God On Your Ipod Part 5: Who Knew?
On Sunday 20th August at our morning service, we continued our series God On Your Ipod with the topic 'Who Knew'. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.
To listen to the talk, click here.
The song “Who Knew?” by Pink is about a friend dying young and it resonates for me because it reminds me of one of my best friends who died aged 40, leaving his loveyl wife and three young children. It pains me every time I think about him or hear the song. Who knew things would happen that way?
I can’t remember when, but one day while listening to the song it also made me think of the apostle Peter – how must he have felt when Jesus was taken and executed after three incredible years alongside him? As the song says “if someone sad three years from now, you’d be long gone…” I wonder how devastated Simon Peter would have felt? Who knew it would (seemingly) end like this?
I guess I relate to Simon Peter because my name is also Simon but also when I read about him and his interactions with Jesus I get the sense that Jesus had a soft spot for him for all Peter’s shortcomings and failings. I think about and really feel for Peter – because I have shortcomings and have failed at things too. I’m here at EBC as a result of a couple of plans for life and career I had that failed… but I’m sure I ended up on God’s plan. Who knew?!?
We can’t foretell the future – we can likely all think of a time things just didn’t turn out the way we hoped and dreamed they would. Perhaps we can relate to Peter.
How would he have felt when Jesus was taken and killed? Who knew, when Jesus had been discipling him that just three years later it would come to this?
Take a moment to read this poignant and sad part of Simon Peter’s story by clicking here
Imagine how Peter must have felt when the rooster crowed and Jesus looked right at him. Imagine how he felt when Jesus was then crucified. His master, whom he has followed for three years, whom he has seen performing miracles, who he himself has walked on water with…. And now it’s come to this. Earlier Peter had said to Jesus “no, this can’t happen to you!” but Jesus knew it had to. Peter’s said to Jesus he’d never deny him even if everyone else did. But Jesus knew he would.
My heart goes out to him – how about you? That’s why the song we’re featuring here reminds me of Simon Peter. Who knew it’d come this? Not Peter, but Jesus.
But Jesus knew something else. He knew this wasn’t the end for him and nor was it the end for Peter.
After Jesus was resurrected, he appeared to the disciples a couple of times and then comes this third time: Simon Peter is beside the lake, the Sea of Galilee, and he says to the other disciples, “I’m going fishing” almost like he’s come full circle, back to where he started. There’s nothing else to do but go back to what he knows – so he goes fishing.
His friends go with him but they catch nothing and then… then the resurrected Jesus comes to the shore and calls them. At first they don’t recognise him but Jesus tells them to cast their nets again on the right side of the boat and they fill their nets to bursting point.
John recognises Jesus and says “It’s the Lord!” and Simon Peter immediately jumps out of the boat and rushes to Jesus. The others follow in the boat and they have breakfast together with Jesus. Then Jesus takes Peter to one side and there follows this extraordinary exchange, recorded by their mutual friend, John: You can read this by clicking here.
Not for the first time, Jesus uses the language of a shepherd and his sheep – echoing the language that King David used in Old Testament times in the 23rd psalm – “the Lord’s my shepherd”. And here Jesus is giving Peter the mantle of a shepherd – not some hired hand , not to be trusted, but the shepherd of his sheep. Simon Peter, who had denied even knowing him, three times!
Why did Jesus ask him if he loved him three times? Simon Peter was hurt by that and I puzzled over it. But then revelation – how many times did Peter deny knowing Jesus? Three times. So Jesus has him repeat three times that he loves him. Not for Jesus’s benefit – he knew Peter loved him – but I suspect Jesus wanted Peter to say it three times for his benefit, so that when it would dawn on him later (as I suspect it did), that Jesus didn’t mean to hurt him but to heal him of the pain of his own betrayal. Three times he denied Jesus. Three times he affirms his love again afterwards. I think that would eventually comfort, not hurt him. Merciful, not hurtful is the Lord, and he KNEW Peter – faults and failings and all – and he knew and loved him through the hot-headedness, the faithfulness, the walking on water and the sinking, and the denial. Knew and loved him through all the stages of Peter’s story.
