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'But what about John?'

By REV. DANNY GODDARD - For The Courier-Times

Some people feel they’ve been handed the short end of life, they’re treated unfairly, as if they are owed something! An angry man once sat in my study and growled, “Why do others slide by while I have it so rough?” I had no answer for him. As a matter of fact, Jesus doesn’t even give one!

Christ had been crucified, resurrected, and then He’s cooking fish on the beach. His disciples were just coming in from a fishing expedition, one where they had caught nothing – that is, until Jesus stepped in to help. The new problem was too many fish, prompting John to realize, “It is the Lord!”

Jesus invited the fishermen to join Him for breakfast. It was by a charcoal fire that Peter had denied his Lord and now, by another charcoal fire, he is restored. Part of that restoration was breaking the news to Peter that His death would be that of a martyr. (John 21:18)

Seeing John nearby, Peter asks Jesus about him, “But what about John? If I am going to die a terrible death, how will he die?” Jesus answers Peter, “If I want him to live until I come again, what’s that to you? You – follow me.” (John 21:22) There are a few lessons in this reply of Jesus …

First, God has a plan for everyone. The Risen Christ reinstates Peter, the one who had turned his back on Him. God’s plan for Peter was for him to give his life. Legend tells us that when that day came and Peter saw he was going to be crucified, he made one request: That he might die upside down because he was not worthy to die as his Master had.

God had a plan for Jonah, that he would evangelize that terribly wicked city of Ninevah. (Jonah 1:1-2) Instead, Jonah found a ship going the opposite direction. During a great storm he was thrown overboard and swallowed by a whale. The prophet prays from the fish’s belly and was regurgitated onto dry land. Finally ready to follow God’s will, Jonah finds that God’s plan had never changed. (Jonah 3:1-2)

God had a plan for Saul of Tarshish. On his way to persecute Christians, Saul is knocked to the ground with the Voice of God: “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” (Acts 9:6) God had already instructed Ananias to lay hands on wicked Saul for he was God’s chosen to evangelize “Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.” (Acts 9:15)

God had a plan for Abraham to be the “father of nations,” a plan for Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, and a plan for Mary to give birth to Baby Jesus. God even has a plan for you!

Jesus teaches a second thing: God has a different plan for everyone. Since every person is different, unique, His plan for everyone is different! Peter would be crucified on a cross to glorify God! (John 21:18-19) John, however, would be exiled to a secluded rock island, Patmos!

So Peter would be crucified and John would be sent to a rock to write! Stephen was stoned to death! Paul escaped execution numerous times while other Christians perished. Some seem to have it easier than others!

My parents suffered and both died at ages 49 and 54. I found a verse underlined in red in Mom’s Bible: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.“ (Romans 8:18)

One last lesson: Don’t worry about others – you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus! Peter will die for his faith, “but what about John?” Peter sounds like a school kid in trouble! “Punish him, too!” Jesus answers that John’s fate was none of Peter’s business! The concern of Peter should be to make sure he pleases his Lord.

To live for Jesus, one must surrender everything, including envy, pride and jealousy! All that matters is our obedience to Him! God has a plan, one that’s unique and different from that of others’! Forget the fate of everyone else. You stay focused on Him!

The Rev. Danny Goddard is senior pastor at New Castle First Church of the Nazarene. He is a regular contributor to the Faith Perspective column.