Editorial: Follow Me

John’s gospel opens and closes about words.  The profound and majestic opening words of the gospel declare in clear and unmistakable terms, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ 1   The bold, declarative statement leaves us in no doubt that the living Word is none other than the eternal Son of God. The statement demolishes the twisted notion of cults and false teachers that deny or dethrone our Lord Jesus Christ.

But we notice that John’s gospel closes with a word about words.  Not the living Word, but written ones. ‘And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.’ 2 The living Word surpasses the potential written words. How could it be otherwise?

Bringing both the opening and closing truths of John’s gospel together we see the perfect sense of the Lord’s call to Peter (and by inference to us) to follow Him.3   To follow one with implicit trust, absolute self denial, complete abandonment to the will of another, demands that the one followed must transcend us in every way. There is only One who can command such loyalty from another where such a following will result in nothing but good for the devoted follower. No mere man can fulfill that office.  ‘Follow me’ could only be spoken by the Lord.

The events of John 21 provide us with an encouraging challenge. We see the Lord’s tender care for his disciples and yet at the same time the solitary way of following Him is brought before Peter. Such a following is intended for all, not just Peter. Those of us that, ‘have not seen, and yet have believed.’ 4

We notice firstly in John 21 how the Lord provided for the practical needs of His disciples. Following Him does not remove the need for material things. He demonstrates a truth previously taught, ‘…your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.’ 5  as He directs His disciples to where they might catch the needed fish. And in abundance we might add. We notice however the disciples had to do the work, but the Lord evidently prospered their efforts. Christian life and services does not exempt us from practical demands of work. 6  However, in the discharge of this duty, we can rely on the Lord to be with us. And further, such efforts do not prevent us from fulfilling our God given service. We need to be on our guard lest we fall into the world’s trap of driving people to exhaust themselves in the search for material things alone.

There is another lesson in the chapter concerning the Lord’s restoration of Peter.  Commentators are fond of pointing out that the Lord asked Peter three questions.  It is suggested that each time corresponds to the three times Peter denied the Lord. It was the public affirmation by the Lord, without directly embarrassing Peter, that Peter’s repentance brought recovery and restoration not only to fellowship but to usefulness in service as well. That Peter would fail was already foreseen by the Lord. It was the recovery that the Lord prayed for. Such an experience of failure and recovery proved to be the making of the man Peter.  And it has strengthened every believer, passing through a similar experience, to this present day.

A final lesson to consider from this chapter. After hearing the Lord’s plan for Peter, the apostle then asks the Lord in reference to John, ‘Lord, and what shall this man do?’7  Was Peter asking out of concern for John? Some commentators think so. And perhaps it is so. After hearing of his own, albeit difficult, path of service, perhaps Peter wanted to be sure that John likewise would be given the honour of serving Christ. If that is the explanation it is certainly a commendable one and reminds us we need to show interest in others’ gifts and service.

However, it is possible that Peter’s question was out of place in the sense that the Lord’s call to service is personal and individual. It is possible for me in an unhealthy way to be looking at my brother’s service or gift. Paul later tells us, ‘But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.’8  Every believer has their own God given ministry to perform. He has determined it ‘as it hath pleased him.’  Our duty is to follow Him.

‘Follow me’9 were the Lord’s words to Peter and to us. Do not be preoccupied, or even envious of another’s ministry. Only you can do what God has called you to do.  To follow Him is safest course of action. ‘For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:’10

1 John 1:1

2 John 21:25

3 John 21:19, 22

4 John 20:29

5 Matthew 6:32

6 2 Thessalonians 3:10, 1 Timothy 5:8

7 John 21:21

8 1 Corinthians 12:18

9 John 21:19, 22

10 1 Peter 2:21

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