John 21:20–24

“When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!’ ” (vv. 21–22).

Exodus 20:1–17 lists the Ten Commandments, which have guided the people of God in what is pleasing to Him ever since they were revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. Many of these commandments, such as the prohibitions against murder and theft, are found in other, uninspired law codes. However, the Ten Commandments stand out from other laws in the way they address the human heart. The tenth commandment prohibits coveting, the sinful desire to possess what another person possesses (v. 17).

The law against coveting reflects, among other things, a broader truth about human nature, namely, that we are very interested in what other people have and what other people are doing. This can be positive when we are looking out for the welfare of others, but it is negative when we want what other people own in such a way that we are envious of them and wish that they did not have it. Our interest in other people is also negative when we take our focus off of the calling that God has given us and start inserting ourselves in others’ concerns. It is for good reason that the Apostle Paul tells us to mind our own affairs (1 Thess. 4:11). He knows that we are often more interested in what others are doing than what God has given us to do.

Peter’s question to Jesus in today’s passage reflects that kind of negative concern about others. Having just been told that he would die a martyr’s death (John 21:18–19), Peter turned to Jesus and asked what was going to happen to John (vv. 20–21). We may paraphrase Peter’s question in John 21:21 in this way: “Jesus, You told me that I will ultimately suffer and die for my testimony about You. What about John? Is he going to get a similar end, or will he be better off?” At this point, Peter was more focused on what Jesus was calling others to do in following Him than what He was calling Peter to do.

Jesus essentially responded to Peter that it was none of his business what would happen to John (v. 22). If He had a different course for John, that was up to Him, and Peter was not to worry about it. Peter was to follow Jesus and be faithful in his calling no matter the consequences, even if he would suffer differently from others. The same is true of us. We are to be faithful where God has placed us, not envying the calling of others or being discontent if their trials are different from ours.

Coram Deo

John did not die a martyr’s death, but he did suffer in prison on Patmos for his faith. Peter faithfully obeyed Jesus, finally dying as a witness to Him. Both men were faithful to their callings and serve as models to us today. As we follow the Lord where He has placed us, He will bless us and give us the strength to remain true to Him. Let us focus on His calling to us today and every day, and may we endeavor to serve Him faithfully wherever we are.

For Further Study