John 21:22 “Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”
Jesus had just predicted Peter’s death by crucifixion. Peter was still absorbing the news, and as a way of consoling himself, he inquires of Jesus on how John will die. Our text today is Jesus’ response to Peter’s inquiry. Key words in Jesus response are, What is it to you? These words have been translated that way by most versions of the English Bible. Other translations such as GOD’S WORD(R) and International Standard Version render the same words as, ‘How does that concern you?’
Peter wanted to find consolation in the manner John would die. He wanted to tell himself when afraid that even John will die. John later of course had several attempts on his life that did not succeed, and we last find him aging and suffering in the island of Patmos (there is sufficient speculation on how he died and it’s non of our business for today). Peter wanted to compare his coming death and that of John and conclude in self consolation that his was better, probably less torturous. Peter wasn’t going to stop at inquiring about John, next would have been James. Jesus always took aside Peter, James and John for ministry as His inner circle. Consolation should be found in Jesus and not in the suffering of others. Peter would probably have used the information to show that his death would demonstrate him as most courageous and closest to the Savior. But Jesus dismissed him by asking, how does that concern you?
Peter wanted to compete by comparing the manner of death of each disciple. Competition has winners and losers. Competition has failures and the successful. Competition is not accommodative it is divisive and classifying. Where there is competition there is no unity or team work. Competition would lead to bragging by others and intimidation of others. Competition of any manner is not good for believers. Jesus refused to trigger competition and dismissed Peter by asking, how does that concern you?
Jesus taught Peter and us two things on that day, (1) everyone’s destiny, daily fate and ultimate end is none of our business, that is why he was told, what if I want him to remain alive? How does that concern you? (2) Our focus should be our personal relationship with Jesus, that is why he was told, you must follow me. Follow Jesus regardless of what happens to others in comparison to yourself. Key question being, how does that concern you?
Peter’s problem is what causes gossip, rumours, mudslinging, hate speech in our community. We talk about others and share their sensitive stories, so that in comparison to us we look better in the competition and get consoled. We gossip about those who we compete with, or who we think share our problems. A broke man insists on how broke others are. An exam failure talks about others who have failed. One with marriage problems talks about how other marriages are terrible. One with health problems, demonstrates how others are on a poor prognosis. Those who are power hungry, are preoccupied with leadership failure of others. What you gossip and talk about regularly, betrays your deepest fears, desire for competition and consolation. Jesus says, it’s none of your business. How does that concern you?
Focusing on others as Peter attempted to do, increases negative energy in a community and destroys cohesion. Focusing on others removes our eyes from the work at hand and destroys our ability to achieve. Focusing on others lowers our standard of vision and achievement and localises it to those we are competing with. Focusing on others makes us rejoice in the suffering of others as we compare them to ourselves. Focusing on others removes God from the picture of our life, as we find consolation in the suffering of others instead of God!
How regularly do we focus on others. In our spiritual journey we focus on others. Am vegetarian and they are not. My dresses are long theirs are short. I preach prophecy and speak the truth without fear and they dwell on generalities and seem afraid. I pray more than them. Am never late in church. I don’t miss church events like they do. They don’t even keep the Sabbath. In other words, am better than them. Focusing on others is best diagnosed when you are quick to condemn, magnifying problems through “discussion” and most importantly is that you prefer the controversial and that which focuses on failure of leaders or the church. You have a Peter problem, and Jesus is asking, how does that concern you?
Most of our stagnating politics and divisions, our unproductive preaching and teaching focuses on others and not God. We focus on who said what. We waste time listening to revelations of who is secretly against us. We focus more on what the Anti-Christ is doing than what Christ has done, is doing and is capable of doing. We talk more about other churches, religions than ourselves. We know details of systemic failure and very little of achievements being made. As a result we don’t progress nor win anyone to Christ.
Our only concern for others should be to help them out of trouble and misery. Not to discuss and elaborate their misery and failure. Our is to sympathise and give support and help out of crisis. Otherwise, it does not concern us how foolish they were and how we are better compared to them. Jesus asked, how does that concern you?
Jesus advised that, (1) let God deal with the destiny of others daily and ultimately, don’t let it bother you, (2) focus on Jesus as your guide and consolation in crisis. Focus on God and not others and you will excel. Focusing on others causes failure. Focusing on God brings success in everything.
May God save us from focusing on others. May our focus remain on God, and may success and progress be ours, in Jesus name. Amen!
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