We find this little incident in some of the final verses of the Gospel of John:
Chapter 21 seems to be somewhat of an epilog – tying up a few loose ends. John had just finished what we know as the 20th chapter of his Gospel with these closing words:
"And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book;
but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name."
This is the key verse of John's Gospel. It plainly sets out the purpose of his writing. But there are still some unanswered questions regarding events after the resurrection of Christ. John doesn't give us a terrible lot of details, but he does use this little epilog to answer some questions about Jesus, and about John's former fishing partner – Simon Peter.
You will remember that Peter had been the one who had thrice denied even knowing Christ on the night of his arrest. One can only imagine the grief and self loathing that Peter felt in knowing how he had failed his master. This denial came even after Peter's boasting that he would never deny Him, and saying that he would go with Jesus into prison – or even death if need be.
It all started so promisingly. He and the others had left everything to follow Jesus. Now nothing was as it had been during the three and one half years Peter had followed the Master. John tells us that Jesus had shown Himself to the 11 on two occasions. They knew He was alive, but there were so many unanswered questions! Peter voiced what I believe to be his frustration and uncertainty when he announced to the other disciples, "I am going fishing." (vs. 3) This is what Peter had been doing for a living when Jesus had called him to follow Him. Peter left his nets and his boat, and had followed Christ, under the promise of becoming a "fisher of men". Now perhaps, the former fisherman had decided to go back to the familiarity and comfort zone of the Sea of Galilee, to renew his former profession. The other disciples, spoke up and said, "We're going with you". So they spent the night casting the nets into the sea.
It was in this setting when the risen Christ appeared on the shore early in the morning and called out to them. "Have you caught anything?" Their answer was in the negative. "No, we have fished all night and have taken nothing." Jesus instructed them to cast their nets on the starboard side of the boat. They did so, and the nets were suddenly filled with 153 wiggling, struggling fish. John said to Peter, "It is the Lord", and Peter cast himself into the sea, swimming furiously for the risen Master on the shore.
Jesus had breakfast cooking on the fire and invited Peter and the others to join him, and to bring some of their own catch to add to the feast. Jesus then began his famous dialog with Peter, about which we have heard so much. Some will say that Peter had denied Christ three times, and as a result, Jesus instructed Peter thrice to "Feed His sheep." We are also aware of the subtlety of the two different Greek words that Jesus used when he asked Peter three times, "Do you love me more than these?"
All that aside, I want you to note that Jesus specifically instructed the impetuous disciple that He had a task for Peter to accomplish. It was Jesus' personal commission to Peter to be a shepherd to the sheep that would be entrusted to him. Yes, the one who had denied Christ just a few days earlier, was receiving personal instructions regarding the duties the Master would require of him. Furthermore, Jesus even revealed something to Peter about the things he would suffer and how he would eventually be martyred for his faith in Christ.
Like so many of us are prone to do, Peter looked around and saw his former fishing partner, John, the guy who had outrun him to the empty tomb on that Resurrection Sunday. Here is how John describes it:
"Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following …"But Lord, what about this man?"
Jesus said to him, "If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me."
Never mind that Jesus had forgiven Peter of his great sin, and given him a specific work to do for the Kingdom. Forget the fact that Jesus came to where Peter worked to feed him and personally send him into his Apostolic career. No matter that Jesus even chose to give him a little glimpse into his future. What was Peter's reaction?
"What about this guy? What's going to happen to him?"
Isn't that so much like us?
God has a work for each of us. He calls and gifts us each according to His Sovereign Will. He equips us for our work in His Kingdom and commissions us to be on our way and about His business. And what do we do? We start looking around at others.
"What about this guy? What will this woman do? What's going to happen to them? How come you have assigned this task to me, and you exempt this person from that type of situation? Where is the fairness? Who will get the most credit? Which job is really more important?"
The questions can go on and on…
But note the answer of Jesus:
"What's it to you? You follow me!"
It is human nature to try to compare our situation to that of others. Aren't we sometimes like the old Apostle? Why do we have to suffer when someone else may not? Why do we feel obliged to sacrifice when we don't see that virtue in another brother or sister? Why do they get away with not doing their job like I think they should? Why does someone else seem to get off without doing what I have to do?
Again Jesus' voice rings out, "What is that to you? I have saved you. I have looked beyond your faults and shortcomings and graciously brought you into relationship with my Father. I have gifted you and assigned you your divine marching orders. Get your eyes off others and follow me!"
Are you obsessed with the performance of others? Are you losing your focus?
What's it to you?
Take care of your own tasks for the Glory of God, and leave the rest to Him.