Peter therefore seeing him said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” (John 21:21-22)
Jesus had just given Peter a glimpse of the kind of death he would experience. He hadn’t given him the terrible details, but he had told him that he would be taken where he did not wish to go. We can imagine what went through his mind. “Why me? Why do I get all the tough stuff?” Perhaps scenes of the past three years with his Lord ran like a filmstrip through his mind: the time he stepped out of the boat on a storm-tossed sea and began walking toward Jesus, only to drop like an anchor into the frigid water when he tooks his eyes off his Lord; the time when Jesus rebuked him sharply for implying that He should not die for the sins of the world; the time when he stepped up to defend the Lord and cut off the soldier’s ear, only to receive another rebuke from Jesus; and then his ultimate stumble, when he denied that he knew his Lord three times. Peter had screwed up on a regular basis, but he was also always the first one to throw himself out of the boat, or run ahead of the others, to get to his Lord. And that was the part that Jesus loved so much about him: his heart.
So when Jesus was telling Peter a little about his future, John was standing nearby. Peter glanced furtively at John. Surely he wasn’t the only one who faced an uncomfortable future as a disciple of Christ? Wouldn’t John, the beloved disciple, face tough times ahead too? He needed to know they were all in this together, that each of them would have an equally painful cross to carry. “Lord, and what about this man?” Peter said, motioning toward John.
“If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?” Jesus replied.
Ouch. I can imagine the hurt that pierced Peter’s tender heart, particularly since John was probably the other most-devoted disciple of Jesus. The two of them were Jesus’ bookends. There might even have been just a tad bit of competition between them. But then Jesus looked Peter in the eyes, piercing all the way to his soul and said, “You follow Me!”
He didn’t mention John’s name. Not at all. In fact, during those few moments, no one else existed except Jesus and Peter. Jesus made it clear that the walk of every disciple is not a group effort. It’s a communion of two: Jesus and His beloved child. There’s no point in comparing our walk with Christ to anyone else’s, or even considering walking down their path.
In that fleeting moment when he’d glanced at John, Peter had taken his eyes off Jesus, and Jesus made it clear, “Follow Me!” Don’t look to other people, don’t compare yourself, and most certainly, don’t follow them. They may not be going down the right road. This is happening more and more in the church. People are being misled by false teaching or doctrines. They’re looking to see what others are doing, and trying to stay in the mainstream.
But the fact is, the path behind Jesus is not mainstream at all. It’s a narrow climb, with width to walk only single file, with Jesus in front, and us following closely behind, our ears straining to hear His words, our hands reaching to touch His robe.
The path is narrow. The width is Jesus.