Pastor's Message - The View from the Pulpit...

Jesus answered Peter, “If I want him to live until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me!” – John 21:22

One thing I appreciate about the Bible is that it doesn’t portray its prophets and apostles as perfect people. The Bible shows us the whole person – warts and all – and in doing so allows those of us who read it all these years later to identify with our forbearers.

 

We are weak and broken people and so are those who came before us. We would consider the apostles to be fairly holy people, wouldn’t we? If the very ones who were in Jesus’s immediate presence – the ones whom he taught directly and who received their power and commission from His very hands – were prone to stumbling and moments of doubt, then we know we are in good company.  Such apostles and prophets are our allies and friends. We can’t possibly be any holier than they were, so we can at the very least accept the fact that we, like them, are flawed creatures. But even though we are flawed, we are made whole through God’s grace in Jesus Christ.

Peter, who was very holy indeed, was flawed like us. Peter had two problems, both of which are related: He worried incessantly about what others thought about him, and he was always comparing himself to other people. You will remember elsewhere in the Gospels after Jesus was arrested and placed on trial before the chief priest, Peter sat outside by the fire warming himself and denied Christ three times because he was worried about what those around him thought.

As much as he worried about what others thought about him, Peter continually compared himself to others – and usually when doing so, thought himself superior. In the Upper Room during the Last Supper, Peter declared, “Lord, though everyone else will deny you, I will never do so!” It’s not by accident that Jesus posed his initial question in a specific way. He was, in essence, setting Peter up so that a key problem area of his life could be exposed. Jesus asked, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” More than these – Jesus was goading Peter into looking around and comparing himself to the other disciples. And note that Peter wasted no time in enthusiastically replying, “Yes!” (There’s that superior mentality of his on display.) Peter looked around at the other disciples and proudly reckoned that he loved Jesus more than they do.

Jesus didn’t call Peter out on this flaw – yet. He went on to ask Peter two more times, “Do you love me,” and then giving Peter a mission and purpose: “Feed my sheep. Feed my lambs. Follow me.” However, Peter’s habit of comparing himself to others was so strong, that no sooner had Jesus given him a specific command – feed my sheep and follow me – that he immediately looked around and said, “But, Lord, what about that man?” It’s here that Jesus lowered the boom, exposing this defect in Peter’s character that had become a stumbling block to his ministry: “What does it matter to you? You must follow me!” In essence, Jesus told Peter, “Stop worrying about what other people have, the race other people are running. Focus instead on the purpose I’ve given you. Concentrate on me. I am the source of your strength and worth, not other people.”

Are you comparing yourself to others? Do you try to assess if you’re okay based on how well you perceive others are doing? Is your sense of worth coming from what others think about you? If so, stop.

Your worth comes from Jesus Christ. We only find peace when we choose to focus on Him and what He has given us. We are not in competition with our neighbors – we only grow compared to our own selves over time, and this progress comes by growing in relationship with – that is, following – Jesus Christ. In the words of the old hymn, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus.” Our Lord is saying to you tonight, “Follow me!”

 

In Christ,

© 2019 New Goshenhoppen United Church of Christ

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