On the night that Jesus was arrested, the disciple Peter denied Jesus three times. He denied he was one of his followers, that he even knew Him.
These were incredible words from Peter who just hours earlier had boldly told Jesus, “I will never abandon you, I will lay down my life for you.”
And so after Jesus had risen from the dead, you can imagine how Peter was feeling. He would have been overjoyed to know that his Savior was alive but he would have also been wrestling with shame and guilt.
He would probably would have had questions in his mind: “Will Jesus want anything to do me? Will he tell me that I can no longer be his disciple? You wonder of he is dreading that moment when he has to face him again and look him in the eyes.”
But one of the things that we know about the nature of God is that he is a merciful God, a gracious, a compassionate God. That he is a God of forgiveness.
And while Peter had Jesus on His mind after the resurrection, Jesus had Peter on his mind.
When the angel first appeared to the women who went to the tomb early Sunday morning, the angel told the women Jesus was alive and the angel said, ‘Go, tell the disciples and Peter’
Why does the angel single out Peter? Because Peter was carrying a burden that was different than the other disciples. Not only was he grieving the death of Jesus, he was grieving his denial of Jesus.
And then the Gospel of Luke tells us that Peter was one of the first people that Jesus appeared to. And Scripture does not record for us that conversation but we can imagine that was a conversation of repentance and forgiveness. A conversation of reconciliation.
But the restoration of Peter was not complete. That first conversation that is not recorded for us was most likely the restoration of the relationship between Jesus and Peter. And then in chapter 21 we see the restoration of Peter when it came his ministry as a disciple.
Jesus asked Peter three questions that were all identical. ‘Do you love me?” And after each time that Peter affirmed his loved, Jesus gave him the command to ‘Feed His sheep or to tend his sheep—meaning lead the people of God, take care of the people of God, spiritually nurture the people of God.”
Even though Peter had committed the sin of denying Christ, there was now repentance and forgiveness. Jesus was not discarding Peter. He was not abandoning Peter but rather he was entrusting him to continue the work of Christ.
What a picture of grace and mercy.
And so when Peter goes went and preaches the Gospel of Christ, he was going to preach a Gospel of grace because he knew that grace. He was going to preach a Gospel of forgiveness because he had experienced that forgiveness.
After restoring Him into the ministry of Christ, Jesus was going to once again commission Him into ministry and as we are going to see the mission of following Christ will require something of Peter.
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.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.)
Jesus tells Peter of the manner in which he is going to die. That phrase “you will stretch out your hands” is a reference to being crucified.
After calling him into the role of feeding and tending His sheep, He reminds Peter that there is cost to follow Him. It will require his life. And he tells Peter he will die because of Christ. He will die a martyrs death.
One of the questions that is sometimes asked is, “if you could know what kind of death you would die, would you want to know?” And if you knew what kind of death you were going to die, how would that change how you live? Would you live life to the full or would you live life in fear. How would that impact you?
Peter now knows because of his relationship with Christ he is going to be martyred. He knows he is going to be crucified. You wonder if there was a part of Peter who thought, “why would you tell me that?” Why do I have to carry that with me?”
Remember the words that Peter told Jesus on the night that Jesus was arrested? He said to Jesus ‘I will lay down my life for. I will die for you, Jesus.’
Now Peter knows that those words that he declared, will come true. He will die for Christ.
If you knew that being a follower of Jesus meant that you would die for him, would you do it? Would that change your commitment to Christ, if you knew you would die a martyr.
I recently learned about a book called the Martyrs Oath. I was listening to an interview from the author one day on Moody Radio. This author was a missionary in India and he was invited to attend the graduation of a Bible College.
And he said he witnessed something he had never seen before. Before the students could receive their diploma, they all had to stand and take the martyrs oath. You see, this bible college took the Great Commission seriously. They took following Christ seriously. They knew when they left this bible college, they were going out to proclaim Christ and they it may require their life.
Listen to the words of the martyrs oath:
I am a follower of Jesus. I believe he lived and walked among us, was crucified for our sins, was raised from the dead, according to the Scriptures. I believe he is the King of the earth, who will come back for his church.
As he has given life for me, so I am willing to give my life for him. I will use every breath I possess to boldly proclaim his gospel. Whether in abundance or need, in safety or peril, in peace or distress, I will not—I cannot—keep quiet. His unfailing love is better than life, and his grace compels me to speak his name even if his name costs me everything. Even in the face of death, I will not deny Him. And should darkness encroach upon me, I will not fear, for I know he is always with me.
Though persecution ma come, I know my battle is not against flesh but against the forces of evil. I will not hate those whom God has called me to love. Therefore, I will forgive when ridiculed, show mercy when struck, and love when hated. I will cloth myself with meekness and kindness so those around me may see the face of Jesus reflected in me, especially if they abuse me.
I have taken up my cross; I have laid everything else down. I know my faith could cost me my life, but I will follow and love Jesus until the end, whenever and however that end may come. Should I die for Jesus, I confess that my death is not to achieve salvation but in gratitude for the grace I’ve already received. I will not die to earn my reward in heaven, but because Jesus has already given me the ultimate reward in the forgiveness of my sins and the salvation of my soul.
