Posted inForthright Magazine

The vulture hovering over Peter

Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go” (John 21:18).

Paul wrote about being crucified with Christ; Peter would be crucified like Christ. Consider the following:

  • Jesus never painted false portraits of what following him might entail. But he did promised that: 1) whatever struggles may come, there were none he wasn’t also willing to endure (and did endure), and 2) that he wouldn’t leave us alone to face those trials, but rather, he would deliver us from them all, one way or another.
  • In Christ, even ominous things lose their sharp edges. Death is the worst threat to man, but Christ has overcome death, and in doing so, redefined it. Now, where is its sting? Its victory shout? Jesus Christ has neutered Death, and Hades.
  • We can almost certainly still be useful instruments in His hand even after failing miserably. Having denied Jesus, Peter must have felt exposed, and vulnerable. This could have been a seed-bed for self-loathing, and eventually, the tangle of sin. However, Jesus appears, not only willing to forgive Peter, but to encourage him to pick up, carry on and do great things in the kingdom  (Matthew 16:19; Acts 2:14-40). Trusting ourselves, there is nowhere to go but down. Humbling ourselves, there is nowhere to go but up.
  • Following Jesus costs some, but it always pays more. Jesus never sugar coated His “ask.” Pain and sacrifice are inherent in the word “disciple.” The word “slave,” the most common description used for a Christian in the New Testament, implies injustice, discomfort and loss. Following Jesus is serious business. It is not for those who fear criticism. It is not for those who need the crowd’s approval. It is not for those with thin skin. No matter the cost, the payout is far greater. As Paul wrote, “I consider that the sufferings of this present life are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18). Whatever it “costs” to follow Jesus, the “pay” is exceedingly abundant above all we could ask or think.


Rick Kelley
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