Peter was pretty discouraged. He had denied that he knew Jesus during his arrest. He then went back to his hometown and spent all night fishing but caught nothing. Then Jesus shows up and adds insult to injury.
Three times Jesus asked, “Simon, do you love me?” Peter was grieved and said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 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.” (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.” (John 21:17–19, ESV)
When Peter first chose to follow Jesus he left his fishing boat and fishing nets. In other words he left everything that was sustaining his livelihood. That’s pretty impressive. What an act of selflessness submission! But Peter was following Jesus with a very specific idea of what the future would include: the overthrow of an oppressive Roman regime and the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth. Peter could envision himself as a significant envoy (albeit a humble one) in this new empire.
When Jesus tells Peter after in the passage above, “Follow Me,” it is very different from the first time Jesus told Peter this. Peter now understands that the road to the Kingdom includes a cross. This isn’t what Peter had planned on, but it had been part of God’s plan all along.
It seems like submission when we’ve submitted our plans and even our livelihood to God, but it’s not. Like Peter we can be following our own idea of who we think God is, but not really aware of what His plans are. He’s not leading us as much as we’re trying to lead Him.
Like Peter, it’s easy to follow Jesus when He’s just “loaded your boat with fish.” But what about when the boat is empty and the frustration is high? It’s in this moment that Jesus tests our submission by asking,
“Will you still follow Me?”
Peter’s biggest lesson from following Jesus for three years was found when Jesus asks him three times, “Do you love Me?” Peter wasn’t hurt because Jesus asked him three different times, but because it took him three times to realize what Jesus was saying. Jesus is really saying to Peter, “Will you follow me for real this time? No matter where I take you? Will you really submit to me?”
God’s Plan All Along
We are not called to follow a certain plan, but a Person who has a plan. Life has different seasons, peaks, and valleys. Nobody plans to fail, but without deciding to submit to God’s will ultimately we are planning to fail.
We need to let go of our plans, and find ourselves in submission to God’s plans. Then we need discernment and wisdom to prepare and recognize what season we are in. It might be different that what we thought it was going to be, but we’ll find out it was what God had planned all along.