After His resurrection, three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him. And each time Peter answered ‘Yes!’ Then Jesus told Peter how he would die - apparently it was going to be by crucifixion. Peter wasn’t sure about this. He looked around him, perhaps not wanting to believe that this was how it was going to go. His eyes settled on John and he wondered how things would work out for John. So Peter asked Jesus, “What about this man?” Jesus brushed off the question and said, “What is that to you? You follow me!” You can read the full exchange between Jesus and Peter in John 21:18-22.
The interesting thing is that these words of Jesus to Peter - “What is that to you? You follow me” – are words that I actually find quite sweet. They are liberating from the discouragement of fatal comparisons. I get quite a few articles and emails that come from different Christian sources. And as I read them I am susceptible to a being discouraged. You see, book after book...conference after conference...blog after blog...all tell me how I can succeed in ministry. Without intending to, all of them are quietly delivering the message that I am just not making it. Worship could be better. Preaching could be better. Evangelism could be better. Pastoral care could be better. Missions could be better. Here is what actually works. Buy this…Go to this conference…Attend this seminar…Do it this way.
So, I do find myself refreshed by Jesus’ blunt words to all of us: “What is that to you? You follow me!” Peter had just heard a difficult word about the painful way in which he was going to die. His first thought was comparison. What about John? If I have to suffer, will he have to suffer? If my ministry ends like that, will his end like that? If I don’t get to live a long life of fruitful ministry, will he get to?
That’s the way we are wired. It’s all about Compare…Compare…Compare. We crave to know how we measure up in comparison to others. Somehow we think are doing OK if we can just find someone less effective than we are. Ouch. What we actually need to hear is, “What is that to you? Follow me.”
The beautiful thing in all of this is that Jesus will not judge you according to your superiority or inferiority over anyone. No preacher. No church. No ministry. No husband. No wife. No fellow worker. No one. Others are not the standard. Jesus has a work for you to do, and a different one for the person next to you. What’s more, there is grace and strength to do it. So, what it comes down to is will I trust God for that grace and do what He has given me to do? That’s the question. There is great liberty that comes when Jesus gets tough and says it like it is! There is even greater liberty in knowing that He has called you and graced you for the task He has for you and not for someone else.
I hope you find encouragement and freedom today when you hear Jesus say to all your comparisons: “What is that to you? You follow me!”