Now what about you? What stage are you at? Just beginning to follow Jesus? Following faithfully? Filled with high hopes and convinced you’ll never falter? In the place of bitter tears at your failings? Despair that though you feel love for God, love for Jesus you just… can’t… seem to follow… without failing?
I think we can take solace in Simon Peter’s story which tells us it’s better to follow and fail, than fail to follow.
We have all faltered and failed at some point. Whether in life-in-general or as disciples. Here at EBC we want to reach people, and make disciples – just as Jesus did with Peter and others. Reach people… and make disciples.
If you’re new to us or just exploring the idea of God you might put yourself in the “people” part of that not the “disciples” part. So you get a pass on this next bit because I want to say something that only applies to those who would be or want to be in the “disciples” box.
Especially if you think you’ve failed as a disciple. Whether it’s because you’re praying and reading the bible as you should, not tuning into hear from God… or you’re not giving generously and sacrificially, or you’re not serving faithfully, or worshipping wholeheartedly or loving other people as natural response of love for God who first loves you…
Maybe you think you’re failing to respond as you know you should, and you’re beating yourself up about it. I don’t know but I suspect that’s very true for some people today.
I don’t know, but we can be sure that Jesus knows us – faults, failings and all. And we can surely trust in him – that we can always turn back to him and perhaps like Peter accomplish things in his name that we never even dreamt of. Perhaps the sorrowing “who knew?” will turn out to be a “who knew?” of awe and wonder at what God can do in us and with us.
I had no clue a few years ago that I’d become senior leader here at EBC. No idea. Who knew? Not me.
As a church we have a long road ahead of us, and no doubt many stumbles, yours and mine.
If we’re serious about reaching people and making disciples, then guess what? We have first to be disciples ourselves . Not pretend disciples. Actual followers of Jesus.
If we’re to reach people, you and I, and make disciples, you and I… then you and I better lead by example.
If we as a church want to end up growing not just numerically but spiritually, we have to first head in the direction of spiritual growth ourselves. Why? Because direction determines destination.
But here’s the thing - you’ll fail from time to time and so will I. Well, we’re in good company! Peter failed too… but Jesus knew the plans he had for Peter. Peter who went from weeping bitterly to being filled with the Holy Spirit and preaching with incredible power and being the leader of the church. Who knew that he would end up with thousands and thousands of churches named in his honour as one of the first and greatest disciples of Jesus who ever lived? Who knew? Not Peter. But Jesus knew. And he knows the plans he has for you and for me and for EBC.
So I say it’s better to follow and fail, than fail to follow.
• Better to give and fall short… than not to give.
• Better to serve and fail… than not to serve.
• Better to love and fail… than not to love.
• Better to pray and fast, and read the bible and worship… and fail sometimes…. than fail to pursue those fundamentals of discipleship.
Accept that you’ll fail, but accept Jesus who won’t fail. Accept him and follow him.
Because it’s better to follow and fail, than fail to follow.
Questions and Reflections (for you to think about on your own or to discuss in your Life Group)
1. What speaks to you most about Peter’s story?
2. Can you think of a time when things didn’t turn out the way you wanted, or expected or dreamed they would?
3. What were some of the positives to come out of the unexpected things that have happened in your life?
4. Simon Peter was a hot-headed fisherman who followed Jesus for three years. He denied even knowing Jesus three times yet his name is honoured on the gates of thousands of branches of Jesus’s holy church and he is remembered as one of the greatest of Jesus’s disciples. Who knew? Jesus knew.
What are the failings that trouble your soul? Take a moment to consider how Jesus dealt with Simon Peter. How do you think he feels towards you?
5. What was it about Simon Peter that Jesus recognised, so that he identified Peter as the one to “strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32) and “feed my sheep” (John 21: 17)?
6. What can you do today to demonstrate love towards Jesus?
7. Who do you know that might need reminding that they are loved, no matter what?