Considered by Biblical scholars as one of the most zealous people in the Bible, Peter loved Jesus fervently. He’s the one who declared things to Jesus like, “I will never deny you!”, “I’ll die for you, Jesus!”, and—my personal favorite—after Jesus foretold His own death, “Heaven forbid Lord, this shall NEVER happen to you!”
As passionate, on-purpose, and powerful as those statements seem, Jesus regularly corrected, rebuked, and even likened Peter to Satan (Matthew 16:23). Imagine: Peter probably thought he was publicly pledging his allegiance…but as far as Jesus was concerned, it was Satan talking!
While Peter’s zeal is admirable, his approach to Jesus is in sharp contrast to another disciple: John.
Peter vs. John
John is often referred to as “The disciple whom Jesus loved.” And interestingly enough, this moniker is only applied in one of the Gospels. (You guessed it—John!)
Some time ago, I asked the Lord, “How could John be so arrogant to call himself the ONE whom Jesus loved?”
The Lord showed me that John referred to himself that way, not from a place of arrogance or pride, but rather incredible humility.
It must have been easy for the disciples to feel as if their love for Jesus would be the platform for their lives, callings and ministries. Yet time and again, Jesus rebuked that mentality.
Why? Because God doesn’t want us to base our faith, life or relationship with Jesus on our love for Him, but rather on His love for us.
Following His Heartbeat
Often we’re taught, “You’ve gotta love God! The reason you’re not seeing results in your life is because you don’t love God enough!” But that’s a Peter-like mindset. He focused on how much he loved God, not the other way around.
The setting of the Last Supper demonstrated the difference between how Peter and John interacted with Jesus. We read how Jesus said a disciple would betray Him. While Peter responded zealously, it was John, enamored with how much Jesus loved him, who was truly close to Jesus. In fact, some translations suggest John’s head was laying on Jesus’ chest at that moment…hearing Jesus’ heart, every beat proclaiming, “John, I love you!”; “John, you are anointed!”; “John, I’ve chosen you!”
The Swinging Pendulum
We all have an internal pendulum that swings between Peter and John. One side boasts how much WE love Jesus, the other identifying with how much JESUS loves us.
While Peter’s zeal was the gas in his world-changing tank, John’s revelation enabled him to be by Jesus in His final moments. When Peter was nowhere to be seen, John was the one whom Jesus called on to take care of His mother. John was the one who trusted in how much Jesus loved him, not the other way around.
The Bible says in 1 John 4:19, “We love Him because He first loved us.” Romans 5 states, “We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that He has already thrown open His door to us” (The Message).
Although we should all endeavor to model Peter’s zeal, the foundation for our relationship with Jesus should be rooted—first and foremost—in His love for us.
Donnie Petty is the pastor of The Bridge, the young adult arm of Eagle Mountain International Church, and husband to best-selling recording artist Dara Maclean Petty.