Following Jesus: Part Three – Beyond the Cross

Following Jesus: Part Three – Beyond the Cross

Splashes of a Jubilant Disciple

For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd

and Guardian of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25).

Simon Peter’s remarkable three years of first-hand discipling from Jesus involved a sword-swinging misadventure, three recent vehement denials, a view of the crucifixion from a safe distance and a lost foot race with John to look inside the empty tomb.  All this culminated in his exasperated resignation:  “I am going fishing” (John 21:3).

He had had enough and returned to his fishing boat roots.  A thoroughly disillusioned, dejected and disappointed Peter was in no mood to recall what he had heard and watched unfolding during his rocky education with Jesus.  Now, only cooling embers remained from his heart’s desire to follow Jesus, a once raging inferno, embers that only Christ could fan into a fire again.  Upon hearing John’s observation, “It is the Lord” identifying the unrecognized voice coming from the shoreline, the fire was relit.

A jubilant Peter “threw himself into the sea” (John 21:7) perhaps, with a splash reminiscent of the echoing thud of a rock hitting the water just before it begins to sink.  True to form, some things never change.  But this time, Peter wasn’t trying to walk on its surface—his eyes were now firmly fixed on Jesus, maximizing the quantity of his rejuvenated faith.  Imagine Peter’s splashing, half-swimming, half-wading efforts to reach land, some 100 yards away!  At least, Simon Peter won this race rematch with John to see Jesus. 

After helping pull in this miraculous haul once the boat arrived, Peter was eager to share a barbeque breakfast with his risen Lord and Savior… a most experienced Fisherman who had, three years earlier, ignited the fire in Peter’s soul on another shoreline (see Part One).     

Jesus was at it again, directing the empty-handed fishermentoward the catch of a lifetime, totaling 153 large fish.  The catch might have reminded Simon Peter of the early times of his discipleship, learning to trust the Master.  For example, the valuable teaching moment when, Peter came up empty after an entire night of hard work, Jesus told him where to find all the fish.  Amazingly, Peter listened and did just as Jesus instructed, resulting in a catch so large it was breaking their nets.

This time, the nets remained unbroken as did the relationship between Jesus and his eleven remaining disciples.  Peter’s heart did need a little mending to prepare him for what lay beyond the Cross.  With its imposing symbolic reminder still fresh in their minds, Peter would become the leader of this rag-tag band of disciples turned apostles, personally trained by Jesus and now ready to accept the baton hand-off from Him to run the next leg of God’s relay marathon:  taking the Gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and “even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).  This ongoing race continues until Jesus returns—when redemption draws near again for the second and final time.

A Crossroads Decision

“For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

We’ve seen a glimpse of the stories of just a few of those who met Jesus along His focused journey to the Cross, while hanging on it and appearing to His disciples beyond it, as their risen Lord and Savior.  Only then did all the puzzle pieces begin fitting together.  But we have no room to boast, as 20/20 hindsight, Bible in hand and Holy Spirit in heart makes this Easter 2020 clearer to see who and what Andrew and other disciples were seeking so passionately.  Of those we’ve seen from a 2,000 year-old distance throughout this three-part series, we know that God’s all-sufficient grace was extended to the repentant criminal crucified beside Christ.  Yet otherwise, Scripture doesn’t tell us much about the others, beyond the Cross.  The New Testament does reveal the impact made in the lives of Peter, John and other apostles, but not what became of the rich young ruler, Zaccheus or Simon of Cyrene.

However, there is some evidence that Simon of Cyrene may have accepted Christ as Savior.  If true, then he would have personified Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”  Rest for both body and soul.  How could Simon not have been deeply affected by his unique, involuntary, encounter with Jesus?  Unlike the anonymous rich young ruler, Simon was positively identified.  Why?  Possibly to show us a family connection with his son Rufus (Mark 15:21, Romans 16:13).  If indeed his son was the same Rufus, as some Bible scholars believe, then the lasting imprint upon Simon helped to influence the very next generation for Christ.  And so, the perpetual motion of Christianity sprinted full speed ahead.  Quickly, many more were added to the growing young church, including Paul, who wrote the following passage that reflected a change from his own Pharisaic past and the change desperately needed by the rich young ruler:

“’I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.  I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly’” (Galatians 2:20-21).

The Ascension Challenge

“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky?” (Acts 1:11a).

By now, Peter had received his new marching orders, “Tend My lambs… Shepherd My sheep…Tend My sheep… Follow Me! and… You follow Me!” (John 21:15-22).  Peter still had a bad habit of questioning God’s plan at times, necessitating the second “You Follow Me!” emphatic command.  But it would all work out eventually since Peter truly did love Jesus.  Therein lies the heart of the matter for following Jesus—love for Him.  Christ will come again and until that time arrives, we have work to do just as those awe-struck apostles had theirs.

Even if Easter remains just a day circled on the 2020 calendar, let your joy in Christ remain intact.  For He is coming back.  Remember, the Lord did not leave us as orphans (John 14:18).  Following Christ beyond the Cross should describe every one of us who has placed their trust in Christ.  Regardless of when you’ve met the Lamb of God, will you accept the challenge of growing as His disciple and running your part of God’s marathon with courage and His strength?  We continue to see that this life is fleeting—even for those whose treasures are stored in heaven. 

“Therefore you, too, now have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one takes your joy away from you” (John 16:22).

  Alan Summers, GBC Elder

Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB)