Week of Dec. 22

The Gift of Giving Oneself

Read: John 19-21

(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 21:19, ESV


‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house. . .” And, so begins the familiar Christmas poem. All inside were waiting anxiously for the next morning where they would receive gifts. We live in an age of unadulterated me-ism and consumerism, so calling attention to two powerful words, “Follow me,” may seem strangely out of place today (21:19b). The Apostle John’s parenthetical statement provides us with a moment to reflect upon the true reason in the season called “life.”

A Biblical Lens

John’s gospel is drawing to a close and, wow, there has been a grand conclusion! Jesus has been raised from the dead and made resurrection appearances to the faithful. One commentator places an appropriate title above our focal passage: “The Reinstatement of Peter Following His Denial” (NAC). Isn’t this the case with all of us in our Christian lives? We seek to serve the Lord like Peter, with all of our strength, only to realize how frail we are in achieving our bold claims to faithfulness (cf. John 13:37, “I will lay down my life for you”).

Three times Jesus asks Peter if he loved him, then instructs the disciple to feed his sheep. I know that Bible commentators have long drawn a parallel with Peter’s previous three denials. Why, of course! A charcoal fire, and three questions hits too close to home and we are meant to recall his previous dismal failure. He certainly did! (18:15-27). I imagine that you are like me, and you can recall a time when you let the Savior down. Those memories tend to linger, don’t they? Gerald Borchert captures the scene perfectly when he writes that Peter was grief struck the third time Jesus asked, “Do you love me?” It was this last question that spelled the undoing of Peter’s “self-assertiveness” (See Isaiah 6:5, “I am undone”; NAC). Jesus knew “who” stood before him, but Peter needed to know before whom he stood? We do as well! Let me explain.

John frames the meaning in the moment and our translations capture it by use of parentheses. John writes, “This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God” (21:19a). Peter, before the empty tomb, could lead like the world leads (13:8, “You shall never wash my feet”; Matthew 20:25-26). Following Christ’s resurrection, Jesus essentially tells him that from now on I will wash the world’s feet through your life! The Lord had, finally, a man who had come to the end of himself; a place where there was only one thing left to offer the Savior. So, Peter gave the only gift that he had left to give, which was what Jesus required all along—his life! Our lives are the only gift that is worthy of what we celebrate in this season of the year.

A Moral Crossroad

I penned this devotional the day after receiving the grim news that there had been a mass shooting at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida. It was heart wrenching to listen to the Escambia County Sheriff address the media. He recognized the heroic efforts of two Sheriff’s deputies who had risked their lives to save those who were in grave danger. I sat in silence and recalled how a few short years ago another deputy, at a Florida school shooting, had failed to render aid at a critical moment. Life is sacred, and peace officers are to preserve the peace at all costs; even if it means sacrificing their lives. Duty and sacrifice are never to be taken lightly in that profession, so I wondered what shape his life had taken since that time. What has he written in the parentheses between a past great failure and this present day? Hmm. Let’s apply the thought to this particular day, Christmas Eve.

For Your Heart

Most of my readers will know that I carry on a Christmas tradition that my family observed from my earliest memory. I could refer to the custom of lighting candles, reading the Christmas story from Luke, chapter 2, and singing “Silent Night,” but this is not the family ritual about which I am thinking. I am referring to the “parenthesis moment” where my father caused us to pause on Christmas mornings between our waking up and when we entered the living room to open presents. It was there that he showed us how he sought to glorify Jesus in all of his actions. He bowed his head and prayed a prayer of thanksgiving for God’s great goodness to us by sending His Son, our Savior. We do the same in our home to this day, but I always ponder the previous year’s successes and failures and, in that moment, offer them as a gift of worship to glorify the Lord. Real life, my friends, with all of its ups and downs, is lived within the parentheses. What we write in that space is our gift to the Savior! Follow Him.

For Your Journaling

1. We will answer one journal question today; and, it is a “whopper!” What will be the gift that you pencil inside the parentheses to give back to the Savior?

May all your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock