When I was a kid I used to justify everything I did by what others did and said. If I wasn’t allowed to do something, my most used argument to my parents was “…but Adam is allowed to do it, why can’t I!?” (Or whatever name fit best at that time). For some reason I thought that by telling my parents what another 7 year old was allowed to do they would somehow realize their faulty reasoning and miraculously change their mind. Needless to say, they never reacted the way I wanted. They never once said, “Oh, really? I didn’t realize Adam’s parents let him do it, that’s better then, we’re wrong, you and Adam are right, you go right ahead.”
They would instead respond with something along the lines of “Well, you’re not Adam are you?” or “Well, when Adam’s parents are your parents, you can do that, but as long as we’re you’re parents, you can’t.” My mom and dad were and still are smarter than me, obviously.
It’s interesting because we do this as adults too, don’t we? Somebody else gets a big promotion or gets engaged or gets a new car and we start asking ourselves what we’re doing (or not doing) that keeps us from getting all the good stuff everybody else seems to be getting. Maybe I’m the only one who does this, but I have a sneaking suspicion that you know what I’m talking about.
It’s funny to think about the things that “grown-ups” get upset over, it’s really the same stuff we used to get upset over when we were kids, except now it’s over “big-kid” stuff: jobs, cars, spouses, houses, etc… Same jealousy, same envy, different topic.
In the book of John in the Bible we see this same exact thing happening, though with higher stakes. In chapter 21, Jesus is asking Peter, “Do you love me?” Remember Peter was the one who denied Jesus three times before the crucifixion. Jesus asked Peter 3 different times “Do you love me?” each time Peter answers in the affirmative. After the third time, Jesus tells Peter:
“I’m telling you the very truth now: When you were young you dressed yourself and went wherever you wished, but when you get old you’ll have to stretch out your hands while someone else dresses you and takes you where you don’t want to go.” He said this to hint at the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God.
What Jesus was doing here was telling Peter how he was going to die. He was going to be crucified. Can you imagine the emotion that must’ve shot through Peter’s mind?
-You’ve experienced the deepest devastation known to man by watching the one you believed to be the Savior of the world killed right before your very eyes.
-Went through three agonizing days of wondering what happens next, fearful for your life holed up in a one bedroom house with a bunch of other people trying to figure out how to survive is this new violent world.
-Then, Jesus raises from the dead, shows himself to you and calms your fears, forgives you for denying him… what joy!!!
-Only to then be told that you will be killed because you follow him. What!?
After Peter hears this, he turns back to another disciple walking with them, John. He looks at John and asks Jesus, “What about him?” Basically saying, is he going to be killed too?
Peter is doing the same thing we do, “What about such-and-such?” If it happens to me, it should happen to them too right??
Jesus response is profound.
Jesus said, “If I want him to live until I come again, what’s that to you? You—follow me.”
Jesus basically said what my parents have said to me and your parents have probably said to you. “Don’t worry about anybody else, worry about yourself and what you’re supposed to do.”
I have a problem with this sometimes. I tend to get caught up in what is happening in other ministries, with other youth pastors, constantly comparing myself to their success or attendance. Which is silly. Because God has called me to something. Something specific. Something profound. Something other people will benefit from, but only if I focus my attention on following Jesus. Following Jesus means looking straight ahead at the direction He is going, following in his footsteps the way I used to follow my dad’s deep footprints in the snow, hopping from one gaping footprint to the next, I didn’t look to the right or left. I looked at where my dad had been and where he was going.
I want to do that with Jesus. Not get distracted by what’s happening on the right or the left, or behind me, but focus all of my attention on what’s right in front me: Jesus. Those big footprints that lead the way.
Where can you do better at this?