In John 21, Jesus appears to the disciples after they had returned to their old lives and professions. Peter and the gang had been out fishing all night and they caught nothing. These experienced fishermen came back at dawn empty-handed—how demoralizing! They had left this life of fishing to go follow Jesus, who had just been crucified, and when they tried to return to their previous profession they had nothing to show for it.
Then Jesus tells them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. When they do, they haul in over 150 fish! That’s impressive! Jesus cooks breakfast for them on the beach and they share a meal together. This is where we find that famous passage where Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him and tells Peter to feed His lambs.
“He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 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.”
Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” John 21:17-21 (ESV)
Peter Takes His Eye Off the Prize
Peter just had this incredible moment with Jesus. The Lord physically came to him and gave him the mandate to care for those who Jesus cares about. Jesus prophesies about Peter’s life and then, once again, instructs Peter to follow him.
You would think that would be the end of the story, but, of course, it isn’t. This conversation between Peter and Jesus didn’t happen at a table for two, but with a group of disciples sitting around the campfire. So, Peter, in perfect human fashion, takes his eyes off of Jesus and focuses on someone else: John.
Instead of being overcome and in awe by Jesus, his appearance, his words, and his prophecy, Peter starts to play the comparison game. Maybe it was sheer curiosity or pure competition, but either way, Peter was more focused on what was going on around him than on the words of Jesus.
Jesus is Our Prize
When I read that, I feel so convicted because I do the same thing. I will have a moment with the Lord and, more often than not, I’ll start to wonder about other people. God, what are you saying to them? I will compare the word God has given me to what God is doing in their lives. I allow comparison to overtake me, instead of staying focused on Jesus.
The Bible tells us that Jesus is our prize. He is the one that we are running after and the one that we are called to focus on, yet, just like Peter, we often take our eyes off the prize. With so much going on in the world, it’s tempting to get distracted, but my hope is that we can learn from Peter’s mistakes. My prayer is that we can remain unswervingly focused on Christ, giving him our attention and affection when distraction is easier. And, thankfully, Jesus is there when we do drop our gaze. He meets our eyes again with love and affection, drawing us closer to him. If you’ve been distracted by competition or comparison, that’s okay; let’s lift our eyes up again and put our eyes back on the prize of Jesus today!