John 21:21


Peter and John were the two among the twelve who were nearest to Christ, and they were peculiarly intimate in their friendship and congenial in their disposition. It was very natural that, when the risen Jesus had uttered so explicit a prediction concerning the future of the apostle - viz., that he should live to old age, and then should glorify God by enduring a martyr's death by crucifixion - a general desire should be aroused in the breasts of the disciples to know something of the future history and the end of John. Especially it was very natural that Peter should put to the Lord the question here recorded. Yet Jesus not merely declined to comply with this request, he even rebuked the questioner for his curiosity.

I. THE CAUSES OF CURIOSITY.

1. Of these one is good, viz. the natural desire to know, with which is conjoined that sympathy that transfers to another the feelings of interest first belonging to one's self. A person utterly indifferent to the prospects of his neighbors would be regarded as morally imperfect and defective.

2. On the other hand, there is something of evil in the springs of curiosity, inasmuch as this habit of mind arises very much from the tendency to remove attention from principles, and attach it to persons. He who thinks only of principles is pedantic, and his pedantry is blamed; but he who thinks only of persons and of what happens to them is curious, and his disposition is condemned as trivial and prying. Peter's question was evidently regarded by our Lord in this latter light.

II. THE MISCHIEF OF CURIOSITY. In two respects this mental habit is injurious.

1. There is a great danger of the curious man's attention being drawn away from what relates to himself and his own true welfare.

2. There is a further danger lest the curious man should yield to the temptation to indulge in gossip, and even in scandal. It is not easy to speculate much about the circumstances and prospects of others without talking about their affairs, and surmising with regard to matters upon which we have no means of exact knowledge.

III. TRUE REBUKE AND CURE OF CURIOSITY. The language of the Lord Jesus was very emphatic and very just.

1. Let every man remember his own personal responsibility. "Follow thou me," said Jesus to Peter. We are not accountable for our neighbors, but we are accountable for ourselves.

2. Let every man remember that, the ease of others is in the hands of Divine wisdom and beneficence. "If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?" said Jesus; i.e. fear not; he is cared for equally with thyself; a good hand is over him, and he shall not be forsaken. There is often good reason for us to bear in mind the somewhat sharp but very needful rebuke of Christ, "What is that to thee?" - T.









Peter seeing John saith to Jesus, Lord, what shall this man do?
Christ had just foretold to Peter that he should in his old age die a martyr, and with that before him, the apostle left the thought of his own suffering and inquired respecting the destiny of John.

1. It is not easy to determine the spirit of the question. Some suppose that Peter argued from Christ's silence that John's course would be free from fierce trouble, and inquired with a kind of envious dissatisfaction. Not so. Peter's generous nature would prompt him to forget his own troubles in devotion to his friend, and remembering the recent incident it is hard to infer discontent here. Most probably the question sprang from earnest anxiety. Having learned the glory of his Saviour's cross, he was concerned lest John should lose the honour. It is easier for such impetuous souls to trust their own lot to God than their brother's.

2. It is not easy to explain the reply. Some have emptied the words of all their meaning by referring them to the moment of death. But Christ would "come" as truly to Peter as to John. Rather are the words to be referred to the coming of Christ at the fall of Jerusalem, when His kingdom began its world-wide supremacy. And that day in Patmos John saw visions of Christ's future dominion. Learn that —

I. GOD APPOINTS A COURSE OF LIFE FOR EACH INDIVIDUAL CHRISTIAN. No words could mark the difference which was now to mark the paths of those two men who had as yet followed Christ side by side.

1. Taking their characters we find the Divine meaning of their separate courses. Peter, the man of impulse and energy — first everywhere — his training was to be labour crowned with suffering. Unless he worked, he would fall into depression. John, calm, loving, profound — his discipline yeas patient waiting — a course not less hard, but how different.

2. Look at their work. Each was wanted in Christ's kingdom. Peter is the apostle to the doubter, the sufferer; the earnest preacher of fidelity and supporter of the distressed. Would not the prospect of his own suffering deepen his sympathy and kindle his zeal? John's mission was to declare Christ the Eternal King, the foundation of the new earth and the new heaven. Therefore he waited till the Temple was destroyed and the Jews scattered; then amid the ruins of the old he saw the unchanging One.

