“What concern of it is yours? You follow me.” (John 21:22)
Jesus had just asked Peter three times if Peter loved Jesus, and three times Peter said yes. Jesus concluded by saying, “Follow me.” When Peter looked behind, he saw John and asked about him. This is when Jesus responded, “What concern of it is yours? You follow me.”
In other words, “stay in your lane.”
I was struck by how direct, almost sharp those words are. I’ve been praying a lot with how much Jesus loves us. How we bring God joy and delight. Those words remind me of a parent talking to a precocious child who seems to think he knows better. Those are words to remind us of our smallness and help us be humble.
I’m not sure how those two sentences presented themselves to me recently, but they were a little like stepping on a rake while skipping through the grass. I realize now I’ve been getting a little full of myself. I’ve succumbed to the lie that I know best. I’ve been out of my lane. If only my lane had big guard rails and rumble strips to alert me that I’m straying. Alas, it doesn’t, and it isn’t until I’ve veered off — or sometimes even careened — that I realize that a course correction is needed.
“What concern of it is yours? You follow me.” I need to hear these words, and having them said to me by Jesus gives them an extra punch.
I’m not sure where this desire to be right comes from — especially since history has shown that I’m often wrong. But there are times I am so sure I know best that I see through a lens of judgment instead of compassion. I forget that there are three sides to everything and that maybe my side is in fact right but really there’s only a 33 percent chance of that being the case. I dig my heels in and persist, though, and it’s not an attractive side to me.
The Lord taught me this lesson about five years ago, and it seems I still need a refresher course occasionally. Now what?
Now comes sitting with the reminder and being thankful for it. Those words are printed out and taped to my computer screen so I see them often. I imagine Jesus looking at me sternly but with love. He knows. He knows where I struggle, and I am thankful for his mercy and forgiveness. It’s good to be reminded that I’m not all that and a bag of chips. I’m simply a woman pursuing holiness and getting hung up along the way. If he were an angry God, there would be no hope. He’s not. He’s a compassionate God who wants me to cast aside hubris even more than I want me to.
In his goodness he doesn’t just chastise, he offers a solution. “You follow me.” We all can overcome our weakness by keeping our gaze fixed on him, by continually asking him for help and how we can follow. The Bible is full of stories where Jesus demonstrates compassion, humility and charity. We can meditate on the Gospel stories and find Jesus there, gently leading us closer to him.
It’s not easy. We will fall off course. We will get enchanted with other shiny things and become distracted. When that happens, he reminds us, “What concern of it is yours? You follow me.”
“Oh yes,” we will say. “I’m sorry. I am weak. I am loved. Please help me.” He will. We can count on it.