Imagine being a part of the Jesus’ crew and the crazy roller coaster of emotions that had in the end. Jesus, their teacher, their friend, their Messiah had been present with them, then taken away, put on trial and nailed to a cross. Next thing they know…he is alive and standing in front of them. Resurrected. Alive. Whole. Then he sends them out as his witnesses to tell all of the stories they had in their story arsenal about what Jesus did on earth, while he is with the father until it is time to come back and make everything new.
It’s a lot to absorb, so what does Peter do?
“I’m going out to fish,” he tells his buddies in John 21:3 and then their response is, sure, why not, let’s go fish.
John 21 has been creeping up on me for several months, and I keep wondering at why Peter was driven to go fish in that moment. Jesus had proven himself resurrected! Alive! So Peter goes fishing?!?!
Was it a complete departure from what God was calling him to? Did he feel unworthy of that calling? Take a number, friend. We’ve all been there.
Was he in denial of the calling Jesus had placed on his life to be a witness to all He had done?
Was he still doubting his own belief? His faith?
Was it a desperate need to do something comfortable that he knew how to do without thinking? Did he just need to get away?
Did they need to raise some money before they went out? As a friend has suggested in the many conversations I’ve had surrounding John 21.
Peter had Jesus right in front of him…resurrected. He had the Holy Spirit breathed in him to wholeness. Jesus had SENT him out.
And then Jesus shows up again.
While the guys were fishing, Jesus shows up in true Jesus fashion telling them after an extraordinarily long night of fishing without catching a single fish to put the net on the right side of the boat. “When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.” [John 21:6]
And then…then they recognize their Messiah.
After enjoying breakfast with each other, Jesus singles out Peter and starts quizzing him. Jesus ends up asking Peter three times if Peter loves him, and Peter seems to get more and more hurt as each time progresses. However, the statements that Jesus makes after each question are important.
“Feed my lambs.”
“Take care of my sheep.”
“Feed my sheep.”
Of course Peter loved Jesus, but Jesus also already knew that Peter loved him, which means we look at the statements Jesus gives Peter. Jesus was leaving, and he had been training and pouring into his disciples to take care of the flock after he left. Jesus knew life would get very hard for the flock of believers that followed him. He also knew his disciples were ready to care for them and continue to pour into them as Jesus had poured into the disciples.
Subsequently, Peter gets a specific instruction to follow Jesus. Many times we look at the verses that say, ‘Follow me’ and get all excited about how we are supposed to follow Jesus and use it as an anthem to bring others into the fold. But, friends, when we choose to follow Jesus, we don’t choose to follow him halfway and the path of Jesus leads straight to the cross where he was nailed. Jesus wasn’t giving a pep talk, ‘Hey bro, don’t forget to follow me when it gets really hard and the path it a bit too zig zaggy for you.’ No, Jesus was telling Peter, ‘Your path leads exactly where mine did. Are you ready for that? Because it’s coming, and you will die on a cross.’
It gives the order to ‘follow me’ a more intense meaning. Jesus was not joking around. Then to add to all of that, Peter gets a bit jealous that John is hounding in on his one-on-one time with Jesus:
“Peter turned and saw that the disciple that Jesus loved was following them. When Peter saw him, he asked, ‘Lord, what about him?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.’” [John21:20-22]
I think the part that God keeps hammering into my head is that we have a tendency to look at what God is doing in those around us and how they are being used by him. We all want that moment alone with him, without anyone else interfering in our conversation, but even in that moment, Peter questions what will happen to John. Jesus just told Peter that he will follow Jesus to his death, and Peter gets distracted by how John will be used.
Jesus tells him simply, “You must follow me.”
It’s not complicated. It is a bit terrifying. It is also very plain, no loop holes there, right?
Which leads us to examining ourselves…for most of us our world we live in is way beyond crucifixion in the literal sense, but what about the figurative sense? How plainly do we take the mandate to follow Jesus? Do we fight it? Do we go into denial? Do we simply claim we heard wrong and take a different path? Do we give up and decide it isn’t worth it? Does a someone who claims to be a believer hurt you and completely turn you away from Jesus?
We live in freedom to ask questions, but weigh it carefully against rebellion against God in how deeply you delve into getting answers. God doesn’t owe us answers, and demanding them makes us rebellious against his sovereignty. He deserves our faith. He deserves our love. He deserves our lives lived out for his Gospel to push forward in this world.
In the end, what matters is that we chose to follow Jesus down the path he asks us to go for him.
“You must follow me.”