But we all must die.
- November 21, 2017
- Jared Odenbeck
“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.” Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” John 21:18-23
Not all of us will die this death. But we all must die.
Think of the absurdity here. Jesus tells Peter that he will die the most gruesome death. And then, for one final, decisive, and persuasive time, he says to Peter, “follow me.” Follow me to your death, Peter. What a waste it would be to follow anyone else but Jesus willingly and knowingly to death. But, oh! how sweet and precious and lovely the reward for those who lay their lives down by the power of the Holy Spirit and live unto their King.
You know what? Most of us live really easy lives. To go with Jesus is not easy. We must get rid of this cunningly persuasive and utterly false idea surfacing in our churches that believing in Jesus will make our lives better. Ask Peter how it went after he left his nets to follow Jesus. To follow him to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8) means that we indeed must die – to ourselves, to our dreams, to our pride – and lay ourselves on that cross to crucify our flesh and desires (Galatians 5:24). It’s uncomfortable, isn’t it? It’s splintered. Painful. Lowly. Humiliating. You are dying. It is losing your life to find it (Matthew 10:39).
I want us to feel the weight of that. I don’t want to take Christianity lightly because it was intended to be taken in precisely the opposite fashion. The lives and deaths of the apostles and those in the early church (and even still today!) exemplify this. We need a new-found burden for discipleship, evangelism, and the least of these.
Peter is understandably distraught. But, Jesus banishes jealousy, comparison, and any thoughts of worldly entitlements forever when he responds to Peter’s desperation. “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:22). As Jesus says, once Peter was a young boy, full of total freedom to run and roam and walk and wander. Now, he will die. Peter may protest John’s seemingly preferable lot, but Jesus’ command to Peter is clear – run your race and follow me, no matter the cost. How we need your help to become like you, Lord!
We must go where we do not want to go. We may even discover that the Lord grants us a burning desire for that which we formerly feared. Once upon a time, I felt paralyzed by secularism. It was my freshman year of college. In July, I dropped my career plans and childhood dreams in faith and went to one of the most secularized nations on the planet. I found my life there. My heart leaps for Swedes. I love their culture. I love their ways. I always desired to “become as I am for I have become as you are” (FIND THIS PAUL) and it was of immeasurable gain to me. And I love the Gospel that runs so deep in the veins of many; hearts that beat firmly against their chest with the unrelenting desire to build the church in a land of wilderness.
I use myself as an example not to commend myself, but rather to encourage you that this is real. “That the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” (VERSE) That it rests not on our ability to be strong and mighty and daring, but on our willingness to be weak so his power can be made perfect (2 Corinthians 10:12?). That’s where the greatness is.