What is that to you?

Jesus and Peter had just finished breakfast. Grilled fish and toast. There’s no textual evidence of coffee. (The story’s in John 21.)

It was a somewhat awkward conversation. Jesus gave Peter three opportunities to affirm their relationship. It was probably to undo the three times Peter denied the relationship. Nothing specific was said about that denial, a few days before, right before Jesus was executed. But Peter knew. And Peter was pretty sure Jesus knew.

Peter comes through fine. He’s committed to feeding sheep, knowing that the metaphor wasn’t about sheep at all. Jesus gives Peter a little glimpse of how his (Peter’s) life will end. And then Jesus says, “Follow me.”

Peter looks across the fire. Thoughtfully. He sees John. He starts to wonder.

John had been close to Jesus, maybe closer than Peter. John was probably the younger brother everyone loved. And envied.  John didn’t get scolded like Peter had. John wasn’t out in front like Peter was. A few days before, John got to sit right next to Jesus at the last supper. Jesus looked down from the cross and told John to take care of Mary.

“What about him?” Peter asked. “What’s his life look like?”

Jesus says, “If he lives forever, what’s that to you? Follow me.”

Human beings constantly compare ourselves to others. It makes us feel good. It makes us feel bad. It lets us know where we fit. We feel bad that we aren’t as spiritual as others. We feel good that we aren’t as bad as that person. And Jesus’ comment started rumors that he was saying John wouldn’t die.

But, Jesus says, “What’s that to you?”

Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle. Don’t look around to see well the people you envy are doing. Don’t try to measure. Or measure up.


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6 thoughts on “What is that to you?

  1. Hans Schiefelbein

    Comparison is an absolute killer. This season (of life) I’m trying hard to accept where God has me right now and not compare any aspects of my life to that of others. As a man this is very difficult.


    1. Jon Swanson

      I understand. But is it possible that while we are called to accept *where *we are (contentment, commitments, being finite beings living in linear time), we don’t have to accept *how* we are? While sitting in jail, Paul writes that he wants to grow in his his knowledge of and identification with Jesus (Philippians 3). There is a passion in his words that compels me, not usually in comparison, but in “I want to have that kind of passion, too.”

      I’m in the middle of writing about Paul’s prayer for the people in Colossae at this moment, and his prayer that they will be filled with the knowledge of God’s will is not about specific next actions of theirs but of God.

      Struggling with expressing this clearly. But maybe it will make sense to you. Because it’s true in every season.


  2. Joseph Ruiz (@SMSJOE)

    Hans I find it’s an ongoing challenge for me – it feels like my natural bent is comparing; perhaps it’s fed by our culture. Jon I want that kind of passion too – it definitely redirects our focus and attention to the right source.


  3. Frank Reed

    Amen, Jon. Comparison is a killer. I was once told that we always compare our absolute worst to another’s absolute best. Right out of the gate that view is skewed.

    Stick to the basics, attend to what is right in front of me. Those are my life’s ambitions these days. No more fantasizing, commiserating, wondering, wandering and more.

    Seek His knowledge, wisdom and understanding then say “Thank you, Lord and please give me the strength to honor you in all I attempt to do”. Then move ahead and do it to the best of my abilities. In the process allow for grace because I know He will so I should as well.

    Thanks for this message and take care.


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