God takes drastic measures to prepare his people for the works he’s prepared for them.
As Christ’s followers, we are his handiwork, his masterpiece, his workmanship. Our beautifully transformed lives are a demonstration of his work. We are proof that he is a masterful artist! He created us in Christ Jesus—which is to say he saved us to follow him–for the purpose of doing the good works he’s prepared for us to do.
Jesus saved Peter because he wanted to, but also because he’d prepared good work for the man and prepared the man for the work.
“Feed my sheep. Take care of my sheep. Tend my lambs.”
It must have sounded hard and weighty. Peter knew himself too well, and as Jesus was telling Peter about the work he’d planned for him to do, Peter turned around and saw John.
John hadn’t denied knowing Jesus. Sure, he may have scattered like the rest of them on the night Jesus was crucified, but at least he’d scrounged up the courage to be standing at the foot of the cross while Jesus died. In fact, while Jesus was dying, he spoke from the cross and entrusted his own mother to John!
In Peter’s estimation, surely John would have been a better shepherd for this little flock of followers, so Peter said, “What about him?”
Haven’t we all asked that question in our own way?
Jesus has called us to follow him in a million different ways through daily works that he’s prepared, and I protest and say, “Eeeks, what about her? Isn’t there someone else better suited for this? Surely, so-and-so would be a better choice?”
The first time I was asked to speak at a retreat I told the director, “Well, I could do it, but there are women who are far better suited for it than I am. Do you want me to get you their information?”
I had a gal’s name rolling around in my head—a woman with tons of speaking and life experience who has adored and followed Jesus faithfully. She can even sing and play the piano at the same time! I can barely walk and chew gum, so What about her?
Have you been presented with a need or an opportunity to follow Jesus in the good works he’s prepared and heard yourself saying, “Wouldn’t she be a better choice?”
Jesus answers our objections, the same way he answered Peter, and I’ll paraphrase verse 22: “If I want her to do something entirely different or even unthinkable, what’s it to ya? You follow me. Get your eyes off someone else and look to me. I will lead you.”
And my friend, who would have been a more experienced teacher, well, she’s in Missouri doing the work God has prepared for her.
John couldn’t do Peter’s Kingdom job because he was going to be doing what God had prepared for him. John’s job was to bear witness to all that Jesus had done and would do. Right here in John 21:24, 60-some years after he’d stood behind Peter and Jesus on that beach, John wrote, “[I am] the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down.” In other words, ‘The guy Peter was hoping would take his place, that was me. But my job was to testify to these things and write them down so that you–dear reader–may believe that Jesus is the Christ and that by believing in him, you’ll have life in his name.’
Jesus had prepared good works for Peter and John. And after Jesus ascended to the Father and sent his Holy Spirit, Peter and John got to work.
On the same day that they received the Holy Spirit, they preached, in various languages, And the flock Peter was commissioned to care for grew by 3,000.
Days later, when Peter and John went to the Temple to pray, they healed a crippled man, which drew a crowd, and they preached again.
Sometimes the good works God has prepared for us are extremely rewarding, and we get to see the God-glorifying results.
But, the longer you follow Jesus in the good works he’s prepared, you will discover there is also a kind of burden that comes with it.
Because every kingdom job has a kingdom burden.
Every Kingdom Job Comes With a Kingdom Burden
Earlier in their ministry, Jesus told them (Luke 12:12-13), “you will be handed over to be tried in synagogues and be put in prison; you will be brought before kings and rulers for my sake.”
And in John 21, Jesus gives a shocking—even if somewhat veiled–revelation that Peter would eventually be crucified for following Jesus. He would eventually do what he had promised: “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death” (Luke 22:33). Eventually, he would.
Within ten years, the apostles would begin to be picked off by whichever ruler they’d offended. James, as in John’s big brother and Peter’s good friend, was first—Herod Agrippa had him beheaded.
Peter must have heard Jesus’s prophecy rattling in his mind, “…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” (John 21:18). He must’ve wondered if he’d be next. When will it be me?
Peter’s Kingdom burden was jail and beatings and a prophecy of martyrdom.
John’s burden was to bear witness for 90 years as each of his friends and brothers were killed–one by one–for following Jesus.
Remember: Jesus saved Peter because he wanted to, but also because he’d prepared good work for the man and prepared the man for the work. If you are following Jesus, then you have good work to do and you are being prepared to do that work.
How has God used a failure to prepare you to do the work he’s prepared for you to do?
* A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson, page 17.