Jesus and Peter – a story of grace upon grace

Disclaimer: The following is not all original. Though it is a compilation of my thoughts when reading the passages, some of the thoughts were prompted by a friend who shared with me what one of her professors at seminary shared about the passages. Whatever may be accurate/beneficial is certainly expressed more eloquently and thoroughly elsewhere and by those more qualified and learned than I.

John 18:15-17,25-27 and John 21

In both of these stories, it could be assumed that John plays a part in bringing Peter closer to Jesus. John (presumably) brings Peter in to the courtyard (18:16). John tells Peter that Jesus is on shore (21:7) before he jumps out of the boat and swims to Jesus. I want to be like John–not giving up on someone who has demonstrated disloyalty to Jesus.

The way Jesus relates to people is absolutely mind-blowing. Not only does it prompt gratitude in my heart, it is very challenging to me. I tend to display less grace and faith than He does. Though Jesus had originally called His disciples away from their fishing trade (Mark 1:16-20), He had to do so again (21:1-12). What patience! Though Peter committed a heinous crime against the Lord by denying Him three times around a charcoal fire (18:18), Jesus demonstrates tremendous compassion and mercy toward Peter by commissioning him around another charcoal fire (21:9). Though Peter broke (18:17-18,25-27) his promise (Mark 14:26-31) to value Christ more than his reputation, Jesus does not give up on him. Jesus comes back to him, asking him to pledge his life for the gospel (21:15-19). The topic of conversation between Peter and the people around the first charcoal fire concerned identity. Was he one of Christ’s disciples, or not? What do I proclaim about my identity through my conversations? Do I proclaim that I belong to myself or that I belong to the Lord? At the second charcoal fire, Jesus confirms that Peter is His.

Jesus asks Peter to be like Himself–seeking, feeding, and keeping sheep, not running away when tribulation comes (John 10:11-16). Of course, ultimately it is Jesus Himself Who does all this with His sheep, but He has also ordained the means of human shepherds overseeing (Acts 20:28) the flock of God. It is sobering to imagine what Peter felt (21:17) when being questioned by Jesus. Surely he remembered denying Him thrice; what humiliation he must have felt being face to face with the One he denied. So many times I have practically denied Christ by choosing my own way rather than His. Yet, He keeps giving me opportunities to choose correctly. Jesus shows me no less mercy than He showed to Peter. What will I do with it? I pray that He will make my answers and choices passionately committed to His glory.

At the end of Jesus’ conversation with Peter, He prophecies how Peter will die as a result of following Him. This too is amazing. Jesus here implies that Peter will stay faithful to Him and that He will never cast Peter aside. Jesus is promising to forever hold on to Peter, and this to one who completely did not deserve it. He has promised the same to me (1 Peter 1:3-5). Marvelous mercy.

And then, Jesus issues a final call: “Follow me.” As in other portions of Scripture, this confirms that not only does Christ keep the sheep in His flock, but they also stay with Him. This mystery is one I accept by faith in the evidence of Scripture, and cannot fully explain. All I know is that God will keep me, and one way in which He accomplishes this is by making me want to be kept.

But the story isn’t finished yet. Peter seems like he still hasn’t understood the lesson when he asks about John’s future. Jesus again doesn’t give up on Peter but again tells him to follow Him and not worry about what He has planned for others (21:20-23). Amazing. Jesus showers grace upon grace on those who belong to Him.

Here, in the story of Peter, I see again that I am wretched and Jesus is wonderful.

Christ had no regrets

“It is finished.” – from John 19:28-30

I don’t believe that Jesus was merely a moral example for the world. However, as a follower of Christ, I am called to become more and more like Him. He had no regrets over His life on earth. He completely fulfilled the purpose for which He came. A big portion of His work entailed pouring into a certain group of people that would carry His message far and wide.

He didn’t spend time surfing the web. Nothing is recorded of Him searching for the best deals on products He wanted to purchase. He never spent time worrying about the future. He never turned away people because He was tired.

Every moment was spent doing what was truly best for those He led and those who observed His life. The souls of people were His concern. When I get to the end of my life, I want to be able to say, like Jesus, that I accomplished the work for which He placed me on this earth. I want to have no regrets. I want people to know Christ as a result of knowing me. I want to live a full life for the glory of God. I want to be concerned about what Jesus was concerned about. I believe that Jesus shows me how.

I'm just like them

“When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” – John 19:6

What a masterfully planned out series of events. God caused Pilate to find Jesus innocent. Then Pilate delivered Jesus to the crowd to do what they wanted with him. Just considering this verse, had Jesus been found “guilty” in court, there may have been an additional cause for my heart to blame the political system for Jesus’ death. As it is, the people are those who pursued Christ to death. How merciful it is of God to have planned it this way so that even in this passage my sin is emphasized. I am just like those people. I am just like the thief on the cross. I have a heart of evil and rebellion against Jesus, and the only reason that I will not be sent to hell for it is the fact that Christ looked upon me, like He looked upon the thief hanging beside him, and said “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”(Luke 23:43) Such mercy. Such love. Such cause for me to leave all and follow Him.

“My life began like any other man
Held beneath a mother’s loving gaze
Somewhere between now and then
I lost the man I could have been
Took everything that wasn’t mine to take
But Love believes that it is not too late
Only one of us deserves this cross
A suffering that should belong to me
Deep within this man I hang beside
Is the place where shame and grace collide
And it’s beautiful agony
That He believes it’s not too late for me
This is how Love wins, every single time
Climbing high upon a tree where someone else should die
This is how Love heals, the deepest part of you
Letting Himself bleed into the middle of your wounds
This is what Love says, standing at the door
You don’t have to be who you’ve been before
Silenced by His voice, death can’t speak again
This is how Love wins
Did you see this moment from the start
That we would drink this of cup of suffering?
I wonder, did we ever meet?
Childhood games in dusty streets
For all my many sorrows and regrets
Nothing could compare to just this one
That in the presence of my King
I cannot fall upon my knees
I cannot carry You up to Your throne
You instead, will carry me back home.
What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood, nothing but the blood
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood, Nothing but the blood
Because this is what Love say, standing at the door
You don’t have to be who you’ve been before
And silenced by His voice, death can’t speak again
This is how Love wins. ”
– Steven Curtis Chapman

New Year 2012

It’s a new year. As I think back to resolutions that I made last year, I am overwhelmed with gratefulness for the fact that my salvation doesn’t depend on my rate of success in fulfilling them. God’s grace has amazed me over and over in 2011. Though I have failed Him over and over, He hasn’t let me go.

One year ago, I was already pursuing graduate school, but truly had no idea what was in store. Although I did complete my application and did the research, I feel like God took me by the hand and led me through the dark. Now, I look back on the semester and see a little of why God took me to where He did. And I can only offer praise to Him. Some blessings in being at seminary are as follows:

– constantly hearing the Bible explained

– seeing God’s work in the hearts of others

– being challenged to share the gospel

– having time to read excellent books

– living real life with sisters and brothers in Christ

– building life-long edifying relationships

– growing in appreciation of God’s Word

– seeing myself as wretched and Jesus as wonderful

In four weeks, my second semester will begin, and I am completely excited about delving deep into my studies. My time at seminary will be short, and thus it is my desire to make the most of it.

As I consider resolutions for 2012, I can only think of one.

In all of my activities, I will seek to be reigned by the pursuit of knowing Christ and making Christ known.

The specifics will not, at the moment, be revealed on my blog. As the year progresses, I hope to contemplate ways in which the above resolution affects my daily life.