You Follow Me

There would also be a cost to loving the Lord Jesus,

“Amen, amen, I say to you, that as a young man you were wrapping yourself and were walking where you willed, but when you become old, you will stretch forth your hands and another will wrap you and will bear you to where you do not will.”

For he said this signifying what death God would render, then saying this, said to him, “You follow me.”

Jesus to Peter, John 21:18-19

Jesus never downplayed the cross in a believer’s life. Peter had said he was willing to die for Jesus, thinking that would mean fighting to the death in some epic battle scene. Instead, as the church historian Eusebius recorded, Peter was crucified, evidently asking to be hung upside down because he considered himself unworthy to die in the same way Jesus had been crucified.

They must have been walking together at this point, for upon hearing these heavy words, Peter turned around and noticed that John was following a little way behind them. In the text, the writer identifies John as the disciple Jesus was loving, the very one who had been leaning on Jesus’ chest the night of their Last Supper to ask who it was who was handing him over.

Perhaps that also flooded into Peter’s mind, the close relationship between Jesus and John. John alone had stood at the cross with the women as Jesus died. It was to John Jesus had commended his mother, and even now she was living in John’s home. John had been the last to leave the cross and the first to believe Jesus had risen from the dead. And had not James and John together been so bold as to ask for Jesus’ right and left sides when he came into glory? They seemed not to have given a thought to where that would have put Peter.

So now Peter turned back to ask Jesus, what would happen to John?

Whether I will him to remain until I return, what [is that] to you? You yourself follow me.

Jesus to Peter, John 21:22

The last time Peter had taken his eyes off of Jesus, he had been walking on the water. When he looked away he noticed the waves, became afraid, and began to sink.

Now Jesus was telling him, “Peter, keep your eyes on me. My plans for John are different than my plans for you. You must stay focused on me, and what I have for you.”

Do Not Judge Each Other

It is just as timely a word for you and me today as it was for Peter. We live in a world of ranking, of categorizing and evaluation. Who are you and I comparing ourselves to right now? Maybe we are looking better than they are, we behave better, work harder, produce more results. But maybe you and I are not looking so good. It just depends on who we compare ourselves to.

Either way, though, notice that when we compare ourselves to others, you and I have our eyes on the wrong people: ourselves and the person (or persons) we are comparing ourselves to. The one person we do not have our eyes on, when we compare ourselves, is Jesus.

The Apostle Paul would later write extensively on this very theme, for the first century church also lived during a time when everyone evaluated everyone else. Jockeying for position, honor, influence, and renown was constant.

Apostle Paul cautioned humility, but not self-abasement.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.

We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.

So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

Romans 12:3-8, 14:4, 10, 12 (NRSV)

Jesus made it clear to Peter that John’s mission was only within Jesus’ purview. It would be what Jesus’ willed. Who can you and I compare ourselves to? The Lord has a unique purpose, and unique enabling for every person. There is no formula for the best way to be a Christian, or the best way to be a parent, or the best way to be a spouse, or child, or sibling or friend, or worker. There is only God’s call and God’s enabling.

Apostle Paul modeled this as well.

But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court.

I do not even judge myself. 

I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 

Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God.

1 Corinthians 4:3-5 (NRSV)

Love Each Other In Christ

You and I are not only to keep our focus on Jesus as we each individually follow him just as closely as we can, we also are to trust each other’s sensitivity to God’s guidance, and help each other the best we can – not by criticism, but by encouragement; not by pointing out each other’s faults and failures, but by helping each other succeed.

Rumors of John’s Longevity

This epilogue was added as both a segue to Jesus’ forty-day intensive ministry with his supporters and disciples, and as a disclaimer to the rumor about John not dying, that had spread among the believers.

Somehow, over time, Jesus’ rhetorical question had been over-interpreted into a false prophecy that John would not die until Jesus had returned in glory in his Second Coming. You and I have to be careful of the same problem today, not to over-interpret the Bible into saying things it does not really say.

John had outlived all the other disciples, and he did have a vision of the Lord Jesus and the Second Coming, which he wrote about in his Revelation. But John had also died, a very old man to be sure, but not supernaturally so.

So now, the writer of this epilogue professed:

This is the disciple, the one testifying concerning these things, and the one who wrote these things, and we perceive and know that true is his testimony.

And so many other things Jesus did, that if they had each one been written down, I do not imagine even the world could contain the books being written.

The writer of the epilogue’s testimony, John 21:24-25
Self-Centered ServiceBeing a True Servant
The self‑centered person serves in their own strength, because they are sure they have what it takes.A true servant is prompted and strengthened by God, content to do whatever the Lord commands, and confident that God will provide everything they need to do it well
Self‑seeking service demands recognition.True service is content to remain hidden.
Self‑gratifying service is focused on results.A true servant finds joy in serving, and trusts God with the results.
Self‑willed service chooses when and where and who and how to serve, because they still want to be in charge.A true servant will serve whomever God chooses, is ready to serve whenever God calls, is prepared to serve in any situation, and with whatever they have. This is because the true servant has surrendered the right to be in charge to God.

[Peter walks with Jesus | The Brooklyn Museum, James Tissot, Public Domain]

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