John 21: 22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.
This story in John 21 is so interesting. Jesus had appeared for the third time to his disciples, post his resurrection, and he used this opportunity to reinstate Peter. Recall Peter’s darkest hour where he denied Jesus three times before his crucifixion (John 18: 15-27). Consistent with God’s wonderful grace, Jesus uses this opportunity to restore Peter by asking him three times if he loves him, and instructing him each time in regards to caring for God’s flock. Now Peter clearly didn’t understand what Jesus was doing as it says: “Peter was hurt”. He must have wondered if this was just God just reminding him of his denial. The pain of Peter’s betrayal of Jesus must have still been so fresh.
Jesus continued though and prophesied Peter’s future. The news didn’t seem to be getting much better for Peter though. Jesus informed him of the “kind of death by which Peter would glorify God” (John 21:19). And what a glorious death that would be: unable to dress yourself, being led where you do not want to go (John 21:18). And then Jesus ends with “Follow me!” Wow Jesus. What a tremendous sales pitch. Sign me up.
Not surprisingly in that context, Peter looks over at John (described as the “the disciple whom Jesus loved”) and asks “Lord, what about him?” “Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” (John 21:22). Now the rumours started spreading after this that John would not die, but Jesus didn’t say that, did he? He basically said mind your own business, in fact mind the business I have for you Peter.
This whole area of comparison is a natural response in our human flesh, but it is counterproductive to our lives as true disciples. God has made us each unique, knitting us together in our mother’s womb and ordaining our days (Psalm 139: 13-16); and the scriptures say we have been prepared to complete good works which “God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).
God has a plan which is unique to you, and He has one unique to me, so how can we compare it to others? It sure is tempting to ask “Lord, what about him?”, when the path that God seemed to give us is filled with pain, with struggle, with failure. As an athlete, there may be many times where you look to others and see success, perhaps in performance, perhaps in recognition, perhaps even in financial rewards, and you ask: “Lord, what about them?”
In those times where you notice your head turning to the left and to the right looking at others, remember Jesus’ simple instruction to Peter: “follow me”. Peter did not recognize it at the time, as it was filled with much pain and hardship, but history proved out that he was given one of the greatest honors ever bestowed upon a human, that being to lead God’s church, to shepherd His flock.
Your path may be very difficult right now and as you look around you, you may see the lives of others that you would much rather be living. In these times, discipline yourself not to look to the left, nor the right, but like a sprinter look straight ahead to the finish and run your race in such a way that you long for the embrace of your biggest fan at the finish line – your Lord Jesus Christ. And eagerly wait to hear those awesome words when you cross that line: “well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21).