(408) 779-0697 | info@westhills.org

John 21:18-25 Study Guide: Follow Me

Community Group Study Guide — Follow Me
John 21:18-25

Study Information:
The gospel of John began with Jesus calling his disciples and he was met with skepticism from one of them, Nathanael, who said “can anything good come from Nazareth?” John’s gospel proved that something great could come from Nazareth and he underscored that point with his final verse in the gospel, “if every thing Jesus did were written down that the whole world could not contain the books.” The life of Jesus from beginning to end of John has been a glorious testimony of God’s power, goodness and love to reconcile sinners to himself so they may life in Christ and the challenge of the gospel is "will you follow Jesus?” This final story the gospel of John presented that challenge and called followers of Jesus to embrace the cost of discipleship as they focus on how God has called them to uniquely follow him. But there is a hurdle many of us face, the temptation to compare their path with someone else.

The Cost of Discipleship
John 21:18-19
We last left Jesus and his disciples gathered around a charcoal fire by the sea of Galilee eating breakfast after a night of fishing. Peter’s previous sin of denying Jesus three times was addressed as Jesus asked him three times if Peter loved him. Each time Peter answered Jesus gave Peter a calling to feed the sheep and tend the flock of God. Peter had a unique role in the early church as one of the main leaders and we can read of this in the book of Acts and see evidence of that with Peter’s two letters in the New Testament. This service to Christ would require Peter’s whole life and Jesus lovingly told Peter this as part of his restoration. 

In John 21:18 Jesus told Peter that he grew up with autonomy and independence as a young man but a day would come where someone would lead him where he did not want to go and stretch out his hands and be dressed by another. John as the narrator let’s us know that this was to show what kind of death Peter would glorify God with (John 21:19). This was a prediction that Peter would also die for his faith and be crucified like Jesus was. It is likely that this prediction was fulfilled by the time of John’s gospel being written. Church history indicates that Peter was likely martyred under Nero in the mid to late AD 60s. For Peter, to follow Jesus, it would mean to also follow Jesus in a death like his. Peter expounded on this idea in his first letter by connecting the idea that just as Christ suffered so too Christians will follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21). Not every Christian will die for their faith, but even Christian must count the cost of what it means to follow Jesus. 

Discipleship (following Jesus) will always be costly. We hold unpopular beliefs in our culture and we use our time in a way that may incur ridicule and hostility from the outside world. Beliefs like there being one way to salvation, holding to a traditional view of marriage or even that we spend our time and money and energy at the church are all views that have been met with hostility and resistance. Truly serving and following Jesus will not be easy and people who consider following Jesus should count the cost (Luke 14:28).

Reject Comparison and Focus on Jesus
John 21:20-25
Jesus and Peter took a walk from the charcoal fire because Peter looked back at the Beloved Disciple who followed after them and that prompted Peter to ask Jesus “what about him?” John 21:21-22 remind us of Peter and the Beloved Disciples close relationship, so we should not read animosity into Peter’s question too quickly. However, there can be a temptation to compete and compare among Christians. Peter just received some hard news about how his following of Jesus would end and it seems like he was curious if Jesus would share about the future that faced the other disciples. Would all of them have the same fate or was it just Peter’s cross to bear? Jesus replied in such a way to remind Peter that Jesus was in control and Peter should focus on following Christ and not worrying about others. 

First, Jesus was in control of their future. Jesus replied to Peter “if it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” At a glance this could seem like John never died, but that is quickly put to rest by John 21:23. A rumor started to circulate saying that John would never die, but that is not what Jesus actually said. Jesus being in control means that we can honor God with whatever future he has for us, whether it is his will for us to have a long life of ministry (John) or for us to glorify him in how we suffer and face persecution and even follow Jesus in our death (Peter). Comparing our path with God opens us up to the temptation to the sin of envy and the possibility of having our joy and fellowship with God diminish. For example, it could be that you desire a certain type of work opportunity, financial freedom or maybe for your family to look a certain way, whether that be marriage or having a certain number of kids. It is even possible you have other Christians around you who have what you wished God would provide you with. Are you inclined to rejoice for what they have or do you have sorrow wishing that God had worked in your life in the same way? One danger of comparison is that we lose sight of what God has actually provided us with and it hinders our ability to genuinely love the people who have what we wished we had. This is the technical definition of “envy.” We often confuse envy with jealousy; however where jealousy seeks to protect what you already have, envy desires to have something that belongs to another. Comparison does not always need to lead to envy, but often it does. Jesus’s wise words to Peter are “trust me, I am in control and you do not need to worry about their future.” This is a good reminder that not everyone’s Christian life will play out the same and God is uniquely involved in each Christian’s life to help them to honor and glorify him. 

Second, follow Christ with the life he has given you. Jesus’s last words to Peter were “You follow me!” We’ve each been given unique gifts, families of origin, skills, passions and opportunities to honor God with. Walk in trust for God that he is good and is unfolding a plan for us to glorify him with. Paul helps us understand how God has filled out lives with specific good works in Ephesians 2:10, “you are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in.” Every stage of life you are in contains a blessing whether you’re a child, in your “prime” or trending towards the end of your time on earth. You may have more wisdom, ability, or opportunity depending on what stage you are in. Maybe you wish you were older or younger, you had more money or time or that  things played out differently in your career or family… The question is, “what are you going to do about it?” Wisdom would be to pray and think about what you can do with the now and how you can follow Christ today rather than leaning into regret for what could have been or being caught up in anxiety about what could be. The most faithful thing we can do is to follow Jesus with the life he has given us for he is worthy. 

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:
Read John 21:19-25

Why did Jesus tell Peter about the future that was waiting for him and how was that future connected to Peter’s role in the church?

Read 1 Peter 2:20-21. Why is suffering and persecution part of the Christian life and why would the world be hostile to followers of Jesus today?

What are some reasons that comparison can hinder our joy in Christ? 

How can you stay focused on following Jesus with what he has given you today, rather than being caught in the temptation to as the question “what about them?”