"Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved
following them...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!'"
John 21:20a, 21-22
Here on the shores of Lake Galilee, Jesus has found 7 of his disciples fishing. He doesn't identify himself to them, but rather asks them a question, "have you caught any fish?" (v5). Which seems rather insensitive, because they haven't. But if you know the story, he more than makes up for this jab to the rib cage. Jesus tells them to let down their net on the right side of the boat, and the resulting haul of fish is overwhelming to the point where they can't get the fish on board. Jesus here reveals himself to the disciples. This is One who knows all, who provides, and who is their Lord. But for Peter, Jesus is also something else. Jesus is the all knowing, perfect provider, the Lord-whom Peter thrice denied. And so, as we come to the later half of John 21, we find Jesus reestablishing Peter via some painful questioning. Do you love me more than these? Do you love me? Do you love me? Peter, who publicly denied the Lord three times before the crucifixion, is restored by this set of three fold questions, to which he replies each time, Yes, Lord. You know that I love you. This is also public, before the other disciples. And Jesus commissions him, feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep.
A Painful Call
Then Jesus offers an unsolicited prophecy: you're going to die Peter, and you're going to die by crucifixion. (see v18-19). Why in the world would Jesus say this to him now? Perhaps because of what Peter says in 13:37, I will lay down my life for you. In that context Jesus questions Peter's devotion, will you lay down your life for me? And then issues a chilling statement: the rooster will not crow three times till you have denied me. We've come out the other end of that circumstance. Peter has denied Jesus. But he's been restored. And now Jesus looks forward to the Spirit-filled and empowered ministry he is going to work through Peter and says, you know how you'll meet your earthly end? You will die for me.
This apparently isn't what Peter had thought of as an ideal sort of restoration ceremony, though, because he sees John trailing behind, and feels compelled to ask Jesus, but what about him? Jesus’ response should cause us all to sit up and take note. If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Or, as we said when we were kids, none of your beeswax, Peter! Mind your own business. You have one task, and it isn't making sure everything is fair between you and John, making sure your experiences are the same. Quit looking for your affirmation and validity in the experiences of someone else. Your task is simple: you follow me. You. Do you see what Jesus is driving at? We can, I can, be just like Peter. Lord, why is their life so much easier? Father, why do you provide them with extra time or money and here I am feeling like I'm drowning? Jesus could look at Peter and explain how hard things actually will be for John. But he doesn't. He just says, what is that to you? You follow me. His call is so simple. So clear. Die to self, and follow him.