Every life has its ups and downs, twists and turns, and unexpected changes. How we handle these situations has a lot to do with our character and personality, our upbringing and background, and even our temperament.
One of the wisest men in the world, King Solomon of ancient Israel, concluded—
“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” (Eccl 1:2 NIV)
But he realized—
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens... (Eccl 3:1 NIV)
It's impossible to predict with accuracy what the outcome will be in the events of our life. No one can see that far down the line except God and He keeps us in suspense for our own good.
None of us know for certain how we'll react given a set of circumstances. This is one reason we need redemption. A reconciliation that brings restoration. But God's restoration often includes correction to get us back on track with Him.
An accurate prediction
A recurring problem among the apostles—the 12 specially chosen disciples—was an argument over who was the greatest. This is a universal human argument—who's king of the hill?
But Peter was the point man of the twelve, so Jesus expected more of him.
Jesus knew Judas, one of the twelve, would betray Him and warned all His followers about this. He told Peter that the devil would test him in a great way but he was to "strengthen your brothers" after this took place (Luke 22:31-32).
As typical, Peter protested any thought of weakness in himself and boasted he would never deny the Lord even if all the rest deserted Jesus.
“Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” (Luke 22:33 NIV)
That's you and me. We tend to think of ourselves as the exception to the rule that puts us in the best light.
Then Jesus told Peter something he couldn't imagine happening—
“I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.” Luke 22:34 (NIV)
Peter's claim turned out to be an empty boast based on false confidence in himself.
As the story unfolds, Jesus is arrested by a mob carrying torches and the once bold disciples ran for their lives. They abandon the one whom they claimed they would follow anywhere no matter the cost.
Peter tries to stay close to where Jesus is held by the Jewish leaders' council but hangs back in an attempt at stealth. His identity is uncovered, first by a servant girl, then by two others who recognize him and his Galilean accent (Luke 22:54-59).
Each time, Peter denies he knows the Lord with increasingly strong words. After the third time, the rooster crows to signal the coming dawn. But for Peter, it's a dark night of the soul.
The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.”
And he went outside and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:61-62 NIV)
The Lord's prediction of Peter's three denials pierces his heart with a loving look from Jesus. How far Peter had fallen in his own estimation of himself!
Peter couldn't meet his own expectations, let alone fulfill the Lord's calling on His life.
But all was not lost. And yet, Peter needed to realize his inability to follow the Lord or fulfill His call on Peter's life by his own effort and strength.
As mentioned last week, Jesus restored Peter after his three denials by one question repeated three times. The whole story is found in John 21:1-22 and is worth the read.
Here's a condensed version for the sake of a shorter post.
Following the Lord's death and resurrection, Jesus appeared to His followers to reaffirm all He taught. He was teaching them to walk by faith, guided by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:2-3).
But things were different now. Jesus was no longer with them in person or so they thought. So, Peter reverted to his livelihood before Jesus called him. He went fishing.
After fishing all night and catching nothing, Jesus appears on the lake shore but they don't realize it's Him. He calls out to them—
“Friends, haven’t you caught any fish?” They answered him, “No, we haven’t.” He told them, “Throw the net out on the right side of the boat, and you’ll catch some.”
So they threw the net out and were unable to pull it in because so many fish were in it. (John 21:5-6 GW)
Just as when Jesus called Peter to follow Him (Luke 5:1-11), a miraculous catch of fish revealed who stood on the shore. Peter responds in his usual impulsive way. He jumps in the water and swims to shore.
Breakfast on the beach
Jesus waits on the shore with fish grilling over burning coals and a loaf of bread. He invites them to eat breakfast and encourages them to add their fish to the grill.
None of the disciples ask Jesus if it's Him. They knew it it was He in their hearts.
Just as when Jesus fed 5000 people, Jesus gave them fish and bread to eat. This was the third time Jesus appeared to them following His resurrection.
All of this sets the table for Jesus to restore Peter but in an expected way.
Do you love Me?
Jesus asks Peter the same question three times, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than the other disciples do?” (John 21:15-17 GW)
Each time Peter affirms his love for the Lord but he's grieved that the Lord asks Him three times. Each time the Lord gives Peter a strong exhortation—
"Feed my lambs... Take care of my sheep... Feed my sheep!"
Jesus was restoring Peter after the three denials but He also reaffirmed His call on Peter's life.
This happens a lot. God restores and corrects us at the same time.
We want the restoration but the correction hurts our fragile ego. This is proven out in Peter's case as the story continues.
Once the three-question restoration and correction process is finished, Jesus tells Peter that his life is not going to end as he chooses. But the Lord's admonition is the same as at the beginning—"Follow Me!"
Again, Peter reacts! He looks to his fellow disciple John and wants to know what will happen with his life. But again, Jesus corrects Him. Make that rebukes him—"...what is that to you? You must follow me.”
This last part of the story illustrates our selfish human nature. We want to know how God deals with everyone else when it's different than what the Lord expects of us.
Why does he or she get to do such and such or not have to do the same as me?
This is where following Jesus requires us to commit our lives to Him and Him alone. Following Jesus is a personal commitment to Him, not a set of beliefs to hold or rules for life.
God's restoration connected to correction
In his well-known Psalm 23, David says of the Lord, "He restores my soul" (Ps 23:3). King David, a man after God's own heart, understood the need for correction and restoration.
David experienced God's correction and restoration after his adulterous encounter with Bathsheba. After, he had Bathsheba's husband Uriah murdered. God's correction was connected to God's restoration of David.
God's restoration isn't just a removal of guilt. When Jesus restores us, He enables us to move forward in life by faith to follow Him. He sets things in order in our life as we follow Him by faith.
Jesus is the One who restores us but we need to trust Him to do this and submit to His leadership in our lives.
This includes His correction to get us back on track with His call on our life.
How are things between you and Jesus?
Are you on track with His call on your life to follow Him?