John’s Gospel: Chapter 21:18-25 (“Follow me!”)

(John 21:18-19 ESV) 18 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.”  19 (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.”

According to history, Peter was crucified. He is said to have insisted on being crucified upside down, because he considered himself unworthy to be crucified in the same manner as Jesus.

Thus, v. 18 has always been taken as a prophecy of Peter’s crucifixion — accomplished, of course, by stretching out the hands of the victim to nail him to the cross.

“Follow me” is a major theme of John. It recalls the original calling of the disciples (cf. John 1:43). More likely, Jesus is recalling this conversation —

(John 13:36-37 ESV)  36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.”  37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”

V. 36 is likely another prophecy of the death Peter would die. Jesus is, of course, saying that now is the time to follow — and eventually, that following will be all the way to the cross.

(John 21:20-23 ESV)  20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?”  21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?”  22 Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”  23 So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”

This is an odd conversation. If the disciple whom Jesus loved was John, as is traditionally supposed, there’s no obvious reason that Jesus would speak in terms of whether he’ll live forever. But if that disciple was Lazarus, it’s only natural that Jesus would answer the question that wasn’t asked but was intended: whether Lazarus would live forever, just as Jesus would.

On the other hand, Peter might have merely been curious to hear a prophecy about John, and Jesus might have refused to answer because it was a truly rude question. Who knows?

(John 21:24 ESV)  24 This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.

The disciple loved by Jesus declares himself to be the author.

“His testimony is true” claims more than mere factual accuracy. Truth is a such an important theme of John that he has to also be saying that this book represents real gospel, the real message from God that Jesus represents.

(John 21:25 ESV) 25 Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

Wow! What a way to end the book. Every time I read these words, I wish to read the world full of books recounting Jesus’ words and works. I mean, I hated to come to the end of John!

These last few months spent focused on Jesus have been great fun — and deeply enriching. I really wish John had written even more!

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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