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Graduating May 31, 2008

Posted by Michelle Knoll in Devotionals.
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At this time of year, one happening stands out more than all the rest:  graduation.  For many teenagers, this is the most major experience of their lives, up to this point.  They’ve worked at learning, at getting an education, for 12 years (thirteen if you count kindergarten), and now they are finally at the point where they are going to receive the ultimate prize for their work:  a diploma.

For some reason, this year’s graduation season brought the disciple Peter to mind, and I thought of one particular situation involving this man.  I consider Peter to be the most “frustrated” of all the disciples.  No matter how hard he tried to do right, he usually ended up making a mistake somewhere along the way.  Sometimes his mistakes — his failures — were so big that the Lord even rebuked him.  Remember their conversation when Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” and then He asked, “But who do you say that I am?”  Well, Peter answered that question, didn’t he?  And got an “A+” for his response!  Remember that?  “Thou are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  I’d say Peter felt pretty good about himself at that point.  Next, Jesus began to explain that He was going to be crucified, and what does Peter do?  He rebukes Jesus!  Tells Jesus that this just ain’t gonna happen!  So what does Jesus do?  He rebukes Peter!  Right there in front of everyone else!  I would say at this point, Peter was pretty frustrated.  He’d just gotten an “A+” for a great response to a test question, and now he had failed again. 

Peter went through an intense education course, a 3-year crash course entitled “How to Follow the Master.”  He had become so good at following the Lord that he was considered part of the “class favorites” if you will allow me to use that phrase loosely.  Peter, James and John were the only three that were allowed to see the transfiguration.  Peter had been allowed to see great miracles firsthand, and he knew that the Lord truly was “the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  It was Peter that walked on water, even though once again, he messed up and took his eyes off the Lord, which caused him to sink.  Of course, the Lord reached down and pulled him back up from the stormy waters, and helped Peter get back into the boat from whence he came.  Yes, Peter made mistakes.  Peter experienced failure.  And sometimes, his failures were big ones.   

On the night Jesus was arrested, Peter denied the Lord three times.  Don’t you think that Peter felt like a complete failure as he watched the soldiers crucify the Lord Jesus?  He told the people around him that he didn’t even know Jesus, and he even used profanity to get his point across!  When it was over, and Jesus was laid in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathaea, Peter realized there was no way he could go back and repeat this intense education course.  School was out, the class was over, and Peter had “failed” with a big “F.”  The thoughts running through his mind were probably something like, It’s over, and I blew it.  There’s no way to undo what I’ve done.  I’ve failed the Lord, and I can’t take this class over.  I’m not worth anything to Him now.  I’m a complete and total failure.

So what does Peter decide to do?  Go back to his old life of fishing.  After all, that was what he did before he went to “school.” And he did fairly well with fishing.  It was something he knew, it was something that felt familiar and comfortable, and it was something he knew he could do.  So in the book of John, Chapter 21, he tells the other disciples, “I’m going fishing.”  And lo and behold, they decide to go with him.

All night they fished, and caught nothing.  Now don’t you think that made Peter feel even worse?  “I’ve lost my touch,” he mumbles to himself.  “I failed at that new way of life that I learned in school, and now I’m a failure at my old way of life.  What’s left for me?”  I would venture to say that Peter felt like he was all washed up.  Nowhere to go but down.

And then Jesus shows up, and tells them to “cast their nets on the right side of the boat.”  And the fish are eveywhere!  The disciples catch all kinds of fish in their nets!  But it wasn’t Peter who realized that was Jesus; no, it was John.  However, once Peter hears John say, “It’s the Lord!” he quickly puts on his coat, jumps into the water, and swims to shore!  The rest follow, and they have a nice feast of fish and bread.

