Grace For The Journey
Today we are looking at John 21:18-19. We continue today to look at the question, “How Much Do We Love Jesus?” This passage gives us an opportunity to look closely at the meaning of the relationship we have with Christ and the power Jesus gives us to live for Him. This passage also shows us how Peter’s particular circumstances are so closely related to ours.
Yesterday we saw three powerful truths that this question brings out regarding our living for and loving Jesus . . .
1) A Question To Bring A Realization.
2) A Question That Reveals The Power Of Peter’s New Life.
3) A Question Of Responsibility.
Today, we will see . . .
4) A Question Of Restoration.
At the Last Supper Jesus had predicted Peter’s denials after Peter had said he was willing to die with Him (John 13:37-38). Jesus told him, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later” (John 13:36). In the verses we will look at today is Christ’s call to follow. After Peter professes his obedient love, Jesus spells out the cost of that love.
Peter is publicly restored to the position he had before he betrayed Jesus, and he is given additional responsibility as well. I believe William Hendriksen puts it very well when he says: “It is as if the Master says to Peter: ‘Simon, you were weak like a lamb, wandering like a sheep, yet, throughout it all, you, like a dear (“little”) sheep, were the object of my tender and loving solicitude. Now, having profited by your experiences (because of your sincere sorrow), consider the members of my Church to be your lambs, and feed them; your sheep, and shepherd them; yes, your dear sheep, and in feeding them love them! Do not neglect the work among the flock, Simon. That is your real assignment! Go back to it! Thus was Peter fully and publicly restored.”
We will now go on to John 21:18-19 which says, “Verily, Verily, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go. Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, ‘Follow Me!’”
Jesus provided Peter a glimpse into his future. Peter had boasted to Jesus that he was willing to die for Him (John 13:37) and that is just what he was going to be required to do. Jesus continued, “When you were young, Peter, you went your own way, but when you get old you are going to be bound with chains and taken to prison and put to death for Me.” This is just what happened about the year A.D. 68, for Peter was in prison for Christ’s sake and he was taken out and put to death. Church tradition records that Peter suffered martyrdom under Nero (around 67-68 A.D.).
At the time of the crucifixion, Peter, along with the majority of the disciples, had fled the scene. Jesus had to bear the penalty of sin on the cross alone. Now that the penalty had been paid in full, Jesus informed Peter of his own eventual martyrdom. Peter would be a prisoner, forced to walk a path that he did not want to walk. He would stretch out his hands, even as Jesus had done.
William Hendriksen comments, “When they were going to nail him to a cross, Peter said, ‘No, no! My Lord died like that. I am not worthy to die as He did.’ And he said, ‘Hang me on that cross head downward.’” Petter loved Christ, and he really intended to be true to Him, but he forgot that the spirit can be willing when the flesh is weak. But in later years he was given grace to do as he had promised. That grace was provided by the presence of the Holy Spirit.
From this point on, Peter’s life would glorify his Lord, and his death would bring glory to the Savior who had bought Him and paid the penalty for His sin. M.R. DeHaan tells the following story: “Years ago I was called to the home of a widow whose daughter was the apple of her eye. When the child was 3 years old, she became very ill, and the doctors said that she would die. We can all understand the shock of this news, but we cannot justify the mother’s reaction. She rebelled violently and accused God of cruelty – like the Israelites in Exodus 17:3. She demanded that the Lord spare her daughter and told Him she could never trust Him again if He did not do so. Well, God granted the request, in spite of the doctors’ predictions. The child grew up and lived a normal life for 13 years, but then joined with bad companions. Finally, the girl broke her mother’s heart when at the age of 17 she fell into real trouble. The tragic end of the story was told me by the weeping woman when I arrived at her home that morning, and she relayed to me, “My Janie is dead – a suicide. Last night she hung herself in her room!” After minutes of convulsive sobbing she concluded, “O Doctor, how I wish God had taken her when she was 3 years old.”
We must submit ourselves to God’s will, not try to change it. This is a tragic story, but perhaps it answers those who ask the question, “How could God let little children die?” God knows the future and often He protects the little ones from later tragedy by taking them home to Heaven at a very early age. When this girl reached the age of 17 she was on her own, and if she had not accepted Christ as her Savior, then she is now in Hell. But if a child dies before reaching the age of maturity, God takes that little one to Heaven even if he or she has not yet come to faith in Christ. How do we know that? Because David made it clear when he was speaking of his infant son who had died (2 Samuel 12:23).
Peter’s life would demonstrate a complete reversal of the man he was in his youth. Strong-headed, strong-willed, impetuous Peter would become the submissive servant of his Lord, enduring ridicule and crucifixion. Only this time, Peter would not run. He would not hide. He would never again deny Jesus. He was crucified upside down, because he refused to be crucified like Jesus.
Christians sometimes worry about how they might respond under religious persecution. We may be confident that the Holy Spirit within us has the power to prevent us from caving into what would be a betrayal and renunciation of the Lord God, Jesus Christ.
Peter became a changed man and servant of the Lord. Listen to the instructions he gave others in 1 Peter 5:1-5, “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
Such change can come to all who submit their lives to the Holy Spirit of God. Listen to what the psalmist says in Psalm 103:11-14, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.”
Jesus had asked Peter twice if his love for Him was all consuming. With his recent denials still fresh in his own mind, Peter refused to make such a declaration again. He now knew his own weakness. He knew the hollowness of such empty boasts that could be shattered to pieces when circumstances placed him in situations that he had thus far not been able to handle.
5) A Question Of Reliance.
Finally, Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him even though he could fall into sin at any time and fail the Lord again. In an emotional outburst, born of guilt and shame, Peter told Jesus that He was now well aware of his human frailties that limited him from being what He knew Jesus wanted of him. In spite of those frailties, He loved Jesus and was ready to serve Him and obey Him. Immediately Jesus told Peter to “Tend my sheep.”
With all of the frailty of Peter’s human devotion, Jesus did not hesitate to trust Him with a valuable role in His kingdom.
Each one of us can identify here with Peter. How many times in our own lives, have we boasted about something and then been humiliated because we could not accomplish what we said we could? How many times have we said, “Please Lord, if you get me out of this mess, I will never do it again?” Just like Peter, our claims about what we will do in any given situation evaporate before our eyes. In such situations, Jesus comes to us and says, “Do you love Me?” So, we know exactly how Peter felt. We feel the same way. We answer, “Yes, Lord, I love You!”
But in the corner of our minds we know from experience that we will very likely again FALL SHORT OF His expectations, and Jesus knows that. Nevertheless, in spite of that likely possibility, Jesus still invites us to take a responsible role in His kingdom. He tells us, “Come! Follow Me! Feed My sheep! Join Me in the work of My kingdom!”
How wonderful it is
To experience the love,
Grace, and mercy of our Lord.
He knows that we are but dust, yet He stretches forth His hand and invites us to come. There is work to be done. He then sends us out to share the message of salvation that our Savior is offering to others.
Now in no way do we want to suggest that Jesus picks leaders to shepherd his flock knowing that they will probably fall into sin again and again. That is not the way it is at all. Jesus makes it clear to all that when they are saved and have the Holy Spirit residing within them, they have the capability of overcoming “the sin that so easily besets them” if they allow the Holy Spirit to control and lead them. That is what Jesus wants, and each of us should make every effort to attain that high standard. If we do fail, however, we need to be armed with the knowledge that we will be forgiven if we take that sin to Him and ask for that forgiveness.
We have seen in this passage . . .
What the Resurrection meant for Peter:
Forgiveness, a change of character,
And empowerment for ministry
In the power of the Holy Spirit.
So then, I call you to consider . . .
What does the Resurrection
Mean for you personally today?
Has it purchased your salvation
And secured a place in Heaven for you?
Has it changed your character,
Transforming you from the old person
To a brand new person with
A different set of values
And a different lifestyle?
Instead of being weak and sinful,
Has resurrection power given you
Strength to do the right thing?
Have you found your identity
In Christ as a result of the Resurrection?
Does the Holy Spirit fill you, guide you,
Teach you, and give you the
Peace of Christ each day?
If not, I invite you to make today the best Resurrection Day of your life by receiving Christ as your personal Savior. Or, if you have received Christ but feel you are faltering and falling short, then renew your commitment to Him and let yourself be filled totally with the Holy Spirit. In Peter’s words in 2 Peter 1:10-11, “So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away. Then God will give you a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”