Peter turned around and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them. This was the one who had leaned against Jesus at the meal and asked him, “Lord, who is going to betray you?” When Peter saw this disciple, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain until I come, what difference does that make to you? You must follow me.” – John 21:20-22
Jesus: “You must follow me.”
Wednesday evening at church (it was me along with twelve other guys sitting around the table) we wrapped up our study of John’s gospel. My question for the week was simple: “Please share one key idea or take-away that has buried itself in your consciousness as a disciple of Jesus.”
The guys did exactly what I was looking for, sharing quotes from John’s narrative all the way from “In the beginning was The Word” (Chapter One) to the cryptic yet challenging last few verses, where one of the disciples tries to divert the Master’s attention away from himself by saying, “What about him?” And then Jesus responds with, “What difference does that make to you?” and – even more pointedly – “You must follow me.”
So I pressed the question, asking what Jesus might think of all the “what about him?” finger pointing and judgmental posturing we love to pursue in this culture. “How,” I asked, “does Jesus turn the question back on us – today – when we avoid responsibility for ourselves and try so hard to turn the spotlight on everyone else?”
“You must follow me”
I think it was Dick who quoted John 9:25: “The man answered, ‘I don’t know whether he’s a sinner. Here’s what I do know: I was blind and now I see.’” Wow! We must avoid being so distracted by arguments, and definitions, and our obsession with being right – that all leads to confusion and pointless debate. Instead, let’s celebrate the fact that Jesus heals us, heals us and sets us free. Not just free from, but free to…
Another of my friends went to John 8, and I believe this is the gospel, right here, especially when I think about how Jesus doesn’t want to have anything to do with our misfocused, “What about him?”
Jesus spoke to the people again, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me won’t walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” Then the Pharisees said to him, “Because you are testifying about yourself, your testimony isn’t valid.” Jesus replied, “Even if I testify about myself, my testimony is true, since I know where I came from and where I’m going. You don’t know where I come from or where I’m going. You judge according to human standards, but I judge no one.”
Jesus presents this invitation to simply live fully gospeled lives, to take our focus off of the shortcomings of those around us, to take – and this is so important – the light of Christ with us. Do not walk in darkness. Instead, follow Jesus. Jesus is the light of life. “You people,” Jesus said and continues to say, “too readily fall into codifying your religion, and finger-pointing, and petty rules, and condemnation. Me? I judge no one.”
Instead, what does Jesus want us to do? What is the point of the Gospel of John? Well, my group pretty much determined that Jesus is inviting us to live in the light, to join him in God’s initiatives of love, grace, mercy, goodness, healing, kindness, and more.
And how do we do this? That is when our conversation started to move around the idea of submission, of putting the other ahead of ourselves – starting with Jesus. This is a hard conversation for the average North American male. But these guys are not average, not in the least. But the submission conversation is going to have to wait for another post.
In hope – DEREK