3. So each of us has our appointed course, and both experience of life and faith in providence teach it. Our sorrows, temptations, work, are peculiarly our own. We are each of us souls to be trained — the practical like Peter, the contemplative like John. To one God sends action and often crowns it with suffering; to another God says, "Wait and watch!" Let not the one despise the other.

II. BY WHAT LAW IS THAT COURSE FULFILLED? The answer is, "Follow thou Me." Like Him, obey whenever God's will is clear and be patient when it is dark. There are circumstances to which no other law applies, under which no experiences of other men can help us. Do the duty that is nearest you, and challenge results: "Although another shall gird thee, &c., follow thou Me."

III. THE STRENGTH THAT WILL HELD US TO FULFIL OUR COURSE. "If I will." It is the will of Christ which gives us power, for it implies knowledge and sympathy. Our deepest nature is only won by individual sympathy. There are depths of power in every soul which are unknown until it is made to feel that someone understands its joys and cares for its sorrows. Hence one great purpose of the Incarnation. Christ's life abounds with proofs that His love was personal. He has chosen our path and that fact alone is a mighty impulse to obedience. Conclusion: Herein lies the grandeur of Our Christian life. We are in a world of mystery. We dare not choose for ourselves. The merest trifles affect our destiny. But the thought that Christ has bidden us follow Him, and that by His grace we can do so clothes us with power sublime.

(E. L. Hull, B. A.)

Homiletic Monthly.
Each one must answer for himself. The account is kept between God and each individual. There must be no impertinent curiosity as to God's dealings with others — the heathen, children — those possessing few privileges. In a sense we are not our brother's keeper. God communicates direct, seldom by the way of other souls. He did not convey His message to John through Peter. Christ wished to hold Peter's mind to his own sin and responsibility. See that you follow Me, whatever John or others do. Yet this he was to do in a way that did not prevent his seeking the welfare of others. The thrice-repeated command of Christ was still ringing in his ears — "Feed My sheep;" "Feed My lambs." Observe —

1. What this individual responsibility is.

2. The sin of neglecting it.

3. Our only escape if we have neglected it in the past, immediate repentance and acceptance of the proffered pardon.

(Homiletic Monthly.)

It is good to know the principles of Christianity, it is better to practise them. One of these is that the conduct of ethers towards Christ ought not to govern our own. Peter felt a great interest in John, and was anxious to know what department he was to occupy in the new kingdom. Peter meant no wrong: but Christ said, What is that to thee? Thy work is to echo My doctrine, to tread in My steps. By "If I will" Christ intimates that we are not to be or do what we like, but what Christ wills. The doctrine is, that it is important to think more about Christ Himself than about any fellow-agents in spreading His religion. Because —

I. CHRIST HAS A PERSONAL AND ESSENTIAL PRE-EMINENCE.

1. He is what others are not and cannot be. If we want to come in contact with the most agreeable truths, let us rise above the agitation of the Church in its present state of imperfection, and fix our minds on the Redeemer Himself.

2. He is the Revealer of God to man, and I look at Him to see all I need.

3. He has a peculiar relation to me — Brother, Teacher, Priest, King. My all depends on Him. My fellow-man may be very valuable, but I can and must do without him; but I cannot live without Christ.

II. OUR ENGAGEMENTS TO CHRIST ARE INDEPENDENT OF OUR FELLOW-BEINGS. Anything they may or may not do cannot affect our individual obligation to Him. We perceive this if we consider that every one has his own work. The Church has its work, and it cannot be done by schools of philosophy; and each member has his, and if he neglects it he will be rebuked in the presence of the universe. But, you say, my ability is small and my sphere contracted. Never mind; God has called you to that; be faithful in the least, and He will make you ruler over many things. Does the scholar or business man say, Because such a man is indolent I may be? I can love many of my fellow agents, but I would not stand before the love of God in the place of any one. "Each must give an account to God," and "bear his own burden."

III. BY THINKING OF JESUS WE CAN MAINTAIN AN EMINENT STANDARD OF MORAL ACTION. There is a tendency in individuals and churches to imitate one another, but since none is perfect this may be injurious. It is right and safe, however, to imitate the perfect Redeemer. Then imitate —

1. His cordiality in religion. Whatever Christ did He did with all His heart.

2. His wonderful triumphs over obstacles. It would be useful to be acquainted with Christ's methods with His enemies as well as His friends.

