A story, from the Gospel of John, for our New Year:
One of my favorite chapters in the Gospels is actually the last one of them all. John 21. For some reason the mystery and beauty of the resurrected Jesus appearing to his disciples has always stuck out to me. What would he do now that he’s back? Would he slap Peter for being a coward? Would he flip over the tables in the Temple, again? Would he yell at Pilate?
Of course not. He would make a little fire on the beach and wait for his friends to return from fishing. Duh.
You probably know the story. When breakfast was over and Jesus and Peter were staring at their empty plates, Jesus asked Peter if he loved him. Three times, in fact. A reminder of what his denial a few days before. And each time Peter said he loved him, and Jesus replied, OK then, “feed my sheep,” “feed my lambs,” and “tend my sheep.”
It’s beautiful. And to me, it’s a grand image to start the New Year with. The past, the denial, the death, it’s gone. It is forgotten and forgiven. Instead, Jesus gives a simple command: “Feed my sheep.”
Jesus says, hey, do my work. Do good work. Take care of yourself, but take care of your neighbor. He says feed my people. Clothe them. Tell them the Good News. You denied me, but that isn’t what is important. What’s important is the work that sits ahead of you to do.
What comes next in John 21 is often forgotten and overlooked. Heck, if I was preaching a sermon on this chapter, I, too, might try to forget this happens.
You see, the King of Kings came back to Peter and helped him catch fish and prepared a fire for him. Then, he redeemed him. He pulled him back into the fold. But the next thing Peter says is: “What about him?” pointing to the disciple John.
After one of the most beautiful moments in the history of humanity occurs, Peter can’t help but wonder about the guy sitting next to him. He wants to know what Jesus thinks about the other guys. Will they be forgiven? Will they die or will they be taken with you? What’s the deal?
Jesus looks back and says simply, “What is it to you? Follow me.”
How often we look around us to see how he/she is doing. We want to know what’s going on with everyone else’s grades and followers on Instagram and internships and you name it. We have to see how we stack up. And if Peter does it after an encounter with Jesus, you know we all do it.
But Jesus’ reply is the command I hope I can stick with and remember in the fresh start of 2017:
“What is it to you? Follow me.”
It’s the idea that the it in “what is it to you?” isn’t just the guy sitting next to you — it’s everything that keeps you from being with Him.
What is worrying about the future, what is worrying about who has been to Sunday School the most, what is worrying about being accepted, when you should simply trust and follow?
What is it to you? Follow me.