Last Wednesday night our pastor preached on John 21:15-23. One part of this passage stuck in my mind and caused me to search my heart.
The passage begins with Jesus asking Peter, three times, “Do you love me?” Peter answered affirmative each time, and seemed a little exasperated by the third time. After these three questions, Jesus said to him, " 'Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.' (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, 'Follow me.' " John 15:18-19
Can you imagine? Jesus basically told Peter he would be taken and killed. This is followed by the imperative statement, “Follow me.”
I keep thinking, “Knowing it would get me persecuted and killed, would I have followed?”
It is easy to sit here on my comfy couch, with my First Amendment protection and say, “Sure.” But, when I really examine my heart critically, I am not so “sure.” Inside my heart there is kindling for fear, and should that kindling be lit by a threat of death, I believe that fire could very well consume me.
I find comfort in the fact that Peter struggled with fear also. Back in chapter 18, John tells us that Peter denied Jesus three times. Now, the text does not specifically tell us that it was fear that fueled the denial; however, I cannot help but infer that it was, at least partially, involved.
That same Peter FOLLOWED Jesus to death. He was martyred for his Lord. How did that happen? What changed?
Pentecost. The pouring out of the Holy Spirit.
Between the denial and Peter’s death we find the events of Acts 2 - the day of Pentecost and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. Peter denied Christ before this event. But, after he received the power of the Holy Spirit given at Pentecost, he unashamedly proclaimed the Gospel, and eventually gave up his life for its sake.
The lesson? By no power of my own could I ever stand strong in such a trail. Fear would prevail. I cannot rely on myself to be “strong enough.” But, praise God, I live on this side of Pentecost, so I know that same power the emboldened Peter lives within me. The Holy Spirit is “strong enough.” He burns bigger and brighter than my fear.