Coming off the heels of Easter Sunday and Jesus’ resurrection, we read in the Gospels about the multiple appearances of Jesus to His disciples. One of my favorite encounters recorded is of Jesus and Peter beside the Sea of Galilee.
The resurrected Jesus meets His disciples on the beach and feeds them fish and bread for breakfast, after they return from fishing all night. He then asks Simon Peter three times “do you love Me”. Each time Peter confirms, “Yes, Lord. You know I love You.” To which Jesus responds, “feed My lambs,” “tend My sheep,” “feed My sheep,” and finally, “follow Me.”
There is so much to dissect from this interaction and so many incredible takeaways. But, what catches my attention this Easter is what happens next in the story.
‘Peter turned around and saw behind them the disciple Jesus loved (aka, John) … Peter asked Jesus, “what about him, Lord?” Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow Me.” So the rumor spread among the community of believers that this disciple wouldn’t die. But that’s not what Jesus said at all. He only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow Me.”’ (John 21: 20-23)
Peter’s first reaction to Jesus’ invitation to follow Him is to wonder about those around him. “What about him, Lord?” Peter asks.
Man, can I relate to Peter. When I feel God prompting me to follow Him in one way or another, maybe with my finances, my time, my talents, my resources, or fill-in-the-blank, one of the first things I question is “but what about him, Lord?”
What about my husband? What about my family or my friends, my coworkers or neighbors? What will they think if I follow God? How will it affect them? Has God asked them to follow Him, too? Will they support me in following Him, or will they think I’m crazy? Will they encourage me or try to talk me out of it? Will their hearts harden to what’s ahead or will they, too, hear God’s encouragement to ‘follow Me’?
It’s a scary thing to follow God. It’s so easy to say ‘yes Lord, you know I love you,’ just like Peter. Until He asks me to act on that love and follow Him. ‘Yikes!’ I think to myself. ‘You want me to do what?’ And then the worry sets in as I look at the people around me.
And that’s when God whispers to my fear-stricken self, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow Me.” Another words, “you worry about your heart, Emily. I'll worry about theirs.” Or in even other words, “you faithfully follow Me, and I will faithfully follow through. Don't worry about what others will do, think or say. Don’t worry about what I’ve asked of them. That's for Me to worry about. As for you, follow Me.”
How beautiful and humbling and profound. God recognizes that when you and I truly choose to follow Him, we will be met with opposition - both internal and external. We will have struggles and others may or may not support us. They may or may not have similar callings. They may or may not respond to His invitation to follow Him.
But, in His infinite wisdom, He knows our own internal struggles are more than enough for us to handle. We are not equipped to handle others’ reactions to our following Him, nor to worry about what He has asked of them. We are only equipped to handle our own hearts and our own reactions.
“As for you, follow Me,” He says.
If that is all He asks of Peter, the man assigned to build the Church, surely that is all Jesus asks of you and me, too. Jesus gently whispers to your heart and mine, ‘as for you, follow Me.’