Jesus said to Peter, “Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but 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.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me” (John 21:18-22 NIV).
Jesus informed Peter that he would suffer and die for the sake of the kingdom of God. What did Peter do when he heard this somber news? He looked at John and asked Jesus, “What about him?” In other words, “Will John suffer like me?” We’re no different. When hit with problems, trials and tribulations, we often look at other’s seemingly trouble free lives and wonder why they’re not suffering as much as we are (and deep down wishing they were). Why are they enjoying perfect health when I feel pain almost every day? Why do they have so much money when I can barely make ends meet? Why is their marriage so happy when mine is struggling to survive? Why are their kids so perfect? Why is their life so easy when mine is so hard?
First of all, we really don’t know what’s going on below the surface of other people’s lives. Have you ever been surprised to learn someone who looked like the picture of health was suffering or even dying from a disease? Ever been utterly shocked to find out the couple you thought were so perfectly happy together got a divorce? Have you ever been stunned (and secretly a little happy) to hear that someone else’s kids are not as wonderful as you thought they were? What about when the person with that great job you wished you had suddenly finds themselves unemployed? Despite all the Facebook pictures of families having wonderful vacations, it’s going to rain somewhere at some time. No one’s life is a Disneyworld adventure all the time.
Next, if we look at those less fortunate than us, our hearts become grateful for all we have. After visiting a man who could no longer move because of having a stroke, I felt extremely thankful for my health. As I later walked through Walmart, I whispered thanks to God for two working legs, arms, eyes and ears. My chronic neck pain didn’t seem so bad after seeing that man unable to move from his wheel chair. When I hear about those who have lost their job and struggling to find a new one, it makes me thankful even while sitting in traffic on a Monday morning headed to work. When I drive in the blighted areas of town where people live in severally dilapidated houses, I suddenly become thankful for my little house on my relatively quiet street. All we need to do is take a hard look around us and we will realize how truly fortunate we are.
Jesus told Peter, “Follow me!” But he no sooner said it, and Peter looked at John (known as “The Beloved”) and asked, “Lord, what about him?” Peter thought, sure I’m going to suffer but old “Mr. Beloved” is going to get off easy! John, the beloved did not get off easy. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs says that John was thrown into a large pot of boiling oil and they tried to make fried apostle stew! That didn’t work, so he was banished to the island of Patmos. During this time John wrote the book of Revelation. He was later released and died a very old man in what is now known as Turkey. John didn’t die a violent death, but he certainly suffered for his faith in Christ.
Yes, we are collectively the body of Christ, but we all have our individual calling and spiritual walk with Jesus. We can’t allow ourselves to get caught up in comparing our lives with other’s lives who seem to have it all together. Jesus is telling us the same thing he told Peter when we ask, “Lord, what about them?” He’s replying to us, “What is that to you? You must follow me.” Let’s daily keep our focus only on Jesus. “…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1b-2 NKJV).