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Once Again, for the First Time

John 21

[18] I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." [19] Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, "Follow me!"

The conversation with Jesus on the lake was a time of reconciliation, as Peter worked through the issues of denial and failure as he reaffirmed His love for Jesus. It was a time of recommitment and renewal. But what was next?

Jesus shared two more things with Peter. First, was a word of prediction. Jesus shared that the path of discipleship for Peter would lead to difficult and dangerous places ending in death. The allusion was clear that Peter would also be crucified. The reports of the early church fathers bear this out. Such a word could not have been easy to hear. The second thing Jesus shared was a familiar imperative: "Follow me".

There was actually great comfort on both accounts.

Jesus shared a difficult prediction about Peter's life but there was the reassurance that, no matter what Peter encountered, it would not be a surprise to the Lord. There was the reassurance that the Lord has ordered our steps. The Lord has planned our pathways. The Lord is God and there are no errors or missteps along the way. Even when we encounter difficult or challenging circumstances we can know that these things are in the hand of God.

Then there was the encouraging imperative. Jesus began His relationship with Peter and the others with this very same invitation: "Follow me." The Greek actually means, "follow me continually" or "continue following me".

Much had transpired during the three years in between these two invitations. To hear these words again appears to be a call to a more "informed" decision, but following Jesus is always an act of faith. It was a call to follow Jesus, once again, with the freshness and newness of the very first time.

When Jesus invited and commanded Peter to keep on following Him, there was a reassurance that even with the difficulties, failures and stumbling of his past, Peter had indeed been following the Lord! He had wandered, but not far. It was also a reassurance because, as long as we are following Jesus, we know that He is with us. Nothing is out of His control.

Where are you today in your walk with the Lord? Are you following Jesus? Did He call you long ago but there have been some difficulties along the way? Is it time to hear these words with fresh clarity, as if for the first time?

Have you never before heard the invitation to follow Jesus? Is He speaking to your heart for the first time? Here is some good news. He has you in the palm of His hand. No matter what you have experienced and no matter what is ahead, He is ordering the steps of your life and He bids that you would follow Him. No matter the discouragement or failures you have walked through, He has never faltered and will walk with You toward His glorious plan.

He says, once again, for the first time, "Follow me."

Yes, Lord. I will follow. In Jesus' name. Amen.

What about him?

Words of Faith 4-12-17

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2017

Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL

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John 21

[20] Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, "Lord, who is going to betray you?") [21] When Peter saw him, he asked, "Lord, what about him?"

[22] Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me." [23] Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?"

[24] This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.

Peter had just heard some very heavy news. It was reassuring to know that the Lord had knowledge of his future and would be there with him, but it was difficult to hear that the road of discipleship would eventually lead to a martyr’s death.

Peter had a logical question. “What about him?” What about the other disciple nearby? What about John? Would he also die a martyr’s death? Is this standard procedure for all followers of Jesus?

We don’t know exactly what motivated the question. It likely was based in Peter’s deep concern for his fellow disciple and friend. It also may be that, since the disciples had always been a little competitive, it was a speculation about whether this prediction was fair or not.

Jesus answered with wisdom and clarity. "If I want him (John) to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me." Jesus was not saying the John would remain alive until the return of Jesus, only that if He so desired, what business is that to anyone else. The Lord will order the steps of all His disciples in His wisdom.

There is only one concern for a disciple of Christ and that is to follow Jesus. Following Jesus meaning listening to what He has in mind for you then trusting and obeying. We are to listen with the Lord’s heart and then respond at the Lord’s leading in the Lord’s power.

Frankly, the life of discipleship won’t ever look “fair”. Some will get more years to serve than others will. Some will serve in harder places than others will. Some will suffer while others will not. Only God knows why. It is not our place to worry over such things.

Paul instructed, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philip. 4:6-7).

Certainly, we will have great compassion for those who suffer, but our concern must not distract us from our number one job, which is to follow Jesus. We are to pray and seek Him. If He tells us to help, aid, or comfort, that is what we are to do. But we are not to concern ourselves with the fairness of relative blessing or difficulty in the life of discipleship. God is God. We are not.

Have you been troubled by the disparity that exists in the lives of disciples you know? Turn it over to Him. Seek Him. Listen. Trust. Obey. And let the peace of God, which transcends understanding, guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.

Lord, I have a hard time turning life over to You. You are God. I am not. I have lifted my heart to You. Lift the burden from me. I am listening. I will do as You direct. I am following You. In Jesus’ name.