I have read many times about Peter denying Jesus three times on the way to the cross, and Jesus asking Peter if he loves him three times after the resurrection. In the Gospel according to John, an interesting exchange is recorded after Peter asserts his love for Jesus as third time:
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!”
Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”
Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” [John 21:17-23]
As someone who has committed to love Jesus, Peter still finds himself struggling with what it means to follow Jesus. He has already asserted with his words repeatedly that he loves Jesus, but Jesus is asking for more. He goes from love to Peter's calling: to feed Jesus' sheep. The outcome of love is action.
Unfortunately, it is more than the request to feed the sheep. The passage explains itself to the modern reader: Jesus tells Peter about the type of death which he will suffer for associated with Jesus.
The cost is high for Peter to follow, but he struggles to understand why the price is so high for him alone... why is he being singled out from all the other among the other disciples for such a dramatic and painful end? His attention immediately goes to finding out the cost to other disciples. Jesus challenges him: isn't it up to the Lord to decide what will be required? No matter the cost to others, Peter must choose to follow Jesus regardless of what it might cost.
Those of us who would call ourselves disciples have the same challenges. I am not sure why it seems to cost some people more to follow Christ. Some Christians go through tremendous suffering.
We follow, but we don't get the luxury of comparing our walk to others. We just don't have the perspective to judge what's equal and fair. Like Peter and John, are we going to follow regardless of the cost?
(To read Part Two, click HERE.)