20 Peter, turning around, *saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His bosom at the supper and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” 21 So Peter seeing him *said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?” 22 Jesus *said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” 23 Therefore this saying went out among the brethren that that disciple would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?” 24 This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true. 25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they *were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself *would not contain the books that *would be written.
I can’t help but chuckle when God orchestrates things in a way that might make it seem as though I planned it. My post on cut and paste theology fits right in with what John highlights here at the end of his story. In the first couple verses, John is telling us that it was him to whom Peter was referring. In John 13, we see the illustration of Peter asking John to find out from Jesus (since John was sitting next to Him) who was going to betray Him. Here, Peter is saying, “Jesus, what about John, what will become of Him?”
You see, even though it was time for Jesus to ascend into Heaven and the disciples were getting ready to become the Apostles (the ones sent out to teach the message of Christ), they were still human. They still fell into the societal traps of competition. Peter’s questioning here wasn’t necessarily of concern for John’s life, but rather to find out where he was in the ranking of closeness to God. Jesus rebukes his thinking here, revealing that the point is not who is greater, but rather that Peter “seeks first the Kingdom of God”. These men, even though we revere them as the pioneers of what we call today the “Christian Church” still have humanistic, sinful qualities. Certainly, they are an important part of our faith lineage…afterall, they did walk side by side with Jesus.
These men knew Jesus intimately. They didn’t just know His teachings, they knew His hair color, His swagger, His voice. They knew what His body odor smelled like as they walked miles and miles together, yet they still misunderstood what He was trying to say occasionally. I think it was good that at least John knew what Jesus was saying, or else he might have done something ridiculous, thinking he was invincible, and get himself killed. Note verse 23, “the saying went out among the brethren that that disciple would not die.” How often does this happen? How often does a teaching or statement get twisted and then disseminated amongst others. This is exactly why we must continue to search for the truth, not just accept what we hear as fact. This is why reading the bible alone is not enough, but we must seek out to hear from the source, God Himself, if we want to truly know what it is like to have an intimate relationship with God.
As I close today, I’d like to point out one aspect of this passage that we can easily miss. Even though Peter had struggles with his own human, sinful self, he was still a disciple and apostle. Even though the other disciples got the point wrong, they were still loved dearly by Christ. They weren’t perfect by any means, but they loved and followed Christ to the best of their ability. This is why Jesus told Peter not to worry about John, because the point is simply following Him. If we do that, we’ll be ok, despite our brokenness.