jesus is a commitment to die to self and follow Jesus every single day. But the reality is that we are all called to do both, just like Peter. The image the Bible offers of what an intimate relationship with Jesus most resembles is that of bride and groom. In Ephesians 5:25, Paul encourages husbands to “love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Marital relationships work best, or perhaps only truly work at all , when they are seen through the lens of self-sacrificial mutual submission, with each party committing themselves to the needs of the other before their own.
On the cross, Jesus showed us what true love looks like by giving Himself up fully and completely on behalf of His bride. He didn’t just tell us He loved us, He proved it once and for all. As a result, we can be confident that when we enter into a relationship with Jesus, no matter what He asks of us, He is completely trustworthy. We can know for certain that whatever He has planned for us is for our ultimate good. Not only that, but He promises that He will be with us all the way. Jesus could never ask more of us than what He has already freely given to us.
Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, You have said some incredibly demanding things to Your people, and at times it seems to be impossible to follow You. Forgive us for the many times that we disregard Your words and attempt life on our own. Help us to believe that all of Your commands and all of the plans You have for us, while not necessarily pleasant in the moment, You are working together for our ultimate good. Thank You for giving us the ultimate example of what true love looks like. Amen.