3. His devotion.

(Caleb Morris.)

Our Master encouraged His followers to come to Him with all their difficulties. But He exercised a Divine discretion in the answers which He gave. Sometimes, as in the case of the blind man, He gave a direct reply, which removed error. Sometime, as after the parables, He entered into the fullest explanation. But when their questions sprang out of curiosity, He turned them aside either with quiet reproof or practical admonition, as when they asked Him, "Are there few that be saved?" and "Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" Beneath all this class of answers is the principle that we should not allow the difficulty of questions, for the solution of which we are not responsible, to keep us from doing the plain duty that is at our hands. In my student days I had a friend who was pro-eminently successful in gaining prizes by written competition. In general work he did not appear to be any better than his neighbours. I asked him to explain this, and he said, "You take the questions in the paper as they come; hence, if the first question is a very hard one, you spend, perhaps, the whole time upon that; but I pick out those that I can answer at once, and then having disposed of them, I go on to the harder ones." There was great wisdom in the plan, and in the college of life more of us would come out prizemen if we were to let speculation alone until we have performed plain duties. Much more does this hold of those things which are insoluble by mere human reason. Take —

I. THE MYSTERIES THAT LIE OUTSIDE OF REVELATION ALTOGETHER. Many of those things in revelation which perplex men have already emerged in another form in nature and providence. There is —

1. That great enigma, the existence of evil under the government of a wise, holy, and loving God. Revelation did not make that; it found it; and while it shows us a way of escape from evil, it does not attempt to solve the mystery of its existence. Neither can we solve it. But then we are not asked to do so, and we are not responsible for it. How it came is not our affair; but how we may rid ourselves of its defilement, that is for us the question of questions. Just there, however, the Lord Jesus comes with His salvation. What madness, then, to turn away from the remedy to find out the origin of the disease! When you have extinguished the fire, inquire the cause; but while it is blazing, "All hands to the fire-engines!" When we have rescued the drowning man, we may examine how he came to be in the water; but our present duty is to throw him a rope.

2. Akin to that great difficulty is the perplexity occasioned by the anomalies presented by God's providence — the prosperity of the wicked and the adversity of the good. That old debate which waxed so hot between Job and his friends has emerged in every successive generation. Yet virtually they left it where they found it. Jehovah appeared to them at the close, asking them to leave the matter in His hands. And what farther can we get than that? We are not responsible for the government of the world. God will take care of His own honour. Meanwhile for us there is the lowlier province of working out our own salvation, under the assurance that "it is God who worketh in us, to will and to do of His good pleasure." To us the Saviour has said, "Follow Me," and for the answer we give to that we shall be responsible. We cannot unravel the perplexities of providence, but we can see the way of life. Let us work in the light we have, and as we follow it we shall be led to the fountain of light.

3. Very dark many occurrences around us seem to be. The vessel goes to pieces, and hundreds are hurried to a watery grave; the little child is battered to death by a brutal ruffian; the devout worshippers in a crowded church are burned or trampled to death. "These things happen," we say, "under a God of mercy and love and justice! Why do they occur?" And then there comes the answer, "What is that to thee?" In the long run God will be "His own interpreter, and He will make it plain"; meanwhile follow Christ.

II. THE MYSTERIES WHICH SPRING OUT OF REVELATION.

1. To the superficial thinker it seems anomalous that in a communication from God there shall be any difficulties. But when we go deeper it will appear that mystery is inseparable from a revelation given by a higher to a lower intelligence. Your child asks you for an explanation of something, and you give him an answer suited to his comprehension; but your reply, perfectly intelligible from your stand-point, starts in his mind a whole crop of new perplexities. Now something like that occurs in our reception of the revelation which God has given us. The cry of our humanity was, "How shall man be just with God?" and in reply God has pointed us to Him whom He "hath set forth to be a propitiation," &c. This is a precious declaration; but how many new difficulties it has started! It brings us face to face with the mysteries of the Trinity, the Incarnation, the innocent suffering for the guilty, and so working out their redemption, &c.; and many caught in the meshes of the perplexities which they have occasioned are to-day where they were years ago. They have not "followed Christ," they have not joined His Church, they have not begun to grow in nobility and holiness of character, because they have not been able to thread their way through the labyrinth in which such questionings have involved them.

