Today’s passages: Jeremiah, chapters 45-47; Psalm 105; John, chapter 21
Scripture: John 21:15-22 (NRSV) – When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After his he said to him, “Follow me.” Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; he was the one who had reclined next to Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!”
Observations: I’ve read this passage literally hundreds of times. I’ve preached from this passage numerous times. I’ve heard sermons and devotionals based on this passage. Most of the time, we focus on Jesus asking Peter, “Do you love me?” I’ve heard people analyze the different words for “love” that Jesus uses. I’ve heard others talk about the fact that he asked Peter three times because Peter had denied him three times. There are any number of other themes that arise from this passage, but today, God has focused my attention on one thing: “Follow me!”
“Follow me!” is Jesus’ encouragement to Peter when he talks about the way that Peter will die. “Follow me!” is Jesus’ warning to Peter when Peter starts to worry about “the other disciple” – presumably along these lines: “If I have to go through that, what about him? Will he have to go through that sort of thing too?” “Follow me!” is Jesus’ call for Peter to focus on one thing. When Jesus tells Peter, “when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go,” he’s reminding him of something he had taught the disciples all along: when we really follow Jesus, the world will fight against us. Following Jesus is not a guarantee of a comfortable life, where everything goes just the way we want. Following Jesus is an invitation to be part of a different kingdom, with different priorities, and we should never expect that this world’s kingdom will encourage and bless us. And the phrase, “when you are old,” ought to remind us that there is no promise of comfortable “golden years” to any of us, nor are we exempted from the rigors of following Jesus wholeheartedly as we get older. Satan wants to tell us to take it easy, and rest; God wants to light a fire inside us that keeps us going for as long as we’re here. Jesus’ call to us is the same as it was to Peter: Follow me!
Applications: God is reminding me today that the fields are white for harvest, and he is looking for workers. Why would we think that he’s looking for workers so we can take it easy? He’s looking for more workers, not replacement workers! The challenge today is to give God everything I have, every day, for as many days as I have. That’s what Jesus means when he says, “Follow me!”
Prayer: Father, help me today to follow Jesus just that way – with everything I have. May I do your will to the best of my ability, so that your Kingdom may impact this world and help others to follow Jesus. Lead me in your ways today, and supply me with everything I need to do glorify you today. Amen.