“You must follow me”
The other day I was reading John 21 which is really a simple story of the resurrected Christ appearing to seven disciples at the Sea of Galilee; it’s a story that is very familiar to everyone, and contains a passage that the preachers preach often (John 21:15-19). In this passage, Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him, and each time Peter says that he does, followed by Jesus saying either ‘feed my sheep’ or ‘feed my lambs’. The third time Jesus asks, Peter’s feelings are hurt because Jesus keeps on asking…At the end of the passage Jesus tells Peter to “follow me.”
What really struck me was the part that came right after this usual passage.
Peter looks back and sees John trailing behind them and says to Jesus, “What about him?” I wonder how many of us have done this sort of thing: We know that we have been called to follow Jesus, and instead of quickly answering that call, we look at someone else and ask, “What about him?” Now in Peter’s defense, Jesus has just indicated the manner of his death (v. 18) and maybe Peter understood this, the text doesn’t quite make that clear. Maybe Peter was very sensitive at that moment because he felt guilty when it hit him that Jesus has just asked him if he loves Jesus the same number of times that Peter denied Jesus… The fact remains that Peter looked away from his call and tried to put the spotlight on someone else.
Answering a calling isn’t always convenient; it isn’t always what we want to do. It may involve giving up a great deal to follow Jesus, a career, a great income, possessions, position and so on, and yet it is our call. What must we do?
Jesus’ answer is classic: He tells Peter essentially that John’s relationship with Him is none of Peter’s business: “You must follow me.” (emphasis added)
What will we do?
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Peter looks back and sees John trailing behind them and says to Jesus, “What about him?”
I’ve sometimes had a different view of this than the traditional. John was the youngest of the Apostles, Peter close to, if not, the oldest. The question could be one of concern of an older brother for a younger, not animosity. By this time the Apostles would have become bonded, much like a military squad, and the concern of one member for another would have run deep, especially that of the eldest/leader for the youngest.
You may well be right.