Monthly Archives: February 2009

PLEASE ANSWER THE QUESTION

          Before continuing the conversation between Jesus and Simon Peter, I’d like for you to click on Marie’s comments.  She’s raised some thought-provoking ideas, as she always does.  In an earlier comment, she also mentions another helpful tool you can use as you study Scripture.  In my case, I’ve found a Harmony of the Gospels to be extremely helpful in trying to understand the chronology of events in Jesus life.  As you already know, the pace of events accelerated as we got closer to the Trial, Crucifixion and Resurrection.  You also know the story of His life is told by different writers, each from his own point of view and for his own reason for a specific audience.

            It wasn’t as if CNN had camera crews and reporters onsite for immediate worldwide satellite coverage.  There were no ‘talking heads’ who had to file immediate reports and meet deadlines.  Some of the Gospel accounts were written down later. Add to the ‘mix’ the gamut of emotions the entire “cast” had experienced in such a brief span of time.  Talk about a roller coaster ride!  From the time we call “Palm Sunday” to the Resurrection, try to imagine what was going on and how the Disciples must have felt. From the intoxicating, breath taking roar of an excited crowd waving palm fronds, welcoming Messiah, shouting to the top of their lungs in glorious anticipation: “Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord!!” to the vicious maddened mob screaming and spitting at the top of their lungs, hoarse, harsh and incredibly cruel: “Crucify Him.  Let Him be crucified!  We won’t have this man to rule over us!”             

            With all that was happening, the little band must also have felt fear, knowing full well the caldron of suspicion and hatred could quickly and easily boil over and spill out on them.  They were also angry.  Frustrated.  Grieving over their loss and their high hopes crashed!  Dashed to pieces on the Anvil of cruel hypocrisy and injustice.  On the heels of that, the discovery that Jesus’ body is no longer in the cave grave!  And a growing suspicion is replaced by a realization that JESUS IS ALIVE.  HE’S COME BACK AS HE PROMISED!

            Can’t you just sense the excitement?  The confusion? This incredible sequence of events overwhelmed even the most disciplined and diligent and intelligent reporter. The confusion has turned to chaos, and the only One who really understands what’s going on hasn’t had time to set the record straight.  The reality of the Resurrection dawned upon the small band so suddenly, so brilliantly and unexpectedly , that it’s no wonder one of the accounts says the Disciples “believed not for joy.”  What that means, quite literally, is the first believers were so shocked and surprised they couldn’t comprehend the enormity and magnificence of such Truth!  They seem at times also to be completely bewildered byt the rapidly changing events.

           So, like Marie, I have trouble sometimes following the action and sorting out what happened, when, as witnessed by whom, etc. 

 

            We continue :                  

   

John 21:15  “So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, do you love me more than these?”    Before you hear what was said, do you think Jesus would ask such a personal question in front of the other Disciples, or did they perhaps go off to the side and speak quietly?  I don’t ever recall Jesus embarrassing Peter (Once more, Marie alertly pointed out an exception to the observation I just made.  The circumstances, however, were quite different in my opinion.*)  He never rubbed salt into the open wound, still smarting.  Somehow, I can’t imagine him “dressing down” an already humbled, humiliated Peter.  He doesn’t say: “You stupid Jerk!  You’re never going to amount to anything!  How could I have wasted so much valuable time on such a simpleton?  I warned you, and you ignored me!  You swaggered and strutted and boasted so loudly and proudly. Then, after you were warned, you proceeded to waffle under pressure! Publicly!” Instead, examine carefully how the conversation takes place.  Notice how kind and patient Jesus was. Notice also, that Jesus doesn’t let Peter wonder off course. 

 

            When He asks a question, He expects us to answer.

            Before we think further about the “Question which begs to be answered,” have you ever thought about this:  WHY would Jesus ask such a question in the first place?  Doesn’t it seem to you that He”s perceptive enough, and a good enough judge of human behaviour, that He already knew the answer?  He’d sure “nailed it” accurately on other occasions. Why, then, would he ask a question for which He already knew the answer?

            Personally, I think the question was raised and Jesus pressed for an answer for Peter’s benefit. The Lord has a way of looking behind our face and knowing what’s happening on the inside.  Peter was no exception. From Jesus’ point of view, since He probably knew the danger and suffering ahead for Peter, He knew the task would be much too great. . . unless Peter really loved Christ.  Was really committed!

