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Bible Insights

Replacing Judas

Going Back to Twelve Disciples

Today’s passage: Acts 1:15–20

Focus verse: “Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus.” (Acts 1:16)

Besides praying, the disciples also do something else as they wait for the Holy Spirit. Peter takes the lead. The disciples may already accept him as their leader. He was in Jesus’s inner circle.

Peter was also often the first disciple to speak, whether good or bad. Yet Jesus also called Peter into leadership when he told Peter to “feed my sheep” (Day 29).

With 120 of Jesus’s followers gathered, Peter stands to address them. He mentions Judas, one of their own, one of the twelve disciples Jesus handpicked to follow him. Peter reminds them that Judas betrayed Jesus.

Judas is dead and Luke parenthetically fills in the details. Judas used the money he received for betraying Jesus to buy a field. He went there and fell headlong into it, thereby killing himself. Implicitly, he died by suicide.

The locals call it the Field of Blood.

This account, however, differs from Matthew’s more concise explanation of Judas’s demise. Matthew simply writes that, filled with remorse, Judas goes and hangs himself (Matthew 27:1–10).

Regardless of the supporting details, Judas is dead. Jesus’s original twelve disciples now number only eleven. Citing Old Testament prophecy, Peter wants to replace Judas and bring their number back to twelve.

The disciple quotes from two psalms, both written by King David several centuries earlier.

The first one says, “May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it” (from Psalm 69:25). David’s first focus in penning this psalm is against his own enemies.

Yet the future-focused prophecy aspect of it looks at Jesus’s enemies, in this case Judas. Let no one live there, in the place called “Field of Blood.”

David’s second psalm says, “May another take his place of leadership” (from Psalm 109:8). As with the first passage, David’s immediate focus is on his own tormentors, while the secondary meaning looks at Jesus’s.

In citing these two passages from Scripture, it’s unlikely Peter has the scrolls available for him to consult. He quotes them from memory.

In doing so, he uses Old Testament prophecy to inform their situation and direct their action. They need to replace Judas.

Questions:

  • Without having the written text to consult, how much of Scripture could we quote from memory?
  • How should we use the Bible to best guide us today?

Prayer: Father, may we hide your word in our heart (Psalm 119:11).

Celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and his return to heaven in The Victory of Jesus. The Victory of Jesus is another book in Peter DeHaan’s beloved Holiday Celebration Bible Study Series. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Jesus Restores Peter

Feed My Sheep

Today’s passage: John 21:15–19

Focus verse: Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” (John 21:17)

Right before Jesus was crucified, he predicted that Peter would deny him three times.

The confident disciple was adamant it wouldn’t happen, that he was willing to go to prison and even die for Jesus (Matthew 26:31–35, Mark 14:27–31, Luke 22:31–34, and John 13:37–38).

Yet a few hours later Peter does exactly what Jesus said he would do. He denies knowing his Rabbi three times, with increasing fervor each time, confirming his final denial with an oath.

This supplies a three-fold confirmation that he denies knowing Jesus (Matthew 26:69–75, Mark 14:66–72, Luke 22:54–62, and John 18:15–18, 25–27).

Peter must wallow in guilt over how quickly he gave in to fear and disavowed his master. Despite his self-assuredness, Peter is weak. His commitment to Jesus is fickle. His pledge to die for his master means nothing.

Though Peter’s failure could cause him to give up, even to end his life like Judas did, he does not. He sticks around.

This is because of Jesus’s prayer for his disciple. “I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32).

Ever since Jesus rose from the dead, he’s worked to bring Peter back into his fold. He first appears to Peter separately (see Day 21 and Luke 24:34) and then three more times when Peter is with other disciples (Days 22, 25, and 27).

In doing so, Peter knows Jesus has forgiven him and includes him with the other disciples.

Now Jesus completes his disciple’s restoration.

Three times Jesus has Peter affirm his master, with each affirmation offsetting a denial.

It distresses Peter to have to affirm Jesus three times. But consider how much more Jesus must have been distressed for his disciple to deny even knowing him.

Jesus’s first question to Peter is pointed. “Do you love me more than these?” It’s not enough for Peter to profess loving Jesus as much as the other disciples, who didn’t deny him.

Instead, he must profess a greater love. Peter does.

