20 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?” 21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” 23 So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” – John 21:20-23 ESV
A little context
Jesus (resurrected) was with His disciples at Lake Tiberias (Sea of Galilee) one last time before He ascended into heaven (See Acts 1:9-11). Jesus had been challenging Peter, asking him three times if he loved Him. The first two times the word “Agapaõ” or “Agape” which is an unconditional, sacrificial, everlasting kind of love, that we know Christ loves us with when He gave His life for us on that cross—the same kind of love we should show to others as Christ has shown us. Both of these times, Peter answers back using the word “Phileõ” which is a brotherly/material kind of love that we have with friends and family generally. The third time, Jesus uses the same word that Peter had used to ask him if he “Phileõ” loved Him and Peter answered him back with the same word.
It’s still so interesting to me why Peter chose to say “Phileõ” while Jesus asked for “Agape”.
In verses 18 and 19, Jesus is preparing Peter for the kind of death that he would face for the sake of Christ and Jesus encourages Peter to follow Him. And then verse 20 onward, Peter questions what will be of the life (and death) of the beloved disciple (John, the author of this Gospel). Jesus tells Peter that it should not worry him what will be of John and that Peter should focus on following Jesus.
Jesus was making a point very important here. Jesus wasn’t trying to be mean or telling Peter to mind his own business, but rather humbling Peter to keep his gaze on Jesus and follow Him fully. Our first ministry should be our relationship with Christ and that means to deny our own selves, picking up our cross and following Jesus. It’s a daily task that is exhausting sometimes, but the joy is in knowing that there’s a finish line, but no one is competing in this race.
Just a side note: Jesus says “Follow Me” about 22 times in the Bible, and the very first time we see Jesus speak these words is in Matthew 4 when Jesus calls the first disciples (Read verses 18-22). The first two happen to be none other than Peter himself and his brother Andrew. It should be almost too familiar of words for Peter when Jesus had spoken to Him in John 21. Had he forgotten that first time when Jesus calls him to follow Him? Let’s continue.
When focusing on the wrong things
This is why I say that sometimes we focus on the wrong things. The reality is that everyone’s got something to do and God has created each of us with a purpose that will ultimately glorify Him. So, where’s your focus at? Are you more focused on yourself and how others perceive you? Are you focusing on all the bad that can come out of a situation? Do you rely on happiness constantly? Our focus lies on the wrong things and it’s so discouraging sometimes.
Fix my eyes
So, here’s the thing – we fail to fix our eyes on Jesus Christ!
Hebrews 12:2 ESV – looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Fixing our eyes on Jesus means to do what His will is for our lives. Unfortunately, we focus more on what’s going on with our neighbors and what they might be doing rather than looking directly at what we should be doing to serve the Lord. Remember I mentioned earlier: our goal is to get to the finish line, but it’s no competition. We should be encouraging one another and building each other up in what the Lord has entrusted us with. The worst thing you can do is try to compare yourself with someone else and discourage yourself over that.
I don’t know about you but I’ve struggled with looking at what the person next to me is doing in their lives and how good or bad things are going for them to boost my ego a bit. It’s exhausting, so don’t be fooled.
As we continue to learn more about each apostle and their ministry, we can see how God has done mighty things through them and each of them has a specific purpose, but all of them aimed towards the same goal: preaching the Gospel.
So, my question again is this: where does your focus lie?
Here’s my answer to you – each and every day I’m learning to be more like Jesus, and though I fail so many times, I’m getting a little closer every day and that is a great blessing to me. I’m always reminded of Colossians 3 when life becomes a little overwhelming:
1If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Jesus was bringing that point across to Peter: “Seek heavenly things. Set your minds on heavenly things. Fix your eyes on Me. Follow Me!”
And that’s my encouragement to you. First of all, seek a relationship with Christ. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6), surround yourself with some godly people (Proverbs 13:20), and run this race to the end (Hebrews 12:1 & 2 Timothy 4:7).
Will you be perfect? No. But you will be with the Perfect One for eternity when this world is passed. So, fix your eyes on Him, Jesus Christ: the One who is, who was, and is to come (Revelations 1:8).