Peter turned around and saw behind them the disciple Jesus loved – the one who had leaned over to Jesus during supper and asked, “Lord, who will betray you?” Peter asked Jesus, “What about him, Lord?” Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.”
- John 21:20-22, NLT
Ever notice how Jesus has a way of getting right to the point? One of the things that is so painful about Jesus and yet I love is that He just cuts right to the chase, right to the heart of the matter. Some quick background on this passage. This little scene takes place after Jesus has already risen from the grave and found the disciples fishing. After they have a little breakfast, this conversation ensues.
Do you ever feel like you’re in the middle of a situation that you just want out of? I’ve been in those places. Whatever the situation is, it has left a sour taste in your mouth and you just wanna bail. Insert your name and situation here.
I love this exchange between Peter and Jesus. Peter is probably one of my favorite biblical characters. He was so brash and petulant at times. Kind of like me. Kind of like all of us at times. Peter gets backed into a corner during this conversation and clearly doesn’t like it very much. I don’t particularly enjoy it when Jesus backs me into a corner either.
Peter does what I do in this situation. He starts looking around for something else to focus on or someone else to blame. See, Jesus’ focus is on Peter and Peter’s heart. This is quite obviously uncomfortable for Peter. He starts looking around for a way to change the subject, change the focus. So, he points out John. It’s usually uncomfortable for me when Jesus focuses on me as well.
Jesus’ words to Peter are really challenging for me. It’s challenging because it pierces right to my heart. See, when the conversation began, I sort of picture it as Jesus and Peter sitting on the beach around the fire. The other disciples are cleaning the nets and just kind of relaxing. Jesus looks at Peter and, with love and sadness dripping from his words, asks him three times if he loves Him. Peter is clearly disturbed by this and answers ‘yes’ three times, albeit with a little attitude. Each time, Jesus has a specific command for Peter. So, Peter, being the brash, impatient, petulant dude he is, looks around for a way to change the subject. It’s at this point, if I’m Jesus, I wanna slap Peter. I’d be saying, ‘Dude, didn’t you just get through denying me? What’s it gonna take for you to listen to Me?’
But Jesus doesn’t do that. He simply says ‘Hey, you let me worry about that (being John), Peter. You just focus on Me’. See, this is hard for Peter. He’s looking for something to help him out here.
It’s really hard for me as well. When I’m in the middle of somewhere I don’t want to be, I look around for something else too, something or someone to take that focus off of me. I’ve had this very conversation with Jesus before.
He says to me, ‘Do you love Me?’
‘Of course I love you, Jesus’.
He just looks at me with that soft smile on His face and love in His eyes. ‘Then, give it to me.’
He says, ‘Do you know that I love you?’
Now I’m getting a bit uncomfortable under His gaze. So, I squirm a bit and say, ‘Of course, Lord, I know you love me.’
Now He has tears in His eyes. ‘Then, give it to me.’
As my frustration begins to grow and I wonder what this is about, He asks, ‘Do you trust me?’
And now I am leveled, pierced by His question and the love He shows. Hanging my head, I know I cannot lie. ‘I don’t know, Lord.’
He reaches out and embraces me. His words are a whisper, yet crashes like thunder in my heart. ‘Then give it to me. I won’t hurt you. I died for you. Trust me.’
See, Jesus is saying to me and to you, ‘Hey, I have you right where I want you right now. I put you here, let me handle this.’ This is sometimes not a fun experience for me or for you, I suspect. I don’t always enjoy where He has me. I am learning, however, that He’s less interested in my comfort than in my character, my heart.
The real question is not whether we are comfortable with where we are. The real question is: do we trust Him? Do we trust the heart of God? It’s a hard question for me as well. We trust Him with our salvation, right? Or do we try to earn our own salvation through “being good”? We trust Him with our money, right? Or do we try to control and keep what is not even ours? We trust Him with our families, right?
Or do we?
The challenge is trust. This is a really hard one for me. I get graspy with God sometimes. What I mean is, when I give Him something, I tend to want to take it back when things don’t go my way. The challenge is to trust that He who created all loves you.
He loves you. His heart for you is good. So what difference does it make what He does with what He gives? It’s His anyway. Let it go. Trust that He is sovereign. Trust His love. It’s not up to us anyway.
Let it go.