Seaside With Jesus: What's It To You? - John 21:20-23
Today we conclude the“Seaside with Jesus” series that we began three months ago. We started at beginning of Jesus’ ministry understanding that with Jesus we have the breaking of the Kingdom of God into this world. Then we experienced the calling of Peter, Andrew, James, and John and the leaving of their lives of fishing in order to follow Jesus. Today, along with the last couple of weeks, we conclude with Jesus once more calling Peter to leave fishing behind, and come follow Him. (The idea of leaving the fishing behind in order to follow Jesus is interesting, given the number of boats I saw heading out or own the water as I walked to church this morning.)
Joshua really wasn’t old enough to start it until Davey had gone off to college…however, when Davey would come home the first couple of years, we would hear it.
“Joshua, it’s time to go to bed.”
“But I’m not tired.”
“That doesn’t matter, it’s late, you have school tomorrow, it’s time to go to bed.”
“But Uncle Davey’s not going to bed. Why doesn’t he have to go to bed? That’s not fair.”
“Joshua, Uncle Davey’s older. It’s not time for him to go to bed. We’re talking about you. It’s time for you to go to bed.”
“I shouldn’t have to go to bed if he’s not going to bed.”
Is that familiar to any of y’all that have or have ever had more than one young‘un in the house? It doesn’t have to be about going to bed…and it doesn’t have to be at home. I bet any number of our teachers here could tell similar stories. You ask one child to do something, and if they don’t want to do it, and the rest of the kids aren’t doing it, you get, “But Sally doesn’t have to.” or “What about Billy, doesn’t he have to go to?”
It is almost the reverse of the old conversation about “everyone else is doing it.” You know, when a parent or teacher has to say, “Just because all the rest of the kids are jumping off the top of the bridge doesn’t mean you have to jump.” Here, rather, the kids are saying, “If none of the rest of the kids have to jump off the top of the bridge, why are you asking me to?”
It’s that same sentiment we get in this morning’s passage from John with regards to Peter.
Remember our scene last week. Jesus had leaned over and started a one on one conversation with Peter. I didn’t suggest it last week, but you could almost picture Jesus leaning over to Peter and saying to Peter, let’s go for a walk. Whether they sat right there by the campfire or went for a walk, it doesn’t matter. The content of the conversation is what matters. Three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him, three times Peter affirmed that love. Three times Jesus told Him that evidence of that love would be seen in Peter’s actions of caring for those that Jesus would bring into Peter’s life—the sheep and lambs of God’s fold, those that Peter and the others would be grooming to become disciples as well. As part of their conversation, Jesus gave strong hints of the death that Peter would eventually receive…a martyr’s death.
In a sense, when Jesus says, “Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go….” It could be heard as “Peter, remember how one time you said you would go to jail for me, and that you would even die for me, and how, when given the opportunity, out of fear, you did your own thing? I’ve now forgiven you of that. Now you will have the opportunity once more. When you grow older, you are going to be arrested, you are going to be led away in chains and put in jail, and eventually, just as my arms were stretched out upon the cross, so will your arms be stretched out as you are crucified.”[i] Church tradition, because it is not notated in Scripture anywhere, tells us that this is exactly what happened to Peter, that during the reign of Nero, Peter was crucified. Tradition also holds that, at his request, Peter was crucified upside down, not feeling that he was worthy to be crucified in the same manner as His Savior.
So Jesus tells Peter that he is going to die a martyr’s death…and Peter, while he’s getting there, he hasn’t quite reached that full maturity yet, he looks around and see’s John, the one commonly assumed to be “the disciple that Jesus loved,” and he says, “Lord, what about him?” In other words, my friends, Peter is saying, “If I have to suffer and die like that, what about your “favorite,” will he have to?” He doesn’t say, “If he doesn’t, that’s not fair,” but you can almost hear it behind those words. You can almost hear Peter say, “Is this going to happen to me because I betrayed you? What about John, I know he went all the way to the cross with you, does he get off free because of that?” Peter doesn’t say that, but we can almost assume it, especially considering that Peter didn’t just reference any disciple, but specifically references the one with the reputation of being closest to Jesus’ heart.
Jesus’ response to Peter’s question? Peter catches the hard tone of yet another rebuke from Jesus (remember “Get behind me, Satan” when Peter said the Messiah shouldn’t have to suffer and die, and then when Jesus tells Peter to put away his sword in the Garden after Peter cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant when they came to arrest Jesus). Jesus says, “If I want him to hang around until I return, what’s that to you? Follow me!” Jesus is saying, “It doesn’t matter what is going to happen to John. We’re not talking about John, we’re talking about you. Don’t worry about John…that’s between John and myself. We’re talking about you. Don’t worry about anyone else…worry about your response to me. Now come, follow me!”
My brothers and sisters, Jesus speaks those same words to us, “If it’s my will that Jan remain until I come back…. If I want Houston to hang around until the trumpet sounds…what’s that to you…I’ve got something for you to do, and that’s what I need you to focus in on…follow me!”
Jan and Houston may be saying, “wait a minute preacher, don’t be putting that on us.” Everyone else here may be saying, “wait a minute preacher, Jesus and I have not had those conversations. I’ve not asked Jesus about what is going to happen to someone else.” The thing is, my friends, often we do, without even realizing it—as individuals and as a congregation.
When do we do that? Here’s some possibilities.
The annual stewardship campaign is coming up. Prayerfully you and God have a conversation about your commitment for the coming year. God begins weighing on your heart that He wants you to consider increasing your giving. Yet, you begin looking around…maybe looking at your neighbors and saying, “God, what about my neighbor over there? He’s got a new boat, and I haven’t even been able to get my old boat in the water to go after those speckled trout.” Or maybe it is the Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes, we’ve already fixed what we were planning to, and we fill God urging us to do a couple more, and we say to God, “what about John, I’ve already done a dozen and he said he wasn’t doing any.” Maybe it is a mission opportunity presented before us that would call us to give up something else we had planned or wanted to do, but when we don’t see someone else committing to going, we say, “well, if they’re not going, I’m not either.”
We do it as a church at times. It happens when a possibility for ministry comes up in our community and rather than take an initiative we decide we want to wait and see what other church’s in our community are going to do. It happens when we start comparing our worship, our ministries, our efforts to other congregations and begin thinking, “well, if the Baptist’s are not doing this” or “the Holiness church has pulled out of this” or “the Pentecostals would never be involved in supporting this…” so why should we.
Now, I’m not talking about anything specific, whether as individuals or churches, so don’t try to figure out who I’m really talking about or what situation or ministry I’m talking about. I’ve only been here four months…I don’t know those kind of specifics and wouldn’t call out an individual specifically in worship anyways…but I know personally, in years gone by, God and I have had some of those conversations…and I have yet, in almost twenty-two years, served in a community where at least once, a ministry conversation centered on what other churches might be doing.
To each of those responses, Jesus would say to us, “What’s it to you what I’ve got planned for them…what’s it to you what they’re doing…this isn’t about them…this is about you…this is about what I am asking you to do. Don’t worry about them…worry about following me.” My brothers and sisters…if Jesus tells us to do something, in whatever way he is asking us to reveal the presence of His Kingdom, here and now…we don’t need to take time to worry about what Jesus is asking someone else to do, or whether or not someone else is going to do what Jesus is asking us to do. Because we are not called to follow our neighbors, we are not called to follow our friends, we are not called to follow our family; we are called to be faithful, we are called to follow Him!
In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.