Written Word

John 21:21 – “When Peter saw him [John], he asked, ‘Lord, what about him?'”

The fish weren’t biting and that night the disciples had caught nothing. (John 21:3) But things were about to change. Instructions from a stranger on the shore brought a catch so great that “they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.” (John 21:6) Arriving on the shore, “they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread” (John 21:9), obviously prepared by the Lord whom they now recognised. “Come and have breakfast,” Jesus said. And when they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” And without a moment’s hesitation Peter replied, “Yes, Lord, …you know that I love you.” Jesus then commissioned him, “Feed my lambs.” (See John 21:12-15) The same question is asked two more times and each time Peter affirms his love for the Lord and each time the Lord entrusts him with the same pastoral commission. And having been told that he will die the death of a martyr, Peter is told by Jesus, “Follow me.” (John 21:19)

Lord, What About Him?

Immediately Peter asks Jesus about John: “Lord,” he says, “what about him?” Having just received his own pastoral commission and obituary notice, Peter now wants to know what will happen to John. Jesus could have answered his question by giving him an itinerary of John’s life, which is what Peter wanted, but instead he directs him to what is important in his own life. He says to Peter, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” (John 21:22) The Lord’s reply is designed to focus Peter’s attention on his own commission and away from becoming pre-occupied with things that are none of his business. Peter was being entrusted with enough responsibility to last him a lifetime and so for the second time Jesus tells him, “Follow me,” which is a call for faithful obedience to the task entrusted to him.

Peter must live without his curiosity being satisfied and trust in a sovereign God. Because God is sovereign, he knows all things and will never be caught by surprise by any events. His plans and promises will never be defeated. And when he chooses not to speak, his silence does not reflect negatively on his character, which is holy, righteous, just, loving, merciful, kind and incapable of deceit. A sovereign God can be trusted. And should we ask a question like the one Peter asked, the Lord’s reply will always be: “What is that to you? You must follow me.”