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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It’s the Lord, #108

“Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” 

“So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” 

John 21:4-7 (context, vv. 3-8)

Perhaps this is the way Jesus comes to us. Every time he comes to the 12, it’s unexpectedly. Three times he visits them, and he never comes with a rebuke, or a harsh word of correction. In my mind at least, I certainly wouldn’t have let them off-the-hook that easy. I would’ve pounced on them.

They’re out fishing, following Peter’s decision. Peter again is blowing it. And Jesus, rather than a word of correction, shouts to them that they need to cast their net to the other side of their boat. He tells them, if they do that, they’ll catch more than they can handle.

This has come before, when they were first called to follow. It’s appropriate that what happened at the beginning, has now occurred at the end. Later, when they counted fish, they had a 153. And the nets, had not been torn.

John is the first to recognize Jesus, but Peter will be the first to the shore.

Peter instantly knows that this man is Jesus. He strips down to his underwear and jumps in. He must be with Jesus, the others are pulling in the net, and the boat is moving too slow. (Maybe Peter thought he would walk on water a second time?)

“When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.”

John 21:9-10

The passage points out that they worked till morning, and they probably were hungry. The Lord is aware, and he’s built a campfire for them. It’ll be fried fish and bread for breakfast.

There’s a sensitivity here, and a proactive kind of love that is really concerned about others. He’s aware of what others might need, and he finds a way to serve them. That’s precisely the way love works. (1 Cor. 13.)

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Philippians 2:3-4

The resurrected Jesus is still the humble servant. The disciples could’ve fallen on their faces, and that would’ve been entirely appropriate. This after all, is the risen Savior of the world. Perhaps Jesus is more approachable than we think? Perhaps?

 “They ate the bread and fish that morning, I doubt not, in silent self- humiliation. Peter looked with tears in his eyes at that fire of coals, remembering how he stood and warmed himself when he denied his Master. Thomas stood there, wondering that he should have dared to ask such proofs of a fact most clear. All of them felt that they could shrink into nothing in his divine presence, since they had behaved so ill.”

C.H. Spurgeon

Oh, how he loves you.

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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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Bible promises, broken people, cross, death, Jesus Christ, Kingdom of God, resurrection, transformation

Just a Kernel, #90

A Kernel Becomes Bread

23 “Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”

John 12:23-24, (context vv. 23-29)

Almost 1/2 of John’s gospel is dedicated to Jesus’ last week. Verse 24 seems to sum up Jesus’ understanding of things, which he now communicates to his disciples. The issue at the center seems to hit on the very core of God’s incredible idea of the Kingdom–death and resurrection.

Perhaps that’s the solid principle behind his way of conducting business. He doesn’t want us to be afraid, and honestly, isn’t the fear of death the most frightening and darkest terror of all? Jesus now turns it around and proceeds to pound it to pieces, and we shouldn’t pick it up and try to glue it back together. Let’s leave it there, and walk away.

Death becomes life. Crazy, huh? And yet he’s explaining how the Father does it. Jesus completely understands this, and it’s his death that will bring life to millions and millions. Oh my, the pain will be real for him. But it’s not really the end of it all. “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Coming!”

Grasping this becomes the incredible idea that energizes the obedient disciple. It isn’t a ‘Jesus-only’ concept. It’s not exclusively unique to him. I suppose to a degree it is–but isn’t it really part of the economy of God? Isn’t it his particular way of doing things–to extract life out of dead things? (I think he gets a kick out of doing this?)

Brother, don’t be afraid. Sister, he does see your fear and misgivings about dying. In our natural way of thinking, dying is dark and perhaps it might be painful. IDK. But to the person who was been given ‘spirit-eyes’ it now is the way we are to live and bring life. In a weird sense, we’re all Lazarus, and when we hear his voice calling us–we’ll get up and shake off our grave clothes.

“They, then, who are destined to die, need not be careful to inquire what death they are to die, but into what place death will usher them.”

   Augustine

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Jupiter vs. Jesus, #54

Jupiter, Creator: Hulton Archive | Credit: Getty Images

“However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”

Matthew 17:25 (context vv. 24-27)

Jupiter was the king of the gods in the Roman empire; it was believed that he ruled the sky and thunder, he made the rain to fall. His temple in Rome was built on the highest hill (naturally) in 294 B.C. He was the head honcho of the Roman pantheon, and his cult following could be somewhat fanatical.

A tax was collected from Israel to support his temple, which caused hard issues among the Jewish leaders. They obviously didn’t want to support Jupiter, “no ifs, ands, or buts.” Not only were there spiritual reasons, but they had real patriotic issues too. Rome could be pretty insistent though.

