Sunday, January 20, 2013

Perfect Submission: The Way of Unquestioning Obedience


John 21:15-13
So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”  He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”  He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.  Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.”  This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.”  Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.”  Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?” (NKJV)

What is that to you? You follow Me!

Tested Saints in all ages have been prone to complain like Israel: “The way of the Lord is not equal.” (Ezekiel 18:29) Some of God’s dealings seem to contradict senses of justice and fairness, some of our fellows appear to receive preferential treatment and instead of our faithfully discharging our responsibilities, we are tempted to look over our shoulders to others and complain. This was the tendency in Apostle Peter which Christ dealt with very faithfully in two occasions.

At times there seemed to be a touch of ruthlessness or at least of acerbity in the Lord’s response to what appeared to be harmless inquiries  and the fisherman received more than his share of rebuffs at the hand of Him who was meekness and love personified. Surely Peter’s well-intentioned suggestion that the Master might be a little easier on Himself hardly merited the terrible rebuke; “Get you behind Me, Satan; you are an offense unto Me” (Matthew 16:23) And did not his innocuous inquiry about John’s future; “What shall this man do?” (John 21:21) meet with too harsh a reception in words “What is that to you? You follow Me!” – A polite way of saying: “Mind your own business, Peter!” Was not our Lord’s warning that “many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first” a rather chilling response to Peter’s reasonable question: “Lo, we have left all, and followed You; what shall be our portion?” Did the Lord take delight in baiting Peter, or was He seeking to underscore an important truth? There was undoubtedly an underlying reason for the sternness of our Lord’s words which has relevance for all His servants today.

Jesus had just concluded His tender and yet soul-searching interview with the now humbled and penitent Peter. In response to the Master’s thrice-repeated question, he had made his renewed protestation of love and has received a fresh commission. Then had followed the prophetic intimation of the violent death by which he would glorify God, and the final injunction “Follow Me” (John 21:15-19). One would have thought that the morning experiences of the past few hours would have sufficed to concentrate Peter’s attention on the Master who had so graciously restored and re-commissioned him. But no; instead of being occupied with the Lord; he gets busy comparing his own future with that of John. Immediately his mind flies off on a tangent, and with his ever-ready tongue, he blurts out, “Lord, and what of this man?” In his customary manner, Jesus answers Peter’s captious question with another; “If I will that he tarries till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!”

quit comparing yourself with others

Peter was intruding into a realm which was not his concern. In the shock of learning that he would have to tread the pathway of rejection and suffering, his first reaction was to compare his lot with that of others. Is he being discriminated against? Will John be exempt from hardships he must endure? Will John be bound and carried whither he would not, or will he be accorded preferential treatment? It was not difficult to sense the beginnings of self-pity. Instead of answering his elliptical question, Jesus sharply rebuked Peter’s curiosity. “What is that to you? You follow Me!” He who had just asserted His right to determine and reveal Peter’s future, now asserts His rights over John. “If I will that he tarries till I come... what is your concern?"

The fact is that Peter is being trained in the school of Christ for supremely important work in the interest of the Kingdom, and he must never turn about and compare his lot with that of another disciple. His constant temptation was to try to manage other people’s affair. Did he not on one occasion even try to manage Jesus Christ Himself? He must learn that his Master deals with each of His disciples individually and in ways which are not always clear or explicable to others. No disciple has any business to concern himself with the way the Lord is dealing with another or compare his lot with theirs. Did Peter but know it, John would drink of the cup of suffering as deeply as he, but that was no concern of his. His sole care was to follow his Lord, watching his own walk, and discharging his responsibility to feed the flock of God (verses 15-17)

Don't be a busy-body

It is noteworthy that Jesus offered no explanation or interpretation of His rebuke, for no obligation rests on the Sovereign Lord to explain Himself to His disciple. He simply made it crystal clear that Peter was meddling in a matter that was not his concern. He offered no word of comfort, for to administer comfort now would be to indulge weakness and induce self pity. Peter was a soldier about to engage in relentless warfare and he must have rigorous training. Here then is the background of these words of stern rebuke. Jesus wants heroes, not busybodies. He must have those who without self pity render unquestionable obedience to His command. He gives no quarter even to natural and temperamental weakness. He allows Peter to smart under rebuke. He does not even correct his mistaken assumption that John would not die. He just said in effect: “Suppose it were My good pleasure that he tarries till I come, what business is it of yours.” Your concern should be to keep on following Me; and not fretting over whether your brother disciple is going to receive preferential treatment.

