My wife and I talk about the future regularly. Sometimes, the focus is our kids; sometimes, it’s our finances; sometimes, it’s our careers. But, most every conversation like this starts with the same kind of question:
“What do you think our lives will be like in 5 years?”
And so, we start to project out how old the kids will be then, what changes might have happened in the world, where our friends might be—that sort of thing. Of course, there is no real answer to that question because we are, at the very best, just making educated guesses based on a current reality. Things can change, and they can change permanently, in the blink of an eye. But, still we wonder. Maybe you do, too.
And now, I’m wondering what if I wasn’t asking that question to my wife. What if I was asking that question straight to Jesus?
Sure, it’s just another form of the question all of us have had—the one that says, “What is God’s will for my life?” But, still I wonder—how would Jesus answer my questions about the future?
The short answer? I don’t think He would. Consider the events we see unfolding in John 21.
Peter was convinced of his own conviction, so sure of his absolute allegiance to Jesus. Even when Jesus, at dinner, told Peter that he would deny Him three times, Peter didn’t believe it. Not really, at least.
But, then came the fire. The crowds. The accusations. And, Peter couldn’t explain how quickly and embarrassingly he had lost his nerve. Three times asked—three times denied. Then, the terrible rooster that woke him up, bringing him to his senses and making him realize just what he had done.
But, three days had gone by, and Jesus was back. Peter felt a twinge of guilt every time he thought about his friend. He knew he should be nothing but happy, but he couldn’t help being torn in another direction. The more he thought about it, he realized how stupid he had been to think he could ever truly amount to much. It wasn’t just that single night of the crucifixion; he recalled with startling clarity the string of dumb mistakes he had made over the past three years. So, when we pick up with Peter in John 21, he was right where we had met him at the first of the Gospels—in a boat, fishing. And, Jesus showed up on the shore.
Despite Peter’s failings, Jesus is there, again, to assure him that he was not finished. Three times, Jesus asked Peter if Peter loved Him, and three times Jesus told Peter about his future in the simplest of terms: “Feed my sheep.” It’s at this point that the story takes a little turn, because it seems that John had been eavesdropping on the exchange:
So, Peter turned around and saw the disciple Jesus loved following them, the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and asked, “Lord, who is the one that’s going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?”
“If I want him to remain until I come,” Jesus answered, “what is that to you? As for you, follow me” (John 21:20-22).
Here, we have Peter asking about the future, though Jesus had given him a general direction. And, Jesus does not answer the question. He does, though, refocus Peter’s gaze.
Jesus’ primary emphasis is not on the events of the future but on the actions of His disciples as they move into the future. And, those actions are all summarized in this:
So, what would Jesus say to you and I today? What would He say as we ask Him about our own future? About world events? About the economy? About our kids, and what to do about college? Perhaps the same thing:
Michael Kelley lives in Nashville, TN, with his wife, Jana, and three children: Joshua, Andi, and Christian. He serves as Director of Groups Ministry for Lifeway Christian Resources. Find him on Twitter: @_MichaelKelley.