In response to each of Peter’s three affirmations, Jesus tells Peter what to do. The first time he says, “Feed my lambs.” A lamb is a baby sheep. The second time Jesus says, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time the Savior says, “Feed my sheep.”

Who are the sheep Peter is supposed to care for? Jesus’s sheep are his followers, specifically his disciples. Recall that in Jesus’s earlier prayer, he asked his Father that Peter, once restored, would strengthen the brothers.

Though this three-fold restoration sequence is painful for Peter, it’s necessary.

Having now been restored, Jesus tells Peter what will happen when he gets old. Implicitly he’ll be crucified, and his death will glorify God.

But until then, Jesus tells Peter the same thing he did at the start of their time together. “Follow me” (Matthew 4:18–19).

And following Jesus is what matters most.

Questions:

  • How well do we do at following Jesus today?
  • Will we do so for the rest of our lives, regardless of what may happen?

Prayer: Jesus, may we follow you and feed your sheep.

Celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and his return to heaven in The Victory of Jesus. The Victory of Jesus is another book in Peter DeHaan’s beloved Holiday Celebration Bible Study Series. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Easter Sunday

He Has Risen!

Today’s passage: John 20:1–18

Focus verse: Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” (John 20:18)

Jesus dies. His body is prepared for burial and his human shell is placed in a tomb. A large stone seals the entrance.

But this isn’t the end. In many respects, it’s the beginning. Three days later, he rises from the dead. Here’s what happens:

After his death, Jesus’s body is laid hastily in the tomb before the start of the Sabbath. With the Sabbath now over, Mary Magdalene heads to the tomb early the next morning, while it’s still dark.

When she arrives, she’s shocked at what she sees. The stone that blocked access to his tomb is no longer there. This isn’t what she expected.

She runs to tell Peter and John (the disciple Jesus loved) what she assumes happened: “They’ve taken Jesus’s body from the tomb, and I don’t know where they put him.”

Peter and John run to Jesus’s grave. John gets there first and peers inside. When Peter arrives, he goes right in. The burial cloths are there, but Jesus’s body is gone.

Seeing for themselves, they believe what Mary said—that his body is gone—and they leave.

Mary, however, stays at the tomb, tears flowing. She sees two angels inside. They ask her why she’s crying. “They’ve taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they moved him.”

Jesus—now very much alive—walks up behind her. “Why are you crying?”

She assumes he’s the gardener and asks where he moved the body.

Jesus calls her by name. “Mary.”

She turns to him and cries out in relief.

Jesus tells her to go and tell the disciples he’s alive and will soon return to his Father in heaven. In doing so, Jesus tasks Mary to deliver the most important message throughout all history. “Jesus is alive! He has risen from the dead!”

Though her culture doesn’t accept a woman’s testimony, Jesus doesn’t care. Mary will serve fine as his messenger.

This makes her the first missionary to tell others the good news about Jesus, that he has risen.

We call this day Easter when we celebrate his resurrection from the tomb. A better label is Resurrection Sunday.

On this first Resurrection Sunday, Jesus is victorious over the finality of death. This proves his mastery over the grave. Through this resurrection power he provides, we, too, can rise from the dead. And if we follow Jesus, we will.

Then we’ll live with him and Father God forever.

Questions:

  • What can we do to celebrate what Jesus did when he died and rose again?
  • How can we best tell others about him?

Prayer: Jesus, may we celebrate your victory over death when you rose from the dead. May we tell others the good news.

Celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and his return to heaven in The Victory of Jesus. The Victory of Jesus is another book in Peter DeHaan’s beloved Holiday Celebration Bible Study Series. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

3 Unusual Examples of God’s Healing Power

God Uses His People to Heal the Hurting

Elisha dies, but his influence lives on. Yes, Elisha continues to teach us today, thousands of years after his death, through the words recorded about him in the Bible. However, he also has a practical effect on someone postmortem.

It’s one example of God’s amazing healing power through his people.

1. The Healing Power of Elisha’s Bones

A man dies, and his friends are burying him when a gang of bandits come into view. Not wanting to end up like their buddy, the pallbearers dump the body in the nearest tomb.

It happens to be Elisha’s final resting place. When the body touches the bones of Elisha, the dead man becomes undead and jumps to his feet (2 Kings 13:21).

This is an amazing example of God’s power to heal. It’s the ultimate healing: resurrection. But that’s not all. Here are two more stories.

