What About Him?
A surprising lesson about minding my own business, I mean "story", after reading "The Chronicles of Narnia" with my boys.
It’s not everyday that we get a word from the Lord regarding our future. Most of us live in a constant state of uncertainty as our soldier is just as likely to get orders to deploy as it is he will tell us moving orders have been canceled. If we are on top of our game, we move throughout the day having surrendered our control to a loving God who waits to surprise us with his thoughtfulness. Yet, soon after hearing from Him, we all too easily take our eyes off of the risen Savior.
In the last chapter of John, Peter and the newly resurrected Jesus are walking when Jesus speaks prophetically about Peter’s future:
“...but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go... Follow me!”
Now Peter seemed to have a love-hate relationship with following Jesus. When he asked to follow Jesus in death, Jesus told him no, that he would actually deny following him three times. We also see Peter following Jesus out on the water and later verbally running in front of the Savior and called Satan for it. Here, he is given three chances to recommit his love, follow, and given a glimpse into his future death. Strangely, Peter looks behind him to ask about John, “What about him?” Why would he be so interested in John’s story?
Jesus answered Peter’s question by saying “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” He rebuked Peter saying it was none of his business and to simply follow, a familiar challenge for Peter. The result remained captured by the sinfulness of humanity when the disciples spread ridiculous rumors that John would never die. Its painful how we can twist the direct words of our Savior and miss the point.
C.S. Lewis wrote beautifully about this in “A Boy and His Horse”, as the lion Aslan, and symbolic figure of Jesus, recounts to Shasta his unknown and quiet presence throughout Shasta’s life. Shasta, (astonished that Aslan had been so good to him during his seemingly “unlucky” life) questions Aslan’s involvement with his friend Aravis during the journey together. Aslan’s response was “Child, I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.”
It is hard to assume the motives of Peter. At this point in his story, it was a question of could he keep His eyes on the Savior and follow Him into and through the suffering. Yet something kept him from hearing the message. Was he worried he would be alone in death? Did he worry if John would find the same fate? Did he think Jesus loved John more? Or was he just curious like Shasta was at John’s experience compared to his? Regardless of his motive, or ours, Jesus’s answer is the same, “What is that to you, Follow me.”
Intimacy is found in the presence of Jesus. There we find answers to our deepest questions about God, suffering, humanity, and grace. In his words, we find that we are deeply loved, valued, and in-comparable to any other creature he has made to date. Only in following Him to the cross, do we find rest in uncertainty, fellowship in our despair, and the courage to forgive those who have harmed us.
All Jesus ever asks is that we follow Him. When we are consumed with another story, we take our eyes off Him and begin to sink. If we are not following then we may be at risk of going no where, going the wrong way, or trying to take the lead. Either way, the rebuke is still the same. The Savior reminds us to not be so concerned about the story He is writing for someone else and to simply follow. The timing and storyline He writes for each of us is unique and if we lose focus, we will be tempted to write it ourselves. Keep in mind even a marriage contains three stories; yours, your spouse's, and the marriage itself.
Shasta and Aravis later share their story with each other and have a greater understanding of Aslan together than if Aslan had just told them separately. Fellowship is designed to provide the bigger picture of God, and connect us to each other in our experiences of Him. Peter himself wrote, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Pet 3:8). Thank goodness He is patient with my progress and doesn’t gossip my story to others. Instead He lets us share our story when the time is ripe for harvest. Let’s follow His lead in patience with ourselves and others and maybe we will hear what He has for us more clearly.