            It might be a good idea to look at other occasions where someone was sort of “put on the spot” as an important question was asked and an answer was expected.  Pilate, for instance, early in a morning with not much advance time for thought, he asked a question: “What shall I do with Jesus, who is called The Christ?”  The crowd, whipped into a mad, frothing frenzy by “plants” who helped orchestrate the worst answer in history, bellowed out: “Let Him be Crucified!”  Pilate felt the heat, had to decide, and was left with no “wiggle room” and no doubt about who is being asked.

            You know the rest of the story. 

            Important questions.  Not a lot of options available, and time pressing for an answer.  So much at stake.  And there is no less at stake for us when we’re  faced with similar choices.  If we want to “come back” to Christ, and journey with Him, we need for our own sake to know that we love Him.  That we are willing to follow where He leads and do as He commands.   

            As we study the conversation, it seems to me a couple things are worth keeping in mind.  One is the seeming “coincidence” of Jesus posing the essentially same question three times.  You’ll remember Peter had denied Jesus three times. I’m not sure if that’s just a coincidence, or if Jesus attached subtle significance that Peter himself would have recognized right away. If it’s simply a “coincidence,” it’s certainly an interesting one.

            Another thing, which I feel we should keep in mind as we contemplate this conversation, is that the Greek language in which this conversation was recorded has four distinctly different words to express four distinctly different kinds or levels of love or affection. Only two are used here, but the choice of words seems deliberate and accurate to express the point.   When you see the conversation as John records it, Jesus asks His question using one word: the verb form of agape.  “Simon, Do you LOVE ME?  In response, Simon uses the verb form of the Greek word for friend, philos.  “Lord, I like you.  A lot. I might go even so far as to say you’re my very best friend!”

            Do you notice any change in Peter’s attitude at this point?  Where is the impulsive, cocky, self-assured Peter?  Has his “fall” perhaps taught him something about humility?  About his need (and ours) always to trust God to lead us correctly? There is another word for human affection, EROS (from which comes our word “erotic”). It usually connotes physical desire, or something similar to lust. It doesn’t deal exclusively with sexual desire, but it does infer that you love, like, or desire something or someone which makes you look or feel good. Isn’t this basically a selfish kind of affection?  I “like” you for what I can get out of the relationship.  PHILOS (from which we get our word “filial,” meaning “brotherly love.”  Philadelphia (the city of “brotherly Love” comes from a wedding of the words “Philos” and the Greek word for city, “Adelphos.”  That kind of love is one with which we can pretty easily identify.  It’s not exactly suggesting I like or love you unselfishly.  I’m willing to give, but I also expect to get something out of this relationship.  This is the word Peter uses as he replies to Jesus’ questions. “CHARITAS is about as close to “agape” as any human can come. Our word “charity” comes from the Greek word (Karitas), but we’ve worn the English word threadbare.  Most of us cannot help thinking of “charity” as an occasional gathering of stuff we don’t need, or wear any more or is worn out . . .  or out of style.  Plus, we could use a tax deduction.  As we’ve done in many other instances, over time we’ve ground down the sharp edges of some words, worn them out, or distorted their meaning.  “Charitas” is the word the Apostle Paul used in the thirteenth chapter his first letter to the young Church at Corinth.  The verb form for this word isn’t used in this conversation between Jesus and Simon Peter. 

 

             “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”  The word Jesus uses here is from agapao. “Agape.”  It is the kind love that is selfless.  No ulterior motives are beneath the surface; not even a response is demanded.    No conditions are attached.  I love you without a qualifying clause that asks: “what’s in it for me?”  When the word “agapo,” is used it usually means: “I love you the way God loves a sinner.  I love you in a way you can never, ever deserve.”  It seems to me that we can’t even respond correctly to God’s affection unless He enables that.  In my opinion, you and I can only love others as God enables us to do so.  “We love Him because He first loved us” doesn’t simply mean He loved us first.  It means we do not initiate the love, but can only respond to it.  Until we see ourselves as loved by God, and forgiven, I believe we cannot love any other as we ought.  We’ll make promises we cannot keep and perhaps have no intention of even trying.   We’ll always be expecting and demanding of others something they are unable to give . . . or something we do not really deserve or have no right to expect.   God takes the initiative.  We can only respond as He does that.  We can love Him, but we cannot love Him first.

