John 13: 37 Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”
Growing up in one of the hotbeds of ice hockey in southern Ontario, Canada, I have been a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs all my life. If you follow NHL hockey, you will know that makes me almost as loyal as a Cubs fan since we have not won a Cup since 1967 (months before I was even born). Other than a run in the early 90’s, I have had little to cheer for, but in 2015 that all changed. I got very excited, but surprisingly it had little to do with their performance, but rather because they hired a new coach – Mike Babcock. Babcock is arguably one of the greatest hockey coaches in the world, having helped create a hockey dynasty in Detroit where the Red Wings (once called the “Dead Wings”), became a perennial playoff team.
What I appreciate about Babcock is his patience with player development. He will keep young players in the minor leagues more than most coaches because he understands the value of not thrusting kids into situations they are not ready for. If you talked to the players, you would find it difficult to find one who agreed with the coach, because they all think they are ready. But the coach has a different view, a different perspective of wisdom.
Peter’s question in today’s scripture, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” seems similar to the type of question a hungry athlete would be asking his coach. Peter was a warrior, the type of person that any coach would love to have on their team, but he was also potentially the most dangerous. You don’t have to go much further to understand this than the night in the Garden of Gethsamane where the priests and soldiers came to arrest Jesus. Peter had no fear and quickly drew his sword and even cut off the ear of one of the priests (John 18:10). He was true to his word, when he said: “I will lay down my life for you”.
God, however, has a different definition of what it means to “lay down your life”. Offering up your physical life once takes great bravery, but it is a much different thing to offer up your life every day, and to die to the natural man who lives inside you. This takes real bravery and it takes the radical surgery of the Holy Spirit having His way inside of you. Jesus knew that Peter was not yet ready to be a trusted leader and he knew that Peter had to first completely die to himself and his own self-sufficiency before he could be entrusted with God’s sheep. Peter’s renouncing of Jesus three times, and his subsequent regret in tears (Luke 22: 62) was the deep pit Peter had to first fall into before he could be useful to God. God had no need for Peter’s bravery, he had need for his complete submission.
John 21:15-19 is the beautiful of story of Jesus three times confirming Peter’s true love for Him, and then Jesus ordaining Peter as a Shepherd of His flock. Peter was now ready to graduate from Warrior to Shepherd, and only God had known when that time would be. How about you? Are you trying to rush to a place that you feel you are ready for? Consider for a moment that God may know you are not yet ready.