And finally onto John 22, one of my favorite chapters in all of the Word. And it made me think of an Encouragement Email I wrote way back in the day, back in 2001. So I wanted to share it with you...
"Am I Your Friend", from July 21st, 2001...
So, in my vernacular, I'd like to refresh your memory on the story. Setting the stage, Jesus has come back from death, and is appearing to His disciples for the third time since. The disciples had been fishing, catching nyet, until Jesus walked up and said, "Throw your nets on the other side of the boat."
The ensuing conversation takes place the evening of this fishing trip.
I hope you read it, don't just skim it, and soak in the power of the Crucified Life that God is calling every single one of us to live daily.
"Peter... come here, friend," Jesus motioned. "Have a seat by the fire here."
Peter, exhausted from a day of fishing, even though their catches had been minimal, gladly set his net down. He slowly walked over to where Jesus' motioned.
"I'm happy you are back, Master," Peter smiled, sitting down on the edge of the log Jesus occupied.
"Pete... call me Jesus. You can call me Master when we make it Home. For now, call me Jesus," Jesus smiled.
"Anything you say," Peter laughed. He leaned over and picked up a fish from the small pile in front of where they sat. "You know, J, I'm really glad you showed up. We weren't doing so well out there today until you got here." He removed his small knife from the sheath on his waist and began to gut the small fish.
"I noticed," Jesus replied, quietly. There was much on His mind, much He wanted to say to Peter, but He knew discernment was the proper tool at the moment. Peter was one of His favorites, one of His closest friends, and it almost pained Him to have the conversation that was about to ensue.
"I mean, dang, Son... 153 fish?" Peter continued, as he finished scaling his soon-to-be dinner. "It took me, Thomas, Matthew AND Philip to bring that net in. Tell you what, a fisherman Matthew is not!" He grabbed a sharpened stick behind him and skewered the fish. Peter continued talking as he held the fish out over the fire to cook.
Jesus listened, but still soaked in His surroundings. Another small fire blazed a few yards away where Bartholomew and James stood, roasting their fish. John was a little farther behind them, scaling fish. Philip stood with Matthew next to the water. From the motions that Philip made, and that Matthew tried to emulate, it seemed as if Matthew was getting a course in casting and fishing.
"Anyway, J, I'm glad You are here," Peter spoke, pulling the fish away from the fire. He spoke in a light, carefree manner, "Would you like the first meal? Should we say the blessing, or can you just do a hand-wave thing and cover it?"
Jesus smiled, just rolling His eyes, "Thanks, Pete."
Jesus bit into the fish, savoring the flavor. Deity or no deity, He loved seafood. Peter began to clean another fish for his own meal, while Jesus ate up.
"Man, that was good, Peter," Jesus slumped down to the ground, leaning on the log he was just sitting on. He propped his elbows up on the wood and leaned His head back. "Very full... I'm very full."
Peter, picking his teeth with one of the longer fishbones left, shook his head, "Yeah... I may do a lot of stupid things, but I'd like to think that cooking is something I do well."
"So, Peter, let me ask you a question."
"Do you love me more than these?"
Peter found this question a little odd. He slumped to the ground as Jesus, leaning against the other end of the same log. "Uh... yes, Jesus. You know we're tight."
"Make sure you take care of my people, Peter."
"Uh... okay," Peter looked back at the fire, bewildered. They sat quiet for a minute, when Jesus piped up again.
"Peter, do you truly love me more than these?"
"Yes, Jesus. You know I do." Peter thought about asking what this line of questioning was all about, but he sat quiet still.
"Make sure you take care of my people."
Again, a few more minutes passed, and they sat quietly, the only sound audible being the crackle of the now-dwindling fire.
Again, Jesus asked, "Peter, do you love me more than these?"
Peter, confused, "Jesus, man, you know everything. You know I love you. Why are you asking me this?"
"Take care of my people, Peter."
Peter had enough... this was confusing him and he wanted to know where this was coming from.
"Jesus, what’s your deal? Why ask me? Is this about that denial thing in the courtyard? I'm sorry for that! I told you I was sorry! You know I'm your best friend."
Very calmly, Jesus turned and looked at Peter, and spoke in a soft, yet firm voice. "Did I ask you if you were my friend?"
"No, Peter, answer the question. Did I ask you if you were my friend?"
"Uh... no, but I..."
"Correct. No, I didn't. I don't want to know if you're my friend, Peter. Frankly, at this point, I'm not sure I care if you are my friend. What I want to know is, AM I YOUR LIFE?"
"Jesus... Lord, I don’t understand."
Jesus leaned up and sat on the log again, "Peter, when you were younger, in your teens and twenties... you dressed yourself, you did what you wanted to, right?"
"Well, I want to tell you this, Peter, and you can't forget this... when you get older, not long from now, someone else is going to dress you, someone else is going to lead you where you do not want to go. And the road you'll be led on... you don't walk that way for a friend, Peter."
"I know your future, buddy. It’s not a road you walk for a friend. The only way you are going to make it, Peter, is if I am the complete and total center of your universe."
Peter, still taken aback by the conversation, looked up and saw John in the distance. "But Jesus, am I the only one being questioned? Are you going to talk to James or John like this? Am I going to die? What about John? Is he going to die?"
"If I decide to let John live for another fifty years, is that your business? No, I don't think so, Peter. You follow me. Let me worry about John."
"You know my heart, Lord. You know that I want to follow you. You know I do stupid stuff sometimes, but you know my desire is to not do those things, to do what you want me to do, whatever it is."
"If you love me, Peter, as you say you do... if you have a desire to do what I want, no matter what it is... then its really simple. My laws, my ways, my Word. Follow me. There's no gray there. Follow me."
This is a longer-than-usual encouragement mail, but I want to make sure we soak it in... God enjoys being our friend, our compatriot, our buddy... but more than that, He wants to be our life.
"But God! Why does this happen to me? Why can't I live a life like that guy! Or that girl! They have it so easy!" And God's response.... "If I want that guy to have a charmed life, if I want that girl to be healthy all of her days and live to be 87 years old... is that your business? No, it isn't. You follow me."
If we are to truly live the Crucified life that He called us to live, that He designed us to live, then we can't simply look at Jesus in passing... He has to be our life. The unparalleled center of our universe!
It's a daily crucifixion of ourselves, to wake up in the morning and say, "You know, God, tell me what You want me to do, and I'll do it. Whatever, God. Just whatever."
And God will simply say to you, "Follow me today. You start walking down My road, and I'll tell you as you go along. So, just follow me."
The Summer of Blogging Day Thirty Four