2. The Healing Power of Peter’s Shadow

The Bible also tells about people bringing their infirmed friends and placing them on the street where they expect Peter to travel. They hope Peter’s shadow might fall on the sick as he passes by.

Though the Bible doesn’t explicitly say that people received healing this way, why would they go to this trouble if Peter’s shadow hadn’t healed others in the past? (Acts 5:15).

3. The Healing Power of Paul’s Handkerchief

Later in the book of Acts, we read about God doing astonishing miracles through Paul. This supernatural power is so extraordinary that even handkerchiefs and aprons that Paul touches have the power to heal people.

They bring these garments to people who need healing. The people who receive them are cured and evil spirits are cast out, even though Paul isn’t physically present (Acts 19:11-12).

God’s Power to Heal Is in Us

God’s healing power occurs through a dead man’s bones, a shadow, and articles of clothing. Is God still in the business of healing people? How can these examples inform our view of miracles and how we act today?

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is 2 Kings 11-13, and today’s post is on 2 Kings 13:21.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Bogged Down Reading the Bible?

10 Essential Bible Reading Tips, from Peter DeHaan

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Christian Living

Discover What the Bible Says about How to Treat One Another

Apply These Biblical Tips on How to Value Others

Throughout the New Testament we see instructions of how we should treat one another. Let’s call these the “one another” directives. We are to:

The last two of these one-another commands come from the mouth of Jesus. The rest of them are in the letters written by Paul, John, and Peter, as well as the author of Hebrews.

Love One Another

The charge to love one another is the most common of them, mentioned ten times. Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John all tell us to love one another. Jesus says that loving one another is his new command to us (John 13:34-35).

Another time Jesus says that the greatest commandment of the Old Testament law is to fully love God, and the second most important one is to love others as much as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:35-40).

In a world that has multiple meanings for the word and a distorted understanding of how it functions, what does real love look like? How do we fully love one another? The Bible explains that too. Paul says that love:

  • is patient
  • is kind
  • does not envy
  • does not boast
  • is not proud
  • is not dishonorable of others
  • is not self-seeking
  • is not easily angered
  • keeps no record of wrongs
  • does not delight in evil
  • rejoices with the truth
  • always protects
  • always trusts
  • always hopes
  • always perseveres

From Gods perspective on the topic, love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).

We can then understand love as an overarching principle, a foundation for all others. Afterall, Paul does say that love stands above all else (1 Corinthians 13:13).

As a church, however, we’re doing a poor job of following these one-another instructions. If each person individually did their part to apply these commands in their every-day interactions, our church would be a much different place. And the world in which we live would be better off.

If each person did their part to apply these biblical instructions on how to treat one another, our church—and our world—would be a much better place.

Read more about this in Peter’s thought-provoking book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Go and Prepare a Place

How Engagement and Marriage Worked in the New Testament

In Bible times, when a couple became engaged, the groom-to-be with go home and prepare a place for them to live by adding a room to his parents’ house. As soon as he finished the construction, he would go to his fiancée, the marriage ceremony would take place, and they’d go live in the room he built for the two of them.

Though the Bible doesn’t detail this practice, history does. I’d heard this before, so it was nothing new to me to hear it again in the minister’s sermon.

Joseph and Mary

The message was about Joseph and Mary in the book of Matthew (Matthew 1:18-25). At this point in the narrative, Joseph and Mary are engaged. This means Joseph is building a room for them, adding on to his parents’ house. Once the room is complete, they’ll marry and begin their life has husband and wife.

This is the point at which the Virgin Mary becomes pregnant under Holy Spirit power. Joseph doesn’t break their engagement, and he continues building their home. Once it’s done, they get married. But they don’t consummate their marriage until after Jesus is born.

This explanation helps us better understand the story of Joseph and Mary. But then my mind took off and found other situations where the practice applies as well:

Peter and His Wife

It’s always bothered me that Peter, a married man, would leave his wife alone while he traveled with Jesus. How could she provide for herself while he was gone?

But realizing this ancient practice—where a young married couple would live in a room attached to the house of the man’s family—gave me a better understanding. Yes, Peter’s wife would stay home as he travelled with Jesus, but she wasn’t by herself. She was with her in laws, since the room she lived in was attached to their house.

She wasn’t alone when her husband traveled. She was with family. Knowing this lessens my concerns over Peter’s wife.

