This conversation happened during The Last Supper…Jesus had just told His disciples that where He was soon going they could not come. So in verse 36, Simon Peter asks Jesus, ” ‘Lord, where are You going?’ Jesus replied, ‘Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.’ ” It happens so often…we catch a glimpse of what God has for us to do and we are impatient…desiring to heed Him immediately. So like Peter, we anxiously query, “Why can’t I follow you now?” But all of our gung-ho enthusiasm can’t measure up to the basic training and discipline we may need prior to God’s nod of approval. Over these years I’ve found one of the hardest words to accept gracefully from God is, “wait.” But I also know in the end any delay is only for my good and benefit.
That could have been me in place of Peter. How can I self-righteously think that I would have behaved any differently? Peter had followed Jesus for three years, watching as He preached, healed, and performed miracle after miracle. But despite all Peter had been part of, he still denied he even knew who Jesus was. Yes, it could have easily been me disowning the Lord. For any time I allow fear to mute my voice in speaking the truth of God…I’m silently renouncing Him…more afraid of possible retribution or embarrassment than speaking up. That’s because when I’m silent instead of standing up for what’s right and good and godly…I’m quietly condoning sin.
Earlier in this Chapter, Jesus told Peter what the future held for him. But Peter wouldn’t let well enough alone…He now wanted to know what was in store for John also. This is when Jesus firmly reminded him that it was none of his business and Peter must focus his attention his own personal walk…not meddle into other’s. Sometimes we like to “help” God, when in fact, we’re actually interfering with His plan for other people’s lives. We think we know more than Him…but that’s when we usually get into trouble! From that fateful day at the Sea of Galilee when Jesus walked up to Peter and his brother Andrew casting their fishing nets…Jesus’s directive to Peter had not changed…”Follow Me!” He said. “Keep your eyes focused on Me and not others.”
Peter and the other Believers with him couldn’t dispute what they witnessed in the house of Cornelius. The Holy Spirit was super-naturally poured out on the Gentiles while Peter was still mid-sentence, telling them about Jesus. Now Peter could have questioned this…”But Lord, these people are very different from us! We don’t have anything in common with them. They’re a different race and culture from us! Are You sure You know what You’re doing?” Sometimes, as fellow-Believers, we can find ourselves asking the same questions of those we find different from us. Yes, we may not share a lot…but we do have a common denominator…faith in Jesus Christ. Together we are one Body…one Church…united in our trust of our Savior…joined together eternally by our faith.
Several Chapters earlier in John, Jesus had rebuked Peter’s declaration of solidarity – even to the point of dying with Jesus, by saying, “Will you really lay down your life for Me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown Me three times.” The moment that rooster crowed, Peter realized just how fickle the human race could be. And as the sound of the crowing continued, Peter began to sink deeply into fear and grief as tears fell…for he profoundly realized – he had disowned the Lord.
Just like Jesus, Peter walked on the water. Just like Jesus, Peter’s faith was great enough to keep him afloat. But unlike Jesus, Peter took his eyes off his Savior and onto the situation around him and he began to flounder. When the storm is swirling around you…keep your eyes on Jesus. When fear promises to overwhelm you…keep your eyes on Jesus. For as long as Peter stayed focused on the Lord, he walked above the fray.
If you think about it…being the Son of God, Jesus was exempt from the tax. But not wanting to be a stumbling block to the people of Capernaum, Jesus used it to be a faith-building opportunity for Simon Peter. Using Peter’s gift, his talent, his vocation of fishing, Jesus instructed him to go to the lake, cast out his line, and pull in the first fish he hooked. He then told Peter to open its mouth and inside he’d find a four-drachma coin to pay the tax for both of them. By just being obedient with the skills he already had, Peter’s faith was increased greatly, and he was blessed over and above what he could imagined.
Jesus had just told the Disciples that where He was going, they couldn’t go with. Was Simon Peter hurt, or smugly contending that he would proudly die along side Jesus when he asked why? Peter was one of Jesus’ closest Disciples, a big, loud man who had a habit of speaking first and thinking later. Was his outburst a show of hurt feelings, or brash vibrato…of concerned protection, or a foot in the mouth quip?
Jesus knew that Peter would betray Him. But He also knew that Peter would later seek forgiveness and restoration of their relationship…and in doing so, become a spiritually stronger man. Each one of us carry around times when we ourselves failed the Lord miserably, only to have Him mercifully forgive and restore us back to that right relationship with Him. Those failings have now become unique teaching opportunities in which we can build up and strengthen others we see wavering.
“And when you have turned back..” Jesus knew the spiritual journey that Peter would take – from denying Him three times, to being reconciled back to Jesus following the Resurrection. There will come a point in every Believer’s life when their faith is tested…and most like Peter, will deny the Lord in one or another. But when we have turned back and received forgiveness, we truly then realize the immeasurable depth of God’s love for us…and we are changed.