God Running is a place for anyone who wants to (or even anyone who wants to want to) love Jesus more deeply, follow Jesus more closely, and love people the way Jesus wants us to.
Last post we looked at how Jesus asked Peter three times, if he loved him. And we discussed the parallels between Peter denying Jesus three times, and Peter’s encounter with Jesus after the resurrection on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. (see previous post God Asked This of Peter 3 Times)
Today we’ll look at a prophetic prediction Jesus makes about Peter, and Peter’s reaction to that prediction.
Having just asked Peter three times if he loved him, and having just instructed Peter three times to feed Jesus’ sheep, Jesus continues:
“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.” (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.”
Peter turned and saw John following behind them, and he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?”
Jesus answered: “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”
Did Jesus Change The Subject?
It might seem like Jesus abruptly changed the subject at this point in his conversation with Peter. But if we put his words in context, we see that’s not the case. I’m sure you remember how Peter, in the Garden of Gethsemane, on the night of Jesus’ betrayal, boldly proclaimed he would die for Jesus. And Jesus responded by telling Peter he would deny him three times before the cock crowed. And Peter did deny him three times, while standing at the fire of Jesus’ enemies.
Now having asked Peter three times if he loved him, while Peter stood there at the fire Jesus prepared on the shore, Jesus, in a somewhat enigmatic way, tells Peter he will indeed die for Jesus’ sake. Except he won’t die defending Jesus with his sword, but rather in a manner similar to the way Jesus died.
Early church writings confirm this is what happened to Peter. Clement of Rome, Tertullian, Saint Peter of Alexandria, and others wrote about it. Peter was “girded by another as he was bound to the cross,” Tertullian writes, and he was carried to that cross by those who murdered him, and he stretched out his hands when he was stretched out on that cross. Also according to early church writings, Peter declared himself unworthy to be crucified the same way Jesus was crucified, and he requested to be hung on his cross upside down. And they obliged him.
So we see how Jesus’ prediction came to pass.
And we also see how Jesus didn’t change the subject after all. Because in the Garden before the crucifixion, Peter proclaimed he would die for Jesus. Now, after the resurrection, Jesus is reminding Peter of how Peter didn’t live up to that proclamation, at least in the short term. Because he’s explaining to Peter that when he is old, he will die for Jesus’ sake.
To put an exclamation point on Jesus’ prediction that Peter will die in similar fashion to Jesus, Jesus finishes with these words:
So Peter responds in the most human way ever. He turns and looks at John, who’s walking behind them, and says to Jesus,
“Lord, what about him?”
And Jesus answers: “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”
Too often I see the spirit that’s on display here in Peter, in myself, and in other Jesus followers too.
“Yeah, but what about him?”
If you study Peter’s death you learn that he, like Jesus, was crucified unjustly. As a Christ follower I have to recognize that just as it was for Peter, it’s likely Jesus has certain crosses in mind for me to bear too. But too often, when I learn about my cross, or while I’m bearing that cross, I want to look around at others and say, “Yeah, but what about him (or her, or them)?”
It’s so easy to fall into this trap. It’s so easy to concern myself with someone else’s behavior, or maybe even become consumed by or obsessed with someone else’s behavior — rather than focus on the one place in the world where I have control: myself.
Peter’s reaction was that of so many of us humans. If we put the spotlight on our spouse, then we can push our own weaknesses to the back of our consciousness. When our shortcomings are there, pushed to the back, that’s when we feel best about ourselves.
If we put the crosshairs on a politician, or a political group, we can spend our energy there. Which is so much easier than spending our energy following Jesus’ commands to love God and love people, all people, even our enemies.
If our focal point is our difficult boss or coworker, we can camp out there. We can take our rest there. That’s so much easier than doing the quiet deep work of seeking God and asking Him to fill us with the Spirit of Christ.
“Foolish is the man …who would rid himself or his fellows of discomfort by setting the world right …while he neglects that integral part of the world where lies his business, his first business, namely, his own character and conduct.”–George MacDonald
God loved those who persecuted him. God loved those who didn’t love him back. Jesus calls us to love like that. And the path to doing so lies in concerning ourselves: with ourselves. With our own hearts and our own behaviors. Concerning ourselves with the behavior of others is just a distraction.
“For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?”–Jesus Christ, Matthew 5:46
“Father, please fill me and the beloved child of Yours who’s reading this right now with the Spirit of Your Son Jesus. Help us. Be merciful to us, because we’re sinners. Change us into the likeness of Christ. Help us to turn our focus toward following Your Son’s words and example. Lead us away from the temptation to focus on the behavior of our spouses, or other adult family members, or politicians, or political groups, or difficult people at work, or anyone other than ourselves. Help us to concern ourselves with the business of conforming into the likeness of Jesus.
“In Jesus’ name,
Clement of Rome, First Epistle, c. 80-98, Early Christian Writings
Tertullian, Antidote for the Scorpian’s Sting, c. 155-240, New Advent
Saint Peter of Alexandria, Sermon on Penitence, c. 270-311, New Advent
Image of Crucifixion of Saint Peter by Caravaggio via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain
Newly released book by Kurt Bennett, now available on Amazon!
Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus)
Love Like Jesus begins with the story of how after a life of regular church attendance and Bible study, Bennett was challenged by a pastor to study Jesus. That led to an obsessive seven year deep dive. After pouring over Jesus’ every interaction with another human being, he realized he was doing a much better job of studying Jesus’ words than he was following Jesus’ words and example. The honest and fearless revelations of Bennett’s own moral failures affirm he wrote this book for himself as much as for others.
Love Like Jesus examines a variety of stories, examples, and research, including:
- Specific examples of how Jesus communicated God’s love to others.
- How Jesus demonstrated all five of Gary Chapman’s love languages (and how you can too).
- The story of how Billy Graham extended Christ’s extraordinary love and grace toward a man who misrepresented Jesus to millions.
- How to respond to critics the way Jesus did.
- How to love unlovable people the way Jesus did.
- How to survive a life of loving like Jesus (or how not to become a Christian doormat).
- How Jesus didn’t love everyone the same (and why you shouldn’t either).
- How Jesus guarded his heart by taking care of himself–he even napped–and why you should do the same.
- How Jesus loved his betrayer Judas, even to the very end.
With genuine unfiltered honesty, Love Like Jesus, shows you how to live a life according to God’s definition of success: A life of loving God well, and loving the people around you well too.
A life of loving like Jesus.