John, all throughout his Gospel, has said it many times and in many ways. To follow Jesus, to stick with Jesus or to “abide in him” means to continue in a daily, personal relationship with Jesus, characterized by trust, prayer, obedience, and joy. It also means whatever Jesus says, that is the final and most important word to us. Jesus has the final say in our lives. The idea is of being truly at home, settled, fixed into, at peace, at rest in Jesus. Jesus is saying - make your home in me. Plant your life in the midst of mine. Cling to me.
Using some pointers from John 21 we can see what that practically looks like.
Followers of Jesus take sin seriously. “Peter, Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me?”
We allow Jesus to face our sin, shame, and utter failure head on. Jesus doesn’t beat around the bush with Peter. He goes right to the heart of the issue. Jesus and Peter have unresolved business. And yet as Jesus exposes Peter’s wounds - his sin and his shame, he doesn’t rub his face in it, but he also doesn’t ignore it. He deals with each specific sin and applies his healing and forgiveness. This means that we are going to face our sin head on, not ignoring it, not shifting blame to others, but confessing it. Sins big and small. We are going to take sin very seriously and we are going to take Jesus’ forgiveness and healing through the cross very seriously.
Followers of Jesus love and care for others. “Peter, feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep.”
Followers of Jesus love greatly because they have been loved greatly. There really is no distinction in the different words that Jesus is using for sheep. But having started with directing Peter toward the lambs… I wonder if Jesus is saying Peter, have abundant grace upon and love for especially the weakest among my people as I have had abundant grace upon you in your weakness and failure. As Jesus himself said...
Followers of Jesus are surrendered. “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (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.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “When Christ calls a man he bids him come and die.” If I follow Jesus’ will, I have to give up. Will I have to pray, read my bible, give up sex, quit my job? Here we are negotiating the cost rather than counting it. Usually we are willing to give up things, but we aren’t willing to give up the right to decide what those things are. Like Peter and the other disciples, we may not have all the problems solved—the problems of following Jesus and saying yes to his teaching and his Lordship and his saving work. He may confuse us at times, and baffle us with things he says, and provoke us, and offend us.
- Followers of Jesus practice costly grace
Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: "ye were bought at a price," and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.
John’s story is how the True Bread came down from heaven to give life to the world. It’s the story of the giver of living water, that if we drink we will never thirst again. It is the story of the Light of the World, through whom we will have the light of life. It is the story of the Door by whom we enter for true rest and safety. It is the story of the Good Shepherd, who comes to save his lost and abused sheep by giving his life. It is the story of the Resurrection and the Life, through whom we receive resurrection life. It is the story of the Way, the Truth, and the Life, by whom we come to the Father, and finally it is the story of the True Vine- if we abide in him we will bear fruit. It’s God’s story and it’s an invitation to be our story also. It’s our personal invitation to follow Jesus and have LIFE in his name.
Vaya Con Dios