2. Now, how shall we deal with such? In the spirit of the principle before us. These questionings are not in our department. They have reference to matters which belong to God. We are not responsible for them. It may be that it is just as impossible for God to make them plain to us, as it is for us to render something which is incomprehensible to our child intelligible to him. It is not required of us to understand the infinite. Only God can comprehend God. What we are commanded to do is to follow Christ. That is within our power. There is but one way out of a labyrinth, when we have become hopelessly involved, and that is to put our hand in that of a guide, and follow his leading. And there is only one way out of these spiritual perplexities, viz., taking all that Christ says in childlike faith.

III. THE CONTINGENCIES OF THE FUTURE. We are all prone to pry into the years to come. Sometimes we are solicitous about ourselves. We cannot see what is to become of us; and if we have no cause for apprehension, we torment ourselves about our children, or our friends, or the Church, or the nation. Now to all our misgivings we have but one answer. The future is not ours. The present is. We are responsible for the present and not for the future, except only as it shall be affected by the present. Nay, we shall best serve the future, and secure it from those evils which we fear, by doing with our might the work of the present, and leaving the issue with God. "Follow Christ." In your business "follow Christ," by conducting it on His maxims, and leave the result with Him. In your household "follow Christ," by setting before them an example of faith and charity. In the Church let your endeavour be to adorn the doctrine of God your Saviour, and do not distress yourselves about things that have not yet occurred. The Philistines will not carry off God's ark, or if they do, they will soon be made as eager to send it back as they were to take it away. So with national affairs.

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

1. This is the last recorded dialogue between Peter and Christ, and it has therefore a touching interest. How many and how varied these dialogues had been! Had we no other fragments of Christ's life, we would still have a tolerably full indication both of Christian doctrine and duty. And now the interviews were to cease. Could there be a more fitting and consistent close to the whole? "Follow Me," Christ said three years before by the lakeside, and now at the self-same spot He reminds him that the omega of his life is the same as its alpha, even the duty of personal discipleship, the word "Follow me."

2. Peter's question about John is a common one, and the answer Christ gave is fitting and final. There is nothing in it to discourage feeling for a brother's welfare. Yet mark, it may be one thing to say, "What shall I do for this man?" and another to ask, "What shall this man do?" Take the question as that of —

I. LOVING BUT OVER-ANXIOUS SOLICITUDE.

1. Perhaps, as in this case, the relation is that of friendship. You stand with a neighbour at the outset of life. Your own track is laid down, be it attractive or difficult. And no sooner have you faced the disclosure than your thoughts revert to your friend, and the question starts up, "How shall life shape itself for him?" You may fear for that future, or you may envy it. But if your forecast of your friend be such as to affect your own present, deranging its plans or obscuring its claims, it is plain that you ask amiss. It is met with the rebuke, "What is that unto thee? Follow thou Me."

2. Or the tie may be the closer one of family. What shall that future yield for them? Some may be sick; shall it bring them health and long life? Some may be thoughtless and easily led; shall it give them wisdom and stability? Once more comes the message, "Leave their future in My hands; and for your own part, follow Me!"

3. Or, again, this question is asked by those who are burdened with the state and the prospects of the Church. And no doubt an interest in the Church is the token of a thriving Christian life. But there is a morbid apprehensiveness which is totally different, unbefitting belief in the Church's destiny and loyalty to its head. Most certainly these forebodings are amiss, if they are permitted to interfere with attention to the Church's claims, and lead to the toleration of a present evil on the score that a worse evil may follow its removal. Christ answers, Leave the future of the Church with Another, and do thou follow Me. And surely, if each took the lesson home, the problem of the Church's future would soon solve itself. For the Church will be just what its members are.

4. The question involves indirectly a care for oneself. It really meant much to Peter what was to become of his partner. If John was about to depart, his heart would be emptier, his life weaker, his path lonelier. And just so still. John's track in due time did diverge. But Peter found a better and a stronger by his side than his own loved John — even the Shepherd and the Bishop of his soul. The future hides many paths to-day, but whatever the paths, the guidance and example are the same.

II. VAIN SPECULATION, which may sometimes be stirred by affection to a person, but often is curiosity towards facts. There are those whose present state and future prospects, religiously speaking, are matters of curious and perplexing interest. They have so much of the practical religious spirit, while, in point of saving religious doctrine, they diverge. May there not be fruitless and unwarranted guessing here. One dare not lay down the amount of light needed to make them Christians, and one cannot decide what light they possess. "What is that," says the Saviour, "unto thee? You who have attained to a clearer perception, are you acting up to it? You who have listened to a richer gospel, are you communicating and adorning it?" Pray for those of whose destiny you are doubtful; enlighten them as God gives you opportunity; above all, make it plain that the more tenacious your hold is on doctrine, the richer is your outcome in practice.

III. SELFISH DISCONTENT. Your own post in life seems a hard one; and, as you brood on its burdens, you compare yourselves with others with whom God has dealt otherwise. "Lord," is the question, "what shall this man do? Is he always to succeed while I must fail? If so, 'verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency, for how cloth God know, and is there knowledge in the Most High?'" The only answer is, "If I will that it be so, what is that unto thee? Trust the God of the earth to do right. Follow thou Me!"

IV. INTENDED CONFORMITY. What many are keenest to settle is the mode of their neighbour's service, the extent of his sacrifices, not the question, "What do my own opportunities make possible, my own indebtedness impose, my Master require?" But if the question, "What shall this man do?" is to intrude on the sphere of our Christian principles, then farewell to the spirit of true consecration. For He who presides in the Church, by whose will your responsibilities are imposed, at whose bar your account must be rendered, is saying, "What is that unto thee?" and what really is it? Art thou scanning thy neighbour's conduct, waiting thy neighbour's lead? Nay, judge apart m these matters, as apart thou shalt yet be judged. Be true to the light of thine individual conscience and thine individual commands. Follow thou Christ. Conclusion:

1. In matters of religious life — all the duties that pertain to discipleship — one's own things come first. And to give them anything else than the first place is to become practical idolaters by the preference of a neighbour's claim to God's.

2. This order is the best one for the interests of your neighbour himself. It is just this care for your personal salvation and duty that will further his prosperity, affording him the stimulus and allowing him the freedom he may happen to require. For the building of the city of God is like the building of Jerusalem in Nehemiah's time. They who wrought wrought each at the portion of the wall that was opposite himself, and the issue was the steady growth of the whole. And had any slackened his efforts to ask what his neighbour was doing, he might have been answered in the spirit of the text: "What is that unto thee? See that thine own task is done!" Or the Church is like a battalion of soldiers, as they swarm a height, while the voice of their captain is calling them and his figure is leading the way. One may ascend by one path, another may ascend by another. Only let all hear the same ringing summons, and push steadily toward the same goal. And as all do the best for themselves, they will do the best for the troop, the success of its enterprise, the glory of its leader. Say not, therefore, "Lord, what shall this man do?" From the far heights above floats the answer of our Forerunner and King, "What is that unto thee? Follow thou Me."

(W. A. Gray.)

It is noteworthy that the apostle so reproved here should afterwards write for the instruction of the Church that excellent sentence, "Let none of you suffer... as a busybody in other men's matters."

(G. J. Brown, M. A.)

"Well," says one, "it is very important to know about predestination and free will, you know." Yes, yes, and if you do not do anything good till you perfectly understand that, you have plenty of time to wait. "Yes, but how do those two things meet? Or is one true and not the other?" Well, I really do not know, and cannot tell you for the life of me whether I am predestinated to go to bed to-night or not; but I will tell you to-morrow morning. I am of the mind of poor Malachi down in Cornwall. A Wesleyan brother owed him some rent, and he said, "Malachi, I owe you five pounds, but I shall not pay you till you tell me if I am predestinated to pay it." "Oh," said Malachi, "put the money down there." With that Malachi put it in his pocket, and replied, "Yes, you are." I believe that the way to answer these questions is just to bring them to some practical test or other. But if any brother dwell upon that which angels cannot fathom, I say to him — in the words of my text I say to him — "What is that to thee? Follow thou Me."

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

There are two great varieties in men with reference to knowledge. The one is a neglect to know what it is our duty to know. The other is a curiosity to know what it doth not belong to us to know.

(W. Burkitt.)

I cannot help seeing a latent resemblance between this place and the well-known passage at the end of Daniel's prophecy. "Then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? And He said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end." — "Go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days." (Daniel 12:8, 9, 13).

