The Road Less Wanted: Choosing the Path You'd Never Choose
On the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus and his friends share a famous Last Supper. There’s also a lesser known, but incredibly significant meal. I'm calling this the First Breakfast. It's the meal Jesus makes for Peter and six other disciples on a beach in Galilee, following his resurrection. In many ways, Jesus and Peter's relationship comes full circle in this moment.
The first time Jesus identified Peter as a potential disciple, he yelled to him from the shore. He's doing it again.
At the Last Supper, Jesus broke bread with Peter.
At the First Breakfast, Jesus breaks bread with him again.
At the Last Supper, Jesus serves him by washing his feet.
At the First Breakfast, Jesus serves him by grilling fish.
After the Last Supper, Peter denies him three times.
After the First Breakfast, Jesus asks Peter the same question three times.
When all this is over, Jesus says, "Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”” (John 21:18-19).
Listen to this again, "When you are old…someone else will lead your where you do not want to go." According to John, those hands are going to lead Peter to his death. In the very first conversation Jesus has with Peter after the resurrection, Jesus lets him know that, if he follows this path, it's going to cost him his life.
When we're young (in life and in faith), we like to call the shots and ask Jesus to get on board. But when we mature, the more we get to know and trust and obey Christ, the more willing we are to follow where he leads. Even if it's not something we would have initially chosen.
And of course, Peter balks. His first instinct is to ask "What about John?" It's as if he's saying, "If I'm going down, I want to make sure John has to die too." But Jesus gently rejects Peter's (and our) desire to compare our journey to someone else's.
Something must have happened to Peter over the years. Church tradition says that when it was his time to die, Peter opted to be crucified upside down. He didn't consider himself worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord. Somewhere along the way, his commitment to Christ's glory eclipses his desire for personal safety. In the end, Peter selects the road less wanted.
Is it possible the hand of God is leading to a place you never would have chosen on your own? A place of challenge? A point of sacrifice? A season of surrender?
Here's what I need to remember in those moments: Jesus doesn't send us into them alone.
He invites us to follow Him into them. Whenever He calls us into scary places, it's because He's already there. And there's something good to be experienced in and through that quest. Yes, you'll have the option to choose the road less wanted. And when you do, you'll find it makes all the difference.