The Parable of the Ten Virgins

In Jesus’s parable of the ten virgins, these young ladies wait for a wedding ceremony to take place, but they don’t know when it will be. Though this seems strange to us now, it makes sense when we understand the custom of the day.

Their friend is engaged. Her wedding will take place once her fiancé completes the room for them to live in. Since no one knows for sure when this will happen, the wedding ceremony guests wait in expectation.

We can imagine the groom working late into the evening putting the last touches on the room. He finishes at last and in eager expectation he goes to get his bride-to-be, even though it’s the middle of the night.

The virgins hear he’s on his way. Five of them are ready to join the happy couple in their wedding feast and marriage celebration. The other five aren’t ready, and they’re left out (Matthew 25:1-13).

The lesson here is to be ready for Jesus to return. This leads us to the next observation.

Jesus and His Church

Jesus tells his followers that his father lives in a big house. He’s going there to prepare a place for them, to build a room for them to live. Once he completes the construction, he’ll come back to get them. Then he’ll take them to live with him so they can be where he is (John 14:2-3).

Though this may perplex modern day readers, two thousand years ago, the inference made sense to Jesus’s audience. They saw it as an allusion to marriage, to a spiritual wedding.

Jesus will build a bridal suite for his church. When it’s complete, we—collectively as his church—will marry him (Revelation 21:1-4). We will be the bride of Christ.

One day Jesus will come back to earth to get us. Then our wedding ceremony with him will take place, and we’ll live with him forever.

But right now, he has gone to prepare a place for us. And we wait for him to come back. We must be ready, for he could return at any moment—even in the middle of the night.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Bogged Down Reading the Bible?

10 Essential Bible Reading Tips, from Peter DeHaan

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God’s Spirit to Be Poured Out on All People

The New Testament Cites the Old Testament

Many passages in the New Testament of the Bible quote parts of the Old Testament, which was written hundreds of years before. In some versions of the Bible, footnotes—added by the translators—refer us to the original text.

Holy Spirit

One verse, however, cites the source in the text, not a footnote. It’s in the book of Acts, where Peter directly references what the prophet Joel said. Here’s what happens:

Jesus tells the disciples that he will send the Holy Spirit to them to help and guide them. The Holy Spirit shows up and things get crazy.

There’s the sound of a strong wind, the appearance of flames of fire, and the disciples preach in other languages (Acts 2:1-13).

The people can’t comprehend what’s happening. They freak out. They blame it on too much wine.

This explanation is plausible for the crowd, who has never seen the Holy Spirit at work, empowering people to speak in other languages.

God’s Spirit

Peter sets them straight. He reminds them that Joel foretold about this infilling of the Holy Spirit, God’s spirit. The prophet wrote, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people” (Joel 2:28-30).

Joel says it will happen. Peter and his pals experience it. And spiritual power and reality changes forever. God gives the Holy Spirit to them.

And from that day forward, all who follow Jesus will have God’s Spirit in them too. Yes, everyone—all. That means them, and it means us. You and me. All. 

As a result, crazy, Holy Spirit things can happen to us too. But many of Jesus’s followers today dismiss this indwelling Holy Spirit. In doing so, they dismiss the power of God’s Spirit in them and in directing their lives.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Joel 1-3, and today’s post is on Joel 2:28-29.]

Read more about this in Peter’s thought-provoking book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover.

Read more about the book of Acts in Tongues of Fire: 40 Devotional Insights for Today’s Church from the Book of Acts, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Learn more about all twelve of the Bible’s Minor Prophets in Peter’s book, Return to Me: 40 Prophetic Teachings about Unfaithfulness, Punishment, and Hope from the Minor Prophets

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Freedom in Jesus

Our Right Standing with Christ Frees Us from Rules, but Don’t Abuse This Freedom

Jesus’s sacrificial death releases us from the obligation of Old Testament laws. We have freedom in Jesus and don’t need to follow rules. Instead, we follow Jesus.

Yet we need to guard against getting carried away with our freedom. The Bible has much to say on the subject.

Free in the Spirit

Paul writes to the church in Corinth that Jesus (the Lord) is Spirit. Through his Spirit we have freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17).

Free in Christ

Paul reminds the church in Galatia, that Jesus has set them free, free from sin. Therefore, they aren’t obligated to be weighed down by being slaves to rules and regulations.

