|Cleveland Prayer Group Website|
By Dr. Jacob Mathew
Today's bible reading is from John Chapter 25 verses 15-25.
I would like to read verses 15-19 and discuss a few points to ponder on these words of God.
What Jesus is doing here is to establish and strengthen the faith of Peter and to get him ready to face the trials and tribulations that lie ahead of him.
This happened at the third time Jesus appeared after his resurrection. The events leading to the crucifixion had been hard on the disciples especially to Peter. He had denied Jesus three times when Jesus was captured. The same Peter who proclaimed to Jesus earlier that he will never abandon Jesus even if he has to die, rejected him three times before the rooster crowed three times as Jesus predicted. Jesus knew that the mental agony that is facing the disciples had to be corrected and won over. For every time Peter had denied him earlier, Jesus asked him, "Simon Peter, do you love me?" And each time Peter answered, "Yes."
Jesus had to establish the foundation of faith after His resurrection. Bible scholars suggest that this was the reason He repeated the question three times.
Resurrection and the appearance of Jesus are tokens or symbolisms of our own resurrection and admission into the kingdom of God.
Earlier Jesus said that those who believe in Him will not die, but will have everlasting life. It does not mean that they will not "die" as we know of death. There will be a temporal or physical death. But then we will have a resurrection. Jesus explained to us the reality of resurrection and the manner of resurrection.
Jesus said: "Those who eat my bread and drink my wine will not die. He will resurrect with me."
Our bodies will be transformed to be in conformity with the body of Jesus Christ.
We were born with a great body. Unfortunately, we have destroyed our bodies with our sins. Our bodies have been sentenced to death because of our sins and mistakes. So, in order to have everlasting life, our bodies need to be transformed by Jesus at our resurrection. That is the victory of death.
This is a good time to contemplate the difference between the old and the new testaments on what happens to us when we die.
Both old testament and new testaments state that we are made of dust (soil) and we will become dust after our death. But, new testament gives us a new promise. Corinthians chapter 15 describes this promise and explains how that happens. The key is verse 53.
New Testament promises that those who are with Jesus, will have their bodies transformed into a new being; and we will taste the victory over death.
Our bodies are more complex than that of animals. We are created in the image of God. We are spiritual beings - the animals are not. We are eligible for transformation after our death. This means that we have to keep our bodies holy. Our bodies are there to rejoice and glorify the God according to 1 Corinthians 6:20.
This brings back to us on the price God paid to "buy" us. The scripture says that God is Love. Even though we do not love God, He loves us.
We may depart from God; but He will never abandon or forsake us.
God's love has no limits. It is to be experienced; we cannot describe it.
The fact that God loves us does not mean that He cannot punish us. Every father who loves his child will punish the child when the child makes a mistake. This punishment is aimed at correcting the error and to point out that it is wrong. The punishment is a sign that the person cares for the child or one who is being punished. For example, when we walk down the street and see someone doing a bad deed, we will just pass. We don't care. But if that person means something to us, we will stop over and advice the person that wheat he is doing is not right. This is what God does too.
How can we dare do things that hurt our God, who loves so much?
Jesus told Peter, "Follow me!"
Jesus said the same thing to Peter once before. The venue is the same: the Sea of Galilee.
Jesus recognized that.
For Jesus, it was very important to re-establish that faith of Peter.
Now, after the resurrection, Jesus meets Peter and others at the same place, working on their fishing nets.
There is one thing different this time though. Jesus, does not simply ask Peter to follow him like he did three years ago. He asks him three times whether Peter loves Jesus. After making sure that Peter's faith has been reestablished, now Jesus asks Peter to follow Him.
The first time Jesus asked Peter to follow Him, Peter did not know the ramifications of following Him. But now Peter knows it very well. He had seen what Jesus had undergone. He barely escaped getting caught with Jesus; he barely escaped by denying Him. And Jesus himself had warned them earlier what it means to follow him. It is not going to be a pleasant experience in the short term. For example, in Mark 8:34-35, Jesus warned them:
In order to follow Jesus, one has to be willing to accept the cross and everything that comes with it. Peter could not do that earlier. When it got rough he ran after denying Jesus.
Jesus wants to make sure that this time Peter knows that what he is taking on. After asking him three times and getting an affirmative answer, Jesus now asks Peter to follow Him again. Peter should know that this means he should be willing to accept the consequences.
Bible tells us the consequences. Peter had to undergo numerous trials and tribulations. He stood his ground. Finally, he was caught and jailed. An angel appeared to him at night. Peter escapes from the jail. He is running to the harbor at the hope of getting into a ship and escape from death. On the way, Jesus appears to him in the middle of the road.
"Where are you going?," Jesus asks Peter. Peter confided to Jesus that he is running away from crucifixion. Jesus started walking towards the prison Peter escaped from.
"My lord, where are you going?," Peter asked Jesus.
Jesus answered that He is going to Rome to be crucified a second time, instead of Peter.
"I am going to die a second time for you; because you are not willing to die for me once!"
Peter cannot Jesus to do that. He realized what he had to do. He returned to Rome; to the prison and accepted martyrdom.
So following Jesus is not easy. We should be willing to accept the consequences. But the rewards certainly are worth the troubles. Jesus promises that if we follow Him, we will never die; we will be transformed. We will have eternal life. And Jesus made one another promise:
"Don't be afraid. I will never forsake you."
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