            I also took a minute to think about what Jesus meant when He asked Peter “do you love me MORE THAN THESE?  More than these What?  Since we weren’t there on this occasion, we have no way of determining “what” is.  We can’t see gestures, or hear inflections.  Or see eye contact. Was Jesus asking Peter if he loved Jesus more than these (pointing perhaps to)  other disciples?  Peter had boasted as much.  Did Jesus perhaps gesture toward the boat, the sea, the way of life to which Peter was so accustomed.  His lifestyle.  His “security”?  All he knew and valued and held dear?  Is Jesus asking Peter if he loves those things more than he loves Jesus?

             Sometimes I don’t know the answers to some questions I ask.  I do know Jesus is pressing the point.  He doesn’t allow Peter to dismiss the question with an “off the cuff” answer.   Even though Peter seems caught off guard the first time he’s asked, and probably answers quickly, without much thought. . . Jesus re-presents the question.  Before Pete’s “comeback” was complete, that question had to be resolved.

            The answer to the question is critical.  It comes before being commissioned to “feed the sheep.”  It is so important for the success of any “comeback,” or any future mission, that it MUST BE ANSWERED.  “Do You Love me?”   A thoughtless, superficial “uh huh” won’t cut it!  Jesus knew what Peter would be facing.  He knew, apart from a deep, settled commitment, there’s no way he could endure what he would have to face in years to come.  There’d be no way he could serve effectively unless he really loved Jesus.   

            We aren’t really left with the option of just “liking Him.”  Thinking He’s a really interesting, unique Teacher fails to come to grips with Who He claims to be. You’re missing the profound meaning of the question if you don’t address His identity!

 

            Peter said to Him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”  Actually, he is saying I like you.  The Greek word used by Peter is ‘phileo.’  It means, “I like you.  A lot.  You’re a good friend.”  A “buddy.”  Peter didn’t use the same word Jesus had used.  But Jesus still said to him, “Feed My lambs.” Lambs, as you know, are baby sheep.  Jesus never forgot the “little ones.”

             The reason this seena  so important is that Jesus is in process of restoring Peter.  Assigning the most important task, showing confidence in the failed fisherman.  Putting him back on staff.  Giving him a responsible assignment. In my opinion, this is a milestone.  A cornerstone. It is fundamental in Peter’s restoration.  Jesus’ principal role in Scripture paints Him as the “Good Shepherd.”  So it seems logical that, as Peter affirms his love for Christ, the immediate consequence of that is: JESUS AFFIRMS CONFIDENCE IN PETER AND ASSIGNS HIM THE ROLE OF ‘UNDER-SHEPHERD!”  So we don’t miss the enormity of that, let me repeat: Once Peter says: “I love you to the best of my ability,”Jesus says: “Very well.  Now, carry on my work for me when I’m not here!”

16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me?”  (Same word.  Agape.) He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I like you”.  Peter just isn’t prepared to go that far.   He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”   This is the “Good Shepherd” speaking now, and the analogy seems to be so appropriate.  I get the impression that Jesus is saying: “ O. K.  I’ll meet you where you are, using your terminology, and as the ‘Good Shepherd,’ I want you to take care of my sheep.  Nothing complicated about that.  We’re not talking about brain surgery here, or astrophysics, or nuclear science. “I trust you, Peter.  I’m restoring you without recriminations or restrictions.  You aren’t on probation. I need you.  I’ve selected you for a task, and I’m confident you can carry it out. This is your simple, but very important assignment: Feed my sheep.”

             17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love I believe Jesus changes His word here.  Do you even like me? Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I REALLY like you.  

Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.”  I trust you, Peter.  I’m restoring you without recriminations or restrictions.  I need you.  I’ve selected you for a task, and I am confident you can carry it out.

             Can you imagine what that did to Pete’s confidence in himself?  What part do you think that would play in completing Peter’s comeback?  What a confidence builder!   How like Jesus that is to look past our failings and welcome us back into fellowship with Himself. 

            The comeback is complete!  Not one word has been said about the denial before the mock trial.  Peter did deny three times that he had any relationship with Jesus.  Jesus asked Pete the same question three times.  Perhaps it was coincidental.  Whether or not that is the case, Peter has come back.  And a gracious Lord Christ never once makes mention of his denial.

            My conclusion is this: Unless I really LOVE Jesus, it isn’t possible for me to do what He asks.  If I DO LOVE Him, feeding His sheep, following Him, obeying Him, is a logical, inevitable outcome.

