“Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” John 21.18-19
Follow me. It was two of the first words Jesus spoke to the disciple Peter along the Sea of Galilee three years prior, and it’s being spoken again now at the point of his reinstatement.
Peter has just been reinstated as a follower of Jesus. He has been made forgiven, reclaimed his right to lead this small band of world-changers, and is now hearing from Jesus what is to come.
It’s not going to be a pleasant end for Peter. Tradition tells us that he was crucified in Rome, upside down upon a cross. And before that, he was shackled, imprisoned, and persecuted for his belief in Jesus. Although he would ultimately die for his faith, becoming a martyr in the process, he did so to spread the Good News of the Gospel — that all people can be saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
Jesus tells Peter that once he was free to go and do this and that, but when he gets older, “someone else will dress” him and lead him where he does not want to go. John writes this “to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God.” Regardless of this eventual end to Peter’s life, Jesus said, “Follow me.”
The path of God calls for sacrifice, for some it demands death, but for all it requires obedience. We all share the common command of following Jesus. Sometimes this ends in suffering, other times in glory. No two of us are on the exact same course. Christ’s call for us guides us along the road that leads to life eternal but the details on how we get there differs.
Regardless of the journey, are you willing to obey? In spite of the difficulties, are you willing to follow? Jesus says to us what he repeated to Peter so many years ago — “Follow me.”
Will we heed the call, pick up our mats and follow him?
“O Lord God, you are good. When my love fails, your loves remains steadfast. You are the everlasting God who overcomes all my faults and failings. You restore me, renew me, redeem me, and rejoice in me. When I doubt myself, you become my wholeness and my identity rests in you. Come now, Holy Spirit, speak words of love into my life and call me forth to carry forth your message to a world deep in pain and dark in sin. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen