Jesus’ Demand for His Disciples (John 21:18-25)

John ends his gospel by describing the way that Peter will die. His Master uses dialogue to address this topic. There is a problem with Peter that must be addressed, a problem that we all have as believers. Comparing ourselves is a serious problem revealed by Peter’s question, “Lord, what about him?” When we compare ourselves, we take our focus off of who Jesus is.

Only Jesus has the right to determine how you will glorify God (John 21:18-22).

In verse 18, Jesus is making it clear that Peter’s life is in God’s hands. There is a contrast of wills. Our desire to do what we want to do will always get in the way. It won't be removed until we are glorified.

The wording of this verse is a clear allusion to crucifixion. Jesus is saying this with the nail prints in His own hands, describing the exact kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Jesus could have told Peter about how thousands of people would believe the Gospel and be saved because of him in a few days. But He told him of a harsh reality, still assuring Peter that he would glorify God.

Jesus alone determines our usefulness and controls our destiny. So we need to follow Jesus and Jesus alone.

Only Jesus has control of our destiny (John 21:23).

In verses 20-22, Peter asks about what will happen to John, described as the disciple Jesus loved. There are lots of ways that we compare ourselves to others. No matter the outcome, the feat ahead of him, or the hurt behind him, in the present both John and Peter know that Jesus loves them. It doesn't matter what God is doing with someone else. It only matters what God is doing with you.

Jesus is in control of our destiny. Walt Disney and Steve Jobs, with everything they achieved, couldn't stop their last breath. It is what Jesus wills, not what I will.

Only Jesus knows all the details. (John 21:24-25)

The disciples heard a rumor that John would not die until Jesus was coming again. But Jesus said "if" He wanted John to remain, not "since"; and follows that with the question, what is that to Peter? The implied answer is, "none of your business." The details of what will happen is only in Jesus’ hands.

Jesus knows all of the details of your life. The truth is God’s Word, and we need to be digging into God’s Word. John began his gospel by telling us Jesus is the Word. Jesus also says, I am the Bread of Life, I am the Way the Truth and the Life." He is all we need as we go through the ups and downs of the life He has planned for us.

Application Points

  • Why are you following Jesus? Because a true follower is not promised a carefree life. We don’t follow Jesus to be free from suffering, in fact, Jesus says if you want to follow him you will take up your own cross. It probably won’t be a physical cross like Peter’s but some sort of suffering that will lead to God’s glory.
  • When we compare ourselves, are we wanting or hoping for others to equally suffer? We shouldn’t compare because we can’t compare. Two households, one seems to never lack and the other always there are fights about how to make ends meet. Two households, one healthy and the other where someone’s always sick. But Jesus says, what is that to you? Only the Holy Spirit knows what we need and what’s the best way we can glorify God.
  • The truth has never changed but we necessarily need to change and grow in God’s word. The truth alone brings everything into perspective and the truth is that Jesus is coming again.

Tools for Further Study

A Hymn to Encourage: “I Run to Christ” by Chris Anderson and Greg Habegger

I run to Christ when chased by fear
And find a refuge sure.
“Believe in me,” He voice I hear;
His words and wounds secure.
I run to Christ when torn by grief
And find abundant peace.
“I, too, had tears,” He gently speaks;
Thus, joy and sorrow meet.

I run to Christ when worn by life
And find my soul refreshed.
“Come unto me,” He calls through strife;
Fatigue gives way to rest.
I run to Christ when vexed by hell
And find a mighty arm.
“The Devil flees,” the Scriptures tell;
He roars, but cannot harm.

I run to Christ when stalked by sin
And find a sure escape.
“Deliver me,” I cry to Him;
Temptation yields to grace.
I run to Christ when plagued by shame
And find my one defense.
“I bore God’s wrath,” He pleads my case—
My Advocate and Friend.