         Other factors figured in his return, his “comeback,” but this incident clearly establishes in my way of thinking that Peter is back, and back in business! The restoration at this point is probably complete.  There is still the empowerment which is to come at Pentecost.  But from the time of this interview, you see an entirely different person.  A new man.  Peter is aware of his limitations and is no longer the impulsive, braggadocios “loose cannon.” He speaks boldly.  But he stays “on task.”  He remains faithful and fruitful until the last day of his life.

God’s servant, your friend, brother, and fellow student  ~donkimrey

 


The Question Begs an Answer

         While we continue our study of Simon Peter’s “comeback,” I’ve been asking myself several questions. In my opinion, his answers and Jesus’ display of confidence afterward, confirm Peter’s return. John relates the incident in the last chapter of his account, in verses 21:15-17.  If you’re “studying” with me, I’d like to invite your responses to the questions below.  Of course, I’m considering this question:  ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you truly love me?”

     Why do you imagine Jesus asked Peter the question in the first place?

     Do you think Jesus perhaps already knew the answer to the question before He asked?

     If so, why then do you suppose He’d even ask?
 
     Why do you think Jesus asked the question three different times?  Do you reckon Peter was hard of hearing?  Not paying attention?  We already know he often had his own agenda and was often guilty of simply not paying attention.

     Do you think Jesus asked the questions in the way you skim through them in Scripure?  Say thirty seconds or less?  Or do you think Jesus gave Peter time to think about his response before answering.  The first time, the question probably took Simon off guard.

     Why was the answer so important?  Did this figure in Peter’s “comeback?” 

     What happened after Peter seemed to answer to the question to Jesus’ satisfaction?

     If  He were to ask you the same questions, how would you answer?

       Why is that so important?

     Have you ever considered the question?  Have you answered it?

     Did that end the conversation?

     Ofen poets say what we think and feel. . . but so much more beautifully and expressively than the rest of us can do.   I love how Isaac Watts gave his answer to such a question in his great hymn: “Love so amazing, so divine, demands…deserves…and shall have…my life, my soul, my all!”

PETER’S COMEBACK


            I really enjoy painting.  Sometimes I’ve been proud of my work, but I’ve never really enjoyed anyone watching my work in progress.  Always enjoyed painting, but I get messy, using brushes and fingers, and squinting, squirting tubes of paint,  and wiping my hands on whatever I happen to be wearing.  On at least one occasion when I’d walked away from my easel to observe my progress, I returned to my stool and couldn’t find my palette.  Until I realized I was sitting on it.  At about the same time Mrs. Green’s other amateur Michaelangelos did as well.                                 

           I’d rather have the work neat and complete. Once, when I was taking an actual course in art in college, my instructor was deaf and her speech reflected that.  Most of the time here comments were limited to: “That’s beautiful. Simply beautiful.”  Once, when I was trying to replicate a picture I’d found of a Water Spaniel retrieving a mallard and coming up over the side of a boat, she stood behind me briefly.  Then commented:  “What a beautiful horse!”  She chuckled, and the class roared.  Which explains why I never became a professional and never really felt comfortable with spectators while I was working.                                                            

            I’m pretty much that way about writing, but think I’d like to make an exception in this case.  I’d like for you to share in the “study.”  So, if you’ve been here before, you probably know we’ve been considering what I call God’s “Comeback Kids.”  I don’t ever try to tell God what to say.  I don’t come to Scripture with conclusions searching for “proof texts.”  I try to listen openly and honestly, not looking to enlarge my bank of facts, even if it happens to be “important trivia.”   In this current effort, my focus is simply to try to find how some of God’s servants fell, or failed, or were shoved off course.  Then, I’ve been asking myself: “How’d they manage to ‘come back?’” 

