“Come Follow Me,” For Real

There is an interesting pair of bookends in the Bible concerning the Apostle Peter. The Gospels of Matthew and Mark report that Jesus saw Peter and others fishing in the Sea of Galilee and said to them: “Come follow me.” The Gospel of Luke doesn’t contain the phrase, “Come follow me.” It does include something the other two don’t: “the miraculous catch.”

Peter and the others are weary from fishing all night with no success. Yet, Jesus convinces Peter to put out the nets once more. The huge catch nearly sinks the boat. It is after that Peter and the others follow Jesus. Three years later, a similar scene plays out after the resurrection of Jesus:

Peter and some of the other disciples are again fishing in the Sea of Galilee. A man on the shore asks if they are having any luck (they do not immediately realize that it is Jesus). They answered Jesus: “No.”

6 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. 7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. 9 When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. John 21:6-9, (NIV).

Once again, Jesus uses a miraculous catch to get His follower’s attention. And then, something interesting happens. Peter had denied knowing Jesus three times after He was arrested. Jesus now reinstates Peter by asking him three times if he loves Jesus. After Jesus receives the third yes and tells Peter the kind of death he will die for his faith, He commands him: “Follow me.”

I’ve read John 21 many times and only recently did I realize that Jesus commanded this again. Why? After all He asked Peter to do this three years earlier and Peter said yes. And Peter did (almost) to the death. So why did Jesus ask this of Him again? Oswald Chambers explained it this way:

Three years earlier Jesus had said, “Follow Me” (Matthew 4:19), and Peter followed with no hesitation. The irresistible attraction of Jesus was upon him and he did not need the Holy Spirit to help him do it. Later he came to the place where he denied Jesus, and his heart broke. Then he received the Holy Spirit and Jesus said again, “Follow Me” (John 21:19). Now no one is in front of Peter except the Lord Jesus Christ. The first “Follow Me” was nothing mysterious; it was an external following. Jesus is now asking for an internal sacrifice and yielding (see John 21:18). (“My Utmost for His Highest,” January 5 devotion).

Chambers contends that this was Peter coming “completely to the end of himself and all of his self-sufficiency. There was no part of himself he would ever rely on again. In his state of destitution, he was finally ready to receive all that the risen Lord had for him.”

Chambers is saying that our “Yes” to “Come follow me” isn’t real until we have received the Holy Spirit. It’s then when our “Yes” moves from a promissory note to a legitimate payment: surrender of our whole selves to Jesus as our Lord and Savior. What about you?

It’s January 21. Did you start this new year resolving to make meaningful life changes and trying to make that change under your own power? Are you now wondering why you failed? Did you say “Yes” to “Come follow me” and now realize you need the strength of the Holy Spirit to truly follow Jesus into real life change? As Peter showed us, it’s never too late. Jesus is still saying “Come follow me.” There is still plenty of time to say yes.

Pastor Jerry Bader

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