The story of the apostle Peter is one that should encourage many of us who are prone to weakness and failure. Remember, after all, that Peter, in a moment of humiliation, denied three times that he even knew Jesus. But, by the grace of God, the Savior met with Peter and restored him.
The story of Peter’s restoration is found in John 21. Its contrast with Peter’s denial is clear. Before, Peter three times denied Jesus at night near a charcoal fire. IN John 21, to emphasize the parallel, Jesus will three times ask Peter, “Do you love me,” in the morning near a charcoal fire. Each time Peter will say that he loves the Savior. But we also can imagine the horrible emotion that Peter must have felt as Peter knows that his actions did not match his claims.
But each time Peter said he loved Jesus, the Savior responded with a call on Peter’s life. Peter was called to be a shepherd, a pastor. Peter was called to care for Christ’s sheep. Like the other disciples, Peter was to give his life in the service of the people of God and of the spread of the gospel.
Were that the end of the story, it would be great. Peter is restored. Jesus gives Peter a job. I’m sure that Peter knew how inadequate he personally was for the task. But Jesus tells Peter how it will all end.
John 21:18-19 – 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”
Jesus lets Peter know that, someday in the future, when Peter is old, Peter will be carried off to an execution. The language Jesus uses seems to refer to crucifixion. Just as Jesus had his arms stretched out on a cross in his sacrificial death, so Peter will follow his Lord’s example. No, Peter would not die for the sins of others. But Peter, like Jesus, would glorify God in his death.
How interesting it is that John uses the words he uses. Jesus told Peter by what kind of death he would “glorify God.” Peter, in choosing to preach to the end, by choosing to preach under the reign of a tyrant like Nero, by choosing to preach when it was illegal and unpopular, would glorify God by laying down his life. Peter’s death glorified the Lord.
What we want to learn from Peter and from John’s words here is that our lives, even up to and including our deaths, are to glorify the Lord. Like Peter we have fears and weaknesses. Like Peter, we will fail from time to time. Like Peter, we will need our savior to restore us and remind us of our task. But in the end, if we truly love Jesus, we will care for his church. If we love Jesus, we will worship him with the people of God, and that will be a tremendously high priority for us. And like Peter, we will be willing to honor God in all we do.
And, if we follow the Lord faithfully, we will also have the opportunity to glorify God in our death. Perhaps, like Peter, we will die a martyr’s death for our Lord. If so, praise be to God. But it is also quite possible that we will die of old age or disease as do so many. How we approach that death, how we witness to others, how we display our hope, these are all ways that we can glorify God in our deaths too. Friends, may we understand that all things in our lives have the possibility to glorify the Savior. So, even if we have failed him time and time again, even if we have gone so far as to deny him like Peter did, let us repent. Let us return. Let us seek the grace of God in Christ. Let us glorify God in our lives. Let us love the church. And let us look forward to glorifying our God, even in how we die.