            In a departure from the method used earlier, I’ve printed a passage of Scripture and interspersed my comments, questions, etc.  The Bible verses are printed bold.  A couple of friends, “Ebby Dickens” and Mark Ryman, have made me aware of some incredible online tools which you can use.  One is “Biblos.”  The other is BibleGateway.com.  Between the two, you can have access to just about every existing translation of Scripture, as well as other very valuable study tools.  You can find a passage, “copy and paste” it into your own word processing program.  Then you can make your notes and observations embedded right in the context you’re examining.                                                         

            What I’d really like to take place now, is for us to “play like” we’re sitting around a kitchen table together.  Or sitting in someone’s living room with open Bibles, open, inquisitive minds, teachable ‘hearts,’ pen and notepad, just studying Scripture together.                                                                                                   

             We may need a couple of “sessions” for this current exercise.  But who’s in a hurry?  If we can find truth which produces hope and strengthens faith and courage, I’ll invest a bit of time.  As John closes out his account of Jesus life her on earth,  he tells about the last ‘face to face’ conversation with Simon Peter.  Some earth-shakng events have taken place.  Jesus has returned from the grave and sets up the last meeting He’ll have with His disciples.   Here’s how it goes:

            John 21  1 After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of 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 m going fishing.”

          In his disappointment and total disgust with himself, Peter just decided to “chuck it.”  He said he was going back to the old way of life. The beautiful dream had turned into a dark nightmare.  Peter was embarrassed.  Humiliated.  Defeated.  Disillusioned.  “I quit.”  I’m sure the darkest hours of Peter’s life took place between the night of his betrayal of Messiah and the morning of his return. 

            They  (the other Disciples) said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing.   4 But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Then Jesus said to them, “Children,  (“Boys.”  Can you imagine?  Grown men, and he calls them children. “Kids, you got any food?”  Caught any fish? Had any luck?”  Can you imagine how irritating that must have been?  They didn’t recognize Him and may have had difficulty hearing as well.  He was a pretty good distane away.  They’ve been struggling with the nets.  They’re professional fishermen and from the shore a “stranger” whom they don’t recognize is shouting questions and instructions to them about where to throw their net.  Good naturedly chiding them about their failure to catch anything.   Fishing is what they know how to do best.  He may as well have taunted them from their point of view.

            They answered Him, “No!”  They’re hollering back and forth now from ship to shore.  The wind was probably blowing.  Waves may have been pounding the shore and perhaps drowning out some of their conversation.  Do you suppose they answered his questions sweetly and politely?  I think not. Probably abruptly.  They were already tired.  Aggravated that the fish weren’t co-operating, and now here’s this “guy” over on the shore. . . uninvited, and unwelcome . . .  telling them how to do something at which they were already recognized as well as self-proclaimed “experts.”  The boat is two hundred cubits offshore.  You probably know measurements in the ancient Middle East were sometimes inexact.  For example, a cubit (the length from the tip of the middle finger to the elbow) may have been anywhere from 17 to 22 inches.  I’m not certain how many centimeters that is.  But, say on average we’re talking 20 inches, multiplied by 200 cubits calculates roughly into approximately 4000 inches! That’s longer than a football field!   I’m not sure I could hear someone on shore from that distance, even if they were using an amplifier!  Before I got the catarract operation, I couldn’t even see somebody that far away and recognize them.  

Even if my calculation isn’t exact, I can assure you they were shouting back and forth.  Hands cupped around the mouth and hollering, hoping to be heard. 

6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish. 7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), Fishing in his shorts?  Horrors!  I’m almost sure this was not the occasion where our saying was developed, “caught with his pants down.”  They wore robes!   Actually, one of the accounts suggest he was ‘nekkid!”  I can’t help it.  I got tickled.  One thing seems certain: If you were ‘prim and proper’ and hung out with this band of brothers, you might get shocked occasionally.  When I thought about the idea of the “first pope” clambering over the side of the boat and going ‘skinny dipping’ I laffed out loud.  Next time you see a pope in crown and robe and regalia and heralds and pomp and circumstance, could you imagine him throwing caution and propriety to the winds in an outrageously bold dash to get to shore and get to Jesus?  and plunged into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish. 9 Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.” 11 Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.” Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?”—knowing that it was the Lord. 13 Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish. 14 This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead.

A conversation follows.  I hope you’ll look at it and think about it.     God’s servant, your friend, brother, and fellow student   ~donkimrey

For your Information

          In studying what I’ve been calling God’s “Comeback Kids,” my concentration has been on the Scripture.  I read quite a bit, and have great respect for Biblical Scholars and Commentators.  However, for my purposes here, I’ve read about everything I could find in the Bible about Peter and simply thought and prayed about it.  My questions have been: “How did these Bible characters get into such messes?  Did they fail, or fall, or get shoved?  Were they careless, dumb, arrogant, ignorant?  What was the cause(or causes) of their “eclipse of faith?”  Then I’ve asked:  “How did they come back?  What were the clues to their return to fellowship and favor?”

