follow on; just keep following

Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”

Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return,what is that to you? You must follow me.” Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said,“If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”

John 21

The context is rich and well worth the time to read it, including this being the end of John’s gospel account. Peter was being wisely and lovingly reinstated by the Lord, after Peter had denied the Lord three times. John is called the one who Jesus loved, and why, we’re not told. Except it may be that John simply had that revelation which others did not have, but which actually applies to us all, at least to every believer in a special, covenantal relationship with God through Christ. Or they may have had a special bond. Perhaps something of both. Jesus was human, and surely felt closer to some than to others. I prefer the former, but it is likely something of both.

Peter was reinstated and given a primary role in feeding and taking care of Christ’s lambs and sheep. He was to be a pastor, an undershepherd under the good Shepherd. But like we all do, Peter looked at John and evidently was comparing himself with John. Jesus made it clear that John’s own following of the Lord was not Peter’s business, but instead that he simply needed to follow the Lord, himself.

This for me is a rather life-giving word. Both in terms of how I look at others, and also in terms of how I might think others look at me. I have to continue on, even if I am misjudged, or considered of no account. My call is to simply follow. And to look at others the same way. Of course we’re not islands, or simply individuals, but our relationship to God through Christ means we’re in special relationship with all others in Christ. There is accountability. But within that, there is also respect for the fact that not only are we different, but that it is God in Jesus who is the God of us all, the one each of us is to follow, the one who directs our steps, as well as the steps of each and everyone around us in and through Jesus our Lord.

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