Studies in First Peter
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:1 ESV)
Three times Peter denied Christ before those who murdered Him. Three times Jesus commissioned Peter to care for His Church. Peter received his marching orders, given a specific directive and mandate to teach and care for those who follow Jesus.
Jesus also hints to Peter what will happen in his future. While Jesus gives general predictions about what some Christians may suffer because of their relationship with Him, Peter receives a strong, pointed indication of how he will die. He feared standing before the authorities, who accused Jesus of blasphemy, desiring to kill Him. Peter ran when confronted by a mob and lied when confronted by a servant girl. Jesus taught His disciples that they would stand before authorities and to not worry about what they would say.
Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Matthew 10:17-20 ESV)
Jesus indicated that Peter would die in the same way Jesus had died, by crucifixion. But, Jesus was standing before Peter, resurrected from death, telling him these things. Peter would stand before the authorities and speak to them about his relationship with Christ. He would not deny Christ or lie about that relationship. And he will suffer the same death His Master suffered. “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go” (John 21:18 ESV). Peter would suffer for righteousness’ sake.
John wrote his gospel after Peter’s death. His next statement is parenthetical. “(This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God)” (John 21:19 ESV). John lived a long life of witness and persecution, finally being exiled toward the end of the century, to the island of Patmos where he died. His brother, James, was the first martyr of the disciples, murdered by Herod, who also imprisoned Peter. “He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also” (Acts 12:2-3 ESV). Peter was miraculously delivered from prison by angels (Acts 12:6-11). It was not time for him to die. All people will die only when God determines their lives in the world are completed.
Jesus gave Peter the same command here that He had given when He called the disciples. “And after saying this he said to him, ‘Follow me’” (John 21:19 ESV). Jesus expects absolute obedience to His commands from the person called. We are not afforded the luxury of comparing ourselves with others. Nor does Jesus command groups to follow Him. His summons is for the individual. We are called to stand alone before the authorities and give our witness of Jesus. When Peter turned and asked about another disciple, Jesus once again rebuked him. He did not want to go alone but, in the end, was willing. Death is an individual thing. Though large groups die together each dies separately. “When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” (John 21:21 ESV).
There were two parts to Jesus’ answer. First was the will of God. That God has a purpose for each person becomes evident in this statement. That His purpose for one may affect others and does not preclude the demand all obey. “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:22 ESV). Jesus has told His disciples they must pick up their crosses and follow Him. “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38 ESV; see Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23-24, Luke 14:27).
Secondly, Jesus reiterates the command for Peter to follow Him. “You follow me!” (John 21:22). It does not matter what others do or believe. It does not matter what happens to others. They are responsible to God. Each is responsible for their actions, motivations, thoughts and words. If they follow Jesus, good. If they do not follow Jesus, you must. Our following Jesus is not dictated by the circumstances we encounter in the world but by His call and our obedience.