authority, betrayal, broken people, called, compassion, disciples, forgiveness, Jesus Christ, Peter, restoration, Simon Peter, transformation

Jesus Restores, #109

15 “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.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 

16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time,” 

“Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved 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.'”

John 21:15-17, (context vv. 15-19)

Peter’s denial was public one, and it was important that his restoration be public as well. It may come as a shock, but Peter needed to do this–even though it was a grief to him (verse 17.) It was necessary for him to heal. It was also a clear testimony to the others that Peter was completely restored.

Repeatedly in this passage, love gets linked to service. (Can you see this, it’s important that you do.) The Lord asks Peter if he really loved him, and most likely it was solemn affair, not something trivial or casual. The word used is ἀγαπάω, agape–this is the type of love that God has for people. It’s a love that gives 110%.

The third time the word for love is different though, the word used is φιλέω, philo–this is a type of love that a man has for others, a brotherly kind of love. Something good, but less than agape.

And each time Peter responds, he uses the brotherly type of love. I don’t mean to be confusing here, but every time Jesus uses agape to Peter, Peter responds with philo. It’s as if Peter is struggling with loving Jesus wholeheartedly. Perhaps Peter was ashamed of his denial.

Love is linked with service.

Love can’t be seen unless it has a physical aspect. Love can’t be abstract, a vague feeling, or a hazy concept–it has to be seen by others. Jesus’ sheep (and lambs) must be fed, and watched over. This is now Peter’s call to ministry.

This is Jesus’ ministry as well.

Apparently there is plenty of this kind of work to go around! Isaiah prophesied about Jesus’ work in Isa. 40:11. This is now becomes Peter’s work as well.

“He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.”

Whether or not Peter was the first “pope” is debatable. But it’s clear that Jesus focused on Peter. And isn’t it just like him to turn our failings into victories. Peter’s denial was now his ministry to others. It dealt with the pride issue, which often disrupts true ministry to his flock.

“And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.”

Jeremiah 3:15

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betrayal, broken people, decision, hypocrisy, Jesus Christ, Kingdom of God, Peter, Simon Peter, transformation

Speaking His Language, #99

Peter Warms Himself

“The girl asked Peter, “Aren’t you one of Jesus’ disciples?”

“No,” he said, “I am not!”

“The police and the household servants were standing around a fire they had made, for it was cold. And Peter stood there with them, warming himself.”

John 18:17-18, Living Bible

The Galileans had a distinct accent. Just as we easily identify someone from Boston just by the tone and cadence of their speech, Peter had that distinct drawl that told everyone that he came from that same province as Jesus. It was something he couldn’t hide.

Peter was a very different man in his three years of being with Jesus. And you might say that had transformed him–you might even say that he was now a marked man, the enemy was now quite aware of him. He was no longer a captain of a small fishing boat looking for a catch. He was now the leader of Jesus’ disciples.

The entire text (18:15-18) reveals a confrontation that Peter had with a servant girl, and we hear him making a bold-faced lie. At this very moment Peter was fulfilling the “promise” that Jesus had predicted (Matthew 26:31-32).

What was going through Peter’s head at that moment? She was a simple servant girl, perhaps one who ministered at the gate of the high priest’s home. It’s interesting that she is the first one to question Peter’s duplicity. Most likely she was just doing her job, watching and listening. She was probably quite alert.

It’s easy to point our finger at Peter. He was a coward, and when he was put on the spot he bailed. People hate cowards–we extol those who take a definite stand against evil. But he was frightened, scared of being connected with Jesus–the man on trial. There was much at stake here.

We also speak with an accent. I know it might be a stretch–but being with Jesus has fundamentally changed us. Our lives now have a specific dialect that others hear, we’re not the same people that we once were.

We open our mouths and others hear the Kingdom of God.

Sometimes I try to pretend that I haven’t been with Jesus, and I’m very ashamed of that. Like Peter, I stand with the others and choose to warm myself by their fire, and I try very hard to make myself inconspicuous. But all I have to do is open my mouth, and I betray who I really am.

It’s really funny, but even servant girls know that I belong to him.

“To stand before the Holy One of eternity is to change.”

Richard Foster

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betrayal, compassion, death, decision, disciples, Jesus Christ, offense, Peter, satan, Simon Peter, unbelief

The Rooster of God, #94

 “Lord,” Peter asked, “Why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.

38 Jesus replied, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly I tell you, a rooster will not crow until you have denied me three times.”

John 13:37-38, CSV

He knew. And he still loved him anyway. Can you really quantify the depth of this? Verse 37 claimed Peter’s willingness to follow, and even die if he had to. I believe with all my heart that Peter was sincere. He would follow, and Peter was willing to die.

But Jesus bought none of it, he knew. He poses a question to Peter–the type of question that penetrated Peter’s interior bravado. It’s said that “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Perhaps this is true here. Maybe Jesus knew?

