03 August 2014

What is that to you?

At the first light of dawn, he and his friends could discern a figure on the shore. A voice called out telling them to cast their net on the other side. John immediately recognized the familiar sound of His voice and said to Peter, “It is the Lord.”

Peter wasted no time ~ once again leaving all ~ to get to Jesus.

Jesus had initiated restoration. Peter continued to respond with his whole heart. In the familiar passage in which Jesus affirms Peter's love for Him, He also reaffirms His calling of Peter. For most assuredly, even the greatest failures cannot revoke His calling. Having reestablished relationship and purpose, the Lord now added another facet of truth to Peter's mission in life. He told him what kind of death he would suffer to glorify God.

When He had spoken this, He said, “Follow Me!””

There were so many things that Peter could have been thinking about in that moment. But the matter on his heart, even in a moment of restoration, was his friend, John. His question, “Lord, what about him?”. It's easy to assume we know Peter's heart in that question. But the truth is, no one knows the heart of a man except the spirit of the man. Scripture does not tell us why he asked the question.

In our religious mindsets, we see Jesus' response as a chastisement. But, I submit to you, it is possible, that Peter's concern was not that of comparison and jealousy. It is possible that his concern was for the life (and potential suffering) of his friend.

Remember, we are talking about John. The one that was often standing with Peter and shared revelation with him, not with the group, with Peter, saying things like, “It is the Lord.” Two men with a relationship so intertwined that one did not doubt the word of the other. Where you found one, you found his friend. They had conversations regarding the Lord, that no other pair had. They both had intimate relationship with Jesus. The two of them, had a place in the life of Christ that no one else shared. And yet, we see Peter honoring the difference in John's relationship with the Master on many occasions.

Consider the possibility that Peter, who had only days before, betrayed the Lord, might be so repentant, and so humbled, that the thought of his friend dying a torturous death was harder to imagine than his own suffering. And then to have the Lord say to him. “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” In today's lingo we would say, “It's none of your business how long he lives, or how he dies. You focus on me and do what I tell You to do!”

My point here is two fold. One, the heart of a friend. Two, the separation unto purpose. Both men had been called. Both had been set apart from the world. Now, Jesus was further separating these disciples to their specific purpose in the kingdom. We get to see a piece of the interaction between the Lord and Peter in this process.

Imagine with me for a moment.

Peter is coming out of a time of intense failure. Although he wasn't alone in his abandonment of the Lord, his failure is the one that the world remembers, even 2,000 years later. Rarely do we speak of the others, who had agreed with Peter that they would fight to the death for Jesus, yet never raised a sword. (As if they fully understood Jesus intent) We don't often consider the ones who did not follow nor found themselves alone in the midst of the enemy, being asked questions. They had no opportunity to verbally deny knowing Him, they were far away. So, Peter's failure, and his shame, become defining moments in his life.

Imagine Jesus words after breakfast that morning. Imagine the impact coming on a whirlwind of memories to Peter's mind. How often had John been the one to reveal Jesus to him? Who comforted this dear friend as he watched the scourging of the Christ? This was his friend. The one who understood this love that seemed so difficult to grasp for most. John, the one who was always there with and for Peter. What would become of him in this separation? What did the future hold for his life and ministry?

I dare say, not every heart is self-centered. Not every person only considers their own fate. There are those whose lives have been so impacted by another, that one of the deepest desires they have, is to know that their friend is going to overcome the obstacles they will face in the days ahead.

There will always be those who point the finger and make accusations about what they see as the failure of a man. But too, there will always be those, who, with hearts of compassion, long to see their brother come out to a better place. Those who are willing to suffer for truth, and long to encourage others in their walk with the same truth.

Jesus did that for us.

He looked into the future and saw the eternal suffering for which we were headed. In His compassion, Passion rose up. With a heart full of love, He chose to suffer a most horrible, torturous and bloody death, rather than see His friend suffer death. He willingly took the hell we were headed toward and conquered it, so that we could live in peace with the Father. And still, all along, knowing that we would indeed share in His sufferings in this life. He remains today, at the right hand of the Father, ever making intercession for us, as our faith is tested.

So what of Peter? What if Peter's question was in willingness to take the potential suffering for John? What if Jesus' response was an encouragement to trust Him for the life and welfare of his friend?

It is not at all uncommon to want to rescue victims and never allow injustice to harm a fellow servant of the Most High God. But, what happens when we refuse to allow those we love to share in His suffering?

Have you considered that the testing of faith produces endurance? And when endurance has done it's work, the individual becomes perfect, that is mature, lacking no good thing. Without the suffering that comes through persecution, no one can be made complete. Failure to share in the sufferings of Christ, or failure to allow another to do so, results in an inability to endure, and ultimately retards the maturity of the believer.

Peter would have to learn to pray for John's endurance through tortures. He would have to accept the cost of this separation, as much as the separation itself. This would be a testing of his faith.

In the western church, we have not known persecution. We have not known what it is to share in the sufferings of Christ. Many have suffered false accusations and other assaults of the heart, such as motive and integrity being questioned. But few in the Western Church have suffered physical torture and martyrdom.

Our laws, up to this time have protected our faith, keeping it indoors, so to speak, unaffected by the scorching heat of the sun or the pelting rains. Our faith has not known the blackness of a night of torture or the blood covered body of a spouse. Few of us has had the opportunity to either deny our faith or watch as our child is raped or beaten.

We've become so accustom to avoiding suffering that our first response is to get Joseph out of prison, rather than seek the will of the Lord and pray that the he would endure until Pharaoh has a dream. In our success of avoiding suffering, both Egypt and Israel are dying in the famine.

There is something wrong in a heart that seeks persecution. But there is something right in a heart that endures it. That heart, will lack no good thing.

It is time that we stop portraying Peters as self-centered prophets and start seeing the depth of heart that is willing to lay down his life for his friend. It's time we see the tenderness of the man who, through the testing of his faith, endures, and becomes mature, encouraging his brethren. It's time that Peter understands, it is in his following of the Lord, and in the sharing of His sufferings, that he keeps his brother.

The purpose of persecution is to silence the witness of Christ. Refusal to witness of Christ accomplishes the purpose of the persecutor.

We must be intentional in our prayers, to seek the will of God and join Him in His will that none should perish. Sometimes, He releases the persecuted. Sometimes the persecuted are martyred. Sometimes the persecuted interpret dreams and rise to authority. But every time, the persecuted leaves a legacy of love.

Jesus told Peter, “When you have returned (from your failure), strengthen your brothers.” Perhaps, his concern for John, was not that of jealousy, but of seeking a way to strengthen his friend.

What is that to you?”

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