Truly, truly, I say to you, When you were young, you gird yourself, and walked where you would: but when you shall be old…
I. PETER'S FUTURE DESTINY DISCLOSED (vers. 18, 19).
1. The manner of the disclosure.
(1) Solemnly — "Verily, verily."
(2) Authoritatively. "I," who know all things, "say unto you."
(3) Feelingly. There can be small question but that Christ was deeply moved.
2. Its form. Not in literal but in veiled speech.
3. Its import.
(1) Indirectly a promise that Peter would attain a ripe old age, fulfilled in his death in A.D. 64.
(2) Directly a prediction that his career would terminate in martyrdom.
4. The reason for it. Perhaps —
(1) To indicate the necessity of maintaining the love he had just professed.
(2) To furnish him with an opportunity of wiping out his disgrace by doing as he declared he was willing to do (John 13:37).
(3) To set before him the highest honour he could win — fellowship with Christ, not only in publishing, but also in dying for the truth (Matthew 5:10-12; Luke 6:22; Acts 5:41; Romans 8:17; Philippians 1:29; 2 Timothy 2:12; Hebrews 13:13; 1 Peter 3:14).
II. PETER'S PRESENT DUTY DECLARED (ver. 19).
1. The symbolical action. On saying, "Follow Me," Christ probably suited the action to the word, by turning and making as if to depart.
2. The spiritual significance. If this suggestion be correct, it is still true that Christ intended more than to invite Peter aside from the company. His summons was a call to follow Him —
(1) In official service.
(2) By personal imitation.
(3) As far as to death.
(4) Through the agonies of martyrdom.
(5) Into the world of glory beyond.
III. PETER'S CHARACTERISTIC IMPETUOSITY RESTRAINED (vers. 20-23).
1. Peter's question, "Lord, and this man! What of him?"(1) The occasion of it. Seeing John following, attracted, no doubt, by Christ's love for him ("the disciple whom Jesus loved"), and impelled by his love for Christ ("who also leaned," &c.).
(2) The motive of it. Not jealousy, perhaps natural curiosity, most likely friendly interest in John.
(3) The wrong of it. Not irreverent towards Christ ("Lord"), or unkind towards John, or sinful in itself (John 14:13); it was irrelevant, having no bearing on the subject in hand, which was Peter's duty, not John's destiny; and inquisitive, manifesting a concern in the affairs of others not required by brotherly love, if not bordering on the presumptuous, as seeking to be informed of secret things which belong to God.
2. Jesus' reply (ver. 22).
(1) What it meant to Peter — rebuke. It did not belong to him to arrange, nor ought it to concern him to know (Acts 1:7). All this might be left with Christ. His duty was to follow Christ.
(2) What it signified for John. Not that he should not die; merely that it might be Christ's will that he should tarry long upon the field of labour till Christ came again, not that it was; and that if it was it was a matter exclusively for John.Learn —
1. To Christ alone pertains the prerogative of appointing to His servants their respective spheres and experiences.
2. The future destinies of Christ's servants, as well as their present duties, are arranged by and known to Christ.
3. For the happiness of Christ's servants it is enough to apprehend present duty.
4. "Secret things belong to God," &c.
5. While Christ's servants may be bold in making known their requests, there are limits to their asking.
6. The strongest propelling power is love to Christ.
7. Christ's people are not exempt from misinterpreting His words.
8. When Christ's words are partly dark it is wise to keep to that in them which is plain, and to wait for further light.
(T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
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."