You Follow Me!

John 2122 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 21:20–23 (ESV)

20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” 21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” 23 So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”

Understanding and Applying the Word

After Jesus had given instruction to Peter about what he was to do, Peter asked Jesus about what the future held for John. Jesus’ response can be summarized as “Don’t worry about what I have planned for others. Just make sure you are following me.”

In this short passage we are reminded that the Lord has unique plans for his people. We should not look to compare ourselves to others for our sense of worth or success. Our primary concern is not to outdo one another, but to focus on following Christ wherever he may lead us. Our faithfulness to him is what we are called to. The Lord may ask some of us to go to far away lands as missionaries. Others he may call to preach to megachurches of thousands. Still others he may lead to tiny country churches that only a handful of people attend. And he may call us to be stay-at-home moms, factory workers, farmers, or a host of other things. Whatever he has called us to, our main priority is to be faithful and do it for his glory.

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Do You Love Me?

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Reading the Word

John 21:15–19 (ESV)

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. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

After Jesus’ resurrection, there probably was no one more ashamed of their actions than Peter. He had promised to stand at Jesus’ side come what may, but when Jesus was arrested, Peter had run away and left Jesus alone. When Peter was asked by others if he was one of Jesus’ followers, he denied that he even knew Jesus. And Jesus knew this was the case. He had predicted it and had witnessed Peter’s actions. So, while Peter was happy that Jesus was alive, he was surely feeling great remorse for what had transpired.

Jesus spoke with Peter and asked him if Peter loved him. He asked him three times, which is the same number of times that Peter had denied being one of Jesus’ followers. Each time, Peter affirmed his love for Christ and each time Jesus instructed Peter to care for his followers. Jesus used these questions and instructions to encourage Peter that, even though he had failed, Jesus was not done with him. He was still very important to Jesus and he was still going to play a vital role in the days ahead.

We must not think that just because we have failed in the past that we are no longer useful to Jesus. We too can acknowledge our sin, turn our hearts to Jesus, and serve him with our lives. We all fail. Thankfully, we have a Savior who stands ready to forgive us and restore us. What a wonderful savior!

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Jesus on the Shore

John 2112 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 21:1–14 (ESV)

1 After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 6 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. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. 8 The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.

9 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.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Understanding and Applying the Word

After the disciples had returned to fishing, Jesus appeared to them again. They had been fishing all night, but had caught nothing. That’s when Jesus called out to them to cast their net on the right side of the boat. When they did, the net was filled with fish. John called out, “It is the Lord!” and Peter jumped into the water and swam to shore to be with Jesus. When they reached the shore, they ate some of the fish they had caught for breakfast.

Jesus had told the disciples that he would meet with them in Galilee (Matthew 28:10; Mark 14:28). Evidently, they had gone there to wait, but had become restless and discouraged and returned to fishing. When they realized that Jesus was on the shore, their feelings of discouragement quickly faded. Look at Peter’s excitement as he jumped into the water to swim!

We too can become discouraged when we feel like God has abandoned us or is distant. However, Jesus has promised to never leave us. In whatever circumstances we are facing, we know that the Lord is walking right beside us. We often fail to recognize him, but we are assured he is there. Let us be like Peter as we find strength and encouragement in his presence.

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Failed Promises

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Reading the Word

Matthew 26:30–35 (ESV)

30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 31 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 32 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 33 Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” 35 Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.

Parallel Texts: Mark 14:26-31; Luke 22:31-34; John 13:36-38

Understanding and Applying the Word

After their meal together, Jesus and the disciples went out to the Mount of Olives. Imagine how the disciples must have felt when Jesus told them that they were all about to abandon him. Peter was quick to respond that there was no way he would ever abandon Christ. Peter proclaimed that he would stick by Jesus’ side even if all others deserted.

After Peter’s promise of allegiance, Jesus told him that he would soon deny Jesus three times, all before the rooster crowed to welcome the morning. Peter promised that he would even go to his death with Jesus. Notice that all of the other disciples made the same promise.

Peter, and the other disciples, made a promise that they could not keep on their own. They would soon find out that Jesus was correct in what he had said. They would desert him. The great thing is, Jesus’ love and forgiveness for his disciples was greater than their failure. Jesus sought them out and restored them after the resurrection. This is good news for all of us because we all fail to keep our promises and commitments. But Christ continues to love us and forgive us as he seeks our restoration and maturity. Do not let your failures or guilt keep you from turning to Jesus. His love and forgiveness are never ending.

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The God Who Washes Feet

John 135 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 13:1–11 (ESV)

1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 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.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Before the meal, Jesus did something unexpected. He washed his disciples’ feet. This turned contemporary expectations upside down! Jesus was the teacher. He was the master of this group. It was the job of the students to wash Jesus’ feet or do the work of servants. At least, this is what the culture of the day said. However, Jesus tied a towel around his waist and washed feet.

Peter realized that this was not right. This is why he asked, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus’ reply pointed forward to a greater service that Jesus would do for his followers. Jesus was getting ready to go to the cross to die for his people. Philippians 2:6-8 reflects on Jesus as servant as he willingly died for mankind:

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. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus had to become a servant for his people or we could not be saved. We had to be “washed” by Jesus through his sacrificial death or our sins could not be cleansed. The Creator came into the world to be our servant. He put aside his glory and died as a criminal on a cross. Jesus paid the price that we never could and unless we are washed by him, we remain unclean. As the great hymn says, “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”

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Set Your Mind on the Things of God

Get Thee Behind Me Satan

Get Thee behind Me Satan (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Matthew 16:21–23 (ESV)

21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But 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.”

Parallel Text: Mark 8:31-33

Understanding and Applying the Word

After Peter’s proclamation that Jesus was the long-promised Messiah that the Jewish people had been waiting for in the previous verses (see yesterday’s post), Jesus began to teach the disciples that he had to go to Jerusalem and be killed. This was surprising news to Jesus’ followers because this is not what they expected when the Messiah came. They expected he would establish the nation of Israel as a great power, throw off the bonds of Rome, and restore Israel to a place of prominence like it enjoyed under the reign of King David. How could Jesus, the Messiah, need to go to Jerusalem to die?

When Peter heard these words from Jesus, he spoke up and declared that this would never happen to Jesus! Peter surely believed he would defend and protect Jesus from such a thing. He must have been quite surprised at Jesus’ words: “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.” Why did Jesus respond to Peter in this manner?

Jesus’ words to Peter were pointed, but they were designed to drive home a point to Peter and the disciples. Jesus wanted them to understand that submission to the plans and purposes of God is the most important thing, even if it means death. Peter was only concerned with the fulfillment of his personal desires. Jesus was concerned with doing the will of the Father. God was bringing salvation to mankind through the suffering and death of Jesus.

Are we ready and willing to submit to the will of God in our own lives? What if that means we have to move out of our comfort zones? What if it means suffering? What if it means loss of freedom or even loss of life? Do we trust in the plans and purposes of God enough to lay aside our own desires for his?

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Walking on Water

Matthew 1429 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Matthew 14:22–33 (ESV)

22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Parallel Texts: Mark 6:45-52; John 6:14-21

Understanding and Applying the Word

Imagine being in a boat and seeing Jesus coming out to meet you. You are out in the deep water away from the shoreline, yet Jesus is walking towards you on the water! How would you respond? It is common for readers to think little of Peter as he got out of the boat to walk to Jesus and then quickly began to sink, but how many of us would have even gotten out of the boat at all? Probably not many of us!

Peter reminds us of ourselves. He was eager to go to Jesus and was very trusting. Then reality hit him. He noticed the wind and the waves and began to lose heart and panic. We too are eager to live for Jesus, but then difficulty and temptation come before us and we are soon fighting and struggling in our own strength and forgetting that Jesus is there with us. It is Jesus who is our true source of help and strength. May we never forget his promise that he would never leave or forsake us (Matthew 28:20), even when the seas get rough.

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Called to Serve

The Healing of Peter's Mother-in-law

The Healing of Peter’s Mother-in-Law (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Mark 1:29–31 (ESV)

29 And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

Parallel Texts: Matthew 8:14-15; Luke 4:38-39

Understanding and Applying the Word

We read here that Jesus went to the home of Simon and Andrew. He withdrew from the public eye and was in a private setting. We are told that Simon’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever. There are two things to note here. Simon is Peter. Jesus will change his name to Peter later, but that is the name we usually know him by. Also, Peter must have been married, given that he had a mother-in-law.

Jesus went to Peter’s mother-in-law and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Presumably, she was lying down and he helped her to her feet. Immediately, her fever was gone. Jesus had healed her and once again showed his great power and authority.

Notice the response of Peter’s mother-in-law. We are told that she “began to serve them.” The word “serve” in this text is the word that we get “deacon” from, which simply speaks of one who serves. Throughout the New Testament, we read of the great importance of serving others as a response to what God has done for us through Jesus Christ. Peter’s mother-in-law gives us a glowing example of the proper response to God’s grace in our lives. We are called to serve.

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