The life, testimony, ministry, and teachings of one Jesus from Nazareth
Have you ever played Apples to Apples? For those of you who haven’t been so privileged, it is a game in which each player has five red cards with nouns written on them. On each turn, one player is the “judge” and draws a green card, which contains a single adjective, and reads it out loud. Then all the other players must choose which of their five cards best meets the adjective read and place it in the pile. Once all players have made their decisions, the “judge” mixes all the submissions up, reads them out loud, and decides which of the red cards submitted matches the green adjective card best. Whoever played the red card that the “judge” decides is the best match wins the green card, and the point of the game is to get five green cards. While this game may sound boring to one who’s never played before, the humor of it is that often times the red noun cards submitted do not match in any stretch of the imagination the green adjective card; thus the game produces lots of laughter.
Now the point of this tedious explanation of the game Apples to Apples is not only to inform you on how the game is played, but also to point out an important life lesson we can glean from it. What happens to the red cards? Well each player is given five of them, those five are then compared against each other and the “best” one is submitted to the next level, where it is again pitted against other red cards for the ultimate prize—to be chosen by the “judge” and thus win a green card. So what does this game entirely consist of? Is it luck? Skill? You got it…though it is the title of the post! Comparison is what Apples to Apples is completely based upon. Each card and each player is pitted against one another and must seek the favor of the “judge”. And while Apples to Apples is not a bad and evil game, it does normalize a dangerous mindset—comparison.
Comparison is a trap that is easy to fall into and once you’re in, holds you captive. Every single person has succumbed to this hazardous outlook. You’re not exempt, I’m not, your parents aren’t, nor your pastor or any of the people you look up to. We’ve all struggled with it at one point or another. But did you know that the disciples also wrestled with this? Even the mighty Peter who seemed so self-assured and confident throughout the gospels had a moment of weakness and fell into the pit of comparison. So let’s see what Peter’s comparison trap was and how Jesus responded.
“When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!’”
In order to really grasp the significance of this statement, we need to understand the context. The setting is the shores of Galilee after a fishing expedition and divinely prepared meal. After breakfast, Jesus begins questioning Peter by asking three times if he loved Him. Now remember that Peter had denied Jesus three times, so it is fitting that Jesus would ask Peter thrice to confirm his love. And each time after Peter declared his love, Jesus gave him the calling to feed and tend His sheep. After the third command to feed the sheep, Jesus tells Peter of his future martyrdom and manner of death—crucifixion. Now this was probably not something Peter really wanted to hear, even though he had declared before Jesus’ death that he would die with his Lord. So Peter falls down the slippery slope of comparison. He hears the future Jesus had told him and instead of responding “Yes, Lord! Whatever You deem worthy of Your name!”, he turns and looks at John—a disciple who was also very close to Jesus or as Scripture says, “the one whom Jesus loved”—and asks the dangerous question: “Lord, what about this man?” And so Peter stepped straight into the hazardous trap called comparison.
But how did Peter fall into the comparison trap? What took him from “Lord, you know I love You!” to “What about this man?” The first statement is all about Jesus, the second a question about someone else, and the two vastly contrast one another. So what brought Peter from point A to point B? It was one little but completely altering action. Peter took his eyes off of Jesus. Think about that…
Peter’s fall into comparison wasn’t really a fall, but rather a change in focus. He entered the trap of comparison the moment he turned away from Jesus and toward John, taking his eyes off his Savior and resting them upon his spiritual brother. And with his eyes fixed upon this disciple, he began questioning Jesus about the purpose and ministry of someone other than himself. This was a very dangerous place to be! By his simple question, Peter was no longer focused and concerned about what Jesus wanted him to do or about pleasing Him. Instead, Peter was fixated on what Jesus would have John to do and how that compared with his assignment. So how did this sit with Jesus? Not well! He quickly rebuked Peter with a “what is that to you? You follow Me!” Or in other words, “Why does it matter? I just gave you a divine assignment, which is what you should be focused on! So why are you looking at someone else?!”
But comparison wasn’t something new to Peter; it was more of a default reaction. Throughout the gospels we find the disciples arguing over who would be the greatest. So there was a history of contention and competition for Jesus’ favor despite multiple corrections from their Teacher. And competition is the actions brought on by a mindset and attitude of comparison. Therefore, as Peter looks at John and asks Jesus what this man’s future and ministry will be, he was just defaulting the attitude of comparison that had been established for a while. And while we bash Peter for his bad attitude choices, can’t we relate? We so quickly take our eyes off Jesus and default to a mindset of comparison in pretty much all areas of life—lifestyles, appearance, success, influence, and even godliness.
So the question is…in how many areas of your life are YOU looking at others rather than looking at Christ? Who are you comparing yourself to? And what is it to you if he has a great singing voice and can lead thousands of believers into worship? What is it to you if her artistic ability enables her to take scraps and make beautiful artwork out of it? What is it to you if he seems to succeed in the business/career world at an early age? What is it to you if no one seems to notice and care about the ministry God has placed in front of you? Really, what is all this to you when you have the calling of Christ upon you? Jesus doesn’t care if you become famous in the world or if you live in obscurity; He doesn’t want you comparing your ministry with that of a world famous evangelist or pastor. What He wants is that “You follow ME!”
We all have been given by God a certain number of abilities and callings—they are not infinite or all encompassing, but very specific to carry out a particular work. Therefore, we can’t look at others’ gifts and then look at ours and see how they compare against a specific ideal. That’s not the way God’s kingdom works. He doesn’t pit us against one another and take what we offer Him and compare it with another’s. Life isn’t a game of Apples to Apples, though many people turn it into one, but rather a pursuit to follow. For after giving us our callings, our Savior asks one and only one thing of us—“follow Me”. So let us seek to whole-heartedly follow, looking not at those around us to the right and left, but keeping our eyes fixed upon the One calling us and asking us to “Follow Me”.
Before we leave this important lesson, it’s important to note that while Peter displayed a moment of weakness as he tried to compare himself with John rather than surrendering everything to his Lord, he did eventually learn his lesson. For when the time came for his crucifixion, church history states that he refused to be crucified in the normal position—head up—because he felt unworthy to die in the same position as his Savior. So they crucified the Apostle Peter—the sifting sand who was turned into a solid rock—upside down according to his wish. Thus in the end, Peter took Jesus’ last personal words to him to heart, surrendered himself, and fully obeyed Jesus’ last command:
“And after saying this he said to him, ‘Follow me.’”