Prepare Our Hearts – April 22

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Wednesday April 22, 2020
John 21:20-23

20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” 21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” 23 So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”

Jesus and Peter walked and talked along the shore of the Sea of Galilee about Peter’s demanding destiny when Peter noticed John lurking close behind. As if to prove the point that sanctification is a gradual life-long process of spiritual maturation as opposed to an immediate permanent transformation, Peter quickly asked Jesus, “Hey, what about that guy?” If Peter was going to lose his freedom and his life by following Jesus, what about the “disciple whom Jesus loved?”

While we tend to think of Peter and John as two contrasting characters, their portrayal in the gospels is surprisingly similar. Although Peter was among the oldest of the disciples, while John was most likely the youngest, they were both former fishermen and, along with James, consisted of two thirds of the inner circle of Jesus. Not only that, but each is depicted as rash and more than a little narcissistic. Peter lived up to his name “the rock” by being the first among the disciples to declare that Jesus was Lord, but he also had the audacity of rebuking Jesus on multiple occasions, once causing Jesus to return the favor with the famous “get behind me satan!” Meanwhile John and James were known as the “Sons of Thunder,” and when they were not arguing over who would get to sit at the place of honor next to Jesus at the coming of His kingdom, they were being rebuked by Jesus for attempting to call fire down from heaven upon an inhospitable Samaritan village.

Jesus addressed Peter’s question the way any good parent would when dealing with jealousy amongst quarrelsome siblings and can be understood as, “So what if he lives forever? Don’t worry about him, worry about yourself.” These words of Jesus about John obviously became quite well known, and misunderstood, among the early church, so much so that John felt the need to address them here decades later. As we mentioned yesterday, by the time of the writing of John’s gospel, word had spread throughout the early church of Peter’s martyrdom for Jesus and, beginning with John’s brother James in Acts 12, many, if not all, of the original twelve disciples had also lost their lives for the sake of the gospel. Although John had escaped martyrdom to this point, he was not immune from the horrors of persecution. Forced to flee Jerusalem by King Herod Agrippa, church tradition tells us that John spent the final years of his lengthy life exiled on the Roman prison island of Patmos after miraculously surviving an execution attempt of being boiled alive in a vat of oil without being injured.

“What about them?” I have found myself asking this question far more often than I would like to admit, as there is a constant temptation to compare ourselves to those around us. In fact, my go-to excuse growing up when being asked by my parents about something I probably shouldn’t have been doing was, “If you knew what my friends are doing, then you would see this isn’t really a big deal.” We ask these questions in all sorts of ways: Why am I being punished when others are being praised? Why are they receiving a reward when I have been the one doing all the work? Why are they more successful in their church/family/business/grades/career than me, can’t you see how they live, they don’t deserve it?

It is so easy at times to look at the lives of others and wonder why God allows some to succeed while we struggle, some to thrive while we flounder. And like the disciples encountering the blind man, when confronted with those stricken by cruel misfortune, we sometimes wonder, “Who sinned, this man or his parents?” Yet Jesus’ words to us are the same as they were to Peter, “I’ll deal with them later, let’s talk about you.” In the rich depths of His mercy, Jesus often uses hardship much in the same manner that a blacksmith uses a flame, allowing us to be refined and purified for His purposes during our times of severe stress and discomfort. It is in those vulnerable moments, and perhaps some of us are experiencing this today, where Jesus recaptures our attention and extends the invitation yet again, “You follow Me.”

Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, You alone are worthy. Worthy of our praise and attention and worthy of of our devotion. Forgive us for the times when we take our eyes off of You and begin to covet the lives of those around us. Although we do not intend to question Your design or Your goodness, we often find ourselves wishing for things we have not yet received. We ask that You would help us to keep our hearts fixed securely on You. In Your perfect name we pray, Amen.