         In my opinion, it is very important in study of the Bible that you not have pre-formed ideas.  Don’t tell God what He thinks.  Don’t try to put words in His mouth, or make Him say what I want to hear.  Just meditate.  I use the brain and imagination He gave to process the information so it becomes real.  And personal.  To me.  Then I try to make it a part of how I think and live.  And, by that time, it seems what I’ve discovered demands to be shared,w ith the hope and prayer it may be of value to someone else.

          The one departure I made from that procedure was when I stumbled upon a sermon by Dr. Jack Harnish of Birmingham, Michigan United Methodist Church.  It was so impressive I wrote and asked for permission to quote him on this site.  He very graciously consented, and then did something even better. . . He gave me the link to his site.  I’d thought about posting his thoughts on my site, but you know how easy it is for things to get turned around so it may begin to look as if I wrote it.  I think people should receive credit for their own work, so I decided, instead of posting, to refer you to his site so you could read it in its entirety.  First hand.  Below is the information he sent to me.  Trust me.  It’s “good stuff.”  If the man were to move to North Topsail, he would become my Pastor!  

          Dr. Harnish wrote:  “The website address for downloading or listening to my sermons is www.fumcbirmingham.org.  On the site you can also sign up for my free weekly e-mail message called “Monday Memo”.   Thanks.  Jack Harnish, First UMC, Birmingham, MI”

            For the past few days, we’ve been in Atlanta visiting our Grandchildren (and of course, my daughter, Jo.).  She’s been such a great joy all her life, and the grandsons are handsome, intelligent. . . strikingly so.  And that is from an objective, unbiased, doting grand dad’s pov (point of view. I’m catching up on the “computer speak.”).  However, my laptop went blank.  And when I tried to re-charge it, I realized my cord was back at the beach.  It isn’t exactly like borrowing someone else’s toothbrush or socks, but using someone else’s tools and space is a bit out of my comfort zone.  Especially when my grandson, Chandler, has overloaded his computer. Big time.  It gallops along like a herd of excited turtles!  That, plus being unable to access some of the study notes stored on mine, has slowed this process a bit. 

           Your comments have provided much encouragement.  Your insights have added a lot to my understanding.  Before I wrap up the study of Peter’s life, please feel free to post your own observations about his “slip-ups” and his “comeback” to become a ROCK,  not simply a pebble.

Stay close to Christ.

God’s servant, your friend, brother, and fellow student

~donkimrey

“INVITE “THE DISCIPLES…DON’T FORGET PETER.”

            I hope you had time to look back over the work we did earlier on Jesus’ conversation with Simon Peter at the last Supper they had together before the Crucifixion.  Remember?  Interrupting a quarrel among the disciples, Jesus singled Peter out and told him:  “I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not.”

         As I’ve read and pondered the life of Simon Peter, it’s pretty apparent there is a trail, which led to his denying Jesus in the early morning hours that preceded dawn, and the mock trial, and the brutal murder of Messiah.  You could see early on that Peter had and impulsive, almost arrogant, self-sufficient, self-important air about him.  In spite of Jesus’ cautioning him, Peter usually rushed in, without much thought, headlong at his own speed, and in the direction of his choosing.  He seldom sought advice or heeded instruction or warning (even from the Man whom he called Master.). Coupled with that, Peter had a hair-trigger temper and a tongue that often was disconnected from his brain.

         It was no accident that Peter got tripped up.  He was out of control.  At times the uneducated fisherman was a “loose cannon.” It was simply a matter of time until he ran headlong into a brick wall or plunged recklessly over a precipice.  If Peter had ever heard the words: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall,” there’s no evidence that he heeded the warning. 

         As Jesus noticed Peter’s stubborn vulnerability, He threw him a lifeline.  Before the fall ever  even happened.  “I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not.” That sruck me as a little bit of “preventive maintenance on Jesus’ part!

         I believe I can guarantee you that Peter never forgot that promise!  Even if he had a brief “eclipse of faith,” and later as he faced and endured incredible trials do not think the power of those words had no effect on the clumsy, bumbling, stumbling fisherman!  Peter actually heard the words right out of Jesus mouth!  You and I can only read them. . . but does that make the promise less important?  In fact, in our legal system, isn’t the fact that a document is “in writing” take precedence over what may sometimes be ruled in court as “an unenforceable verbal agreement?”

