Have you ever examined someone’s life and wished that you could have his or her place or position?
It’s really a tendency in every human heart – to compare and want something more or even just something other than what we have.
The problem with that tendency is each of us is very shortsighted and likewise never see the whole picture.
In our encounter with the resurrected King today we see Peter in focus once again, this time comparing his destiny with another disciple’s. The Lord Jesus sees the whole picture, and His counsel and command to Peter is what we must hear today.
John 21:18–22 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.”  (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”  Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?”  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!” (ESV)
What can we learn from this text?
Jesus has restored Peter, but that doesn’t mean Peter is a fully-sanctified disciple just yet! The Lord is gracious both in restoring Peter and in helping him prepare for the outcome he must expect for feeding Christ’s lambs. Peter himself will die a similar death to his Lord. Church history confirms this prediction of Jesus, for Peter was crucified (the meaning of “you will stretch out your hands”).
Upon hearing this news, Peter looked to John (often John’s humble reference to himself was “the one whom Jesus loved”) and asked Jesus, effectively, “So what about John?” Jesus’s answer apparently caused some controversy in those days about John’s destiny. While it sounded to them like John would not die until Christ’s return, Jesus merely said to Peter, “What if it is my will that he remain until I come back?” This was the Lord’s way of saying, “That’s none of your business, Peter.”
How often we meddle in affairs that are none of our business! It should be very easy for us to identify with Peter’s error. We too need reminders now and again to not compare our lives to those of others, nor wish our destiny to be the same as theirs or theirs the same as ours.
Most important is the command that follows the correction: “You follow me!” Jesus knows the comparisons we make in our hearts to others will never stop unless we get our eyes on Him. He is the only One who can sustain the weight of all our hopes, desires and ambitions. Our contentment and joy come from following Jesus alone.
- It’s very easy to look at the lives of others and fall into a twin error of discontentment (two sides of the same coin): wanting what they have or wishing we didn’t have what we have. If you find that error in either evidence in your life, confess that to the Lord and receive His forgiveness and correction.
- “Follow Me!” is a wonderful and freeing command! The Lord Jesus knows each of us uniquely and distinctly. He doesn’t lump all of His followers together and lose track of us. As our Shepherd He leads us and calls us by name. How worthy is our Lord of our obedience and faith.
Lord Jesus, we love and thank You for leading us. We find refuge in following You instead of the whims of our hearts or the partial glimpses we have into the lives of others. Have mercy on us for our failures in comparing our destinies with other disciples. Forgive us for our sin of comparing. Help us to follow You only. Amen.