Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” (Jn 21:20-23)
“You Follow Me!” The conversation became a bit uncomfortable. Jesus was speaking of how Peter would die, that he would be crucified, his arms outstretched at the end of his life. Peter decides maybe it is time to change the subject. “What about this man?” He is pointing to the one that Jesus loved. This was John’s way of referring to himself in the third person. It wasn’t meant to say that Jesus didn’t love the others. It may indicate that John and Jesus had a special bond with one another. Perhaps Peter is merely asking if all the disciples are going to meet with such awful fates. Perhaps he is like Moses trying to pass the baton to someone else. “Here Lord, here is one more worthy.” Jesus answers to say, you don’t be concerned about the others, “you follow me!” What does or doesn’t happen to John is of no concern to you.
This is true of all of us. Humans are such social animals, political animals as Aristotle once said. We are often more concerned than we like to admit with what others around us are doing, or not doing. This is true in religious matters too. And this is a hard aspect about Christianity, it often demands that for once in your life you actually pay attention to yourself and what you are doing rather than what everyone else is doing, even if they are doing the exact same thing. This is humans as social animals. We are an awful lot like lemmings, which is why our parents would always ask us “if all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?” (My mom would ask that question of me and I would think of all my friends jumping into the Crowing River off a bridge just outside of town. I’d shrug my shoulders and think, “well, yeah!” Only later did I realize the bridge giving rise to this rhetorical question was along the lines of the Golden Gate, from which people don’t survive…. Just urging caution on those wont to use this phrase.)
We like to think that the fact everyone else is doing it makes it right even when we know it is wrong, and despite the cost it puts on us emotionally, and perhaps physically. Of course it works both ways. We are often pressured to do the right thing by peers too. That doesn’t get near as much focus. It just doesn’t stand out as much. It has ramifications for our religious life too though. When Sunday morning services aren’t the top priority of our community, they tend to not become our top priority either. And it is sort of strange, because all the sudden as a pastor you have these people who go to church sporadically asking about how we are going to evangelize everyone else and get them to come to church. And the answer is you. What difference is it to you if Christ lets them remain until he comes? You follow him! You do what is right, and do it for you! You assess the priority of Christianity in your life!
Seriously, if everyone who went to church on a sporadic basis took heart, and decided to become regular attenders church attendance would increase across the board by a hundred percent if not more. I honestly think it would start a snowball effect of some sort that would mean a sort given the social aspect of man to do what everyone else is doing. But you can’t worry about everyone else. I can’t get everyone else to come to church, and neither can you. I can get myself to church, and perhaps my family too. But if it isn’t a priority for you, then the priority of it isn’t going to rub off on anyone you talk to. And it becomes a priority people take notice of when it is something you do because it is right, despite what everyone else is doing. Christ can let the rest of them remain. But he has called you. You are his. So he says to you. “You follow me!.”