Monday, September 10, 2012

What's It to You?

Read: John 21:18-25

Jesus *said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!”

- John 21:22, NASB

After his three-fold expression of love for the Lord, Jesus tells Peter of the future. While at the last supper Peter had professed an agape love which Jesus knew was a phileo love (leading to a three-fold denial when fear overcame affection), now Peter professes a phileo love which Jesus knows will be an agape love, leading to a martyr's death. Jesus, on this sunny beach just after dawn, looks Peter in the eye and tells him darkly that his arms will be stretched out in crucifixion. This solemn disclosure is followed by the plain command: "Follow me!"1

Immediately, Peter slips into his flesh2. He asks what will happen to John: 'If I have to die this way, what about him?' It is a very human response, but is the same sin Peter had become so comfortable with. He finds his contentment in comparing himself to others. Jesus' response is a liberating one that we should all take to heart. "If I want John to remain alive until I return, what's it to you? You follow Me!"

God does not grade on a curve. When others fail, it does not elevate us. The person who waits to find the perfect church before joining it sits in the seat of the scornful and misses the entire point. Jesus tells Peter to quit looking at everyone else and keep his eyes on His Master. It is the secret to every element of life to give up on the rat race and simply follow where Jesus leads. If one is called to be a slave and another is called to be President, let each do what God has called them to cheerfully - they will be judged on how well they followed the duty given them, not how they compared to each other.

Humility is in this: It is not my place to judge my neighbor (Romans 14:4). God does not consult me and ask if He should accept you. If I see you in some sin, I will try to pluck you out of it (James 5:20), but I cannot condemn you. You will stand or fall before your own master, and I must stay out of it. Christ keeps us humble by not making us lord over each other. If God told Peter that something was none of his business, how much more me!

Wisdom is in this: Where God has been silent, I must be silent. Many waste time trying to dig out answers God has not given. We read of the water turned to wine and wonder how the molecules twisted to make this happen. Jesus looks at us with the voice of a father (loving, yet stern) and says 'What is it to you? You follow me!'

Peace is in this: How many times have you compared yourself to someone else and felt wanting? Your Lord says not to be concerned with it, but simply to follow.

If I wonder why my devotionals read like a cereal box compared to George Morrison, Jesus says 'What is that to you? Follow me.'

If Darrell Streeter preached with the power of Elijah while I stutter? 'What is that to you? Follow me.'

If James Heflin can explain any subject while I am met with confused stares?  'What is that to you? Follow me.'

If I know masters of singing, church growth, counseling?  'What is that to you? Follow me.'

If I see others who wax strong in illness, rejoice effortlessly in tribulation and are unphased by anything thrown their way?  'What is that to you? Follow me.'

You see how wonderful this all is. Jesus does not compare me to anyone else and I should not either. He gives me a task and equips me for it. If I am faithful to that task, I am just as exalted as any other. If later I am called to more, he will equip me for more. Let us then be humble - that we are nothing in ourselves (John 15:5), God provides everything we have and will provide everything we need.

Imagine John in old age, sitting alone in the dark when the 11 other apostles were all dead. Everyone but Judas the betrayer had laid their life down for Jesus and here he lived on by himself. Do you think he was plagued with doubts then? Did he wonder why he had not been trusted with martydom? Did he worry that God knew he would not be found faithful in the final test?

Jesus' answer to Peter's foolish remark is for you. You are not master of your neighbor - be humble and let God set the path for His own servant. You are not privy to all of the secrets of the universe and could not handle them in any case - trust God to show you what you need to know in His Word. You are not anyone else - let God make you who you need to be.

May God help us to follow Him like trusting, loving children. May we never grow arrogant when we see others struggle and may we never feel crushed when others succeed. I pray that the glorious liberty we have been given - justified by faith alone, concerned with our relationship to Jesus alone - will never be forgotten. Lord, help us in the struggle with the unknown to bow to your will.

Let us face the whole day with this simple attitude:  'What is that to me? Follow Him.'

1 For the link to death on a cross, see John 13:36-37.
2 The word flesh is the Biblical term used for the sinful nature of man, especially in Paul's letter to Rome.

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