Mules, Men, and Trust

I spent several years working at a ranch in western Michigan. I had a lot of pretty awesome experiences there. One particular thing I had the opportunity to do in my time there, was work with draft mules. Draft mules are pretty unique animals. Have you ever heard the phrase “stubborn as a mule”? Let me tell you it’s absolutely true. In fact I would like to advise a change in the phrase, it would be more accurate if it was “half as stubborn as a mule”. Trust me, the most stubborn person you know, doesn’t come close to a mule.

When it comes to mules you can’t make them do anything they don’t want to do. You just can’t. They won’t be forced. You have to convince the mule it was their idea to do whatever it was you were trying to accomplish. One thing that helps substantially in working with a mule is trust. Building a relationship based on trust, with a mule, will make your experiences with one a lot more enjoyable and beneficial.
I doubt most of you have spent much time with mules. You do, however, have experiences with stubbornness. A difficult child, a challenging coworker, or perhaps a controlling parent. When I say the word stubborn, someone comes into your mind.  Or perhaps you are stubborn yourself.
If the words “am not” immediately went through your mind when I suggested you were stubborn, maybe, check yourself.
I would suggest that we are all stubborn at some level or another. Certainly not as stubborn as a mule. But stubborn none the less. Do you really hate a particular kind of music? Do you always tune out a certain person? Do you have strong political views? None of those things are inherently bad. But the stubbornness they reveal can be very damaging. Not only to your career and to your relationships, but to how you view God.
Stubbornness suggests a lack in trust. Trust is essential when it comes to having a relationship with God.
They are outside at night, The darkness is full of nervous energy. Something, someone, is coming. The Passover supper has been eaten. The disciples are gathered together talking quietly, clearly worried. Some of them question Peter, “why would Jesus say you will deny him three times before the rooster crows?” Peter angrily replies that he never would. They look up at Jesus. He’s sitting aways off. Clearly praying. Praying like they have never seen.
Suddenly they hear voices, see torches, a crowd is approaching. A crowd with a mission. They spring to their feet. Jesus approaches them from behind making his way to the front of his disciples. As the torch baring crowd approaches they see that their friend, their fellow disciple, Judas is leading them. He approaches Jesus and kisses him on the cheek. As the men arrest Jesus, the disciples scatter fleeing in all directions.
As Jesus is dragged from court to court, Peter watches from a distance.

Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the servant girl on duty there and brought Peter in.“You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter. He replied, “I am not.” John 18:15-17

Peter denies Jesus once. But he’s not done yet.

“Meanwhile, Simon Peter was still standing there warming himself. So they asked him, “Aren’t you one of his disciples too?” He denied it, saying, “I am not.” One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.” John 18:24,25. 

Peter had spent 3 years with Jesus. Going everywhere with him. Peter has seen miracles and heard parables. Peter has had a front row seat to the life of Jesus. He is part of the inner circle and one of the most outspoken followers of the Christ. Dedicated, determined, and full of love for Jesus. But here in this crucial moment he waivers.  He chooses to deny his Messiah. His trust breaks.

There was a time when I was working with a particular mule named Jess. Jess had just been saddle broken and I had been riding him fairly regularly for a couple weeks. He was doing very well, progressing nicely.

One day, I was riding him on a trail following a wagon over a land bridge. As the team pulling the wagon picked up the pace to make it up a sandy hill Jess snapped. The sound of the wagon jangling, shifting and sliding around caused him to panic. Jess lost sight of his purpose. He dropped his head and went full “bronc mode” I lasted for a little bit, but was pretty quickly sent flying of his back. With the wind knocked out of me, I watched Jess turn around and sprint back to the barn. Jess knew the truth. He knew what he should do. But he panicked. Jess lost faith. His trust broke.

We are all aware of what happens to Jesus. His death on the cross. His burial and then resurrection three days later. He accomplished his task. He had paid the price for humanity’s sin. But now Jesus had one final task before ascending to heaven. Jesus had to make sure his disciples were ready to spread the truth. Jesus had to make sure his disciples were ready to evangelize. Jesus had to make sure that they trusted Him.

Jesus appeared to the disciples several times after his resurrection. The last time we see Jesus meet them is on a beach, as they were fishing. Poetically, the same place where he first called several of them to follow Him, is where He has some final conversations.

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. John 21:7

Jesus finds the disciples in a boat fishing. When Peter realizes that it’s Jesus on shore he jumps into the water to get to him as fast as he can. I can only imagine the thoughts in Peters mind. The man he betrayed three times is back. Peter must be scared of what Jesus might say to him. But he must also be desperate to make amends. We see their conversation in the last chapter of the book of John.

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 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 21:15-19. 

Jesus reinstates Peter. Three times Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him. Jesus gives Peter the opportunity to fix his mistake. To come back into the flock. To be redeemed.

Jesus already knows that Peter trusts Him. That trust will be what carries Peter to be a pillar of the early church. The trust that Jesus solidified with this conversation on the lakeside leads to the beginning of evangelism. The trust that is built here is the thing that carries Peter through life. Through church planting and building. Through arrests and persecution. That trust holds Peter to a cross of his own.

Here’s my challenge for you.


I don’t know where you are at in this life. Maybe you are doing fine but want to take your relationship with Jesus to the next level. Maybe you are like Jess, sprinting back to the barn, afraid of what’s happening around you. I can’t know what spot your in, in your journey of trust. I encourage you to look at the lessons we have seen from Peter and Jess. I encourage you to trust.

Jesus clarified the importance of trust. Through His life and in this last interaction with Peter. Without trust Peter denied the Messiah. With trust Peter built the church. This is why Jesus asks us to trust. Asks you to trust.

Don’t be a mule.

Trust in the Christ.


One thought on “Mules, Men, and Trust

  1. I like your mule analogy, and I appreciate your encouragement to show trust. I am not quite sure if you were encouraging us to show trust in earthly relationships. If you were, I agree up to a point. If you weren’t, then your encouragement to show trust in Jesus is precisely what we must do, in order to live the abundant life he promises. When we do that, we show trust in earthly relationships in the proper perspective, reasoned and through the lens of reality.


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