Free to Do Good

Yet some of the people in the church in Corinth overreach when they pursue their freedom through Jesus. They claim that they had the right to do anything, but Paul points out that not everything is beneficial. Not everything is constructive.

Instead of doing whatever they want to do, they should seek to use their freedom to do good for others (1 Corinthians 10:23-24).

Free to Love One Another

In similar fashion, Paul writes to the church in Galatia. He reminds them that they are free through Jesus. But this doesn’t give them the freedom to pursue self-gratification, that is, to indulge in human desires. Instead, they should use their freedom in Jesus to serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13).

Free to Live

Peter also confirms what Paul says, writing that we are to live as free people (that is, not under the law or bound by rules). We must take care, however, not to use this freedom in Jesus as a cover for evil living, that is, as an excuse to sin (1 Peter 2:16).

Freedom in Jesus

We have freedom in Jesus to do what is right and to benefit others, not out of obligation but as a response to what Jesus did for us.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Bogged Down Reading the Bible?

10 Essential Bible Reading Tips, from Peter DeHaan

Get the Bible Reading Tip Sheet: “10 Tips to Turn Bible Reading from Drudgery to Delight.”

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Christian Living

Be Careful What You Say

Control Your Tongue and Watch Your Words

There’s a saying of disputed authorship, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” As such, we need to be careful what we say. The Bible has much to share about our words and our tongue.

Tame the Tongue

James tells us that we verify our religion—our faith—by what we say, good or bad. We must keep a tight rein on our tongue, or our beliefs mean nothing (James 1:26).

Later, he writes that we are to tame our tongue. Just as we can control a horse by putting a bit in its mouth or steer a ship with a rudder, our tongue—though small—can do much. With our mouth we can praise God. But from the same mouth can flow forth curses.

Our words can do good. They can also cause much damage. In this way, what we say can corrupt our entire body. But with God’s help we can control what we say. In doing so we can keep our whole body in check (James 3:1-12).

Keep Your Tongue from Speaking Evil

Peter adds to the discussion, saying that if we love life and want to experience good, we must keep our tongue from speaking evil and uttering deceitful lies (1 Peter 3:10). In writing this, he quotes the words of King David as found in Psalm 34:12-13.

Be Careful What You Say

The Pharisees confront Jesus because his disciples aren’t following their tradition of ceremonial handwashing before a meal. He launches into a teaching to remind them what matters more.

He concludes by saying that what we put into our mouth—that is what we eat—doesn’t matter to God nearly as much as what comes out of it. Our words matter. And when wrong words come out, it defiles us more than the foods we eat.

Our words come from our heart and reveal evil thoughts, thoughts of murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander (Matthew 15:11-20).

Yet when we speak positive words, we reveal our good heart. Proverbs reminds us that the wise person chooses words carefully and is even-tempered (Proverbs 17:27).

Keep Our Words in Check

God wants us to be careful of what we say and keep our words in check. When we do so, we honor him and provide a positive example to others, building them up and pointing them to Jesus.

[Discover some practical, biblical steps to do so.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Bogged Down Reading the Bible?

10 Essential Bible Reading Tips, from Peter DeHaan

Get the Bible Reading Tip Sheet: “10 Tips to Turn Bible Reading from Drudgery to Delight.”

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Jesus Says “Follow Me”

The Simplicity of Faith

In Peter’s darkest moment, he denies that he even knows who Jesus is. I don’t criticize Peter for this, however. Despite a desire to respond differently, I suspect that if facing death, I could easily do the same thing.

Later, after returning to life, Jesus restores Peter to right relationship with him. Three times Jesus asks, “Do you love me?”

Three times—each one corresponding to one of Peter’s three betrayals—Peter confirms that he does indeed love Jesus.

Then, for Peter to show his love for his master, each time Jesus asks Peter to take care of Jesus’s flock, that is the Christian church.

Peter doesn’t realize the importance of repeating this exchange three times, that he must affirm his love for Jesus in equal number to his three betrayals.

Then, when his pledges of support offset his prior denials, Jesus can complete Peter’s restoration. Jesus concludes with the simple instruction, “Follow me.”

That’s the essential requirement of Jesus, the simplicity of faith: To love Jesus, and follow him. It’s that simple.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is John 20-21, and today’s post is on John 21:15-19.]

Read more in Peter’s new book, Living Water: 40 Reflections on Jesus’s Life and Love from the Gospel of John, available everywhere in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.