Peter’s Dance – He Was a Leader, But Became a Follower

doyoulovemeThe longer I follow Jesus, the less spectacular His guidance seems to be. When I was younger, sometimes I needed Him to use a two-by-four to get my attention. I was on the lookout for big plans, prophetic insight that came like billboards as I raced down the highway of Kingdom ministry. One of the things I am learning now that I am over 50 is to slow down and pay better attention to Jesus. He’s after an intimacy that doesn’t need a megaphone. It doesn’t even need words. I’m learning to change direction just with a slight touch from Him.

This is clearly what Jesus was after with Peter.

John chapter 21 is one of my favorites. It is a story of grace and truth. Peter is restored. His dance with Jesus is not over. In fact, it really just begins.

Peter has denied his friend. While Jesus is being set up for the cross, Peter is declaring that he doesn’t even know Him. As Peter runs from the courtyard weeping bitterly, the divine music fades and he finds himself in darkness and silence.

The news of Christ’s resurrection doesn’t even bring the music back. Peter can’t live with himself and the devil must have been constantly taunting: So you think you can dance!

Peter decides to go back to fishing. Something he can control. Or can he? He doesn’t catch anything all night. Finally, when morning comes, a figure on the beach instructs him to throw the net on the other side. He thinks: Déjà vu. That reminds me of what Jesus said!

When he pulls the net in, there are 158 fish in it! John whispers, That’s Jesus! And the next thing you hear is a great big splash! Peter doesn’t ask to walk on water this time, he just swims for shore.

After Jesus shares breakfast with the boys, He asks Peter to go for a walk with Him. Christ’s words are remarkable. There’s no “I told you so!” or “What were you thinking?” It’s just a simple, but laser-like questions: “Do you love me?”

Peter gets to declare his love for Jesus three times to counter each of the three denials. And with that last: “You know everything, you know that I love you!” The music begins again.

The key to the story in John 21 is in verse 18: “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.

All the commentators agree. That phrase, stretch out your hands, can only mean one thing: Crucifixion. John even tells us in verse 19 that Jesus told him this to indicate the kind of death Peter would die. Jesus trusts Peter enough to tell him of his future martyrdom.

The reason Jesus can do this is because of the simple instruction that He gives Peter for the rest of his life: “Follow me.” (v. 19)

Jesus clearly told Peter that when he was young he led. You dressed yourself and went where you wanted to go. But the new plan was that Peter would have to transition from being a leader to becoming a follower. There is no glitz and glamour in this. His role as follower would take him places that he did not want to go. Ultimately we know that Peter followed Jesus all the way to his cross. Before his death, he was given a final request and he asked for his cross to be turned upside-down because he was not worthy to die like his dance partner.

There’s more in John 21. Peter is Peter is Peter. After this intense, personal interaction with Jesus, Peter asks about John, who was following them. John never seems to let Jesus get too far away from him! Jesus has to say to Peter, John’s none of your business. And Jesus reiterates the simple plan again to Peter in verse 22: “You must follow me!”

It was a two-by-four and Peter got it.

The music never faded again. Look at the message of the music as Peter writes to a young church at the end of his life. Picture Peter dancing with Jesus as he writes.

 “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.  Humble yourselves, therefore under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.  And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.”  I Peter 5:5-11

Has the music stopped in your life? Is self at the center again? Someone has said that the most often repeated word in hell is “I.” This is the divine order:

God choreographs. . .

Jesus leads. . .

I follow.


About Rich Stevenson

Rich is the Executive Director of The Malachi Network (, a ministry focused on making the name of the LORD great among the nations. This network serves young leaders in missions and church planting. Prior to his present ministry, Rich pastored in Southern New Jersey, planted a church in Wilmore, KY, established a network of churches, served as an adjunct professor at Asbury College and was a senior leader at The International House of Prayer in Kansas City, MO as well as The International House of Prayer in Atlanta, GA. Rich is the author of two books: Secrets of the Spiritual Life—10 Lessons from the One Thing Passages (Baker Books, 2003) A Voice from Home—The Words You Long to Hear from Your Father (WaterBrook Press, 2005) He graduated from Asbury College in 1984 with a BA degree in Philosophy of Religion and Asbury Theological Seminary in 1987 with a Master of Divinity degree. In 2010, Rich received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Union Biblical Seminary in Yangon, Myanmar. Rich has been married to Tania since 1982 and they have been blessed by amazing children: Zachary and his wife Meghan, Jacob and his wife Lena, Jessica and Corrie Emma.
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