(Bp. Ryle.)

1. Our children sometimes sing that they wish that they had seen Jesus and heard His gentle voice; and perhaps you and I have said "Amen!" But it appears that the words of Jesus were not very impressive upon Peter. He had said to him, "Follow Me," and one would have thought Peter would have done nothing else; for there was a day in which his Master had to say to him, "Thou canst not follow Me now, but thou shalt do so hereafter." But now we find Peter forgetting the following, and turning round to indulge his curiosity. Do not wonder that our people forget what we say, for even when Christ is the sower all the seed does not fall on good soil, and all good soil does not receive the seed.

2. How easily people are diverted from the best of things. Peter at once began to follow Christ; but he turned his head and caught a sight of John, and he began to ask questions. Our people do not attend when we preach as they should. We are telling them a story which ought to hold them spellbound, and yet some one faints in the gallery, and everybody looks round, and it takes a long time to get them back again. Now, we must not be vexed, for it was so even with the Saviour.

3. Since people are taken off from serious thought by little things, do not you be the cause of little things. Among the rest, never come in late and make people turn round to see who is coming up the aisle.

4. Whatever distractions there may be in worship, nothing must be allowed to draw us off from duty. John was a great friend of Peter's, and it was most natural that Peter should want to know what was to become of his friend. But no love of friends may ever come in the way to prevent our doing what Christ bids us.

I. THE MAIN BUSINESS OF OUR LIFE IS TO FOLLOW JESUS. We must follow Christ —

1. By seeking from Him salvation. If you depart from Christ that is destruction. I hear it said that to tell men to be earnest about their own salvation is practically to make them selfish; but if I had to save a man from drowning, I should be selfish enough to learn to swim. If I had to be a soldier, I should be selfish enough to wish to be strong, that I might fight the battle well. I was present once at a street accident, and I fetched the doctor, and I noticed how very quietly and coolly he came. I was running and out of breath, I wanted to quicken his pace, but he said to me, "Why, if I put myself in a bluster, as you have done, I could not do any good at all." Was that selfishness?

2. That done, the next thing is the fashioning of the character according to the mode of Christ. There is no following Christ except by endeavouring to be like Him. Christ, though absolutely perfect, is an imitable character. You could not tell me what special phase of character Christ has. He is so good all round. It is all there, and nothing too much and nothing too little. Lives of Christ — they are in the market everywhere. Write one yourselves in your own life. The Church ought to be like those rooms where the whole of the walls are lined with looking-glass. Stand in the centre, and you see yourself there, there, there, there. Christ is the centre, and all the saints so many looking-glasses, showing Him from different points of view. Each will be different, yet all will be the same, and Christ will be glorified. I saw a little motto hung up in our infant school-room, "What would Jesus do?" Now, in every case, whatever Jesus would do in that case is what you and I should do.

3. Then the man saved and endeavouring to be conformed to Christ, must follow in His life service. We are committed to the Lord. You do not belong to yourselves, not a hair of your head. There is not one minute of your time that you have a right to call your own. A person of New York when baptised turned all the money he had into a certain form of scrip and had it all in his pocket, for he wanted to dedicate the whole of his substance, as well as himself. I never receive a member without asking him, "What are you going to do for the Saviour?" If he says he cannot do anything, I say, "Here is one who belongs to Christ, and Christ cannot make anything of him. He is dead stock." So the man begins to think, and, as a result, he finds there is something or other that he ought to do. Wherever Cook, the circumnavigator, landed he was seen to take little packets out of his pockets, throwing them out of his hand and circulating them. He belted the whole world with English flowers. That is how we ought to do — get some of the precious seed into your own soul, and carry it with you wherever you go. Have it with you on the trip to the seaside, for in this you will be following Christ, who "went about doing good."

4. We are to follow Christ by exhibiting an intense love to Him. This is the way to show that love — attentively listening to everything He has to say.

