Monthly Archives: April 2017

What about that Guy?

Blind Faith (No. 17, 2017)
Weekly Devotional for April 27, 2017
What about that Guy?

When we mess up and get confronted about our misdeeds a common
tactic is to try to divert attention to someone else. Almost anyone else
will do. “What about that guy?” or some similar question we are apt to pose
to the person calling us to account. The implication we want to register is
that we aren’t so bad after all, especially in comparison to a third party.
Pulled over when you are driving too fast? “But officer! That woman whizzing
past just now . What about her?” the apprehended speedster might ask.
Supervisor call you on the carpet for another too-long lunch break? “But he
shops online and streams podcasts all day on company time . What about him?”
a habitually tardy employee might protest. An uninvolved church member asked
to serve on a ministry work group? “The Lastnames don’t have any jobs and
I’m busy with my civic club . What about them?” the frequently absent member
might demur. Do you recognize yourself – even remotely – in any of these
examples?

See if you recognize yourself in Simon Peter’s conversation with
Jesus a couple of weeks after Jesus’ resurrection. You can imagine that
Peter was struggling to understand all that Jesus had been teaching him and
the others for the past several years, especially now that Jesus had been
executed and had risen from the dead! The disciples closed ranks and stayed
close to each other because of their fears that powerful opponents might
take action against them. Like many people, Peter tried to occupy himself in
familiar, comforting activity that could provide some relief from his
relentless, troublesome mental anguish. He got six other disciples to go
fishing overnight with him. As often happens when we hope that an activity
will offer some escape, the fishing that night was awful. The disciples
tediously tended their nets, but kept coming up empty. Around daybreak a
figure on the beach suggested to the professional fishermen that they try
putting their nets out from the other side of the boat (as if they hadn’t
thought of that themselves and already fished both sides all night!). When
they felt the school of fish fill the nets, they knew the most plausible
explanation. This kind of thing happened when Jesus was around! The kibitzer
on the beach was none other than the risen Lord!

Peter was excited to see Jesus again in this setting. He
remembered when he first met Jesus in a place very much like this. Jesus was
walking along the lakeshore near the fishing business Peter ran with his
brother, Andrew. Jesus called to them – just as he had called to them this
morning about their catch and how to cast the nets. That first call had
changed Peter’s life. He was called Simon then, but Jesus gave him the name
Peter – or “Rocky.” Simon Peter and Andrew closed the business to become
what Jesus called “fishers of men.” (See Matthew 4:18-20.) The next years
found Peter becoming a key leader among Jesus’ movement, part of an inner
circle along with James and John (who were also professional fishermen).
Peter had witnessed stunning demonstrations of God’s power and grace in the
works and words of Jesus. Admittedly, Peter didn’t understand all that Jesus
said and did, but he always was deeply moved by the love and grace that
filled it all. Jesus had reprimanded Peter a couple of times when Peter’s
notions veered off Jesus’ course, but Peter tried hard to absorb as much of
Jesus’ teachings and demonstrations of God’s grace as correctly as he could.
Then there was the series of incidents during Jesus’ trial that were the
worst! Jesus said that Peter would deny having anything to do with Jesus –
not once, but three times! Peter protested that it would never happen, that
he would die before he would deny Jesus. But he did deny Jesus three times,
just as Jesus said. Once he even cussed out a servant girl, insisting that
he didn’t know Jesus and that she should shut up about his Galilean accent!
But he had denied Jesus vehemently, and then Jesus was crucified. Peter had
seen Jesus a couple of times after the Lord had risen, but they hadn’t
talked about the denial incidents.

Peter swam ashore to be the first to welcome Jesus to their
fishing trip. Jesus had a charcoal fire ready to grill fish for breakfast,
and Peter ran back to the nets to get some choice fillets. After breakfast
Jesus asked Peter to take a walk with him. “O, no!” Peter must have thought.
“Jesus is going to let me have it now! What am I going to say about those
denials?” But Jesus didn’t bring up the denials. He asked a more piercing
question: “Simon, do you love me?” Of course Peter loved Jesus! He had quit
his profitable fishing business near this very spot in order to travel with
Jesus for three years. Sometimes they didn’t know where they would spend the
night or what they would have to eat. Often local officials threatened them,
crowds made outlandish demands, and he struggled to understand what Jesus
was teaching. But it was miraculous and amazing! Did Peter love Jesus? Of
course! But he also had utterly denied knowing him or having anything to do
with him! Each time that Peter tried to profess his devotion to Jesus, Jesus
simply said, “Feed my sheep, my lambs.” Peter was trying to wrap his head
around Jesus’ response when he saw the youngster, John, nearby. John’s
account in his gospel reports: “When Peter saw that disciple, he asked
Jesus, ‘Lord, what about him?’ 22 Jesus answered, ‘What is it to you.? You
must follow me.'” (John 21:21-22 JBPhillips)

The conversation between Jesus and Peter should sound familiar
from our own experience. “What about that guy?” we ask when we have been
caught dead-to-rights in some denial of faith or act of faithlessness. We
would prefer that Jesus might deal with the sins of someone besides us.
After all, aren’t their wrongs much more egregious than ours? But Jesus will
have none of it. He does not grade “on the curve” or in comparison with
anyone else’s actions. Jesus’ concern is always for the depth of the loving
relationship between him and us. The call Jesus had for Peter was unchanged
from the first time he and Peter had met by the lake until this time made
tense in Peter’s mind by his denial. Jesus said – as he says to us again and
again: “You must follow me.” Peter went from that place to follow Jesus,
preaching at Pentecost, opening the door for vigorous preaching and ministry
to Jews and Gentiles, and ultimately to Rome to “feed Jesus’ sheep” from
that strategic capital. John also followed Jesus, writing a gospel filled
with Jesus’ cosmic power always demonstrating God’s immeasurable love. He
wrote letters encouraging churches and Christians to love one another and
the world the way Jesus did. He went to Patmos in exile as a follower of
Jesus, where he wrote an apocalyptic vision of God’s redemption of his
faithful people and their renewal in everlasting life. It wasn’t for either
of them to ask about what the other was doing or to point out any
shortcomings they might have along the way. Peter and John – and you and I –
are called to follow Jesus where he leads us individually. We have no
standing to ask, “What about that guy?” Jesus’ calling most often leads us
to share our loving relationship with him with others . but that’s the
continuing story.!

– J. Edward Culpepper

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