Before the Passover meal, Jesus came to know that it was time for Him to leave this world and go and be with His Father.
Having loved His own who were in this world, He loved them to the very end. Simon Peter asked Him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward.” Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” (Jn 12:36-37).
There is that question which troubles most of us – why is that our desires and our please to God are not answered or fulfilled at the exact time we want them to be fulfilled. This was the question that Peter had as well. Why was his desire to be where Jesus was going – not fulfilled? Jesus implied, ‘now you cannot do it, but later you will do it’. Peter was not able to accept it because he had expressed his desire of surrendering his life and following Jesus.
Probably Peter would have thought – “How can I love Jesus more than this? How can I grow more than this?”. When Peter took a trip down the memory lane – three years ago, as he was catching fish, he was called to follow Jesus and immediately Peter left everything and followed Jesus. But now it seemed like Jesus was unable to notice any growth in him. Peter was unable to understand this and was deeply pained by it.
Later, as we reach the 18th chapter of the gospel of John, we find that this disciple had understood a lot about life and discipleship. The same person who had told very strongly that he would give his life for Jesus and would never leave Him, had gone back on his promise. Under different circumstances, Peter had declared that he did not know Jesus; the one who had strongly claimed that he would never leave Jesus, had now fallen.
Peter kept all the moments of this fall in his mind, but the strongest was his great rise of emotions. When Jesus looked at Peter, that one look spoke many words. Peter wept bitterly – he thought about the promises he had made to Jesus and his denial. “Now it is not possible for you to follow me, but later you will follow me.
Peter learnt a very important spiritual truth and that was this, “The Lord knows me better that I know myself, he knows my thoughts from afar and His plans for me are very good.” Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you” (1 Pt. 5:6-7).
”We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28)
After all these incidents, Peter could not hide within himself. “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit because apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5).
Recognising his weakness, Peter called out to Jesus and Jesus showered His Holy Spirit upon His dear disciple and strengthened him. Thus, later on, the words of Jesus were truly fulfilled in the life of His disciple “Now it is not possible, but later it will become possible”. The Gospel of Jesus was proclaimed with great power by Peter and the Spirit of the Lord enabled Peter to die on the cross as Jesus died, with his head bowed down.
In the initial stages of our spiritual journey, Jesus attracts disciples through blessings, healing and miracles. But in the next stage, Jesus makes us realise that for growing as a disciple, it is necessary for us to go through sanctification, denying worldly pleasures and joys, overcoming human weakness and the desires of the flesh. These are the important spiritual truths that a person learns.
The Lord may allow a disciple to go through certain experiences in life. When we feel that everything is lost and there is nothing we can be proud of in those moments, Jesus performs a miracle and lifts us up.
While we face trials in our life, things may seem meaningless. During these seasons of emptiness, the words of Job are praiseworthy. He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord “ (Job 1:21).
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you” (Is 43:1-2).
Lord Jesus, You who turn all things for good to those who love You and are called according to Your purpose, You permit trials and indescribable emptiness in our lives. We ask you to give us the spiritual wisdom to understand that these desert experiences are steps to spiritual growth.
By Fr. Biju Koonan
Fr Biju Koonan is one of Christ & Co.’s Spiritual Advisers. He has held a host of roles such as Assistant Director, Divine Retreat Centre, Muringoor, Assistant Director, Tabor Divine Retreat Centre, Kalyan, Mumbai and Director, Ave Maria Divine Retreat Centre, Kohima, Nagaland. He is the current Director of Potta Retreat Centre, Kerala. Listen to his anointed preaching here: https://bit.ly/3fMUm03