Not completely sure about this. But apparently rabbis and priests were exempt from paying this. This is the setting for “Jesus-Peter-and-the-fish” in Matthew 17. Everyone’s eyes were now on Jesus: “Would He pay the tax, or not?”

Jesus specifically uses the word, “skandelion” for offense. We should know that this is the root word for scandal, or scandalize. That might bring us much needed clarity.

Jesus didn’t seem to bat an eye. There doesn’t seem to be any hesitation. Peter is dispatched to go catch a fish, the very first one, and when he reels it in he’s going to find in it’s mouth a coin, a drachma–that coin will pay the tax. This is a miracle, albeit a strange one.

Why? In the light of the spiritual implications did Jesus, and Peter, find themselves “indirectly” supporting Jupiter’s temple in Rome? Wouldn’t taking a stand against this religious cult be loyalty to God and declare a commitment to the nation of Israel?

Was Jesus ‘selling out’ and compromising His faith?

There’re lot’s of things we should say. First, how do we look at our government and its evil issues? How do we determine the steps we should take to be holy and separate from the world and its anti-christ system? What about the Old Testament stance of Daniel, or “the three Hebrew children” warming themselves in the king’s furnace?

I have lots of questions.

“Everything except God has some natural superior; everything except unformed matter has some natural inferior.”

-C.S. Lewis

   

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The Voice, #51

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 

Matthew 17:5, (context, vv. 1-8)

Sometimes God uses a megaphone. At least whenever I read this account I always have that impression. Perhaps, like these three disciples, we are being led into these situations were the voice of God becomes extremely audible. When we do hear Him it occasionally freaks us out.

The disciples collided with God’s glory and it altered them permanently. Peter recalled these many years later in 2 Peter 1:17-18–

“…when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” 18 We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain.”

Peter remembers the voice. At the end of his life that is what amazed him–Peter couldn’t forget, it was something he couldn’t shake. He had seen astonishing things that afternoon, profound things; but at the end he recalls that voice. When we read this, we realize that it wasn’t the visuals so much as it that voice that terrified the three of them.

*****

“Rise, and have no fear.”

Matthew 17:7

Peter is not penalized for his distressing behavior on the mountain. I’ve read this passage over the years, and every time (without fail) I’m totally embarrassed by Peter. He is completely out of mesh here–he acts like clown. He hasn’t a clue.

When the three hear the voice they fold–they are terrified to the point of collapse. The Greek word is “phobos,” the root of our word phobia. This is intense, knee-shaking, face-falling fear. (“Loose bowels” is just slightly more intense.)

Jesus steps right into this situation. He understands completely. He may have even smiled? He reaches to His own and lifts them up. “Don’t be afraid anymore” can be very comforting to hear, especially coming Jesus.

“The Bible is God’s voice, in print.”

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Peter and Satan, #50

“He turned and said to Peter, 

“Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Matthew 16:23, (context, vv. 21-23)

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Peter had the honor of announcing the identity of the Messiah– but suddenly he’s being called– “Satan!” (The capital S always interests me.) Peter is often seen as a bit hasty and impulsive, and this is evidence. As a follower of Jesus I can be in complete confusion of the ways of the Kingdom.

Devilish. Hindrance.

I regard Peter cautiously here. In my clearer moments, I realize I’ve got a disturbingly awkward resemblance to Peter. It disturbs me some–I know the possibility exists of me acting this foolishly, and I’m somewhat ashamed.

In my honest moments, (somewhat less often than I think) I realize that I fluctuate an awful lot–I have made some real goofy bone-headed responses to things, and at times they bordered on the satanic. Maybe they were? That disturbs and frightens me. I get a bit Peter-ish.

We are rebuked, but never ever forsaken.

I’m somewhat astonished that Jesus didn’t give up on Peter here. Maybe Peter just wasn’t getting it, maybe he wasn’t discipleship material. Why was he so out of touch with the ways of the Kingdom?

To be the first disciple to announce the true Messiah’s identity to everyone, and then plummet to becoming the Prince of darkness was pretty extreme. It would undo most. Trying to understand, trying to respond. Many would’ve just quit. Not Peter, not for the grace of our great God.

Thank you Jesus for not rejecting me.

“The things of man” is a key thought I think. It describes the entire idea of what humanity does. It seems our way of doing things is in direct opposition to the ways of God. Our ways are not His ways. The KJV puts an odd culinary spin on it with it choice of words:

“For thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.”

Maybe having a t-bone steak on the grill kind of hunger for the ways of God is needed? Perhaps the real issue is one of spiritual appetite. Repeatedly Jesus uses the teaching image of the feast. “A hunger and thirst for righteousness” kind of faith, (Matt. 5:4.)

“There is no neutral ground in the universe; every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter-claimed by Satan.”

-C.S. Lewis

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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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