John chapter 21

“Lord, what about him?”

Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You follow me.” – Vs 22 NLT

Jesus has just revealed to Peter that he is going to die a martyr’s death.”The truth is, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked and go wherever you wanted to. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will direct you and take you where you don’t want to go” (Vs 18 NLT). John makes it clear what Jesus meant by this seemingly obscure comment. “Jesus said this to let him know what kind of death he would die to glorify God. Then Jesus told him, ‘Follow me'” )Vs 19 NLT). What a bombshell this must have been to Peter. Not only had Jesus just questioned him three times about his love for Him, now he was hearing that he was going to have to die a martyr’s death. This must have been devastating news to Peter.

Listen to what Matthew Henry has to say in his commentary about this statement by Jesus to Peter:

He foretells particularly that he should die a violent death, by the hands of an executioner. The stretching out of his hands, some think, points at the manner of his death by crucifying; and the tradition of the ancients, if we may rely upon that, informs us that Peter was crucified at Rome under Nero, A.D. 68, or, as others say, 79. Others think it points at the bonds and imprisonments which those are hampered with that are sentenced to death. The pomp and solemnity of an execution add much to the terror of death, and to any eye of sense make it look doubly formidable. Death, in these horrid shapes, has often been the lot of Christ’s faithful ones, who yet have overcome it by the blood of the Lamb. This prediction, though pointing chiefly at his death, was to have its accomplishment in his previous sufferings. It began to be fulfilled presently, when he was imprisoned, Acts 6:3; 5:18; 12:4. No more is implied here in his being carried whither he would not than that it was a violent death that he should be carried to, such a death as even innocent nature could not think of without dread, nor approach without some reluctance. He that puts on the Christian does not put off the man. Christ himself prayed against the bitter cup. A natural aversion to pain and death is well reconcileable with a holy submission to the will of God in both. Blessed Paul, though longing to be unloaded, owns he cannot desire to be unclothed, 2 Co. 5:4.

But what I love about Peter is his honesty. How does he respond? Not with a bunch of questions. He doesn’t even ask Jesus, “Why?” No, he turns the attention to John, asking Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Do you catch what he is asking? He wants to know what is going to happen to John. There is a hint of jealousy in his words. After all, John is the disciple whom Jesus loved. He knew Jesus and John had a special relationship. Jesus had turned over the care of His own mother to John while He hung on the cross. John hadn’t denied the Lord like Peter had. Jesus hadn’t questioned John’s love and loyalty. So Peter wants to know if he is being singled out. Is he the only one who is going to suffer and die. He wants to know if John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, is going to hear similar bad news.

Isn’t that just like us? When we have to suffer for the Lord or go through difficult times as believers, we want to know why someone else isn’t having to go through the same thing or at least something similar. We compare. We complain. We want to know why we are being singled out. We want to know why so-in-so is doing so well while we are suffering. But what does Jesus say to Peter? “Jesus replied, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You follow me.'” (Vs 22 NLT). What is that to you? Why do we have to worry about everyone else? Why can’t we accept from the Lord what He has given for us to bear and not try to compare out lot in life to someone else? Others seem more blessed than us. Others seems to skate through life unscathed and untouched by trials and tribulations. Others seem to have everything go their way. So we begin to see life as unfair. When we do, we call into question God’s love. Jesus had just told Peter, “Follow Me.” Yes, the way was going to be difficult and would end in Peter’s death. But Jesus was calling Peter to commit his life to following Him – regardless of the cost. Peter wanted to know what it was going to cost John. But as far as Jesus was concerned, that was no  concern of Peter’s. “What is that to you?”

We have each been called by Jesus to follow Him. We have been called to a life of commitment and sacrifice. We have been called to a life of discipleship and service. We have been called to a life that calls for death to self and yes, sometimes suffering. I am not to compare my life with anyone else. I am not to compare my calling or my circumstances with anyone else’s. I am to trust God and follow His Son faithfully. The path He has for me is going to be different and distinct. The circumstances I encounter along the way will be unique to me. I am not to concern myself with others or ask, “Lord, what about this man?” I am simply to follow Him and trust that He knows exactly what He is doing in my life and with my life.

Father, too often I ask, “Lord, what about this man?” I compare. I contrast. Then I complain. I want to know why my life has to be so hard. I want to know why I have to go through what I am going through. I want to know why others seem to have it so easy. Yet, what is that to me? I am called to follow Your Son and to trust His will for my life. May I grow in my commitment to and confidence in Jesus. May I trust Him more and more with the details of my daily life. Because He has never proven Himself untrustworthy. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org