By David Faust
After Jesus’ dramatic post-resurrection appearances to Mary Magdalene, Thomas, and the other disciples (John chapter 20), the events recorded in John chapter 21 almost seem anti-climactic; but they are important in their own way.
Jesus stood by the Sea of Galilee in the early morning, calling out instructions to the disciples. Their empty fishing boat showed the futility of their night’s work. “Throw your net on the right side of the boat,” the Lord shouted, and when they obeyed, they hauled in a huge catch. In a description befitting a fisherman, John writes that the net “was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn.”
Excited to see Jesus, Peter dove into the water and swam to shore ahead of the boat. There the risen Lord had built a fire and prepared a breakfast of grilled fish and bread for the hungry men.
“Feed My Sheep”
Peter didn’t always understand Jesus, but Jesus understood Peter very well. Their interaction was direct and forthright. During their conversation around the campfire, Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” In a memorable lapse of courage days before, Peter had denied the Lord three times. Now, dripping wet from his early morning swim, the repentant disciple reaffirmed his love three times.
How should Peter demonstrate his love for Christ? By caring for God’s people. “Feed my sheep,” Jesus said. Then the Lord’s words took a darker turn:
“Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” (John 21:18, 19).
In the future others would bind the free-spirited fisherman and lead Peter away to martyrdom. Perhaps shaken by Jesus’ somber prediction, Peter was curious about the fate of his friend John. “Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. . . . When Peter saw him, he asked, ‘Lord, what about him?’” (vv. 20, 21).
It’s human nature to compare ourselves with others. Why did the coach put your teammate into the starting lineup, but not you? Why did the boss promote your coworker instead of you? Why does God seem to bless others more than he blesses you? When you go through a painful trial, do you think of someone who seems specially favored and ask the Lord, “What about him?”
What about him? Peter was asking the wrong question. “Jesus answered, ’If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me’” (v. 22). Jesus was blunt with Peter. “It’s none of your business what I have in mind for John. Don’t worry about the assignment I have given someone else. Your job is to follow me and feed my sheep. Concentrate on that!”
We must serve wherever the Lord places us. If he wants to bless others in special ways, or use them in different realms of service, that’s his business, not ours. God didn’t go on vacation and leave us in charge. Why worry about things we don’t control?
The question isn’t, “What about him?” The right question is, “Lord, what do you want from me?”
1. Do you ever compare yourself with others?
2. Where is the Lord calling you to follow him in the year ahead?
David Faust is president of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio, and past Executive Editor of The Lookout.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for December 29, 2013
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
Haggai 1, 2
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