Have you ever looked around and measured your life against others? Wondered why some people, some whole families seem to pass through this world unscathed? I have. I wonder about it. Even when I wouldn't change my life for anyone else's, wouldn't want anyone else's husband, children, body, or life experiences, I still wonder. It's human to do so, clear back through the New Testament to Genesis to do so. That wondering, though, at least some of the time, shifts into envy then spitting mad, I'm going to do something about this jealousy until someone's cast out into the cold, or ends up dead. Ask Esau, ask Abel.
Siblings have always been competitive. Our older two could compete about every thing from who got to the car first to who could throw a rock over the house to about a billion things a day. And actual sports...don't get me started. I think my recurrent phrase when they were children was, "It doesn't matter who's first." Probably not surprisingly, our youngest child doesn't have a single competitive gene in her (the day E and J were throwing rocks over the house, SK, knowing she couldn't, tried to throw one front to back over our van, and merely managed to shatter the rear window!). She's just a little peace-maker at heart (she gets that from me, but don't tell anyone I told you).
However, competing, comparing, evaluating, judging isn't limited to siblings, obviously. And that comparing, or questioning about others is as old as creation as well. I want to stop a moment at a seminal moment--the last intimate moment of Jesus with Peter and John in the gospels. It's just after the big fish fry Jesus hosted on the beach after the disciples, not quite certain about their future, had returned to their boats. Jesus had played host to other meals--when He fed the multitudes on the hillside, the Last Supper before His death. But this was different. This time the risen Christ actually made the fire for the fish. Fish that He alone knew where to find. I love this. I'm married to a man who has a cell-deep hosting gene. This moment on the beach reminds me, reminds ALL the Marthas of the world, I think, that even this work is His work, not only blessed, but actually done by Him.
But though that alone is something to linger on, I have the post-breakfast moment in mind this morning. It's a story often told. And I have to admit, I've thought about it a great deal over the course of my life. Yes, the fact that there's a triad here represents the three denials--commentaries point this out. But I'm more concerned with what is going on between them in this moment.
He asks Peter three times, "Do you love me? More than these? Do you love me? Do you really love me?" And as Peter, in affirming his belief (no small thing) that Jesus already knows he loves Jesus, grows increasingly frustrated and 'hurt', according to the text, Jesus says, "Then feed my sheep. Take care of my sheep. Feed my sheep."
Then there is this, this unbelievable statement of Peter's coming pain, coming death (as John immediately clarifies). This is where Jesus was getting to all along. Yes, I know you love me, and I want to make sure YOU know, so I can give you this glimpse into your life. "Very truly I tell you when you were younger, you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands and somone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go."
Peter is clearly aghast at these words. And...
that old competitive gene kicks in. "What about him?" he asks Jesus, looking at John. "Tell me what he's going to suffer?"
And Jesus says, "What is that to you? YOU follow me. You don't get to know about his life."
Peter was fortunate he got this glimpse into his own, to tell the truth. Most of us don't get that.
But the lesson is still the same. We only get to know about our own lives. And we only get to live them. No matter what Jesus asks of us in our own lives, no matter how hard it seems, our call is to follow Him. Not looking to the right or to the left. It doesn't matter what lives others have, what they get or don't get.
"You must follow me."
That's what is comes down to. There is no competition in the Kingdom. Our only goal is to..." run the race set before us, casting our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith who, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scorning its shame and now has seated at the right hand of the throne of God."