For to live is Christ; for me to die is gain.
When these students graduated, they were given 3 things: a bike, a bible and a one-way ticket to one of the many unreached places in India. When these graduates go out, they are not simply going to live out their chosen vocation but they were going to take up their cross (meaning laying down their life) in order to follow Christ.
These students recognized that the call of Christ required their life.
For Peter, the call of Christ was going to require his life. After declaring to Peter how he would die, Jesus once again invited Peter to follow Him.
Jesus used these same words to invite Peter into a relationship with Him and become His disciple. In Matthew 4 he said to Peter and His brother Andrew, ““Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
And now once again, Jesus is making the same invitation, ‘Follow me.”
When Peter initially followed Jesus he didn’t understand the cost. He just saw a guy who might be the Messiah and he went. He didn’t really know what he was being invited into.
But now Peter knows. It will cost him his life. And he still chooses to follow. Because he knows that Jesus is worth dying for. He knows Jesus is life. He knows the words of Jesus who said, ‘For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”
Peter would have had no problem signing the martyrs oath, the oath that said, “I have taken up my cross; I have laid everything else down. I know my faith could cost me my life, but I will follow and love Jesus until the end, whenever and however that end may come.”
You can’t read the oath or hear that oath without saying, Could I sign that oath?” Am I willing to take up my cross for the sake of Christ?
Earlier I asked the question, “how would it impact you knowing what type of death you are going to die.”
As we learn about the life of Peter through the book of Acts and through his own writings in 1 Peter and 2 Peter. We know it did not paralyze him, it didn’t drive him to fear but rather through the power of the Holy Spirit he lived with urgency. He lived his life on mission.
In the book of 2 Peter he references knowing of his death. In 2 Peter chapter 1 he is spurring on his Christian audience to put on the character qualities of Christ and then he says in verse 12:
“I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me.”
Peter says, “I know that the putting off of my body will be soon.” He is saying ‘I know my life here is short.’ And so he is spurring on these believers to live a life centered in Christ.
Knowing his earthy destiny, a martyrs death, gave his life urgency. But more than that, his love for and his identity as a follower of Christ gave him urgency.
Peter responded to the call to follow Jesus with a question about another disciple.
Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”
Peter is asking Jesus, “What about John? Will he also die a martyrs death?” Is that what is being asked of him also. And Jesus responds to Peter will a rebuke. It is a loving rebuke but it is a rebuke.
Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”
Jesus is saying, “Do not worry about my plans or my will for John’s life. If I choose to keep him alive until I return again, that should not be a concern of yours.
What is Jesus doing here? Why does he respond in the way that he responds? It seems like there would have been a lot of different ways for him to respond but he chooses to respond in a very direct way by essentially saying ‘Peter, this is none of your business.”
Peter understands the cost for Him. It will require his life. And he is asking, “what will it require of John?” How much does he have to give? How much does he have to sacrifice?
And now Peter has now brought the emphasis and focus on Him. ‘Will he have to suffer like I have to suffer.” And Peter does what we can have a tendency of doing. We can begin to compare our life with Christ with others. We can begin to compare the sacrifice we are asked to make to what others are asked to make.
One writer said, “If we want to follow Jesus, we must be totally committed to obeying him, but God’s call and the result of that obedience are different for every person. God can use all kinds of people. He has specific plans and service for the impulsive Peters, the thoughtful and sensitive Johns, and the forceful Pauls. God takes into consideration each person’s nature and abilities.”
And our call to follow Christ is an individual call regardless of how God chooses to use other.
This why Jesus said in Matthew 16, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’
Discipleship begins with us laying down our own life. Jesus is saying, this isn’t about you, this isn’t about others—this is about me.”
And so after this question about Jesus’s destiny, Jesus speaks very directly to Peter, “YOU follow me!”
The greek language often doesn’t include punctuation. But when there is a statement that is obviously a question or a statement that is a strong statement, the English translators will add punctuation like a question mark or a exclamation mark. And in my translation, the English Standard Version and maybe in yours too, the translators have placed a exclamation point at the end of the statement, “You follow me!”
One of our distraction as disciples is that we can find ourselves looking at others wondering why God is working in their life that work, why is God using them that manner. Why are they not sacrificing like I am sacrificing.”
And God’s response to us would be “You follow me!” You set your eyes on me. That is our response. That is our place of obedience.
That is the call of a disciple: To follow Christ. Not the crowd. Not the culture. Not anything around us. We are called to one thing and one thing only: To take up our cross and follow Him.
That is the call of a disciple.
The book of John concludes with these words:
This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true. Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
The purpose for the Gospel of John was not to provide an all encompassing biography of the earthly ministry of Jesus. The purpose of the Gospel of John is that we may believe that Jesus in the Christ, the son of God and through believing in Him we may have eternal life. The whole purpose of John is to draw us to Christ. I hope that has been accomplished through his study.