Then Jesus does an amazing thing.  He asks Peter a pointed question: “Peter, do you love Me more than these?”  A lot of people think that Jesus was asking him, “Do you love Me more than anyone else in this group does?” I don’t think the Lord was asking that.  Instead, I think He was asking, “Hey Peter, do you love Me more than you love these old fish?” meaning, “What are you going back to your old life for?” And when Peter answered Jesus the first time (“Lord, you know I love you”) I think he meant, “Lord, you know I want to make this new way of life work, but I don’t know how, and I keep messing up.”  So the Lord gives Peter a simple command.  He says, “Feed my lambs.”  When you look at the Greek definitions of these words, Jesus was telling Peter, “Okay.  Then do what you know to do.  Go back to the basics.”  Jesus was making it simple for Peter.

The second time Jesus asks His question, He asks, “Do you love Me?”  There is no qualifier this time (“more than these?”)  This time it’s just, “Do you love Me?”  Possibly Jesus was asking Peter, “Okay, well, do you want this new life?  Do you really love Me?”  And Peter answered by saying, “Lord, You know what’s going on here.  You know I love you as much as I can, but I’m not good at it.”  So the Lord gives him the second step: “Feed my sheep.”  Looking once again at the Greek, there is indication that Jesus was saying, “Okay, then keep going until you get to the second step, which is ruling and reigning.  Don’t give up, because I want you to be a leader in My Kingdom.”

Then Jesus asks the “kicker.”  In the King James Bible, and most other translations, the third question is written the same as the first two: “Do you love me?”  However, going back to the Greek once again, we find that Jesus used a totally different word this time, so in essence Jesus was asking Peter, “Hey Peter, do you like Me?  Do you approve of Me? Will you sanction Who I am and what I’ve done?  Will you stand with Me??”  And the Bible says that “Peter was grieved” when he heard Jesus’ question.  Peter’s answer was, “Lord, you know everything.”  I think there was “unwritten communication” going on here between Peter and Jesus.  Peter knew that Jesus had told him in advance what would happen (“before the cock crows, you will deny Me three times”), so Peter knew that Jesus knew everything that had happened on that fateful night when Peter failed the Lord so miserably.  I think Peter was saying to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I know that You know what’s going on with me.  You know that I love You, but You also know how badly I fail at loving You.  You know what I did the night You were arrested, and You know that I decided to go back to my old life of fishing.  You know everything.”

But Jesus doesn’t turn away from Peter at this point.  Instead of giving Peter the final grade of “F,” Jesus looks at Peter and says the most amazing thing: “Feed my sheep.”  In other words, do your duty.  Do what Christians are supposed to do.  Jesus didn’t see a man who had failed.  He saw a man that could keep going, and keep on doing what he was supposed to do.  Jesus didn’t see a man who was worthless; He saw a man who was worth being reinstated. 

And that’s exactly what Jesus did in the next two verses. Because at the end of verse 19, Jesus issues forth a command that renews Peter’s membership in the training class: “Follow Me.”  Jesus told Peter, “You’re still in school! Don’t stop now!”

Peter thought he had failed so miserably that his opportunity to pass the class had vanished.  Instead, Jesus gave Peter his biggest assignment: “Follow Me.”  Those words literally mean, “Be My Disciple.”  Learn from Me, Peter.  Do the things that I do.  This time, you’ll get it right.

And some days later, waiting in Jerusalem, Peter graduates.  On the day of Pentecost, Peter becomes the Valedictorian of the class, and gives the greatest graduation speech known to man.  And the world is forever changed.

Today’s Cookie : Isaiah 43:18 & 19

“Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past.  Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert.” 



1. syinly - June 12, 2008

I wish I could write this good. This story makes me think about my situation. I was emailing a former friend saying I was like Peter. Thank you for writing this!

2. The Cookie Lady - June 12, 2008

Thank you, syinly. I don’t consider myself a great writer, so your comment humbles me. I often feel like Peter myself, since I usually bungle things a great deal. But isn’t it great that God gave us such a human example in Peter to relate to? And isn’t it a wonderful testimony to God’s working power and His Love, to see what changes He made in Peter. Talk about moving up to the head of the class! But the neat thing is, those changes are available for every one of us! Praise be His Name!

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