“He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:3b NIV)
Just when the story seemed as if it was over, Jesus is resurrected. He appears to Mary Magdelene, to the disciples, and even pays a special visit to dispel whatever doubts Thomas may have. Seems to have wrapped everything up.
All but one: Peter’s betrayal. So, in John 21, that issue is tackled.
Jesus arranges for a breakfast meeting and gives Peter the opportunity to reverse his three-fold betrayal with a three-fold affirmation of his love.
Then Jesus drops this bombshell on Peter:
“The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”” (John 21:17-19 NIV)
We like our illusion of autonomy and self-direction. We like pretending we are in charge. But here Jesus reminds Peter that there is a path that he would not choose on his own, but it is the right path. It is a dreadful path. But it is the right path. Why? Because it is the path by which Peter will glorify God. Something about that path will serve to point people to Christ.
We often obsess over selecting the right path so that we will be happy and fulfilled and successful. Jesus gives Peter a heads-up. Peter’s path will include a death he’d rather not picture. But it is God’s right path for him. No question who’s calling the shots in Peter’s life.
This is a tough word. But it indicates how surrendered we are to Christ and his purposes. Will we walk the right path even while it is also a hard path?
Prayer: God, we seem more interested in a path that brings us happiness than one that brings you glory. Help us to live in total surrender to you. Give us courage to walk the right path, even when it is a hard path. Amen.