“Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou me.”
Peter had just accepted a great commission laid upon him by Jesus Christ. Moreover, he was told that he would be honoured by suffering death in the same way as Christ, that is, by crucifixion. The Wycliffe Bible Commentary suggests this is the meaning of “stretch forth thy hands” in verse 18. Indeed, we are told that Peter’s ultimate death was to glorify God. Still, here was a man who had been restored to leadership after fear previously overcame him and he denied the Lord three times. Now, he was being given a second chance and he gladly took advantage of it, despite knowing that his life would be taken in such a terrible way. As an aside, after the experience of denying Jesus three times, it is quite likely that it was a much more humble, less boisterous and more fitting Peter who came to his new mission for Almighty God, as Jesus spoke the two little words, “Follow me.” As Wycliffe surmises, “these words led to a physical movement, but much more is implied. Peter was being summoned to an undeviating, faithful walk, to set his face like flint, even as Jesus had done in view of the approaching cross.”
Was it because John was a close friend or was it a little of the old Peter emerging when he spotted John following and basically asked Jesus, “What’s in store for this guy?” Jesus rebuked Peter for being distracted over what Jesus had in mind for John and He makes the statement, “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?” He was telling Peter that he had but to concern himself with the commission assigned him and He emphasized it once again with His words, “Follow thou me.”
Now I am blessed with the fact that each week I meet with a couple of dedicated Bible students and at a recent session, we looked at the opening verse quite closely. What we often try to do is to look at a passage as it relates to the events at the particular time it was uttered, but also whether there is a message for today’s Christian. Then, as we so often do, we explore whether there is a hidden meaning of great significance.
Now, of course, it’s rather easy to see the significance today because it is so tempting to look at the work of brother and sister Christians and fall into wishful dreaming. Actually, each of us have our own small commission and we must always reflect on Christ’s words, “Follow me,” as they apply to us. For example, some Christians enjoy financial prosperity and a part of their mission is to employ their resources in God’s work. Obviously, the fact that we are able to continue to publish month after month is indicative of financial sharing. Then, there are those who are speakers, others are writers, administrators, organizers, and of course, all of us have our personal ministries in furtherance of God’s work. We must not be distracted over the futures of others, or their particular missions, but to do God’s will in our own lives.
And another message for Christians today might be to be careful in interpreting Scripture. You see, when Christ said “If I will that he tarry till I come…” it quickly spread that he said “John would not die” but Jesus never said this. Still, was there something in His Words that holds a hidden meaning, perhaps only to be revealed at this very moment in time? And why? Because, as I stated in “The Hidden Message of John 21” it is not only “the time of the end”, it is “the end of these things” as prophesied in Daniel 12 and I believe God wants this particular generation to know the great responsibilities He has placed upon it. If you refer to your copy of “Hidden Message” (copies still available upon request) you will recall that I demonstrated the 153 fishes represent 153 generations (40 years) or 6,120 years from the creation of Adam until the end of God’s sixth day. That John 21, the last chapter of the last Gospel of Jesus Christ, was an unveiling of the very plan of God for mankind to the end of the 6th day.
Now in our little group’s study of John 21 each of us had reviewed “Hidden Message.” Perhaps this was a wise move because after exhaustive study of the opening passage to this article, one of the other two participants excitedly exclaimed, “the hidden message actually takes us to the end of the seventh day or the end of the Millennium! John did not die until He had the wonderful vision of the unfolding of historical events, among other things, he heard the great voice of Christ saying, “I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last,” He saw the church ages, the fall of Babylon, the return of Jesus Christ, the Millennium, the new heaven and new earth, the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven.” You see, God had given John a commission as well and until he had fulfilled that mission on the Isle of Patmos, he did not die.
Praise be to God. Events are unfolding exactly as He inspired in the wonderful Bible. We just have to be patient in the knowledge that He is in control. As Isaiah wrote in 55:10-11, “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please….”