5. We must do all this —(1) Unreservedly. But some people have got one little reserve — some favourite sin, or thing.(2) Constantly — not sometimes. The enlistment in the army of Christ is not for a time long or short. You are called to eternal life. Not to the kind of life which, having lived six months or years, you then go on furlough to serve yourself. I heard of one who said that he did such and such a thing when he was off duty. Aye, a policeman may be off duty; but never a Christian.(3) Heartily. I hate the miserable way in which some people serve Jesus. I illustrate it sometimes by the mumbler at the prayer-meeting. I called at his shop and heard him say, in loud tones, "John, bring up that half hundred." I thought, "This is the man I cannot hear when he prays." I stepped into a shop the other day, and I noticed the ledger. Oh my! what a ledger! I thought of my own little pocket Bible. Dear me, when the ledger gets on the top of that, what a crush it is.

6. We must follow Christ in the vocation to which He has called us. Some think that if they follow Christ they must give up the shop. No — follow Him there. Another says, "I shall go to a nunnery, and I shall follow Christ there." You are better at hems with your children. Another thinks that to follow Christ he must give up his employment and become a city missionary. It is a great pity to spoil a good carpenter to make a bad preacher. When Christ rode the ass through Jerusalem, the ass did its best to carry Him, and it succeeded. It did not take to flying. No, it was not such an ass as that.

II. TO EFFECT THIS WE MUST AVOID ALL DISTRACTION, AND IF WE ARE GOING TO FOLLOW CHRIST, WE MUST GO IN FOR IT. A child was asked by a Sunday-school teacher, "Is your father a Christian?" The girl said, "Yes, but he has not worked much at it lately." Often the reason is because they have turned aside to do something else. Then —

1. Do not let distractions come in the form of reflections upon others. Peter wants to know about John.(1) He might have said, "Perhaps John is going to have a much easier post than I am." In working for Christ have you ever said, "Ah, ah, it is fine to be him. I wish I had his place; I could do something there." "What is that to thee? Follow thou Me." Art thou the poorer because he is the richer? Leave the Lord as He pleases to deal with John, and let John escape the edge of the sword, even if thou go to the cross.(2) But some will say, as Peter might have said, though he did not, "Now look at that John. He is all contemplation," "I cannot bear those mystics. They are no use." Martha says of Mary, "Bid her come and help me." Oh, these Marys, what is to become of them, always sitting there at Jesus' feet? Now, Martha, what is that to thee — follow thou Me. What if one brother serve God one way and one in another? You follow Christ, and let him follow Him in his own way.(3) I heard say of a certain good sister, who does a good deal of work for Christ, by one who never did anything to my knowledge, "She is such a crotchetty woman." Yes, and I never met with anybody who did nothing that was not crotchetty. And if some of the crochets iv God's people were taken away it would take away from them their power. God has fashioned them for His use. Now, the next time you see a friend who is not made quite so perfect as yourself, do you hear the Master say, "What is that to thee? Follow thou Me."(4) "Well," says one, "but I know a man that I am sure is very much overvalued." So do I, but what is that to thee? If the Lord is pleased to use him, pray God to use thee too.(5) "Still," says one, "we must correct the mistakes of some Christians." By all means; and whenever you see a crooked stick in the Lord's bundle, tell it it is crooked by being perfectly straight yourself. Get close alongside in loving fellowship, and the thing is done directly. I pray that you and I may not be so occupied with washing everybody else's doorstep that we may allow filth to accumulate in front of our own house.

