Truly, truly, I say to you, When you were young, you gird yourself, and walked where you would: but when you shall be old…
In His old age the Apostle was to be crucified — made to stretch forth his hands upon the transverse beams of the cross, and girded (or lashed round the waist) to the instrument of torture by a cord. Tradition says that he was crucified, at his own request, with his head downwards; in that case, the girding, or tying tightly, to the cross would probably be necessary, by way of keeping the body of the sufferer in its right position. This is in all probability the reference of the words, "another shall gird thee," though perhaps some will prefer to see in them nothing more than an allusion to the binding of the Apostle previously to his being led away to execution. But putting aside their original and literal meaning, the words lend themselves very well to a secondary application. They may be regarded as a striking parable of human life in its two great periods of youth and old age. Youth is full of enterprize, energy, hope, vigour, prompt in forming schemes, and active in carrying them into execution; when emancipated from the restraints of boyhood, it exults in its independence, and feels that it is the master of its own destiny. "When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkest whither thou wouldest." But old age is the season of helplessness and dependence; "another is called in to perform the most necessary offices, and to supply our lack of service towards our own failing frames; the very old have to be led, fed, apparalled by others, and the end is, that they are carried whither (according to the flesh) men cannot but shrink from going."
Parallel VersesKJV: Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.
WEB: Most certainly I tell you, when you were young, you dressed yourself, and walked where you wanted to. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you, and carry you where you don't want to go."