WHAT ABOUT HIM, LORD?
Read time: About 6 minutes
“Seeing him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘What about him, Lord?’. Jesus answered, ‘If I want him to stay behind till I come, what does it matter to you? You are to follow me.'” [Jn 21:21-22]
This final mention of “the beloved disciple” follows Peter’s three-fold reply of love, and Jesus’ giving Peter a glimpse into “…the kind of death by which Peter would give glory to God.”[Jn 21:19].
Peter turns and sees John following them and asks, “What about him…?”
Peter, as we all do, wants to know everything, all at once.
Although not quite as bluntly as when Jesus said, “Get behind me Satan” [Mtt 16:23], Jesus again sharply returns Peter’s focus back to him, “…what does it matter to you(!)”.
Peter’s mission was given to him earlier, “…I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, …” [Mt 16:18]; he was to lead and shepherd the Church.
John’s mission was to maintain the focus on God’s love.
Peter’s leadership and authority is about shepherding people and maintaining the faith. Yet as John followed closely behind Jesus and Peter, love must always walk closely with authority. Anyone can impose their will on others; shepherding can only be done with a warm heart.
The authority of Peter is led by divine love and informed by earthly love. Jesus’ will is that authority should be surrounded by love – to be led by love in what it was to do, and to be supported by love in what it was doing.
Jesus was not an advocate of chaos. He was very clear in saying that He did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it [Mt 5:17], and fulfillment to Jesus, is mercy, forgiveness, and compassion, through love.
John heard Jesus’ heartbeat when he placed his head on Jesus’ chest. He grew into the awareness and acceptance of who and what Jesus was, and especially, of why Jesus came. Jesus’ heartbeat dawned on John quietly and gradually; His heartbeat made its home there.
Peter heard it as well – through Jesus’ forgiveness. The heartbeat engraved itself on his soul when he accepted Jesus’ forgiveness.
God’s forgiveness cleanses us, restores, and washes away our sin and sets us free. It is ours for the asking.
Jesus’ love is not a reward for the virtuous. His forgiveness is not a prize to hide and hoard. It is the key to unlock the prison of our guilt and loose the bonds of our sin. Forgiveness is a tool to be used, to be shared and passed-on… and in sharing, we gain our freedom.
Yet, it is not the final wash of our soul. Until we forgive ourselves, we remain confined in a prison of guilt that is of our own making. We chain ourselves to our perceived unworthiness – chains that only we can shackle ourselves to; chains that only we can release ourselves from.
Jesus’ forgiveness comes with no strings attached. It is offered freely; it is given for the asking. Yet, like the seed that it is, it requires our co-operation for the forgiveness to bear fruit.
The story of Lazarus illustrates the point: “The dead man came out, his feet and hands bound with strips of material, and a cloth over his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, let him go free’. [Jn 11: 44].
Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. He literally restored physical life, but – He did not remove the burial bindings.
He commanded the people to unbind him. Yet they too were held by Lazarus’ co-operation. Had Lazarus retreated back into the tomb, he would have been “alive”, but still bound in his burial cloths… bound in his tomb by his own choosing.
Jesus raises us from the death of our sin to new life, but He cannot unbind us from the shackles we impose on ourselves. The gift of free-will involves – it requires, our co-operation. [1 Cor 3: 9] – “After all, we do share in God’s work…”.
God’s mercy and forgiveness are offered freely out of God’s love, but we often see that as too easy. Our misunderstanding of God’s love does not always allow us to fully love ourselves.
Our self-forgiveness is the most difficult forgiveness, yet it is a vital forgiveness.
We are called to “… love others as we love ourselves” [Mt 22: 39].
It is also true that the way we love ourselves is the way we love others… and the way we love God is the way we love ourselves.
“…What about him?”
“…What is it to you?”
Our concern is that Jesus’ love continues to walk the earth.
Our question is, “Does Jesus’ love walk the earth… through me?”