         This study  has not been a “cut and dried effort” on my part.”  Nor am I insisting that you agree with all my logic or conclusions.  Please do your own thinking.  But consider carefully what you study and what the implications as well as the applications may be.

         May I ask you to ponder this thought: If you were under heavy duress in some “hour of trial,” would it mean anything to you if you thought: “Jesus may right now be praying FOR ME?  Por moi? Yes, YOU.

         In my opinion, this marks one of the important “keys” to Peter’s “comeback.  The remembrance of Jesus promise to pray for Peter must have brought great strength and hope and determination to his commitment.

         Now, may I ask you to consider another of those “keys?”  It seems very significant to me that Jesus did not dismiss Pete because he “messed up.”  You and I might have dumped him like a rotten egg if it had been our call.  But, when Jesus arose, He called for a “reunion” and, guess what.  Peter got invited.  The word was sent out to everyone on the list, but especially, don’t forget Peter.  Jesus  called him by name.  “He may have excluded himself, but I include him.  Go tell Peter to meet me at the lake.”  Here’s the account of that incident as it’s recorded in Mark 16:1-7 

            “And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and  Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.  2 And very earlyin the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulcher at the rising of the sun.  3 And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? 

             “4 And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great.  5 And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side,clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted.  6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.  7 But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.”         

         Go tell His disciples. . . and Peter…. That’s sort of subtle.  The kind of thing you could skim over lightly, unless you’re paying attention, searching.   Where had he been?  What had Peter been doing between Friday and Sunday morning?  He was disgusted with himself.  Angry.  He had a chance to be a hero.  And he blew it.  In spite of that, Jesus wantedthe other disciples to be sure Peter knew he was invited.

         But, just because Peter turned his back on Jesus, did not mean Jesus turned His back on Peter!  Nor will He ever.  And Jesus takes that same position for all His disciples.  Everywhere.  Every single one of them.  The One who never lies said as plainly and as simply as anyone could say anything: “I will NEVER leave you nor forsake you.”  “I’m with you ALWAYS, even to the end of the age!”  

         It seems to me that Peter had “resigned his commission.”  He wasn’t “fired” because he messed up.  He simply quit. He gave up on himself, but Christ had not given up on him.  Paul later said: “He who has begun a good work in you will continue (and   complete) it…” (Matthew 4:13-20).  He’s not through with you.  “But I struck out in the bottom of the ninth inning with the bases loaded.”  There’ll be other days.  Other opportunities.  Remember what I told you the other evening:  “I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not.”

  I’ll bet you every time Peter saw a Rooster. . . or heard one cock his head back and crow  . . . he remembered

         Christ had confidence in Peter when Peter did not have confidence in himself.  I can tell you gratefully, and humbly, that it was my good fortune to have some people who loved me (never stopped), prayed for me (never thought about quitting), and believed in me and for me when I could no longer do that for myself.  How I long at this moment to be able to express that knowledge  in such a convincing manner you would clutch the same promise to your own heart!

         The point I believe is valid.  Very valid.  We’re searching for reasons why Peter was able to “come back.”  Wonder what it meant for Peter  to realize that Jesus wanted to see him.  Called him by name.  He knew very well he’d failed, miserably and publicly.  But put him back on the team. 

          Forgiveness isn’t an achievement.  It is a gift.   Failure isn’t an unforgiveable sin.  Quitting is the problem. 

          The Lord saw something in Peter that I’ll bet you missed.  I certainly did.  You think you’d have picked him for any significant assignment?  Knowing just what you know…not what Jesus knew about so many capable figures over the vastness of time and all the inhabitants of earth.  Would THAT have been your selection for a spokesperson?   “You didn’t choose me.  I chose you.  You have an assignment.  A duty to perform.  I trust you.  I know your failings and shortcomings.  I love you nevertheless, and I have confidence in you.  Now, stop moping and start hoping.  Get your chin up.  Throw your shoulders back.  Get back to work.  Be done with self-pity!  Be done with self-recriminations.”  Be done with the Guilt that gnaws at your entrails like a deadly virus. Paul put it this way:  “There is, therefore, no condemnation for them who are in Christ Jesus. . .” The one whom you betrayed is also the One who says: “Neither do I  condemn thee.” 

