Not Now, But Afterwards
John 13:36-38
Simon Peter said to him, Lord, where go you? Jesus answered him, Where I go, you can not follow me now…

1. Children will have everything now: "afterwards" is a word that plagues them. As life advances we become more intimately acquainted with the word, and come to like it. We know that yesterday has gone beyond recall, and that tomorrow is coming and always available.

2. This is the second time the same thing has been said, on this same occasion, to the same man, and both times in a Master's tone, delivered with a brother's heart and voice (ver. 7). So this child-man was constantly put back and told to wait till the clock struck, and the hour had come when he should have the keener vision, the more sensitive heart, the more receptive spirit and understanding mind. This was the training that Peter needed. He was a man who wanted everything done instantaneously. The Lord knowing this said the most vexing words, "Not now." We want it too, and when we are mad with impatience He says it quietly and sovereignly; but adds "afterwards" in the same tone, for Christ lived in tomorrow.


1. Revelation. We cannot follow any great doctrine in all the range of its thoughts and in all the possibilities of its issues. Who can explain the atonement? We begin in the right spirit when we begin in the spirit of waiting. I need the cross; I accept it, but cannot tell the measure of the oblation or its efficacy. But afterwards there will be a higher school, additional facilities, then I shall know.

2. The mysteries of daily providence. "Thou canst not follow Me" — not from one locality to another, but in thought, purpose, and sovereign decree. Who can keep pace with the Great Walker? I halt, stagger, fall, half rise again, and am down before I can straighten myself I cannot follow except in the dim far distance now, but afterward. Our strange constitution, individuality, sufferings, are heavy burdens. Explanation would help us to bear them. Why should I wear this chain? be encompassed by this cloud? The answer is "not now, but afterward." "No chastening, for the present seemeth joyous," etc.


1. The "now" is not evacuated of all meaning. To obey in the darkness is the great thing. Were I to say, "I will trust God in the seventh trouble because He has delivered me in six," it would be historically true and full of solace, but no indication of growth in grace. But he has grown in grace who says, "Though He slay me yet will I trust in Him."

2. Obedience now is revelation afterward. He that doeth the will shall know of the doctrine. We do not know the joy which is laid up for us in complete obedience to the words, "Stand still and see the salvation of God." The next piece of knowledge comes easily. Were the child to be compelled to overleap seven years of the process of education, he would be overcome. What he has to do is to read the next line, and then to turn over the next page. What we as Christian students have to do is to keep to the present truth, do the next duty, and then the revelation will steal upon us without the violence of haste and the unrest of surprise. We cannot tell how the light grows, so in mental illumination and spiritual culture.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards.

WEB: Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus answered, "Where I am going, you can't follow now, but you will follow afterwards."

The Now and Then of Following Christ
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