(Originally published on The Year of Blogging Faithfully, September 7, 2014 ©Bethany Turner)
Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. John 21:25
John 21:25 is perhaps my favorite verse in the entire Bible. Each and every time I read that verse, my brain and my heart and my soul just go, “Wow.” All in unison.
I’ve been reading a chapter of John each day for, well…21 days. Today was the final chapter. It’s not a new development that I love John 21:25. That goes back a bit. But now I may just have to call the entire 21st chapter of John my favorite chapter of the Bible. John’s entire Gospel is powerful, and of course in chapter 3 that man wrote what is probably the most famous verse in the world. So, yeah…the whole things packs a punch. But chapter 21? Chapter 21 just throws so much at you – in just 25 verses.
First, the resurrected Christ appeared to some of the disciples as they were unsuccessfully fishing. They didn’t catch a thing, and then Jesus appeared on the shore, told them to cast their nets (On the right side. I love the specificity of this chapter!) and when they did, they caught so many fish they couldn’t haul the net in. (They caught 153 fish. Not approximately 150, or more than 150. 153. See what I mean about the specificity?) And then comes my favorite part. John told Peter, “It is the Lord!” and Peter jumped in the water to go to Jesus. That image just fills me with joy! I love Peter. I relate to Peter. Peter was flawed, and Peter messed up repeatedly. But just look how God used Peter anyway. If that doesn’t encourage us, I don’t know what will. But anyway, Peter jumped in the water. This is the same guy who was so sure that his faith was so great that he asked Jesus to let him go to Him by walking on the water. And of course, Jesus told him to come, Peter walked on the water, and then he took his eyes off the Lord and began to sink. So I just love the imagery of the scene in John 21. This time, Peter just jumped in. He couldn’t wait to get to Jesus. The boat was too slow! He knew for a fact that Jesus had died, and he knew for a fact that Jesus had defeated death. He knew that a little thing like walking on water was totally possible if Jesus told him to do it, and this time he probably would have had enough faith. But this time he didn’t ask. At that moment, Peter put away his “Hey look at me! I love Jesus the most!”-brand of faith, and instead just jumped out of the boat, into the water.
And then, one of the coolest things ever. Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him. Three times, Peter said that he did. And three times, Jesus replied to Peter’s declaration of love with instructions to take care of Jesus’s sheep. Just in case you’re taking it all out of context, let me make sure you know Jesus wasn’t asking Peter to take care of things on the farm once Jesus ascended to Heaven. We’re the sheep. Peter was told to take care of the people, and tell them about Jesus. Three times. One for each time Peter denied knowing Jesus prior to the crucifixion.
And then Jesus foretold Peter’s death. He gave him a glimpse of how he would die, and made it very clear he would die in a way which would glorify God. Peter would not stop sharing the Good News until they took his life from him. And with that news, Jesus once again invited Peter to follow Him. Just about three short years prior, Peter had become Jesus’s first disciple. That day, he had walked away from a fishing boat when Jesus said to Peter and his brother Andrew, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” What those men had seen and experienced in the three years that followed! Miracles, persecution, lives changed, souls lost, betrayals and forgiveness. “Follow me,” Jesus once again said to Peter.
And with that, Peter once again got a little pouty. “Lord, what about him?” He was looking at John as he said it, and what he was asking was, “Is he going to die for you? Why do I have to die?” And the answer Jesus gave? “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Amazing. It was essentially the first use of the tried and true parental tactic, “I don’t care what your friends are doing. We’re talking about you.” (If all your friends jumped off a cliff…) John wrote that because of what Jesus said to Peter, rumors began that John would not die, but John was quick to point out that Jesus had never said that. He just said that it was no concern of Peter’s. All Peter needed to worry about was following Jesus – in life and death.
Peter was eventually killed, of course. In John 21:18, Jesus told Peter “when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” And as an old man, Peter was crucified, like his Savior. But not exactly like his Savior, of course. History tells us that Peter did not consider himself worthy to die in the same manner as Christ, so he was crucified upside down – by his own request.
All of this, in only 25 verses. In 25 verses we experience love and faith and restoration and miracles. We are witnesses to the joy which fills Peter when he is in the presence of God, but we are also present for the moment when he learns, with certainty, that it’s not going to be easy. And even though we will most likely never face martyrdom, almost certainly not by crucifixion, we know that to follow Christ is to follow Him wherever He leads. He never promised Peter it would be easy, and He never promised that to us, either. But, like Peter, we are capable of experiencing the joy which accompanies a life in our Savior’s presence.
I don’t know about you, but that’s what I want. I want to jump out of the boat, because I can’t take one more moment away from Him. And in that moment, I know that I will follow Him anywhere.