2. Do not let us occupy our own minds about deep theological problems.(1) Some friends cannot save souls, because they do not know the origin of evil. When a thief comes into your house at night, do not ring the bell for the policeman — let him do exactly what he likes till you find out where he came in. And if you are a drowning man, and the life-buoy is thrown to you, do not touch it till you know who made it, and what it is made of.(2) "Well," says one, "it is very important to know about predestination and free will." Yes, and if you do not do anything good till you understand that, you have plenty of time to wait. Let your servant-maid refuse to-morrow to get up to prepare your meals, and say, "My dear sir, I cannot do it, for I cannot make out the doctrine of election." You would say, "Mary, I never engaged you for that."(3) And do not let prophecy lead you astray. There are some who make the coming of Christ an excuse for spending their time in speculation rather than in holy active service for Christ. I dropped in upon a member of my church some time ago, and I saw her upon the steps scrubbing the doorstep. She blushed all manner of colours, and said, "Sir, if I had known you were coming you would not have found me like this." I said, "But if my Lord was coming to-morrow that is just how I should like Him to find me, at my work." Follow thou me, whatever you have to do tomorrow.(4) There are certain terrible facts which I pray you never unduly to consider so as to be taken off from the service of Christ — e.g., the condition of lost spirits, of the world and of the Church — and what is to become of it. Now look, if you are in a storm, and are set to pull a rope, if you begin to take the whole state and condition of the ship into consideration, all about the crew, the cargo, the compass, the currents, the winds, and do not pull your rope, I tell you, you would do better to know nothing about these things, and to go to your work. And I believe some of God's servants need to be talked to about this. You get fretting about the times being so bad. Well, you get and make them better. You were never meant to do everything, and God never constructed you to clean the world up. It went on pretty well before you were born, and it is just possible that it may after you are dead.(5) And sometimes the way of the Christian is so narrow, so dark, that his only safety lies in the clutching the hand of his great leader, as with trembling he says, "Master, the abyss, the darkness, the horror of the way!" He says, "What is that to thee? Follow thou Me."(6) Oh God, says a poor soul, my own child, I am afraid he will be lost." The Saviour says in reply, "Follow thou Me." Try to win him, bus look not at the dire possibilities, so as to have thy mouth shut and thy tongue silent within thee.(7) "We ought all to weep for Jerusalem," say you. Yes, but even Christ that did it did not do it every day.

3. Do not let us distract ourselves from our work with anything out of the line of practical religion. You remember Carey's words about Eustace, his son. "Poor Eustace has drivelled into an ambassador." When everybody else thought it high promotion, he thought it degradation for him to turn aside from the one work of the ministry. Now, you who love the Lord, are all called to some form of ministry, Stick to it. Better be poor and serve Christ than to grow rich and give it up.

III. THE REASONS FOR THIS CONCENTRATION OF OUR LIFE. We are to do one thing and not twenty things.

1. We have not any too much power, and if we do not use what we have for the one thing we shall waste strength. When the miller has got only a certain stream let him pour that all over one wheel and he will grind. But let him not divert his water into many meandering streams, or else he will certainly waste his power.

2. It is only by taking one object that you can ever become eminent in it.

3. We have not much time in which to do the little we are going to do; let us pack it tight, get all into it that we can. Dr. Chalmers one night spent a very happy evening with some friends. Among the rest a Gallic chieftain was present, who was much amused with Chalmers' anecdotes and stories. They went to bed, and in the middle of the night the chieftain was suddenly taken ill and died; and Chalmers, writing of it afterwards, says, "How differently they would have talked if they had been aware of what was about to happpen." Let us live as though we knew that we might this evening finish our life.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Then went this saying
The earliest recorded tradition respecting St. John had apparently sprung up, not like most of them after the Apostle's death, but during his lifetime, and professed to be founded on an express prediction of our Lord that "St. John should never die." In this case it was possible to confront the traditionary statement with the historical, and this chapter was added to the Gospel, apparently, to state the true fact that "Jesus said not unto him," &c. Whether a misunderstanding of our Lord's words was the sole origin of the tradition may be questioned; it is, perhaps, most likely to have been in the first instance occasioned partly by the Apostle's great age, and partly by the general expectation that our Lord's coming was near. Nor was the opinion without some ground of truth if we consider that the language in which our Lord's coming is identified, or at least blended with the images which equally describe the fall of Jerusalem. This last feeling, however, had evidently passed away before the time when the tradition assumed the particular shape specified in the text, and it now therefore took its ground on the supposed saying there referred to. The "coming of the Lord" was now to them, what it is to us, another expression for the end of all things; the next and natural process consequently was to limit the words to the new view. Yet neither the express caution of the Evangelist, nor the contradiction of the story by his death was sufficient entirely to eradicate it. The story of his being not dead but asleep in his grave at Ephesus was related to by persons who professed to have witnessed the motion of the dust by the supposed breath of the sleeper, and the notion that he was still living not only became a fixed article of popular belief in the Middle Ages, but has been revived from time to time by later enthusiasts, and is still partially commemorated in the Greek Church in the Feast of the Translation of the Body of St. John. Compare, amongst other instances the well-known story of the apparition of St. John to Edward the Confessor and the Ludlow pilgrims, and again to James IV., at Linlithgow, before the Battle of Flodden, the belief in Prester John in Central Asia, and the ancient legendary representations of the search for the body in the empty tomb.

(Dean Stanley.)

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