Earlier in another incident, Peter has shown the same tendency The rich young ruler, possessed by his possessions had turned away sorrowful. Pointing the moral, Jesus remarked with what difficulty a rich man entered the Kingdom of God. The ever-ready Peter with conscious superiority over the young ruler interposed with; “Behold, we have forsaken all and followed You; what shall be our reward?” (Matthew 9:22) Peter, no doubt, expected that superior devotion would gain precedence at the last day. And he was right. The Lord assured him that those who had sacrificially followed Him would receive a hundred fold here and inherit eternal life there. But He added a solemn rider: “Many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.” (Verse 30) Peter must not compare himself with the young ruler. He should recognize the motive for his own sacrifice.

The life of our Lord Jesus Christ is the practical reference to what He tried to teach Peter and the rest of His disciples in the field. Two lessons are there – Lesson of unquestioning obedience and the lesson of not comparing or murmuring. There is no room in God’s Kingdom for people who do not mind their own business with the Lord. Two Bible passages describe Jesus’ illustration of this lesson. The first is found in Philippians 2:5-11: "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  This is what Jesus demonstrated when He willingly went to the Cross to die for us. He was obedient without questioning. He expects us to do likewise.
The second passage is found in John 18:10-11: “Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.  So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?””   How many of us would like to say that and be prepared to have it implemented in our lives. Jesus told us “No one takes My life from Me, I have the power to lay it down and I have the power to pick it up” He was showing His love and that love cost Him His life.

The personal application is clear. If the Lord appears to treat others with some generosity, bestowing on them what He withholds from us; if He permits the dark clouds of sorrow and suffering to shadow our hearts while others are apparently basking in constant sunshine, how should we react? First, we should remember that as yet, we see through a glass darkly (dimly). We know only a part. Things may be more equal than they appear on the surface. Who knows the hidden grief and burden of another’s life?

The grass is not greener
Source:  Linn on Pinterest

We should also accept that God’s dealings with our fellow disciples are none of our business. Our business is to watch our motives carefully, to keep our eyes on the Lord whom we follow, and not to look over our shoulders at others. This principle also applies to other areas of Christian service. In the mission field, sins of covetousness and envy can thrive when people begin to murmur because others receive larger personal gifts, more lavish outfits and equipment. We begin to compare our treatment with that of others. What of in our Churches? Do we envy the greater natural gifts or more attractive personality of others? Do others seem less conscientious in the use of time or money or in conduct of their work? Has someone received promotion which we felt was due us? Are we misunderstood and our work unappreciated? Do we experience more hardship or enjoy less comforts and conveniences than others in the same circle? Do others enjoy success which is denied us?

The Lord Jesus answers our problems and complaints in the simple challenging word: “What is that to you? You follow Me!” It is not for us to fret over our Lord’s dealing with another.  We can rest assured that he is being disciplined by the same loving Hand, although it may be in another direction. Most often our judgment and appreciation of the situation is wrong. We can learn the blessedness which comes from finding no cause for stumbling in the Lord or in His discipleship of ourselves and others. We should cheerfully recognize and rejoice in the fact that others may do, what we cannot and enjoy what we have not. Our dealings must be directly with God. Our whole concern should be to see that whatever others may do, we like Caleb may “wholly follow the Lord”.

Jesus has left us an example of complete and unquestioning obedience. He is training us to obey without looking at others. Let us therefore walk in the step that He has left us, and then we shall be His disciples indeed.

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