“If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” (John 21:23, ESV)
In our house, everyone has chores. With six children still at home, we try to delegate to make it easier on everyone, but it doesn’t always go smoothly.
A few stray dishes left from the night before become an unfair problem the next day. The whole system gets backed up because one person didn’t do their own job.
Or, several are assigned to tidy a room. But when 1 or 2 decide to play, the others often stop working to corral and enlist them back to the job. All of them end up doing nothing because they are focused on what everyone else is doing.
At this point either I or my wife must remind the children that their job is to do their job. It doesn’t matter if they perceive it to be unfair, or if someone else seems to be doing nothing, they are still responsible for their individual job. If everyone will do their job and not worry about the next person, everything else will take care of itself.
On such occasions, I am often reminded of the interaction between Jesus and Peter in John 21. Talking with Peter on the Galilean shore after the resurrection, Jesus encouraged Peter to continue in the work they had started together – to follow him and feed his flock (John 21:17). Then Jesus gave Peter this vision of his future:
Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” (John 21:18-19).
No doubt Peter was stunned. His next statement was predictably human. He looked over at John, Jesus’ closest earthly friend, and said, “Lord, what about this man?” (John 21:21).
The folklore that perpetuated among the disciples after this occasion (John 21:23) nearly threatened to overshadow Jesus’ terse but somewhat humorous answer, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!” (John 21:22).
Obviously, there was no reasonable connection. It simply didn’t matter what John’s fate would be. Jesus was not addressing John. And frankly, if it was any of Peter’s business, Jesus would have told him.
What about us? Do we serve because it’s the right thing to do? Do we refrain from serving because “nobody else” does? Do we only love when we’ve first been shown love? Do we do some kindness only when it has first been shown to us? Do we focus on what everybody else is (or isn’t) doing, or do we focus our eyes on Christ and keep doing what we have to do?
Let us follow the admonition Jesus gave to Peter: you follow Me, and I’ll worry about John.