“You Follow Me!”
This is my third note in a series of notes on John’s account of the resurrection. In the first note, I highlighted John’s use of new creation imagery. In the second note, I considered what his account of the resurrection says about our identity. The risen Lord declares, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”(John 20:17). In this Easter season, we remember who we are: brothers in Christ and dearly loved children of our heavenly Father. In this third note, I want to consider the personal call of the risen Christ on our lives.
John 21 reports what happened when Jesus appeared to his disciples a third time. He made a breakfast of bread and fish for his disciples on the beach. After breakfast, he went for a walk with Peter and asked him three questions and gave him four commands. Three times he asked him, “Peter, do you love me?” Three times Peter affirmed his love for Christ. Each of the three questions was followed by a command: “feed my lambs … tend my sheep … feed my sheep.” Jesus ordained Peter as a pastor. He added a warning to his third command:
“Feed my sheep. 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.” 19 (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.”
Peter was young and strong. He’d just hauled a net filled with 153 large fish onto the shore. Jesus warns him that when he’s old, he’ll be bound and taken where he does not want to go. Peter was crucified. His death glorified God. The three questions and three commands are followed by a prophecy about Peter’s crucifixion. Then there is a fourth command: “follow me.”
This is the call of the risen Christ on each of our lives: “follow me.” Peter followed him, to the end. I’m reminded of Peter’s obedience every morning when I enter my study. Caravaggio’s painting of Peter’s crucifixion hangs behind my desk. I also have the text of John 21:15-19 on my desk. It’s under my left arm as I type this note. I put it there as a reminder that the risen Christ asks me, “David, do you love me?” And he commands me, “feed my sheep.” The primary reason I put it there, however, is so that I would daily hear the call of my Lord: “follow me.”
The call of our risen Lord is personal. He calls each one of us, “follow me.” Peter’s response is not an immediate, unqualified, and enthusiastic, “Yes! I will!” He turns and sees the beloved disciple walking behind them, and he asks Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come,what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:21-22) How often do we look around and ask, “what about him? What about her?” We’re tempted to look around at one another in the church and become preoccupied with what we see other people doing. We can envy the gifting and calling of fellow believers. The risen Christ rebukes us, “what’s it to you! You follow me!” During this Easter season, we’re reminded that the risen Christ stands before us and call us, “You follow me!”