Peter … said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?”
Jesus said to him, “…what is that to you? You follow me.” John 21:21-22 (NKJV)
In the preceding verses, Peter received new direction for his life. He was instructed to feed the Lord’s people. He was given the ministry of leadership in the early church. He was restored to the place of service and told that he would serve the Lord for many years, and that even in His death, he would glorify God. When Peter learns of this, he then asks Jesus about John. Jesus responds by telling Peter to tend to his own life and the Lord will take care of John.
Peter’s mind seems to have been distracted from the command to follow the Saviour by a very simple incident. “Turning his head”, it is said, he saw John following – and the sight of his fellow disciple awakened his curiosity and he made his speculative inquiry. Will John have a similar commission? What is your plan for his life? Will it be easier than mine? Will it be harder than mine? Will it be about the same? Will he be more successful? Sometimes we can be easily distracted by what others are doing. We think God’s plan for their life is better than His plan for ours. But God’s plan for each of us is the same: follow Jesus. When we watch Him intently, we’ll not be distracted by God’s plan for anyone else.
“Follow me” is the most oft-repeated command of Jesus in all the Gospels. The word for “follow” is worth pondering. It is the Greek word akoloutheo. It means:
- to follow one who precedes;
- to join him as his attendant;
- to side with his party;
- to walk the same road.
It signified obedience, the kind of obedience a soldier gives his commanding officer. It signified commitment, the kind of commitment which is unflinching and unwavering. It signified loyalty, the kind of loyalty which is willing to surrender all for a great cause.
When Jesus found Peter and called him the first time, this was His command – “Follow Me.” When he recommissions Peter, He issues the same call. But in between we read that “Peter followed Him afar off”:
But Peter followed Him afar off unto the high priest’s palace, and went in, and sat with the servants to see the end. Matthew 26:58 (KJV)
He was no longer by the Lord’s side with courage. He had fallen back and was looking on from afar. He had distanced himself from Christ, and this was the beginning of his downfall. Jesus says to each of us, “Follow Me.” Don’t be distracted by what others are doing. Don’t distance yourself from the Lord. He says, “You follow Me.”