c) Future predictions of Jesus (John 21:20-23)
20 Then Peter, turning around, saw a disciple following. This was the disciple whom Jesus sincerely loved, the one who had also leaned on Jesus’ breast at the supper and asked, “Lord, who is going to betray You?” 21 Peter seeing him, said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If I desire that he stay until I come, what is that to you? You follow me.”
Peter heeded his Master’s call to shepherd his lambs and ewes. Since John was the youngest of the disciples, Peter was anxious to find out Jesus’ stand regarding John. Would he send him home on account of his youth, or appoint him a lieutenant in the conflict?
There may have been a trace of envy in Peter’s words, because Jesus seemed to prefer John to the others, and loved him more. At the Last Supper, Peter had gestured to John to be the intermediary with the Lord to calm the tense atmosphere and name the traitor.
John was so attached to Jesus that he stood by the cross, risking his life before Christ’s enemies. He was the first to believe that the Lord had risen, and the first to recognize him during the fishing by the lake. He was already following Jesus, while Peter was being called to follow. His heart was united with Christ. He was the most intimate of the disciples with the Lord.
Perhaps, Peter asked Jesus, if John was to face the same harsh future that had been predicted for him, or if it was to be a singular distinction for him. Jesus replied to the chief apostle that he was not set to lord it over the rest, but to be a brother among equals. It was not his business to be concerned with John’s destiny who had direct links with his Lord, whereas Peter was the spokesman of the apostles. John remained silent, supporting by prayer and patience the doctrinal developments in the Church, and influence them in the power of prayer (Acts 3:1; 8:14; Galatians 2:9).
We note from Jesus’ prior appointment for John’s vocation, that it is not important, whether we live long in Christ’s service or die early for his sake. More vital is our fidelity and obedience continually to him. Jesus does not treat his followers as if they were in one mould, but prepares a special path for each to glorify his Master. We hear nothing of John’s death; he probably died a natural death.
Jesus bids Peter to look to him alone and not look at the other disciples. This means that we ought not to be vexed at the careers of other Christians, but that we strive to know God’s will in our lives, and follow him at once unconditionally. Faithful following is the motto for every Christian.
He also spoke to his disciples about his second coming. That coming is the goal of world history. The thoughts of all the disciples were directed to this future event. With God’s presence among men, the longings of all generations will be fulfilled. Jesus will come in glory. Do you expect him and prepare by prayer, service, sacred songs and your sanctified witness? We shall find in his presence multitudes of believers who followed him directly in faith, and followed no other.
23 This saying therefore went out among the brothers, that this disciple wouldn’t die. Yet Jesus didn’t say to him that he wouldn’t die, but, “If I desire that he stay until I come, what is that to you?”
The balance of opinion is that John lived to old age, and he became a symbol in the churches of Messianic expectations. Around him grew a belief that he would not die, until the Lord returned. Paul too expected an early coming of the Lord, and that he might not die but be transformed instantly and be raptured into heaven. John was realistic and pointed out clearly that Christ’s promise did not mean that John would not die until the heavens would open and the Glorious One would appear. His aim and decisions were not subject to Peter’s longings. The Lord remains the Good Shepherd who leads his disciples each in his own specific path.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, you are the glorious Savior, the faithful Shepherd. Thank you for guiding Peter and John in a way that fitted each of them, that they might glorify you in life and death. Grant us the privilege of following only you. Guide our relatives and friends to that goal of your coming, so that they may prepare with joy for your coming which is at hand.
- What do Christ’s final words in this gospel mean?