What about you? And me? Does he really know us to this degree and depth? When he looks at us, I believe he knows the weakness and faltering steps we take, and yet his love for us is unconditional. It doesn’t hinge on our misplaced zeal or faltering commitment. His love for us overrides our weakness. That comforts and disturbs me, and I don’t really understand how he does it.

Have you heard the rooster? Maybe that’s his way to teach us the depths of his love.

“God has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense.”

    C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

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authority, disciples, follow Him, humility, Jesus Christ, leadership, offense, Simon Peter, sin, truth

Celebrity Servants? #92

drsunil.com, art by Takla

“He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”

John 13:6-8 (context vv. 3-17)

Chapter 13 always rocks my world. I visualize this, I’m like a fly on-the-wall, watching it happen–and then I replay it over, and over in my mind. It always unravels me. Why does this have to happen? What does this passage tell me about Jesus, and his kingdom? (John 13). Why can’t I just walk away from it, and leave it be?

Jesus made himself a slave (or perhaps he was always a slave all along, and we just didn’t realize it?) Foot-washers were pretty much regarded as sub-human, mindless drones who mechanically performed a necessary duty. The lowest of the low, the very least of the least. Today they’re the burger flippers and the pool cleaners.

But Jesus took that role on himself, he laid aside his garments, and his Godhood. (They landed in a pile in the corner of the room). When he knelt down to scrub feet (making sure he got between the toes), it was deity serving man. This God/rabbi intentionally did this, not reluctantly or halfheartedly–but carefully.

He was their teacher, and custom demanded he enjoy the prerogatives of that position. But he wouldn’t, and didn’t. He mustn’t. As I stress over this, I must conclude he really was their “teacher,” but not in the way I expect. What he was doing on his knees, was instructing them in the art of loving each other. He showed us a leader in action.

And isn’t making disciples all about loving someone else more than ourselves? We get things turned around sometimes–we think that spiritual authority is moving up, when it’s all about going down. We elevate our pastors and elders, maybe subconsciously–and human nature lets it happen; and then we’re amazed why our leaders struggle so.

Leaders function best when they wash between the toes.

There was a point in Jewish history when the people actually demanded that God would give them a king, instead of a judge (1 Samuel 8:5-9). God warned them that this wasn’t in his plans–but they insisted. They had to have one, everyone else did. We still must have celebrities, and then we wonder why they short circuit on us. Who can resist the privilege, and the limelight?

The Church was never meant to operate like this. That’s what Jesus said. Instead it’s we who’ve turned it upside down. It’s we who insist on turning our pastors into minor celebrities. We assert that they take on the role of a “king” (albeit, a little one maybe). Perhaps leaders who stumble and fall do so because we want them to be front and center? Who can handle the privilege, and the adulation? I know I can’t.

Peter was classic Peter. It seems that whenever he resists, he gets rebuked. He makes it quite clear that Jesus will never wash feet–that Jesus will never use a basin or towel and serve him like this. It was outrageous. Unacceptable. It didn’t fit in Peter’s personal theology. He had no room for Jesus the slave. (Perhaps he knew that to follow meant he would have to do the same thing? IDK).

Jesus still washes his people. He sits us down and takes off our shoes and socks, and scrubs us clean. And we hate it. But to be washed by him is a condition of our discipleship. Every follower must be clean, and he continues his work to this day. We sin daily, even as his own, and he cleans us up–and somehow that really bothers us.

The gifts of leadership are one way of washing feet. At least that’s what our leaders were designed to do. That’s Jesus’ way of doing things. But it seems we’ve adopted Peter’s attitude, and embraced the ‘pre-king’ thinking of Israel. We need our celebrities, we want our kings. We simply can’t imagine it any other way.

“The very first thing which needs to be said about Christian ministers of all kinds is that they are “under” people as their servants rather than “over” them (as their leaders, let alone their lords). Jesus made this absolutely plain. The chief characteristic of Christian leaders, he insisted, is humility not authority, and gentleness not power.”

 John Stott

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Peter Tells the Truth, #49

“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Matthew 16:18, (context, vv. 13-20)

Peter was only stating what was now quite obvious– “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” I can only imagine that when Jesus heard him say this, the switch got flipped, and the lights of the universe turned on–all of a sudden it was all ‘angels-on -tiptoe,’ and all that convoluted theology made perfect sense.

The tumblers in the lock fall into place at last. Jesus is the key. He always has been.

The origination came from God (v. 17.) Peter knew it was the truth. He believed it and spoke it. But God made it.

Jesus is in the building business. He intends to construct a building that will handle all of the attacks of the enemy. In spite of what you heard, the Kingdom of God is advancing–Satan’s best last hope is his gates, and even that can never manage muster.

“And this is the victory that has defeated the world: our faith.”

1 John 5:4, CEB

 

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authority, crowds, decision, discernment, disciples, faith, lordship, Peter, Simon Peter

Who Do You Think I Am? #48

“Who do the crowds say I am?”

“But who do you say that I am?”

Luke 9:18, 20 (context, vv. 18-20)

The question is significant; and it’s never been fully answered. Perhaps each of us must be asked this exact same thing. And perhaps it’s the crucial question that every human being who has ever drawn breath must ask themselves. Who is Jesus? Who is He really?

The crowds had witnessed Jesus feed them with a little boy’s lunch. They saw miracles and heard teaching, and yet maybe they were a bit confused. They could only put Jesus in the context of what they knew was “allowable” by the Pharisees. He definitely was some kind of prophet. Jesus was being evaluated by a very curious crowd.

Jesus isn’t distressed by this, He’s not full of self-doubt or second thoughts. He’s not looking around for our support–or accolades, palms or laurels. He knows exactly who He is. He is the only Son of God, the second person of the Trinity. He is fully and completely God; and He is now wearing a robe and walking around in sandals.

There exists a “crowd faith,” something more or less aware that God cares, and miracles do happen in this life. This is all well and good. But it seems there is a “personal faith,” which Peter now announces out loud. “You’re the Messiah, come from God.”

What Peter declares in front of everyone changes everything.

We must always draw our own conclusions, of course. We must look at Him, and decide for ourselves what He claims to be. There is no question it’s scary, and it’s hard. But you, and you alone, must decide. Crowd faith is almost always good, I suppose; but Peter’s bold declaration is what He really is waiting for. Are you convinced yet?

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Peter’s New Job, Entry #16

“And Jesus said to Simon,”

“Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”

 “And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.”

Luke 5:10-11, (context vv. 4-11)

They were business men, sort of. These fisherman scraped out a living catching fish at night (with lanterns of course) and selling their catch to the merchants of Galilee by day. They worked very hard, fishing and always it seems, having to mend their nets. Plenty of back-breaking work and not much sleep.

Simon Peter seems to be their “foreman.” They probably had a collection of 2-3 boats that worked together and they ‘pooled’ their efforts to work the Sea of Galilee and go where the fishing would be best. They wanted to make money. That was their motivation.

But along comes Jesus, and their lives are about to be dramatically “turned-upside-down.”

Much of this account of Jesus’ calling these fishermen to become His disciples mystifies me. (I really challenge you to read the full account in Luke 5, and make your own judgments. The account is pretty straight forward and yet their is plenty of room for interpretation.)

Simon Peter is about to be schooled in the very first lesson of discipleship, and he doesn’t yet realize it.

Jesus commands them to throw out their nets again. But it’s daytime, and you don’t catch fish then, and besides they’ve already had a long hard night. They have already worked very hard.

This ‘crazy’ rabbi insists they throw out their nets. If they obey Him in this, they’ll catch a catch. Peter is a bit hesitant. They had fished all night. Zero. Zilch. Somehow I think Jesus had designed it that way.

At Jesus’ word the net is thrown out. And they catch such a catch that they filled up two boats, up to the brim. So full as a matter of fact, that both boats were on the verge of sinking. Peter was astonished. They had never ever seen anything like it!

“But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 

This is Peter’s first step. He saw it, he broke down, and he fell at his Lord’s feet. He was completely undone. Kneeling on the fish, he saw who he was, a sinner extraordinaire. Peter realized then that he was a man who didn’t deserve forgiveness. He wanted Jesus to leave him alone.

Perhaps this is the first lesson we must take to be His witness to a watching world. If we want to reach those who are terribly lost, we must ‘discover’ our own brokenness.

Peter would reflect on his own weaknesses and ‘pen’ a letter to the Church: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.”

1 Peter 5:6

“We had long known the Lord without realizing that meekness and lowliness of heart should be the distinguishing feature of the disciple.”

-Andrew Murray

 

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disciples, evangelism, faith, fear, Kingdom of God, Simon Peter

Catching Men, Entry #9

“The Morning of the Fisherman,” Valentina Kostadinva, oil

“And so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon,

“Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”

Luke 5:10

Fear is an ugly thing, it turns men into timid cowards who cannot really trust God. Simon Peter is promised courage. Throughout his life this will be a constant battle for him. It seems like Simon Peter will always struggle with what people will think about him. He is ‘crippled’ and he needs Jesus to intervene. And He does.

I remember Jody and I were sent out by a pastor to do “door-to-door” evangelism. I was terrified. We knocked on a door and then I sort of freaked out, I left her on the porch and hid behind a tree. Witnessing scared me. She shared Jesus while I ran away. How ‘Peter-like’ I am.

“Catching men” is a reference to Peter’s occupation as a fisherman. Jesus speaks so Peter will understand. He expresses evangelism in a way that describes the work of the Kingdom. Fishing describes the main task of the believer. All too often we’re ‘fixed’ on self-improvement, and our vision becomes blurred. Evangelism is to be our work.

“Evangelism is not a professional job for a few trained men, but is instead the unrelenting responsibility of every person who belongs to the company of Jesus.”

-Elton Trueblood

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