Each new year is an exciting time, and with it comes a feeling of optimism and hope. The previous year, with all its foibles and failures, is in the books, and a new one begins with a blank slate. Some people look at it as a fresh start – an opportunity to renounce bad habits or begin forming good ones. We want to better employees, friends, parents, and children. Above all else, we want to be
The Christian life is one of commitment. We might think of our relationship with Christ in the same way as marriage. After all, Jesus repeatedly refers to Himself as the bridegroom (Mark 2:19; John 3:29), while the inspired authors refer to the church as the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:25-27). Unfortunately, there are many in our world who do not take their commitment to Christ very seriously. Imagine if, on our wedding day, our future spouse were to say, “I give myself to you, to have and to hold from this day forward. I promise never to forsake my previous lovers, and remain utterly faithful to you only one day of the week. I will promise to appear faithful as long as others are watching. I will maintain only a marginal level of dedication and devotion, which is for me to determine and you to accept. I will promise to obey provided I see a need for it, and serve as long as I get something in return.” At this point, anyone would start getting cold feet. God isn't any different.
Shortly after the institution of the Lord's Supper in Mark 14, Jesus and His disciples go to the Mount of Olives. Jesus informs His followers that they will all fall away from Him during His darkest hour. Peter boldly steps up in denial, claiming that should everyone else fail, he would not. Jesus tells his fiery disciple that he, too, would fail, and that he would deny Him three times. Peter emphatically disagrees, vowing that he would follow Him to the grave. The rest of the disciples agree. They had no idea that in a few short hours they would have an opportunity to demonstrate their resolve.
When the authorities seize Jesus, Mark's Gospel seems to imply that Peter alone follows behind at a distance. Hiding behind corners and clinging to the shadows, the pupil follows his Master, although not quite as boldly as he claimed before. Peter settles down next to a fire to watch the proceedings. A servant girl approaches him, telling him that he was with Jesus. Peter denies the claim. The girl tells others gathered nearby that Peter is one of Jesus' men, a second claim that he denies more vehemently than the first. Still others approach him soon thereafter accusing him a third time of being part of Jesus' band of followers. Peter invokes a curse on himself and swears that he knows nothing of this Jesus. And with his words still hanging in the air, a lone rooster crows in the distance.
It is difficult to imagine the maelstrom of emotions that must have begun churning inside Peter as the rooster's call faded. We do know that Peter got a second chance to reaffirm his commitment to Jesus. It was around a fire that Peter denied his Lord, and it would be around a fire that he would have the opportunity to reassert his fidelity.
In John 21, Jesus and the disciples are eating breakfast. After finishing their breakfast, Jesus turns to Peter and asks, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” (v.15). Peter answers that he does indeed love Him. Twice more Jesus repeats the question, with Peter affirming each time. It seems as if Jesus repeats his question so that, rather than brashly stating his commitment, Peter may think about exactly what he is saying. Jesus gives Peter a cryptic warning that he, too, will one day will die as Jesus did (vv.18-19). After telling him this, Jesus simply says, “Follow me.”
Jesus' command was not merely issued to Peter on a shoreline two thousand years ago. It is a command for all who would follow Him and consider themselves part of his people. It is a call to put Him first, to offer Him our allegiance above all else, to put away all distractions, and to renounce everything that interferes in our relationship with God. The call to follow Christ is one for a holy life.
The start of a new year is an exciting time. While it offers opportunities for growth, it will also present challenges to overcome. Like Peter, we will certainly have times of temptation and trial that will test our resolve. Thankfully, Jesus tells his people, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). In the Christian life, just as in any great marriage, commitment is not one-sided.