Summary: He searched the secrets of his heart. with that threefold question.
"IF I WILL"
After they had dined, the Lord showed Himself in another way to Peter, when He searched the secrets of his heart with that threefold question, "Lovest thou Me?" This was Peter's final examination for the Gospel ministry. It had to do with the heart more than the head. It was a test of love. There can be no truly educated ministry without a wholehearted devotion to the Person of Jesus Christ. It was because of Peter's confession of love he received his commission to serve, "Feed My lambs." After the Lord had signified to Peter by what painful death he should glorify God, Peter made no protest, accepting it at once as the good will of God, but he became anxious to know how John was to end his earthly journey, "What shall this man do?" Jesus said, "If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou Me." This reply of Christ to Peter's question of curiosity is a further revelation of His unique methods and matchless character. "If I will." This is an I that stretches from the deepest depths to the highest heights; its arms reach out to all time past and to the eternity to come. These words of Christ are a revelation to us of His—
I. Views of Life. His eye was always on the great essentials of true existence. He allowed no place for mere personal curiosity. "What is that to thee? Follow thou Me." Here is the true centre around which our lives should move, and from which they must receive their guiding and inspiring principles. We must be more anxious to follow Christ than to contrast our experience with the experience of others, either in their life or in their death.
II. Methods of Working. "If I will that he tarry... what is that to thee?" His dealings with His disciples is not in any stiff mechanical fashion, not after the rigid law of uniformity. The wealth of Christ's wisdom and power cannot permit of this. Each individual disciple will have His special consideration and providence. He calleth His own sheep by name, which means nature, and will deal with them for their highest good and His highest glory.
III. Divine Power. "If I will." What a will this is! What a refuge for the weary trembling soul! His will is not a burden for us to carry, but a pillow on which to rest. Think of the dignity, authority, almightiness, that lie in these words, like strength in a giant's limb. He has but to will and it shall be done, for His will is done in Heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. If He wills to bless thee and keep thee, then thou shall be blessed and kept. How safe and right our life is when yielded to His will!
IV. Abiding Presence. "Follow thou Me." By His Word and Spirit, lo, He is with us alway, even to the end of the age. He has left us an example that we should follow His steps. "Follow thou Me." Is this possible now that He is risen in newness of life, and seated in heavenly glory? Yes. It is His will. Whatever is His will for us is possible to us. Think of the privilege of following Him whom angels delight to honour, and of the tremendous possibilities associated with such a life.
V. Second Advent. "Till I come" (v. 22). This is at least the third time in this Gospel that our Lord definitely refers to His coming again (chaps. 14:3; 16:22). Throughout the New Testament there are something like 603 references to this subject. He has come as a suffering Saviour. He shall come as a glorious King. The hope of the Church is the Cross of Christ, the hope of the world lies in the throne of Christ When He comes again it will not be in grace, but to assert His right and reign. "Then the kingdoms of this world shall become the Kingdom of our God and of His Christ." Blessed hope! This heavy-laden world, staggering on through the ages with its ever-gathering burden of sin and woe into ever-deepening darkness, shall, at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, be saved and filled with His glory (Heb. 10:37).