A Thorny Road Ahead


‘Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.’ Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then He said to him, ‘Follow me!'” John 21:18-19.

There it is! Full circle!

Jesus put the last piece into the puzzle of Peter’s commission. As far as He was concerned, everything that had happened in the past was behind Him. Once again, He issued His simple two-word call, ‘Follow me!’ Peter’s love for Him had been reaffirmed and there was no need to mope about what had happened or bite His nails in case Peter failed Him again.

Jesus knew that Peter was a man, and fully capable of repeating his failure many times over, but that did not deter Him from calling him or putting His confidence in him to do what he was called to do. He did not give him a detailed map of the future. It was enough that Peter obey His simple instruction, ‘Follow me.’

Jesus gave him no grandiose ideas about what lay in the future for him — only an ominous hint that his life would not end in a blaze of glory, with adoring crowds egging him on, but in a way that he would not choose for himself. Peter and his fellow disciples, like their Master, were being sent out into a hostile world. Both the Roman and the Jewish world were about to hound them to death.

The Roman government, headed by an arrogant and despotic Caesar, would not tolerate any challenge to their supreme authority, and the Jewish leaders would continue their campaign to exterminate those who followed the crucified Galilean who said He was God and whom they claimed to be alive.

Why did Jesus warn Peter of what lay ahead of him? Was He just being a fortune-teller who took delight in hanging a dark cloud over Peter’s head? Most so-called fortune tellers at least paint a rosy picture of the future for their clients. Money…fame…a tall, dark and handsome lover waiting in the wings, or something like that!

Jesus held out no hope of a rosy future for Peter; no preaching in the coliseum to thousands of attentive Jews and Gentiles; no Caesar himself answering the altar call; no churches springing up all over the Roman Empire, living under the protection and favour of the Roman government. No, it would be an uphill battle all the way, and would end for him in a very unpleasant death.

Peter was to carry this warning in his heart, not to scare him but to remind him of his dependence on the Master for grace to do what He called him to do, to follow Him, and to trust Him for every step of the way. He was to die to any dream of success according to the world’s way of thinking. His success lay in his obedience to Jesus’ call.

He was to live realistically, realising that he was in enemy territory. At no time was he to entertain rosy thoughts about his life, or think that he could escape the trouble that His Master had suffered. Following Jesus meant doing what He did — entrusting himself to God and trusting Him for direction every moment of every day.

Why is it that believers today, and especially many so-called spiritual leaders, think that it is any different for us? We qualify our “call” by adding, “I have been called to do this or that.” Really? Every believer is called; called to do only one thing — to follow Jesus. It is His prerogative to decide where He leads and what He intends for us to do.

Some are called to follow Him into the limelight because He can trust them to stand behind Him. Other are called to follow in obscurity because He needs them there too. It is not what we are called to do that is the issue; that we are called to follow Him is what matters. The problem arises when we think we know what He has called us to do, and run ahead instead of simply following where He leads.

It is enough that we stay one step behind Him.



THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


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Luella Campbell

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