Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered, “Where I go, you cannot follow Me now; but you will follow later.” Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for You.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly, I say to you, a rooster will not crow until you deny Me three times. (John 13:36-38)
When Jesus tells him he was going somewhere and that he could not go with him, Peter is thrown for a loop. He’s not on track with this at all. He’s been Jesus’ shadow for three years! Peter protests, “Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for You.”
Jesus’ response: Really?
In the years following his denial, Peter must have looked back and said, “I sincerely believed I was the type of man who would lay his life down for Jesus. Wow, was that ever an essential lesson for me. Following a risen but unseen Savior—walking by the Spirit—is another thing altogether.” And he no doubt mused: “Had the Spirit not taken up residence in me, if Christ were not in me, I would still be thinking absurd thoughts about myself and believing everything is supposed to happen right now.”
The Father disciplines each child he receives. Peter’s lesson is essential for us as well. None of us are the people we believe ourselves to be, at least initially. We are all driven by our false selves. (“I am this or that sort of person.”) And Jesus says: “Really?” We each grow up, figuring out a way to make life work with the least pain. We all learn to protect, at all costs, our fragile spirits born into a dog eat dog world. When we’re children, our spirits protect themselves as instinctively as a falling cat landing upon its feet. As teens and young adults, the soul’s habits of survival became more deliberate. As grown ups (what a misnomer), our personalities have become conditioned to see themselves in a particular way. Ergo, falsity is embedded in our identities.
This is a problem when the self-made person (and we all are) is nothing like the person God created it to be. When we erect walls around our hearts to protect ourselves, we construct barricades between ourselves and love, which was (and is) to be our chief vocation: “Love one another as I have loved you.”
These instinctive and deliberate acts of self-protection also create a barricade between reality and us. Our walls wreck our capacity to see and hear things without distortion. We all have specific blind-spots. We would be fated as the last to know if it were not for God’s discipline. However, since God is making all things new, we do not have to remain in the dark. That which has been lost or stolen in the way of our personhood can be restored. That is what Paul is getting at when he says:
We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. (II Corinthians 3:18)
For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:29)
We foreknown ones are invited to share the sufferings of Christ (in minuscule ways) through various trials and tests so that we might experience the full kingdom gospel—the gospel that not only saves souls from hell, but also transforms them along the way. When we pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we are inviting God to transform us into the image of his Son and to teach us to live as Jesus did. Jesus was not just our Savior. He is our Life! The Spirit’s mission is to see that the children ultimately resemble their Father.
If we are to press on as disciples, we can anticipate God exposing our false selves. The old things have passed away, behold new things have come! Like Peter, we will discover that we were not who we thought we were. If we will persevere, we will discover that we are in fact something far different, far greater. In Christ we will eventually find that our old false selves were but a sad parody of the self that God is making anew. And, we will learn with Peter that things don’t often happen right now. God is big on process. It is in the ebb and the flow, in the living and the dying of everyday life, that we come to truly know Jesus as our all in all.
A contemporary of Jesus’, a man who became known as Pliny the Elder, is credited for saying, “Home is where the heart is.” Not too shabby for a pagan, but Jesus is credited for saying:
“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.” (John 14:1-14)
Our home is where Christ is, and he is in us. Our hearts are Christ’s home. In truth, we are inseparably intertwined in him. Together, we foreknown ones comprise Christ’s Body on earth. We individually and collectively have become, in our new and better covenant in Christ, what the Temple was in the Old Covenant—the dwelling place of God. It was expedient that Jesus ascend to our Father so that we could become the temples of the Holy Spirit—a community of souls destined to become expressions of resurrection life, the light of the world, revealing the Way.
Blessed King, my heart extolls your beauty and your wisdom. That I am your son is my chief delight. May my vision be forever restored that I might behold you with even greater clarity. In the midst of whatever unfolds, may you continually be the chief treasure of my heart. I love you Father, Thank you so so much.