Friday, October 19, 2012

The Price and Joy of Following Jesus

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore…When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love me…Feed my lambs…Take care of my sheep…Feed my sheep…Follow me!’ John 21:15-19.

The beach was quiet and vacant as the tired fisherman came in from the sea with empty nets.  To no avail they had fished all night until a call came from the shore suggesting that they lower their nets once more.  John realized that it was the voice of their beloved resurrected Teacher.  The yield was too great for any one of them to pull in alone.  After sitting around the fire with full bellies, Jesus turns to Peter meeting him eye to eye.  We cannot know if this was a private conversation, but we certainly can imagine the anxious and humbling emotions Peter must have been experiencing.  Did the warmth of the fire remind Peter that the last fire he stood before was full of denials?  As Jesus passed him the pan of fish, did Peter’s eyes settle on the scars on the hands of Jesus, creating anguish in his sole and sadness in his heart?  Jesus knew that He had a purpose for Peter – to be the rock which His church would be built upon.  Jesus also knew that before Peter could be effective in his service, he would need the forgiving scarred hands of Jesus.  While we cannot know for sure their exchange, we can know with certainty that repentance and forgiveness took place.  That cool and crisp morning as the sun rose up into the sky, so did the call upon Peter’s life.  Jesus spoke the chilling words to him, ‘Follow me.’

Peter knew that to follow Jesus would mean to follow in the suffering for the Name of God.  He was prepared to fish for men regardless of the darkness of the waters ahead of him.  He spoke the message throughout the regions regardless of the consequences.  On one occasion, he was brought before the Sanhedrin and flogged, being commanded to go and never speak in the name of Jesus again.  Bleeding and battered we would expect the Peter who denied Christ three times to be frightened into spiritual amnesia again - but not the new Peter, the rock … the forgiven …the redeemed.  The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.  Day after day…they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ’ Acts 5:41. 

If we are to truly follow Jesus we must be prepared to suffer for Him.  This life provides the backdrop for intense suffering in all kinds of ways.  During painful times we share in the fellowship of Christ’s suffering allowing God to rest upon our circumstances.  Witnessing that our faith is sufficient through the power of God brings glory to both God and validation to the message of God.  It doesn’t matter what sinful fire we stood before in the past, God will use us for mighty things in His kingdom once we become reconciled with Him.   ‘Peter had repented, and here Jesus was asking him to commit his life.  Peter’s life changed when he finally realized who Jesus was.  His occupation changed from fisherman to evangelist; his identity changed from impetuous to “rock;” and his relationship to Jesus changed- he was forgiven, and he finally understood the significance of Jesus’ words about death and resurrection.’ Life Application Study Bible, p. 2286.

We all have the same invitation to follow Him all the way through death to resurrection, sharing in His suffering, His death, His resurrection and His eternity!

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