Stay close to Christ,

God’s servant and son, your friend, brother, and fellow student  ~donkimrey

NOT ALL THINGS ARE BRIGHT AND BEAUTIFUL


       Some things with which we have to deal are difficult.  Very difficult. As much as we enjoy and appreciate things which are beautiful, not everything is  bright and beautiful. “Mountain top” experiences are to be cherished.  But there simply are valleys through which we have to travel. I like to see folks rejoicing, happy, upbeat and victorious…but in reality that is not the way life is.  Before victory comes, there has to be a battle.  Before the battle, someone needs to train and prepare and be ready for conflict. That process of preparation is arduous, sometimes torturous, tedious and demands the most of us.  The actual battle requires all the strength we can muster, and even sometimes “the last full measure of our devotion.”

       So Peter’s struggles aren’t exciting.  Certainly nothing to shout about.  It would take a perverted, almost inhuman, spirit to get a “kick” out of seeing someone betray his ideals. Or fall flat on his face in a puddle of “poo,” or get lost in a frightening wilderness. Or be beaten down in despair. 

       Most of what we’ve considered about Peter up to this point has dealt with his humanity.  His frailty.  His shortcomings.  His glaring weaknesses. Reasons which would cause anyone to doubt his ability or dependability or his commitment to any cause. So most of us can pretty easily understand how Peter “fell.”  From some of our own bitter experiences, we can can also tell you how he felt.  Each of us has (or will) at sometime know the pain of brutal betrayal by a trusted friendl.  Or the consequences of our own ignorance or wilful disobedience.

       Peter was a lot like I. Up to and including his love of the shore.  Like him, there are stains and blotches on my record, memories which time cannot erase.  I keep hoping my children learn as much from my mistakes as they did from the things I may have done right!

       From this point, we’re considering how he became a “Comeback Kid.”  Now that’s something about which you can rejoice.  Just as I can learn from his mistakes, so I can also learn from his recovery.  The same Christ who restored Peter, is still in the “salvage” business!  But, as Ethel Waters once said, “God don’t make no junk.”   The Apostle Paul wrote: “If any man is in Christ, he becomes a new creation.  Old things are passed away, and behold all things are become new.”  

       At the beginning of our study, I mentioned what I feel is one of the key clues to Peter’s “comeback.”  That was his faith in Messiah.  In my opinion, that was the anchor for Peter.  You know a boat can never get far away from its anchor. A tree never falls far from it’s roots. Those years Peter spent walking and working closely with Jesus filled a void no one else could ever fill.  In my early days as a young Christian, I was around some “old timey” Believers.  They’d “testify.”  Once I heard and old gntleman say: “When I got saved, I got such a jerk toward Heb’n that I been outta joint with the world ever since.”  Quaint.  Cute.  Amusing.  Yes.  But it also illustrates I point which I’m convinced is valid:  Once you have a close encounter with the Lord Christ, nothing and no one will  ever be able to replace that.  And if you stray away, I feel confident your soul will be drawn back as surely as a magnet needle is always drawn toward the North.

       Sometime last year, we spent a while considering something Jesus said to Peter while they were having the “first” Last Supper.  At the time, the idea of “Comeback Kids” had not yet begun to germinate in my mind.  Certainly not as it related to Simon Peter.  However, as I’ve reflected on the fisherman’s life, it seems to me that was as instrumental in his “comeback” as anything.  The deep longings of his soul had been met.  A foundation had been laid.  Through this, the invitation to become a Disciple, and his years spent following the dear Lord Jesus Christ, we are virtually assured that Peter would return.  Someday.  Somehow.  Hopefully, that would occur sooner rather than later!

       Once Jesus said: “You haven’t chosen me; I have chosen you.”  Peter had discovered a love that would not let him go!

       In order to see this in proper context, I will next re-post the work we did on the conversation between Peter and Jesus on the night in which He was betrayed.

        JUST  ONE FURTHER THOUGHT in closing:  My concern and commitment is to study Scripture.  That is my desire and intention.  I believe, however, that studying Scripture doesn’t involve simply citing references and quoting verses.  And just accumulating facts and information.  In my opinion, it involves thinking about what you read.  Carefullly.  prayerfully.  Making accurate observations and drawing honest, sensible conclusions.  Making appliation practically to my own life.  And then, hopefully living more like Christ and sharing anything of value which I discover.  `

God’s servant, your friend, brother, and fellow student, ~ donkimrey