Summary: Life includes a lot of tough stuff to understand. Sometimes the devil uses other people to keep us from Jesus; sometimes, our own thoughts distract us. Christ's message to Peter: He is sovereign, He is faithful, and He is the one we are to follow.
Our culture is insatiably curious about what is happening in somebody else’s life. Our newspapers have gossip columns where they follow celebrities and report on the mundane happenings of their lives. Wouldn’t it be terrible to have it make international news every time you have a traffic ticket, or, worse yet, for every real and imagined issue in your marriage to make the front pages of the tabloids?
But, humanity seems to have an insatiable curiosity about “other people.” We want to know what “they” are like behind closed doors. We’re competitive. We want to keep up with the Joneses.
In today’s lesson, Peter had just received specific instructions about His life from Jesus, but he wanted to know if John had similar instructions. Jesus gave him the answer that we will look at today:
“If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.”
When we hear from God about our lives, about our devotion, about our consecration, a common method of the devil to distract us is to point to somebody else.
Sometimes it’s somebody we respect. The devil will say, “They don’t do that.” Or, “They do do that.” Or, “That’s not the way they see it.”
And he tries to get us to say to God, “What about John? Or Bob? Or Joe?” God is not asking you to follow John or Bob or Joe. He’s asking you to follow Him.
Sometimes the devil points to someone who’s not impressive to us. “Look at them. If you stand up for the truth about God’s purity and His commands to us, you’ll be identified with Fred Phelps.” “If you believe in divine healing, you’ll be lumped in with the prosperity preachers.”
Any time Satan can get our eyes off Jesus and onto people, he will probably succeed in getting us to stop following Jesus entirely.
“If I will...”
God Controls Our Circumstances
The first thing Jesus reminded Peter of, when he was concerned with another person’s spiritual life, is “If I will that he tarry till I come...”
Jesus was reminding Peter that His will for Peter and His will for John might be different, but that for both of them, the important thing was that God’s will be done.
God would be glorified in Peter’s giving His life for the gospel’s sake, but he may be glorified in John’s continuing to preach and teach the gospel. The important thing is, “If I will.”
If God is truly sovereign, I can trust Him with the details of your life just as I can trust Him with my own. It’s my responsibility for myself to follow God; certainly to bear your burdens and share your joy, but not to follow Jesus for you. You have to do that for yourself.
The question for the believer then, shouldn’t be a question about somebody else or where they’re succeeding or not succeeding. It should be, “What is God’s will (or plan) for me?”
Your life, as a believer, is in God’s hands. Whatever God wills for you is what you should seek.
“What is that to thee?”
God Cares About Our Motives
Why, Jesus asked, do you, Peter, care so deeply about John’s future. “What is that to thee?”
Well, there are several reasons Peter may have cared about John’s future.
1. He was just curious.
2. He wanted to make sure John wasn’t getting off the hook
3. He was hoping to have some company in his suffering
4. He was so flabbergasted by the news that he wasn’t thinking clearly
I don’t know exactly why Peter asked the question, but I’m sure Jesus did. And Jesus answered, “What is that to thee?” Why does it matter?
As believers, we indulge in a lot of thought about what is going to happen. Why we suffer while others have it easy. Or why they have it so great. Or why another person’s struggles are less than ours.
I’m not going to minimize your suffering or denigrate your sacrifice. But I believe God is asking us, “What is that to thee?” Why does it matter?
a Father who loves us so much He planned since before the world began for us to be His children
a Savior who entered our broken world, was made poor and gave up His reputation to die and take our punishment
a Companion who leads us into truth, teaches us of Christ, and empowers us to be vessels of honor instead of vessels of destruction
With that in mind, “What is that to thee?” What does it mean that people have hurt us? What does it mean that people have been unethical? What does it mean that we’ve been used? Jesus is asking us to examine our motives.