The Cross or the Battlefield? - John 13:36-38

As we have already discussed in this blog, Jesus’ actions and teaching in John 13 were focused on the idea of sacrificial love and service. John 13:36-38 makes me wonder if Peter was really listening. Just prior to issuing his “new commandment” of loving one another, Jesus had said “Where I am going you cannot come.” Apparently, Peter latched onto this statement and ignored or forgot the rest of what Jesus was saying, because as soon as Jesus finishes talking about love, Peter chimes in and immediately goes back to Jesus’ previous statement, “Lord, where are you going?” I don’t point this out judgmentally. For men who had spent three years following in Jesus’ footsteps, to hear that their rabbi was leaving would have been understandably concerning.

What follows next, however, shows that Peter really has missed the point of Jesus’ teaching in the upper room. Peter is adamant that he plans to follow Jesus just as he has been, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” To those of us who know what happens next in Peter’s story (denial of even knowing Jesus), those words might seem disingenuous. But I think Peter really meant it. He was willing to die for Jesus, but only a certain kind of death.

Despite all of Jesus’ teaching on sacrificial love, Peter still had his mind on overthrowing Roman oppression. He was still determined to fight. This was proved true when Jesus was arrested in John 18. Peter, ready for battle, pulled out a sword and began slashing. A death in battle was the kind of death Peter was ready to die. If this was happening in modern day, I’m sure Peter would have been imagining himself in scenes from Braveheart or Lord of the Rings, nobly dying for the sake of freedom.  

But what about dying the kind of death Jesus died? Not as a revolutionary, but in obscurity and humiliation as a common criminal? Nope. That wasn’t at all what Peter had in mind. And Jesus knew it. “Jesus answered, ‘Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times’” (John 13:38). And, as we know, that’s exactly what happened. It wasn’t until after his resurrection, that Jesus’ mission finally made sense to the disciples. Only then did it click. Jesus had said to Peter, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” This turned out to be true as well. Once it finally sunk it, each one of Jesus disciples (save John) willingly died a martyr’s death for the true cause of Christ: devotion to him alone and love for the unlovely.

What kind of life do you have in mind as a follower of Jesus? Does it look more like a holy war or more like a crucifixion? In Luke 9, Jesus said, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever would save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” In Jesus life and death, he has left the template of life for Christ followers: and it’s all about sacrificial love. As we celebrated on Easter, living this way is possible because of the resurrection. We can freely give of this life because we know that resurrection life is what awaits us. This is exactly what changed for Peter and the other disciples. When they saw the promise of eternal life standing in front of them (, their perspective on their current lives shifted. No longer were their lives something to be fought for, but rather to be laid down for the sake of the lost.

Jesus, by the power of your Spirit, help us to understand just how deep your love is for those who are far from you. May we count our lives as nothing for the sake of loving the lost, broken, and wicked. Lord, it is only by your power that this can be so. Pour out your Spirit upon us, that we might follow in the footsteps of the Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep.

Missions Spotlight:
Shannon Campbell Osinski (DiscipleMakers)

PRAY FOR OUR “Bible Reading Challenge". In early November our team challenged students to read the whole New Testament over break. Almost 40 students signed up for the challenge! In addition to that, we had three Zoom group discussions about the Gospels, the Epistles, and the book of Revelation.

Then, most recently, we invited students to join us in an in-depth study of Romans 12. It was a helpful way to build community while being physically apart, and we enjoyed studying with students what a life transformed by the gospel should look like. Each morning we hosted the study was such an encouragement to all!

DeSales Christian Fellowship Kick-Off
James and I also got a chance to "meet" with some DeSales students recently for a time of fellowship and Bible Study. God gave us a sweet time of laughing & learning together as we caught up with one another and studied what a biblical, missional community looks like from the end of Acts 2. We have started regular large group meetings with them on Monday nights, and we'll be working with our co-workers to help these students lead men's & women's Bible Studies through the book of Romans.

Praises & Prayer Requests
  • Praise God for a good campus transition/move to Allentown for myself. The long-distance move to work on new college campuses could not have gone more smoothly. God is so gracious!
  • Praise God for bringing students back safely to campus, so that they can continue to grow together in the Lord.
  • Pray for the students at DeSales University and Kutztown University, that many would repent of their sin & turn to Jesus this semester.

I would love to know specifically how I can be praying for you. Please reply to this email with any prayer requests you may have!

Click here for more info on Shannon's ministry.
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