FOLLOW THOU ME
John 21:18-22 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake He, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me. Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou me.
At the trial of Jesus before the Jewish religious leaders, it was evident that they were seeking the death penalty for the false claim against Him of blasphemy. Realizing this, Peter feared for his own life, since he was known to many Jews as a follower of the Lord. Therefore, three times he denied knowing or being associated with Jesus in order to save his own life. In the few verses preceding the lesson text, Peter repented of his sinful actions of denial, confirmed his devoted love to Christ and the plan of salvation He established by His death, and was restored to the confidence of the Lord and the work that He laid before him, which was to feed My sheep, that is, to preach the doctrine of Jesus. Indeed, the work that Peter was to undertake, as a devoted teacher of New Testament Christianity, would lead to his death.
Beginning with the lesson text, Jesus tells Peter that when he was young he would girdest thyself - gather his outer garments and tie them up so his walking or running would not be hindered. Jesus added that Peter then could walkest wither thou wouldest, that is, he could go where he wanted to unimpeded. But during his older years that would follow, Jesus told him that he would be bound by others and taken to a place whither thou wouldest not. By inspiration, the apostle John wrote the following about Jesus' prophecy regarding Peter's last days on earth. What Jesus spoke signified by what death he (Peter) should glorify God. This prophecy carried the implication that Peter would suffer a violent death, but, in doing so, would bring much honor and glory to God. Biblical historians tell us that Peter was crucified in Rome some thirty-four years following this prophecy of Jesus. They continued by saying that he was crucified with his head downward. Indeed, Peter endured, with a firm hope of eternal life in heaven with Christ and God, his Creator. And when He had spoken this, He saith unto him, Follow Me. Only a few days previous to this meeting Peter had forsaken Jesus for fear that his own life would be taken. Now, realizing that a most violent death awaited him, Peter humbly submitted to follow his Master and obey His will. And this was Jesus' will for Peter - Follow Me. This Peter did from this time forward.
Peter sees John, and in the lesson text, John indirectly identifies himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved, and as the one that posed the question about who would betray Him at the Passover meal in the upper room. Having been persuasively asked to follow Him, Peter thought Jesus may have some other work for John, so he asked, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus gave Peter this answer about John, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Some bible scholars take this questioning answer as another prophecy of Christ. It is a true historical fact that the apostle John outlived the other apostles. This prophecy was filled approximately sixty years after the date of the lesson text. While exiled to the island of Patmos, Jesus appeared to John and delivered messages to him, which John was to write and send to the seven churches of Asia (See Rev. 1). By His answer, Jesus was telling Peter not to be concerned about the responsibilities of His other apostles. He was to concentrate only on his own duties assigned by Jesus, and that was to follow thou Me.
In Matthew 10:38, we find the true meaning of Peter's responsibility of following Christ: And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me. The cross is a symbol of self-denial; of doing our Christian duty even if the cost is painful death. The crucifixion of Jesus was the example, not only to Peter, but to all followers of Jesus Christ. To follow Jesus is to believe and obey His doctrine, teach it diligently and responsibly to others, even though the path to heaven is by the way of the cross.