But Jesus offers a simple answer: “Sam, you follow me.”
There are three Biblical examples of this simple and succinct message that we will explore over the next three weeks. All three bring our focus back to ourselves – to you and to me. Not others, not the events taking place around you – you. Because you, and your inward workings with Jesus, are all that is eternal in all this.
Today we will examine the first example.
In John 21 we find Jesus meeting several of the disciples on the beach for breakfast. This is post-resurrection, so every encounter with Jesus is loaded with meaning. After breakfast Jesus takes a walk with Peter down the beach. He asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” After Peter answers, Jesus tells him each time, “Feed my sheep.”
Jesus is driving home to Peter that his mission, for the rest of his life, is to take care of Jesus’ followers. Jesus tells him this three times so there can be no confusion in Peter’s mind, and certainly no distractions from his central mission.
It is as if Jesus is saying, “Peter, I know you bounce around a lot, and are easily distracted, so I want to be absolutely clear: Your mission in life, above all else, is to take care of my burgeoning family of followers. Is that clear, Peter? Are you picking up what I am laying down, Peter?”
One would assume Jesus has Peter’s rapt attention. But … Peter is aware that John is following them, so here is what happens next:
When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”
Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” (John 21:20-22, bold added)
I can only imagine the incredulous look on Jesus’ face when he said, “What is that to you? You must follow me.”
Could Peter not keep his focus for one minute? He is walking one on one with the Savior of the world. He is walking with his dear friend whom he has seen dead and now alive, and he cannot help but ask questions about other people! Of course, he is not that different from you and me. We are so easily distracted. We so easily lose focus on what really matters, and get sidetracked over other people, other events, and other issues.
News, weather and sports effectively crowd out Jesus and cloud up our perspective.
I am going to make a broad, sweeping declaration: If we focused on Jesus’ response to Peter whenever we are becoming distracted or discouraged, our lives would be filled with a “light and life-giving clarity.” When I am surrounded by confusion, or distractions, or whatever thoughts or whoever people are swirling around in my head, if I will just return to Jesus, the way becomes clearer.
I am sure for some of you there is real chaos in your personal lives, as well as the chaos in this country. I know it is very real and very scary for you. I know Jesus cares, and he will listen to all your concerns and worries as long as you want to talk to him about them. He will do so with sincerity and compassion. And yet, with all appropriate sensitivity, I think he would eventually smile lovingly and still say,
“What is that to you? You follow me.”
Jesus is saying to me and to you:
Next Week: “Who do you say I am?”