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 (John) following them…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!” John 21:18-22 ESV
In the past, when I’ve thought about this exchange Jesus had with Peter and John, Jesus’ words haven’t seemed like prophecy…but now I see they were. In contrast, Old Testament prophecies most often addressed entire nations rather than individuals. Jacob’s prophecies in Genesis 49 about the character qualities of each of his sons (who had already become tribes) may have been a notable exception.
Those of us brought up in Western cultures heavily influenced by Christianity, have come to value Jesus’ inclination toward an individual calling as illustrated in John 21. However, human ideas of individual calling sometimes lead to thoughts of self determination that lead us astray. Some popular phrases that reflect those ideas are:
“The sky’s the limit!”
“You control your own destiny.”
“Follow your dreams.”
“My Bucket List” (my list of exciting things to cram in before I kick the bucket)
Such slogans are the lingua franca of those at the pinnacle of worldly success and notoriety. Formulas for replicating their temporal bliss abound in books, motivational seminars, blogs, tours involving activities promising an adrenaline high, etc. But Jesus’ words to Peter, and indirectly to John, hone in on another perspective:
“You follow me!”
…and Jesus emphasized that following Him entails individual pathways to glorify God.
(This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) John 21:19a ESV
Does this mean Jesus’ calling to each of us is so individualized we should never listen to others, even another Jesus follower? Let’s look at what the Apostle Paul said to the believers in Corinth:
…whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (I Corinthians 10:31b)
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. (I Corinthians 11:1)
We know Paul suffered immense persecution in his individual calling, but also brought incredible notoriety (or glory) to the name of Jesus. Peter and John also suffered a great deal of persecution in bringing glory to the name of Jesus. There’s a pattern here.